While the frustrating NHL lockout has taken away our game, it gives us time to ponder other fun, hockey related questions. In an attempt to bring together Tampa Bay fans and writers, I asked Lightning Nation, “Who is your Bolts Rushmore?”
Two hundred combined emails, Facebook messages and Twitter direct messages were sent out to knowledgeable fans and noted bloggers asking, “What four players faces should be chiseled into your Tampa Bay Lightning Mount Rushmore?”
Many blogs and mainstream media outlets have done the obligatory Mt.Rushmore article for NHL teams. Puck Daddy and the Tampa Bay Times took their shot at it and both chose all time assist leader Martin St. Louis, all time points leader Vincent Lecavalier, Stanley Cup captain Dave Andreychuk and Lightning founder Phil Esposito as the Lightning’s Mt. Rushmore faces.
This poll was specifically aimed at players only.
I received over 150 responses and the results of the poll were interesting to say the least.
If you know anything at all about the Lightning, two players should be no-brainers: Forwards Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. Such was the case in my poll results.
It’s no surprise that St. Louis was chosen by every single participant (100%). The heart and soul of the Lightning has played 11 seasons in Tampa Bay. He is second in career games played, goals, points, game winning goals and shots. He leads all Lightning players in career assists, +/- and shorthanded goals. St. Louis is the only Art Ross Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy winner in Bolts history. According to the poll, Lightning Nation will carve his face into the mountain first. He is the Lightning’s Rushmore.
What was surprising and quite frankly shocking, was that Vincent Lecavalier was not included in ten (6.5%) of the responses. Lecavalier was a number one overall draft pick. He leads the franchise in games played, points, goals, goals created, power play goals, game winning goals and shots. Of the 25 offensive categories that Hockey Reference tracks, Lecavalier ranks first or second in 17 of them and continues to move up in the remaining eight.
Lecavalier’s diminishing role with the team must be the reason that ten people failed to vote for him. These people simply are ignoring Vinny’s astonishing contributions of the past.
Managing Editor of Raw Charge, John Fontana was the only one out of all the respondents that chose Stanley Cup winning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. Fontana stated, “He’s the best goalie in Lightning history. SOMEONE has to represent the backstop.” Khabibulin certainly is the best. He leads all Lightning goalies in goals against average, save percentage, shutouts and wins. Fontana also smartly points out that it is impossible to pick a Lightning defenseman because, “None of them were franchise cornerstones.” Indeed. The only one of the two blueliners to receive more than one vote was Pavel Kubina who was mentioned just 14 times.
I find it curious that defenseman Dan Boyle didn’t receive any votes. A case could certainly be made for Boyle, who is sixth in career assists and ninth in career points for the Tampa Bay.
Raw Charge’s Cassie McCllelan saw fit to include a defenseman among her selections. The Assistant Managing Editor chose the Lightning’s very first NHL draft pick, Roman Hamrlik, stating, “While he might not have stuck with the Lightning, he still represented everything the franchise stood for when they drafted him. As the first ever pick, he was their future; what he could become the team could become. And he’s still playing in the NHL, just like the Lightning are.” The co-host of the CCPT Hockey Show also mentioned goalie Manon Rheaume (The first woman to play in a men’s professional hockey game.) as a possibility. “Sure, signing her was a publicity stunt. And, yeah, she never played in a regular season game. But Rheaume playing in that preseason game wasn’t just Lightning history, but NHL history. She broke a gender barrier in a Lightning uniform. Not only that, but she put women’s hockey on the map because of it. To this day, the Lightning are the only team to have ever played a woman in a game,“ said McCllelan.
Stunningly, out of 153 responses, long time Lightning fans Tony Reyes and Grant Brandell were the only people to include the lone Conn Smythe Trophy winner in Lightning history as a Rushmore selection. Center Brad Richards played in Tampa Bay for seven seasons and netted 26 points in 23 playoff games in 2003-04, leading the way to the Bolts only Stanley Cup championship. I expected Richards, a fan favorite, to garner many more votes.
Senior Lightning reporter for Aerys Sports Sons of Andreychuk, Alexis Boucher was the only one to choose left wing Fredrik Modin, because of “Modin’s role in the Lightning’s success. With the team from 1999-2006, he accumulated 145 goals and 286 points in 445 games. Add on the fact that he played with some sort of injury for a lot of those and it’s extremely impressive. He had eight goals and 19 points on the team’s way to the championship.” Boucher went on, “Without his goal in Game 7 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals, we may not be having this conversation.”
One poll result came back with a Rushmore that included forward Bryan Matchment. Certainly his 22 game, two goal and six point Lightning career wasn’t the reason. The result came back with the caveat, “If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have gotten Vinny (Lecavalier).” Yes, the Lightning acquired the number one overall pick in the 1998 NHL draft from San Jose for Marchment, David Shaw and the number two overall pick, but Marchment remains a trivia answer at best.
Superstar Steven Stamkos was an interesting case. While he garnered 125 votes and was carved into the Bolts Mountain, many did not choose him. Most sent an almost apologetic message for not including him.
Photographer Linda Hamilton chose St. Louis, Lecavalier, Andreychuk and Bradley but stated,” It’s hard to not include Stamkos but at the same time there’s so much more history to be written on him” This summed up the feelings of nearly all the people that did not pick Stamkos. Indeed, four NHL years may not be enough to qualify for Rushmore.
Bolts Stanley Cup champion captain, Dave Andreychuk had the second most votes and was on 95% of the ballots. While only playing three and a half seasons in Tampa Bay, the future Hall of Famer inductee deserves inclusion for his culture changing leadership that led to winning a championship.
Center Brian Bradley was Tampa Bay’s first NHL star. He played the Lightning’s first six seasons, scoring 111 goals and accumulating 300 points. In the Bolts inaugural season, Bradley had 42 goals, 86 points and 92 penalty minutes. In other words, Bradley scored an astounding 35% of his teams goals and had 13% of the Lightning’s points. In comparison, last season, Steven Stamkos’ 60 goals were 26% of the Bolts’ goals and his 07 points were 15% of his team’s points. Bradley was found on 64% of the responses, the highest percentage to be left off the mountain. Brian Bradley is certainly a deserving candidate.
Here are the final results of the Rusnmore poll:
Martin St. Louis – 153 votes (100%)
Dave Andreychuk – 145 votes (95%)
Vincent Lecavalier – 143 votes (94%)
Steven Stamkos – 125 votes (82%)
Brian Bradley – 98 votes (64%)
Vaclov Prospal – 26 votes (17%)
Pavel Kubina – 14 votes (9%)
Roman Hamrlik – 3 votes (2%)
Brad Richards – 2 votes (1%)
Victor Hedman – 1 vote (.65%)
Manon Rheaume – 1 vote (.65%)
Fredrik Modin – 1 vote (.65%)
Nikolai Khabibulin – 1 vote (.65%)
Bryan Marchment – 1 vote (.65%)
*Some ballots were returned with non player choices and were excluded.
My Bolts Rushmore is Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Dave Andreychuk and Brian Bradley. I could not include Steven Stamkos. While he is already third in career goals, ninth in assists and sixth in career points, the fact that he has played just four seasons was my reason for his exclusion. Ask yourself: If Stamkos couldn’t continue to play hockey, for whatever reason, would his current numbers be enough to get him up on the mountain?
So puckheads… who is your Bolts Rushmore?
Rheaume photograph courtesy of Krista Windsor.
About the Author: WB Philp is a published hockey writer who has a built in disdain for Barry Melrose. He covered the Detroit sports teams for many years until he came to his senses and moved to the Sunshine State. He is a true puckhead on a mission from God (Gordie Howe) to make hockey relevant in the south. He lives in Hockey Bay USA and covers the Lightning full time. Did I mention he hates Barry Melrose?