May 5, 2011, 10:19 PM EDT
My gut instinct was to call a comparison between this year’s Tampa Bay Lightning and the 2004 Cup winning version lazy. At first glance, it seems too easy.
Yet after thinking about the similarities in the makeup of both squads, I have to hand it to TSN and other media outlets; there are some parallels. I’d like to take it one step further, though: let’s break down which 2011 Lightning players would fit into the roles of the 2004 model. Some work better than others, while a few comparisons might surprise you.
Casting the ’11 Lightning roster in the role of the Cup-winning ’04 components
Comically undersized, super-skilled Hart Trophy nominee: Martin St. Louis plays Martin St. Louis.
This one’s painfully obvious, but more than anything else, it underscores how great St. Louis has been. Really, he’s been the one consistently great player for Tampa Bay as supporting stars come and go and Vincent Lecavalier waxes and wanes. (Pavel Kubina will play himself again, by the way.)
Stud center: Steven Stamkos as Vincent Lecavalier
You’d think Lecavalier would reprise his ’04 role, but Stamkos is now the Leo DiCaprio to Lecavalier’s Matt Damon. Stamkos scores more points, earns more attention from men’s magazines and ranks as the young center of the future. You know, like Lecavalier was seven years ago.
Clutch center: Lecavalier as Brad Richards
Coming into that 2004 playoffs, Richards didn’t have the same level of notoriety as St. Louis and Lecavalier. Opposing teams paid dearly if they put their lesser checkers against beaver-toothed Richards, as he tore up that postseason on his way to a Conn Smythe trophy and a budget-breaking raise. Lecavalier is already cashing stupidly big checks, but he’s echoing Richards by scoring some absolutely huge goals too.
“The Bulin Wall” was 31 while Roloson is 41, but they both bounced around the league a bit before playing arguably the best playoff hockey of their careers in Tampa Bay. To extend the analogy, both goalies might not have a chance for an encore. Khabibulin signed an unsightly deal with the Chicago Blackhawks after that Cup victory; Roloson will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
Fascinating head coach: Guy Boucher as John Tortorella
Both coaches are among the best interviews in the sport. Considering Boucher’s scar and Tortorella’s fiery temper, it’s a safe bet that they’re high on the lists of coaches you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, too.
Sure, Hedman and Boyle have very different backgrounds. Hedman is a Swedish giant who was the second overall pick of the 2009 draft; Boyle is an undersized, un-drafted blueliner from Canada. Yet Hedman is playing a lot of minutes and doing better than many expected in his own end. That’s a lot like Boyle in ’04.
(Hopefully the team will sign Hedman to a deal they can stomach. The Lightning were eventually forced to trade Boyle for a bag of pucks because he was too expensive.)
Grizzled veteran: Eric Brewer as Dave Andreychuk
This one’s a bit of a stretch since Brewer is a defenseman and isn’t as old as Andreychuk. That being said, Brewer’s teammates rave about his leadership and he’s searching for his first Stanley Cup. For the sake of our sanity, Brewer could stand in for Darryl Sydor, too.
Each Lightning squad was high on firepower, but you don’t make a deep playoff run without under-the-radar guys contributing here and there. Bergenheim and Downie are the Christopher Walkens of the Lightning since they steal the show with startling frequency.
Some of these comparisons are stronger than others, but the more you look at it, the more this year’s Lightning looks like the Cup winning version. If nothing else, this year’s squad is the first to make the Eastern Conference finals since that championship group.
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