When former Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle formally announced his retirement on Wednesday afternoon it was the end of an era. Boyle was the last active player from Tampa Bay’s 2004 Stanley Cup winning team still in the NHL. Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards hung up their skates over the last year and a half.
With them go the final vestiges of that championship team from the league. Vinny and Marty’s contributions over the years are easily remembered but Richards and Boyle’s importance seems to have faded a bit. For this “Throwback Thursday” it’s time to look back on the impact of these players.
Drafted first over all in 1998 by Tampa Bay, Vinny was the face of the franchise for his 14 years with the team. He was its captain from 1999-01 and 2008-13.
He played 1,037 for the Lightning registering 383 goals and 874 total points. Lecavalier remains the all-time franchise leader in games played, goals and power play goals (112). He’s second all-time for total points, assists (491) and game winning goals. A four time NHL All Star, Vinny scored 52 goals during the 2006-07 season to win the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league’s highest goal scorer.
Lecavalier also provided some of the most enduring images from the 2004 playoff run. After being held pointless in a first round series against the New York Islanders, he came alive against the Montreal Canadiens. The famous “between the legs” goal with 16.5 seconds left in Game Three:
There was also a little scuffle he had with Jarome Iginla.
When Lecavalier’s contract was bought out in the summer of 2013 it was bittersweet. He’d meant so much to the team and community but his contract would cripple them for years to come. If the ovation Lecavalier received at this year’s Bolts Fan Fest is any indication, he still looms very large for Lightning fans.
It may be difficult to reconcile given how he left the team but at this point in time Marty St. Louis is the best player in Lightning history. An undrafted free agent, St. Louis signed with the Lightning in 2000 and played 13 seasons for them. In 972 games he scored 365 goals and registered 558 assists. He’s second all-time in franchise history for games played and goals and first in assists (588),points (953), and game-winning goals (64). St. Louis is also third all-time in power play goals (96) and tied with Steven Stamkos for most hat tricks at eight.
The 2003-04 season and post season transformed St. Louis into a star. His game-winning overtime goal in Game 5 against the Islanders sent the Lightning to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time. He also scored what is arguably the most important goal in franchise history: the double overtime game-winner in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final against Calgary.
St. Louis would go on to win the Lester B. Pearson Award, the Art Ross and Hart Trophy for the 2003-04 campaign. He showed that players of smaller stature can not only compete in the NHL but excel at that high level and he did most of it in a Lightning Sweater.
Selected in the third round of the 1998 draft, Richards played seven seasons in Tampa. Through 552 games he is fourth all-time in goals with 150 and third in assists with 390. He’s fourth overall in points (489) and power play goals (49).
The aforementioned gentlemen receive a ton of credit for their accomplishments in Tampa Bay. Maybe it’s the fact that Richards wasn’t here as long but he is criminally underrated when Lightning greats are discussed. It’s almost as though time has dimished just how good he was, especially during the 2004 playoffs.
Through the 23 playoff games that year Richards scored 12 goals and had 14 assists. What makes this prolific performance even more incredible is how cluch the majority of those goals were. He set an NHL record for most game winning goals in a single playoff with seven that still stands. To put that in more recent perspective, the only Lightning player to come close since was Tyler Johnson. He had four game winning goals in the 2014-15 playoffs. Richards was more than deserving of that year’s Conn Smythe as MVP of the playoffs and frankly he deserves a bigger spot in the Lightning’s pantheon of heroes.
Before Brian, there was another Boyle that got Lightning fans cheering. Originally undrafted, Dan spent four years with the Florida Panthers before being traded to the Lighting in 2003. During his six seasons in Tampa Bay he played 394 games and scored 66 goals. He is seventh all time in assists (187), ninth in points (253), and tenth in power play goals (10). Boyle brought a lot to the table during his career. Possessing a coveted right-handed shot, he quarterbacked the Lightning power play and had a scoring touch that was rare among their blueliners at that time.
Dan played all 23 of the playoff games in 2004, the majority of them after sustaining a hand injury. The night of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Boyle’s home was seriously damaged by an electrical fire that wiped out many of the hockey mementos he had acquired over his career to that point. Overcoming that personal struggle, he scored a key goal in game 2 of the SCF. That win evened the series at one a piece. Despite signing a contract extension earlier in the year Boyle was traded to the San Jose Sharks in 2008.
As a new season is set to begin, we say farewell to some of Tampa Bay’s biggest names of the past. Their deeds are well documented in franchise history and they’ve hopefully paved the way for more playoff heroics to come.