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Hockey

Tampa Bay Lightning

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | 1998-99 Stats

Sports Illustrated Ranking: 23

By Tim Crothers

 
1998-99 Leaders
Stat Leader No.
Goals
Assists
Points
+/-
Shots
Ice time (F)
Ice time (D)
Faceoff Pct.
Hits
PP Pts.
SH Pts.
Darcy Tucker
Chris Gratton
Darcy Tucker
Svoboda/Skopintsev
Chris Gratton
Darcy Tucker
Petr Svoboda
Mike Sillinger
Jassen Cullimore
Darcy Tucker
3 players
21
26
43
+1
181
19.4
23.3
59.9
161
15
3
Sports Illustrated It's been seven years since the Lightning struck the NHL and it still hasn't created any thunder. Tampa Bay has just two playoff wins in its dreary history, and last season it was the worst team in the NHL for the second consecutive year. The Lightning scored the fewest goals in the league, allowed the most and finished 43 points out of a playoff spot.

Changes were so sweeping in the off-season that on the opening day of training camp Tampa Bay had a new owner, new general manager, new coach, seven new players and a new attitude. The deep-pocketed owner, glass magnate Bill Davidson, brought in track and field guru Bob Kersee to oversee preseason conditioning. "The owner is showing a commitment that we've never seen here and giving us every chance to win," center Darcy Tucker says. "What he's doing is taking away all of the excuses."

The new general manager, Rick Dudley, who recently helped turn the Senators from a league joke into a Stanley Cup contender, promptly made his mark in Tampa by becoming the first NHL G.M. to trade the No. 1 pick in the entry draft. Through a series of deals, Dudley parlayed that pick into talented young goalie Dan Cloutier, four other solid players, two junior prospects and a No. 1 pick in 2000. "If you're going to get better, you need assets," Dudley says. "We traded that one pick for a future that we didn't have."

Steve Ludzik, the new man behind the bench, wants the Lightning to allow 70 fewer goals this season, which is vital because Tampa Bay's scoring may be scant, given that Tucker, who had only 21 goals last season, is the Lightning's top returning scorer. Dudley is bullish on precocious second-year center Vincent Lecavalier and talented but slump-prone center Chris Gratton.

The Lightning is also praying that success is contagious. Davidson has won two NBA championships as owner of the Detroit Pistons; in Dudley's 17 years as a pro coach or general manager, his teams have never missed the postseason; and Ludzik coached the Detroit Vipers to the 1997 International Hockey League title. "I'm not one for making predictions," says Ludzik, "but the goal is to make the playoffs."

The youthful Lightning is probably a year and a 30-goal sniper from contending for a postseason spot, but it shouldn't be long before there are rumblings of thunder in Tampa Bay.

Issue date: October 4, 1999

ALSO:
SI's Scouting Report Main Page
SI's Pierre McGuire Insider Rankings


BRIGHT SPOTS   GRAY AREAS
  • After an overhaul in ownership, front office and player personnel, things can only get better.
  • New GM Rick Dudley made some shrewd offseason moves, even if it's just in terms of acquiring bodies.
  •  
  • Neither goalie -- Daren Puppa or Dan Cloutier -- is an established starter in the NHL.
  • Things have been so bad for so long, you can only wonder what kind of strides can be made in one offseason.
  • People, Places and Things
    GM: Rick Dudley
    Coach: Steve Ludzik; 1st season; 1st overall
    Assistants: John Cullen; John Torchetti; Brad Shaw
    Captain: TBA
    Last year: 19-54-9 (27th overall)
    Playoffs: None
    PP: 20th (13.9%)
    PK: 20th (82.4%)

    Get The Highlighter
    Sat., Oct. 2: Home opener vs. the Islanders. Hey, it's been a long time since the Lightning was over .500.
    Sat., Oct. 16: 1998 No. 1 overall Vincent Lecavalier meets 1999 No. 1 overall Patrik Stefan for the first time as Atlanta comes to Tampa Bay.
    Mon., Dec. 27: Florida comes to town as the intrastate battle plays the first of five regular-season games.

    Notable Number
    19: A league-low victories last season, which -- if you can believe -- was two more than the Lightning had in 1997-98

    Quoteworthy
    "I look around this room and I see a lot more talent on defense. I think you'll see a big improvement." -- Petr Svoboda



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