Bolt Prospects' All-Time Lightning Team

Now that we're in a lull in the hockey world (and talking about logos to pass the time), I thought it would be a good time to roll out a couple of features we've been kicking around here at Bolt Prospects for a while. Without much fanfare, the Lightning will reach a bit of a milestone this coming season as it will be their 15th in the NHL. The franchise is coming of age. 5 playoff appearances, 2 division titles and a Stanley Cup later the Lightning are no longer the league's fledgling Southern experiment. The Lightning, the first of their expansion cousins to hoist Lord Stanley's chalice, have proven hockey can work south of the Mason Dixon and have etched their place in the sport's history with blood, sweat and unyielding effort.

To celebrate this milestone, Bolt Prospects would like to take you on a trip down memory road to a fairgrounds halfway to Brandon, a baseball stadium in St. Petersburg, and a Forum that used to be a Palace. In these places, which now only exist in our recollection, we saw dozens of world class athletes put on the Lightning sweater and challenge the elite of the NHL. This, we think, is the best of the best: Bolt Prospects' All-Time Lightning Team:

Forwards:

First Line
LW Fredrik Modin/C Brad Richards(A)/RW Martin St. Louis

Without hesitation, the Bolt Prospects staff agreed that this line was the best in Lightning history and, also without hesitation, it was an easy choice to enshrine the trio together. With 145 goals over the span of six seasons in Tampa, Fredrik Modin stamped his place in the record books as the club's #3 goal scorer of all time. Possessing the strength of an ox in his 6'3" 220 lbs frame and a laser for a shot, Modin excelled equally as well along the wall doing the line's dirty work as he did in the slot creating nightmares for opposing netminders with his menacingly hard shot. With 306 assists, Brad Richards has already climbed to the top of the Lightning's all-time list for helpers despite playing in 139 less games than the next closest player. A third round pick in the team's impressive 1998 draft class, Richards' greatest moments in a Lightning jersey came in the team's 2004 Stanley Cup run where he efficiently ran the team's power play and scored 12 goals and 26 points in 23 games en route to winning the Conn Smyth Trophy as playoff MVP. With 179 goals in six seasons with the Lightning, Martin St. Louis is the second leading goal scorer in team history. But St. Louis' place in Lightning lore hasn't been cemented simply by the number of goals he has scored, but by his reputation as the team's very own "Mr. Clutch". The diminutive forward first broke the hearts of the Washington Capitals in overtime of a series clinching Game Six matchup in 2002-2003 and has continued to show up big in money time year after year including his epic game winning goal in Calgary in Game Six of the finals in 2004 which forced the series to home ice for a decisive Game Seven cup win.

Second Line
LW Cory Stillman/C Vincent Lecavalier(A)/RW Vaclav Prospal

He only played one season in a Lightning jersey, but arguably there has never been a player to wear the silver, black and blue with more intelligence and savvy than Cory Stillman. Scoring 25 goals and 80 points in 81 games in the regular season in 2003-2004, Stillman was hobbled by a hip injury in the 2004 playoffs but still contributed a key goal in the team's 4 game sweep of Montreal in the second round and an even more key defensive play in Game Seven of the finals against Calgary. With 233 career goals and 510 career points in 8 seasons with the Lightning, Vincent Lecavalier is the face of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Selected with the 1st overall pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft and saddled with the seemingly impossible-to-live-up-to monicker of "The Michael Jordan of Hockey" by short-time owner Art Williams, Lecavalier has delivered the goods in 629 games with a Lightning bolt on his chest. Lecavalier currently sits with a string of 7 straight seasons with 20 or more goals and 4 straight seasons of more than 30. Most recently, Lecavalier became the first Lightning player to win the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league's best goal scorer netting a franchise best 52 goals in 2006-2007. In his second term of a Lightning career that has spanned four seasons, Vaclav Prospal sits in 6th on the team's all-time scoring list with 269 points in 324 games. The saavy playmaker cemented his place in the hearts of Lightning fans with 79 points in 2002-2003 and 80 points 2005-2006 upon returning from a season stint in Anaheim.

Third Line
LW Dave Andreychuk(C)/C Brian Bradley/RW Dino Ciccarelli

Bolt Prospects' all-time third line takes on a distinctively old school feel with all-time captain and NHL power play goal king Dave Andreychuk. Although he only scored 68 goals in 4 seasons with Tampa, Andreychuk morphed himself into an invaluable leader, faceoff man and penalty killer and helped reshape the culture of the franchise, culminating in his raising of Lord Stanley's Cup after 22 long years in the league. With 300 points in 328 games over 6 seasons in Tampa, Brian Bradley still sits in 4th on the team's all-time scoring list despite being out of the league for 8 seasons. A speedster with uncanny playmaking skills, Bradley was and is Tampa's first all-star. Like Stillman, Dino Ciccarelli only played a short time in Tampa Bay but his mark in team history was indellible. With 35 goals in 1996-97, Ciccarelli became the first Lightning player to ever start an NHL All-Star Game.

Fourth Line
LW Shawn Burr/C John Cullen/RW Alexander Selivanov

For those of us who go all the way back to the beginning with the franchise, there will always be a special place in our hearts for this line. So special, in fact, Bolt Prospects staff decided to enshrine the line as a group. In the second half of 1995-96, this line provided the scoring punch and helped the Lightning beat the odds to make their first playoff appearance. On left wing, Shawn Burr provided the line's sandpaper factor with tireless forechecking and a knack for finding his more naturally skilled teammates. At center, John Cullen provided 105 points in 150 games over 3 seasons as the former Penguins and Whalers great refused to age gracefully with his very own mixture of slick playmaking and a surprisingly agitating physical edge. After being diagnosed with cancer late in the 2006-2007 season, Cullen fought back with the heart of a lion to make a brief comeback in 1998-99. On right wing, Alexander Selivanov became only the second player in Lightning history to score 30 goals with 31 in his sophomore season. With 78 goals in 5 seasons in Tampa, Selivanov still sits in 9th on the NHL's all-time goal scoring list.

All-Time Enforcer
D/RW Rudy Poeschek

With 418 penalty minutes in 213 games over the span of 4 seasons in Tampa, no one spilled more blood (sometimes his, sometimes theirs) in the Lightning/Panthers rivalry than Rudy Poeschek. Without a doubt, the quintisential all-time Lightning enforcer.

Defensemen

First Pair
D Dan Boyle/D Pavel Kubina

Scoring 228 points over the span of 5 seasons in Tampa, there can be little doubt Dan Boyle is the greatest defenseman in Lightning history. In 2006-2007 he became the first Lightning defenseman to ever score 20 goals and he is the only Tampa blueliner to post three 50+ point seasons wearing the bolt on his chest. A long shot 7th round pick in the 1996 draft, Pavel Kubina defied the odds playing 531 games (second in team history) over 8 seasons in a Lightning jersey. Kubina's 209 career points in Tampa rate second only to Boyle in scoring and his shot blocking prowess and physical presence made him a mainstay on the team's penalty kill.

Second Pair
D Roman Hamrlik/D Marc Bergevin
Although his tenure in Tampa is long past, no Lightning defenseman, including Dan Boyle, has matched Roman Hamrlik's prolific 65 point season in the Lightning's first playoff season in 1995-1996. The first overall pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, Hamrlik played 377 games in Tampa over 6 seasons scoring 185 points. Hamrlik's long time pairing mate was the colorful stay at home mainstay Marc Bergevin who spent 4 seasons in Tampa playing 206 games. Long before Kubina and Cullimore came to town, it was Marc Bergevin who was the team's first "shut down" defenseman.

Third Pair
D Jassen Cullimore/D Cory Sarich

No one could've suspected when the Lightning plucked Jassen Cullimore off waivers from Montreal that they would be acquiring arguably their best "shut down" defenseman of all time. After a rough start to his Lightning career including a short stint in the minors in 1999-2000, Cullimore settled into Tampa eventually playing 408 games in a Lightning uniform over 7 seasons. His long time pairing partner Cory Sarich joins him on the Bolt Prospects All-Time Lightning Team. An iron man, Sarich played 490 games over 7 seasons with the Lightning, tied for third most in team history. After becoming a full time NHLer in 2002-2003, Sarich did not miss a single game over the next four consecutive seasons.

Seventh Defenseman
D Petr Svoboda

Acquired during the lean years between the 1998-1999 and 2000-2001 seasons, Petr Svoboda gave the Lightning a measure of class and credibility and helped mentor young defensemen like Sarich early in their careers. Svoboda's career was cut short by post-concussion syndrome but he appeared for the Lightning as an NHL All-Star during his only full season in Tampa in 1999-2000.

Goaltenders

Starter
G Nikolai Khabibulin

Arguably the best player ever to wear a Lightning jersey, Khabibulin made the critical cross crease save in Game Seven against Calgary to seal the Lightning's Stanley Cup victory. That indellible image capped a Lightning career that included 83 wins and 14 shutouts over 4 seasons. Khabibulin's best season came in 2001-2002 when he posted a stunning 7 shutouts and a solid .920 save percentage.

Backup
G Daren Puppa

It might have been the weight of carrying the Lightning into the 1995-1996 team into their first playoff appearance that broke their back, but in the short time he was healthy no light shone brighter than Daren Puppa's between the pipes. Sporting an unorthodox pad stacking style that utilized every bit of his 6'5" frame, Puppa posted 77 wins over 7 seasons with the Lightning, crowned by his 95-96 campaign in which he went 29-16-9 with 5 shutouts and a .918 save percentage en route to being the first Lightning goaltender ever nominated for the Vezina Trophy.

Power Play

First Unit
LW Andreychuk/C Lecavalier/RW St. Louis
D Boyle/C Richards

It's hard to go wrong when you have an all-time power play wizard like Dave Andreychuk to plant in front of the net. Couple that with Brad Richards deft playmaking from the point and three agressive snipers like Boyle, St. Louis and Lecavalier (off the one timer, naturally) and you've got a potent #1 unit.

Second Unit
LW Cory Stillman/C Brian Bradley/RW Dino Ciccarelli
RW Petr Klima/D Roman Hamrlik

How unfair would it be to be an opposing netminder and weather the first minute of a kill craning to see around Dave Andreychuk only to see a hateful little ball of rusty barbed wire like Dino Ciccarelli pile over the boards on the #2 unit? Ciccarelli sets up in front while Stillman and Bradley play the role of setup men on this shooting power play that features Petr Klima and Roman Hamrlik, the trigger men to the 1995-96 power play that was 4th best in the NHL that season.

Penalty Kill

First Unit
LW Fredrik Modin/RW Martin St. Louis
D Jassen Cullimore/D Pavel Kubina

There has never been a better penalty killing duo in Tampa than Modin and St. Louis, and there have never been two better penalty killers than shot blocking fiends Cullimore and Kubina.

Second Unit
LW Mikael Andersson/LW Rob Zamuner
D Joe Reekie/D Marc Bergevin

Another trip to the old school: Mikael Andersson's pure speed plus Rob Zamuner's incomparable hustle fit snugly with Joe Reekie's shot blocking ability and Marc Bergevins gutsy, competitive willingness to do anything to clog passing lanes and take away shooting alleys.