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Sports Then and Now



The Surprising Start of the Tampa Bay Lightning 3

Posted on November 20, 2013 by Martin Banks

When the Tampa Bay Lightning left the tepid waters of the old Southeast Division for the harsh seas of the new Atlantic, many pegged them to fail. The Southeast was frequently the weakest division in the NHL, and Tampa Bay hadn’t even finished first since their Stanley Cup winning season in 2004.

Stanley Cup Finals: Lightning v Flames

Naturally, the outlook was grim as they headed north to play with perennial powerhouses Boston, Montreal and Detroit, who had freshly arrived from the West. Add on the upstart Ottawa Senators and surging Toronto Maple Leafs and you’ve got a recipe for many more years of struggling.

To many, the window on Tampa’s postseason hopes was already closing. Struggling to find a suitable franchise goaltender had stifled much of the offensive power that the Bolts brought to the table, and the defense had been porous. GM Steve Yzerman replaced head coach Guy Boucher with Jon Cooper, a somewhat unexpected choice as he used to be a corporate lawyer. Yzerman also bought out captain Vincent Lecavlier’s contract and let him walk to Philadelphia, where he signed with the Flyers. It was looking like this would be the start of another rebuilding season, and maybe even more big names would be traded out of Tampa.

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      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month won a Bronze Star in Vietnam before going on to win American League Rookie of the Year honors and playing 14 seasons in the Major Leagues.

      Though only 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, Al Bumbry was a four-year basketball player at Virginia State College (now University). The school restarted its baseball program during his career and Bumbry hit .578 during his senior season to earn notice from the Baltimore Orioles, who picked him in the 11th round of the MLB Draft.

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