Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Why this Lightning season could be the most disappointing in Tampa Bay history

TAMPA — The Lightning trails in the race for the final wild card. It has made a commendable late charge, despite more injuries and employing a patchwork lineup.

But there is the current two-game losing streak. Tonight's game at Amalie Arena against Arizona, the second worst team in the league, qualifies as "must win."

Arizona. Must win. Desperate hockey.

The Lightning is trying to save some face. It's about the greater fight, a pitched battle to stave off infamy:

The most disappointing season in Tampa Bay professional sports history.

This was a team coming off a trip to the Stanley Cup final followed by a trip to the Eastern Conference final. Challenging for the Stanley seemed logical, particularly when it kept the band together. Steven Stamkos: back. Victor Hedman: signed long-term. Nikita Kucherov: signed. Ben Bishop: back. What could stop the Lightning?

Bad hockey and a pile of injuries. That's what.

Does Stamkos' return even matter at this point?

More important, do the Bolts want to be at the head of the class for most disappointing season?

Mind you, the competition is stiff.

2003 Bucs

A spectacular high dive coming off 2002 and the Super Bowl win. The Bucs were kings of the world heading into the 2003 season. Chucky Gruden and his stars were the talk of football. They began with a 17-0 shutout of the Eagles in Philadelphia's new stadium, as opposed to Veterans Stadium, which the Bucs had closed in the NFC title game.

But it all came apart on Monday Night Football, with the Bucs blowing a 35-14 lead with five minutes left to lose in Tony Dungy's return to Tampa with the Colts. The Bucs went downhill from there. There was the Keyshawn de-activation, the Gruden-Rich McKay split and awful losses everywhere for a 7-9 finish.

2009 Rays

The 2009 Rays, who went 84-78, truly disappointed if only because of expectations — there finally were some. Joe Maddon and the Miracles, coming off a World Series appearance from nowhere, broke slowly, rallied, then lost 11 straight in September. The fun would return, but 2009 was a disappointment. Maybe we should have seen it coming before the 2009 season, when the Rays added what was thought to be the missing piece: Pat Burrell.

1980 Bucs

Once 0-26 hapless, Tampa Bay had broken through in 1979, with Lee Roy Selmon and defense and Doug Williams leading the offense. They reached the NFL title game. They had Tampa Bay in the palm of their hands. Every game in Tampa Stadium was sold out. They began 2-0 in 1980. They finished 5-10-1, losing six of their last seven.

1998 Bucs

In 1997, the Bucs ended all those years of double-digit-loss seasons with a playoff season and a playoff win. The town was rocking. The 1998 Bucs finished 8-8, out of the playoffs, eliminated from contention as it returned from Cincinnati after a meaningless shutout win.

2014 Rays

In hindsight, this is where it began to come apart. The 2013 Rays won 92 games and beat Texas in a tiebreaker and Cleveland in the wild-card game. They went 77-85 in 2014. David Price was traded during the season. Ben Zobrist was traded after the season. Joe Maddon and GM Andrew Friedman left. The Rays have never come close to winning since.

2004-05 Lightning

This season was so bad it didn't even exist. It was the lockout stoppage and it devoured everything, including the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning making a true title defense. By the time hockey resumed, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was gone. Not much else was the same, either. The Season That Never Was.

2016-17 Lightning

Desperate hockey, anyone?

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or 813-731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.

Tonight

Lightning vs. Coyotes, 7:30, Amalie Arena TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 970-FM

Plugging the holes

The Lightning is relying on some unexpected players as the season winds down. 4C

Why this Lightning season could be the most disappointing in Tampa Bay history 03/20/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 11:32am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays vs. Mariners, 7:10 Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (50) in the dugout during the ninth inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 7-3.
  2. Rays waste repeated opportunities in 5-3 loss to Blue Jays

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Rays manager Kevin Cash made a case for urgency before Thursday's game, in both actions and words, making significant changes to the structure of the lineup and sincere comments about time running short.

    Trevor Plouffe of the Rays reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. [Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images]
  3. Confederate statue: Why Bucs, Lightning, Rays took a stand

    Bucs

    They didn't want another Charlottesville.

    Marc Rodriguez, a member of the "Florida Fight for $15" organization, stands in protest along with other activists demanding the Confederate  monument be removed from the old Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Kevin Cash: 'We've got to turn it around. ... Time is of the essence'

    Blogs

    The question to manager Kevin Cash was about a rematch with the Mariners this weekend at the Trop, but he made clear this afternoon that with his Rays losing nine of their last 12 that they have to treat every game as essential.

    "We've got to start playing good baseball games whether we match up well against that team or not," Kevin Cash said.
  5. Lightning wing J.T. Brown on why he donated to remove Confederate statue

    Blogs

    Lightning wing J.T. Brown was back in his Minneapolis offseason home over the weekend when he saw on TV the violent protests in Charlottesville over the removal of a Confederate statue.

    J.T. Brown decided to get involved, donating $1,500 to assist in removing a Confederate statue in Tampa.