Tampa Bay Lightning: 50 Greatest Moments In Franchise History

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Dec 10, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella reacts during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

29. John Tortorella Becomes Lightning Bench Boss

Date: January 2001

The Tampa Bay Lightning organization was in shambles on and off the ice. The team was at the bottom of the league every year and was known as one of the worst franchises in North America between the years of 1997-2001. In steps Head Coach John Tortorella, whose coaching style, though unique, completely morphed the Tampa Bay Lightning from the bottom feeders of the NHL to one on the league’s elite teams.

Tortorella took over the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2000–01 as a mid-season replacement. The team won only 12 of its last 43 games under his watch, finishing last in the division. The following season, the team finished well out of playoff contention despite finishing third in the Southeast Division.

Torts finally began to morph the team to his liking. The team gradually got better on the ice and finally began to believe in themselves as they began to buy into their Head Coach’s philosophy. The 2002-03 season saw the Lightning win their first Southeast Division title in franchise history and make it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs before being bounced by the New Jersey Devils.

It was just a warm up for the unforgettable 2003-04 campaign that saw the Tampa Bay Lightning become the crown jewel of the sport and win their first ever Stanley Cup. This moment ranks as one of the greatest feats in Tampa Bay Lightning history and John Tortorella was the mastermind behind all of it.

John Torterella helped turn a team of losers that were not going anywhere fast into the best hockey team in the NHL during the 2003-04 season. Just like Nikolai Khabibulin and many other members of that team, without coach Tortorella, the organization may still be looking for it’s first Stanley Cup.

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