As fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization lets take a look at the five things that they should be thankful for heading into this holiday season:
5. Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner – As the legend is told Mr. Bettman talked to new Tampa Bay owner Jeffery Vinik about purchasing the franchise. So everyone should be thankful that he took Gary Bettman’s advice in purchasing the franchise. During his introductory press conference, Vinik told the fans and the media that he was going to build a world class organization. Well Mr. Vinik you have done just that, first came the hiring of Steve Yzerman as head of hockey operation and then he hired Tod Leiweke as perspective minority owner and CEO on the business side of the club. Now Jeffrey Vinik can sit back as a fan and enjoy the fruits of his purchase.
4. Martin St Louis – Simply said the heart and soul of the franchise. St Louis is a Stanley Cup champion, Hart Trophy winner as MVP of the league and Art Ross Trophy winner as the league leader in scoring. Those accolades do not do justice for what St Louis brings to this team. He is a tireless worker which rubs off on his teammates. You can see the impact he has made on the development of Steven Stamkos and previously with Vinnie Lecavalier. It has been echoed by both Stamkos and Lecavalier that his work ethic has made them better players, which is the definition of a leader. St Louis makes everyone around him better.
3. Guy Boucher – Before Guy Boucher coached his first game behind the bench for the Tampa Bay Lightning; he was already considered something of a hockey genius. He was bringing a new age up tempo 1-3-1 system down to Tampa that was going to revolutionize the NHL. Well early into the season Boucher has shown that some of those compliments were well warranted, simply put this guy gets it. What he is building in Tampa is special, his relationship with his players is already something to behold. For this team to be as successful this early in the year is a testament to Boucher and his coaching staff. So as the season moves along its going to fun to see the changes and adjustments Boucher is going to make as the rest of the league catches up to his system.
2. Steve Yzerman – An argument could have been made that Yzerman could have been number one on this list to be most thankful. The hiring of Steve Yzerman was probably single biggest move that any team made in the offseason. It cannot be measure how credibility that Yzerman brought this franchise around the NHL. Not even winning the Stanley Cup could make the Lightning relevant, but hiring a guy like Steve Yzerman did just that. There are people all over the world who will now keep an eye on the Bolts just because of Yzerman. With the product he is building on the ice, some of those fans may be converted to Lightning fans in the future.
1. Steven Stamkos – Stamkos is the most exciting player in the league right now; he is scoring goals at a pretty crazy pace. How many people know that since February 17, 2009 Stamkos has scored 88 goals which are 10 more goals then Sidney Crosby and 13 more than Alex Ovechkin during that same time period. As the team continues to improve the next step will be for Stamkos to have those battles with the Ovechkin and Crosby in the playoffs, which for all fans of hockey will begin this year. Once that happens, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby,will need to make room at the elite player table and as the years move on Stamkos might move to the head of that table. So fans of the Bolts and the NHL should be so thankful that Stamkos is able to bring everyone to their feet with his exciting skills and ability.