(Ed. Note: Welcome to Puck Daddy's August series, "Mount Puckmore" which will feature fans, bloggers and various media personalities of all 30 teams choosing the four defining faces of their franchise. These four people are who you remember most when you think of these teams -- whether they be players, coaches or executives. We'll be running these daily for the rest of the month. Today, representing the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jon Jordan of Hockey Independent and Kukla's Korner.)
By Jon Jordan
The four defining faces of the Tampa Bay Lightning, you say?
When approached for this project, my first thought -- honestly -- was, "Man, I'm going to catch all kinds of crap for my choices."
But I quickly realized that half of this quartet was a legit no-brainer; and, while some may argue that each of the other two faces of Rushmore-esque Lighting immortality should have taken a back seat to other worthy candidates, I really don't think anyone will be legitimately upset by any of those about to receive this honor.
(And, as a measure of caution, I did some minor consulting with my new Twitter friend, @DontTradeVinny, a.k.a. 'DTV'. So, if any of this doesn't suit you well, take it up with him.)
The Lightning faithful are hard on their captain, particularly these last few seasons, but I liken it to a being tough on your kid-type situation. After all, Tampa Bay has literally watched their Vinny grow up right before their eyes.
From an 18-year-old so irresponsibly hailed as "the Michael Jordan of hockey", to the tough love era with head coach John Tortorella, the Cup, 52 goals in '06-'07 and in recent years, when things have been difficult for Lecavalier and company, the communal love has never wavered for the once and again Bolts captain, despite a steady clamor for an increase in production.
But again, when that kid you love so much -- the kid that you know has the ability to accomplish great things -- comes home with a "C-plus" on his report card, of course he's going to hear it from you. Through countless highs and lows in 11 seasons in Tampa, Lecavalier's name has remained synonymous with the franchise and his charity work through his foundation, culminating in the inception of the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg in December of 2009 has cemented his legacy in the community.
And, as DTV reminded me, let's not forget Lecavalier selflessly offering up his name for trade rumors time and again, helping to keep several members of the hockey media in certain regions employed over the years.
His bloodied face is the lasting image of the Lightning's Stanley Cup championship team in the eyes of many, and St. Louis remains an integral piece of the franchise to this day -- epitomizing competitor, leader and class act all the while.
Salvaged from the Calgary Flames scrap heap prior to the 2000-01 season, St. Louis was instrumental in the Lightning going from consecutive 50-loss campaigns to start the decade to respectability, playoff success and, ultimately, the Cup in his Hart Trophy-winning season of 2003-04. Since then, Marty has remained a stabilizing presence for a franchise that has sorely needed as much and as strong a voice as there is in the Bolts locker room. St. Louis isn't just a face of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he's the face...
And its heart as well.
3. Dave Andreychuk, LW
Succeeding Lecavalier as captain in 2002-03, Andreychuk played the perfect compliment in the room to Tortorella's fervor from the bench, insisting on putting the team first, playing for each other and contribution from everyone.
After 22 NHL seasons, his elation upon being handed the Cup in 2004 is as iconic a moment with the fabled trophy as there is; though perhaps there was some additional pent-up emotion for Andreychuk, having spent the final moments of Tampa Bay's Cup-clincher in the penalty box.
On that note, another DTV reminder: Not many other players have been so considerate as to give Penalty Box Guy someone to celebrate the Stanley Cup with.
4. Phil Esposito, founder/GM
Esposito gets his face on Tampa Bay's Mt. Puckmore as the founder of the Lightning franchise.
While his time as general manager of the club was marred by financial woes, whacky owners and several truly bizarre behind-the-scenes stories (start by Googling "Chris Gratton", "offer sheet" and "fax machine"), Esposito deserves recognition for the existence of the Lightning, first and foremost, and for being passionate about and involved with the club to this day.
While Phil continues as the color commentator for Lightning radio, word is an expanded role with the organization could be on the horizon; and, knowing how much he truly does care for the team, anything short of donning a Bolts uniform and lacing up the skates again would suit him well.
(And, hell, if it meant the betterment of the franchise, at 68, maybe Esposito would try to add to that 717-goal total after all.)
Brian Bradley, the team's first real "name", who led them to their first playoff appearance; Bill Davidson, whose stability as owner made the Cup year possible; and John Tortorella, whose tactics (and antics) won't soon be forgotten locally.
The Lightning franchise has gone to the extreme high of NHL glory in their Stanley Cup season and has had more than its share of underwhelming moments as well. With that, when word got out that I'd be putting this list together, suggested names hitting my inbox included the likes of Enrico Ciccone, Dieter Kochan, Adrien Plavsic, Mike Hartman and Mathieu Biron ... and I could have used any one (or all) of them.
Keep that in mind as the arguments ensue...
Mount Puckmore photo by B.D. Gallof of Hockey Independent