The Lightning All-Time All-Dog Team
The nominations are in and the list has been carefully whittled down to 21: The Bolt Prospects Lightning All-Time All-Dog team, a celebration of the very worst of the Lightning's first 14 years in the league. The rules were simple: no player whose rights are currently held by the Lightning could make the list (no need to poison present day morale) and only players with 10 or more games in a Lightning jersey could carry home the coveted silver dog dish. The competition was fierce, but in the end, the liquidy nasty stuff sank to the bottom.
Image Courtesy haggul.com
So without further adieu, the Bolt Prospects Lightning All-Time All-Dog Team, sponsored by former Chicago Blackhawks coach Alpo Suhonen and, of course, Michael Vick.
The Worst Line. Ever.
LW Gordie Dwyer/C Dan Kesa/RW Reid Simpson
When the biggest claim to fame of your career is that you got suspended a bunch of games for leaving the penalty box, you can probably expect to make the All-Dog Team. Such is the fate of Gordie Dwyer who, after he left the Lightning, had brief stops with the Rangers and Canadiens. At present, Dwyer is out of hockey.
But, the title of Worst Forward in Lightning History clearly goes to Dan Kesa who after spending three seasons with Detroit of the IHL was promoted to the NHL with the Lightning under GM Rick Dudley and Head Coach Steve Ludzik'sÂ "Give a minor league cronie a chance to make a fool of himself in the NHL." program. After leaving the Lightning, Kesa never played another NHL game and two years afterwards he was playing for Omsk in the Russia Superleague. It's a shame a polar bear didn't eat him. Like Dwyer, Kesa is also out of hockey.Â
On right wing on this line, Reid Simpson, who was acquired inÂ the deal with ChicagoÂ for Michael Nylander. Simpson played 26 games with the Lightning which as its highlight included his jaw being broken in a fight. After short stints with St. Louis, Nashville, Montreal and Pittsburgh, and with the Rockford Ice Hogs of the UHL, Simpson has spent the past two seasons with Podolsk in the Russian Superleague. Last season he beat out Lightning property Evgeny Artyukhin for the league PIM title, which we think is a bit like being the toughest member in a Girl Scout Troop.
The Second Worst Line. Ever.
LW Andrei Nazarov/C Bill McDougall/RW Zdeno Ciger
The great tragedy of Andrei Nazarov's career is that for all his efforts he still finished second to Krzysztof Oliwa for most penalty minutes ever accrued by a European. Nazarov, who was acquired in the Bryan Marchment deal from San Jose, saw the high water of his NHL career come in a brawl filled tilt against the Flyers in 1998-1999 which spilled into the parking lot after the game when Flyers captain Eric Lindros threatened Nazarov and his wife on the way to his car. Nazarov had a long NHL run with Calgary, Anaheim, Boston, Phoenix and Minnesota before finally hanging them up, "them" of course being his fists because he did precious little with his skates or stick. Nazarov is out of hockey.
Here's one for the old school: center Bill McDougall, who after two fantastic seasons with Adirondack of the AHL and two short cups of coffee with Edmonton and Detroit came to Lightning camp and fooled Phil Esposito into giving him a contract in 1993-94. 22 games and just 3 goals later his NHL career was over. McDougall spent the rest of his hockey life in Italy, Switzerland and Germany before landing in the OHA Sr. A League with the Dundas Real McCoys. Beer anyone? McDougall is out of hockey.
On right wing? The incomparable (in a bad way) Zdeno Ciger, who after being presented with a golden opportunity to play with Vincent Lecavalier took 27 games to decide he was allergic to playing hockey with the Lightning. After a bizarre claim of a phantom ilness, Ciger returned to Slovakia to play three seasons for club team Bratislava. Mercifully, Ciger is out of hockey.
The All High Busted Draft Picks Line
LW Nikita Alexeev/C Jason Bonsignore/RW Alexandre Daigle
Nikita Alexeev, who was selected 9th overall in the 2000 Entry Draft and who GM Rick Dudley truly believed was the best player in that draft, played parts of three seasons with the Lightning amassing a mighty haul of 18 goals and 35 points in 144 games before being dumped to the Chicago Blackhawks for fourth liner Karl Stewart. He was big. He was fast. He was soft as warm butter and had no hands. Now a UFA, it's hard to believe NHL teams haven't been beating down Alexeev's door.
At center, the long flowing locks of Jason Bonsignore who is considered one of the bigger busts of recent NHL history. Acquired in the Roman Hamrlik deal from Edmonton, Bonsignore played 58 games for Tampa Bay scoring just 2 goals in a Lightning jersey. After leaving the Lightning, he never played another NHL game splitting time between the AHL, the Swiss League, parts of two seasons in the ECHL and one year in Finland. Bonsignore is out of hockey.
On right wing? Alexandre Daigle who played 32 games in a Lightning jersey and scored 6 goals and 12 points. It's not that Daigle was exceptionally terrible for Tampa Bay, but c'mon, it's Alexandre Daigle. After leaving Tampa, Daigle played one year with the Rangers before quitting hockey for two seasons to pursue a failed career in Hollywood as an actor/producer. He resurfaced in Pittsburgh and Minnesota before spending last year with Davos in the Swiss league.
The All-PR Hype Line
LW Jimmie Olvestad/C Ryan Johnson/RW Matt Elich
Remember when former Lightning GM Rick Dudley was calling Swedish left winger Jimmie Olvestad the second coming of Magnus Arvedsson? Remember when the Lightning were playing Olvestad on Vincent Lecavalier's wing? Remember how he made Mikael Andersson look like Clark Gillies? Yeah, we do too. Olvestad scored just 3 goals in 111 games over two seasons with the Lightning before he was exhiled to the AHL and later returned to Sweden to play for Djurgardens where he continues to play hockey to this day.
At center on the all-hype line is another Rick Dudley five star All-PR Hype gem: Ryan Johnson. Acquired from the Panthers for Mike Sillinger, Johnson was lauded as a psuedo Mike Peca with hitting and faceoff skills that were the class of the league. Unfortunately the paper thin Johnson usually bounced off his opponents, had little to no balance and wasn't a terribly good faceoff man either. He had 7 goals in 94 games with the Lightning before being dealt back to the Panthers. He's spent the past 3+ seasons with the St. Louis Blues but has never surpassed the 7 goal, 21 point season he had in Tampa Bay in 2000-2001. What does it say for a player when his career season still lands him on this list?
On right wing, possibly the mother of all overhyped young Lightning players: Matt Elich. One six point game in a training camp scrimmage and Elich was exalted by local talk radio as the Lightning's version of Daniel Alfredsson. Elich's straight line speed was undeniable, but he had a peculiar habit of tripping over the red line and his poor balance coupled with his poor hands made him a poor excuse for an NHLer. Elich scored 1 goal in 16 NHL games before washing out of the league. After leaving the Lightning organization Elich spent parts of four seasons in the ECHL and UHL before playing 4 games last season in Austria.
"My Grandma Could Beat That Guy Up"
RW Mick Vukota
Although Reid Simpson got his jaw broken what seems like seconds after being acquired by the Lightning, he actually wasn't even close to the worst "enforcer" in Lightning history. That title belongs to Waiver Draft pickup Mick Vukota, who probably couldn't have even beaten up Abe Vigoda. Long before the HBO show Entourage made "hug it up" a national catch phrase, Vukota was wrapping his loving arms around opponents and holding on for dear life, occassionally throwing in a failed attempt at the old Arn Andersen spinebuster for effect. Vukota missed his calling. Any man who likes to hug that much could've easily given Richard Simmons a run for his money in the self improvement guru sector.
The Worst Defensive Pairing Ever Conceived in Any Universe and in Any Dimension
D Ian Herbers/D Eric Charron
After playing parts of six seasons for the Detroit Vipers of the IHL, Ian Herbers enjoyed the same cronie callup from Rick Dudley that Dan Kesa received in the infamous season of 1999-2000. How bad was Ian Herbers? He was one of only two defensemen I ever saw in a Lightning jersey who made me want to gouge my eyes out rather than have to witness him pretending to be an NHLer. It's no coincidence he was in the British league two seasons after leaving Tampa Bay. Good thing too: they don't have a death penalty over there, and the way he played was definitely criminal. He's now the coach of the Johnstown Chiefs in the ECHL. He couldn't have outskated anyone in that league either.
The other defenseman who made me want to gogue my eyes out? Eric Charron. Charron scored 1 goal and 5 points over parts of 3 seasons with the Lightning and amazed crowds at the Thunderdome with his unwavering ability to lose races to loose pucks and turn the puck over with poor decision making on the odd occassion it actually did end up on his stick. Charron bounced around the Caps and Flames organization after his days in Tampa before doing a grand European tour of the German, British and Russian leagues. Now 37 years old, Charron has spent the last three years in the LNAH, a Quebec senior league known more for its bench clearers than anything else.
The Second Worst Pairing. Ever.
D Mathieu Biron/D Kaspars Astashenko
Mathieu Biron didn't make me want to gouge my eyes out. Mathieu Biron made me want to gogue Rick Dudley's eyes out for trading veteran defenseman Adrian Aucoin to get him. Like Elich, Biron had good straight line speed but also exhibited all the balance of Jason Wiemer after a late night bender at The Hideaway. Biron played just one year in Tampa going scoreless in 36 games. The following summer he was taken off waivers by the Florida Panthers. Aucoin? He went on to have three straight 30+ point seasons with the Islanders. Great deal Duds! Biron played parts of two seasons for the Panthers before moving on to the Caps organization. He's spent the last two seasons with Worcester and Hamilton of the AHL.
Was there ever a more meteoric rise and fall than that of 1999 5th round pick Kaspars Astashenko? The Latvian born defenseman split time between Detroit and Long Beach of the IHL in 1999-2000 before being promoted to Tampa for 8 games late in that year in his rookie pro season. How good was Astashenko? So good he was converted to forward the following season. After 23 games in a Lightning jersey Astashenko's career in the NHL was over. He played two more seasons in the AHL followed by two more in Finland before returning home to Latvia. The man, the myth, the legend: Kaspars Astashenko.
A Highly Hyped, Really Bad Pairing
D David Wilkie/D Bryan Muir
Acquired from Montreal in the deal that also brought Darcy Tucker and Stephane Richer, David Wilkie came to the Lightning promoted as an offensive defenseman who was a sure fire NHL power play quarterback. Unfortunately, to be a power play quarterback in the NHL one has to have the ability to skate and Wilkie had none. Slow of foot and woeful in his own end of the rink, Wilkie scored 2 goals and 14 points in 75 games over two seasons. After playing his final game in Tampa, Wilkie played just 1 more game in his NHL career with the Rangers before moving on to the Augusta Lynx of the ECHL the following season. In 2002-2003 Wilkie became an assistant coach and later interim coach of the Lynx. He went 24-32-6 and missed the playoffs and his coaching career ended as abruptly as his Lightning career did.
One of these days someone is going to explain to me how Bryan Muir keeps getting NHL gigs. Acquired by Dudley as the other half of the Michael Nylander deal, Muir's primary attraction was the 100 mph slap shot he allegedly possessed. I say allegedly because Muir's shot was sighted about as often as the Sasquatch and hardly compensated for mediocre defensive play and timid physical play. After Tampa, Muir latched on in the Avalanche organization for three seasons before a short stint with the Kings. He's spent the last two seasons in the Caps organization. And Nylander? He's had 50 or more points in 6 of the last 7 seasons including 26 goals and 83 points last year for the Rangers. But Muir and Simpson were well worth it, weren't they Lightning fans?
The Worst Goalies Ever to Put on Pads
G Rich Parent
It's hard to say whether 1998-1999 or 1999-2000 was the precise nadir of the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise, but one thing is clear: '99-'00 had its highest share of dogs. That year the Lightning had six different players appear in net, and none was worse than journeyman minor leaguer Rich Parent. Take a fish out of water and it flops around wildly. Put Rich Parent onto frozen water and he flops around wildly too. Parent went 2-7-1 in 14 appearances for the Lightning with a 3.70 GAA and .878 save percentage. Parent appeared in 7 more NHL games the following year with Pittsburgh before heading overseas to Germany for parts of five seasons. Parent was out of hockey last season, thankfully.
G Dieter Kochan
As truly horrific as Parent's statistics were in 1999-2000, Dieter Kochan's were actually worse. It should be noted, however, Kochan at least has an excuse for his poor performance. After playing 43 games with the BC Icemen of the UHL that year Rick Dudley had the genius idea to throw a rookie from A level minor league hockey against a perennially elite (at the time) Dallas Stars team. Oops. That year Kochan went 1-4-0 with a 4.29 GAA and .847 save percentage. Over parts of three seasons with the Lightning, Kochan went 1-10-1 with a GAA that hovered just below 4. After leaving the Lightning organization Kochan played just one more NHL game for the Minnesota Wild. He was shelled allowing 5 goals in a loss. The rest of Kochans days have been split between Bridgeport and Houston of the AHL with a brief stint with Novosibirsk of the Russian league sprinkled in. He went 6-14-1 last year for the Aeros in the "A".
So what have we learned today?
1.) It speaks volumes about the shameful history of goaltending in Tampa that other dogs like JC Bergeron, Mark Fitzpatrick, Bill Ranford and John Grahame actually escaped making this list. It would not be a stretch to say the Lightning have had the worst goaltending in the NHL, overall, over the last 14 years.
2.) Rick Dudley shouldn't be the General Manager of an Applebees, let alone an NHL franchise. Seriously, any man who brings a UHLer up to play his first NHL game against one of the best teams in the NHL and charges people money to watch it has no place overseeing the delivery of my riblets.
3.) Most underappreciated arm of the Lightning operation: public relations. PR spinmeisters like Jay Preble and Bill Wickett actually Jedi mind tricked a healthy number of Lightning fans into believing stiffs like Mathieu Biron were going to be good NHL players. That's not just skill folks, that's a gift.
So, there you have it: The Lightning All-Time All-Hype team. Any dogs you think should've made the list? Let us know in comments.