Since 2015, all has been well for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite some hiccups along the journey, Tampa has been the premier team in the NHL over the past nine years, with six appearances in the conference finals. Vegas is the next closest, with four appearances in that time frame, but there are no Stanley Cups to show for it.
But as great of a run as this has been for Tampa, it isn’t going to last forever. That’s just the reality of the NHL. How long can we reasonably expect Tampa to keep it going though?
Tampa Bay Lightning: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop
Here is an inconvenient truth for Lightning fans to consider, all but two of the Stanley Cup champions from 2007 to 2019 missed the playoffs this past season (Anaheim, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington, St. Louis).
In addition, six more teams that made it to the Finals and lost between 2007 and 2021 also failed to make it to the playoffs this season (Ottawa, Philadelphia, Vancouver, San Jose, Nashville, and Montreal).
What inevitably happens when teams make it all the way to the promise land is that the lack of high-quality draft picks ends up coming around to haunt teams as the stars that led them to greatness either age out or become too expensive.
Take Chicago, for example. In back-to-back drafts in 2006 and 2007, they were able to draft Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane with top-three picks. That duo led the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups, but from 2009 to 2017, Chicago only drafted inside the top 20 twice (and both times were at pick number 18).
The LA Kings took a similar route, drafting in the top five in 2007, 2008, and 2009, picking up Drew Doughty along the way. LA won two cups and only drafted inside the top 20 once from 2010 until 2019.
Pittsburgh had four straight seasons of having a top-two pick from 2003 to 2006. With Marc-Andre Fleury, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Sidney Crosby assembled Pittsburgh won three Stanley Cups from 2009 through 2017. The Penguins also have drafted inside the top 20 once since 2007
All those clubs took inevitable downturns, and Tampa Bay’s pathway to greatness mirrors what those three did to this point. The Lightning took Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman in 2008 and 2009, and since 2014 have only drafted inside the top 20 twice.
It is with all that in mind that, given the current state of Tampa’s roster and the age of everyone, we are going to go season by season and try and pinpoint just how long the window is open for the Tampa Bay Lightning to win another Stanley Cup realistically.