The season after regular-season domination and the Tampa Bay Lightning (with poll)
The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning achieved. Oh, boy, did they achieve… The spectacular run was complemented by the spectacular, Hindenburg-like crash in the 2019 playoffs). The in-season run amounted to 62 victories, a feat that’s only been accomplished one other time in the history of the National Hockey League. Only two teams in league history won 75% of their season contests like that.
Yeah, but what happened next?
The 1976-77 Montreéal Canadiens went 60-8 with 12 ties in 80 games within a smaller NHL (only 18 teams). Le Habs were on a tear during the 1970s, having already claimed the Stanley Cup three times that decade (1971, 1973, 1976). They won it again during the ’77 Stanley Cup Playoffs, putting a cherry on top of a season of domination. One should wonder how high they could have gone in the regular season results if after-regulation competitive rules of today (3-vs-3 followed by a shootout) were in place back then.
Yeah, but then what happened?
The tear continued for Le Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge. While the results of the 1977-78 season were lower than the previous season, it wasn’t by much. The Canadiens only had one less win than the previous season (59-10-11)), winning the Stanley Cup and would do it again in 1979. C’est Magnifique! I must say…! It’s part of why Hahs fans can push so hard and yet e so loyal to their Canadiens – Le Habs have been the height of the NHL. That entire era – ‘70’s hockey – is a story or multiple stories – unto itself and gets away from the topic at hand in a different era of the NHL.
The Lightning team of 2018-19 was largely put together by former-General Manager Steve Yzerman, who departed the club in the summer of 2018 and was replaced by Julien BriseBois. The second team in NHL history to with 75% of their regular-season games was also helmed Iin part) by Stevie Y. The 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings who went 62-13-7. Again, that third number represents ties, and I have to wonder just how many of those would have turned into W’s if the current after-regulation rules were employed back then.
As for the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the dynasty of Hockeytown USA… Well, it wasn’t like that in 1996 and you can hank the likes of Joe Sakic, Alex Tanguay, Patrick Roy and Adam (Yes, I Am Their Daddy) Foote for that. The Colorado Avalanche took down Detroit in the Western Conference Finals and eventually had a date with the Chalice of Lord Stanley.
Yeah, but then what happened?
The answer too-much compliments the Canadiens of the 1970’s: Dynasty.
Oh, yeah, next season stuff… Right… Uh… the results were less and oh so much more for the Wings. Detroit finished 3rd in the Western Conference (behind the Avs and Dallas Stars), 5th in the overall NHL (behind New Jersey and Philadelphia as well) with a 38-26-18 record… They also finished as Stanley Cup Champions in a sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Detroit also took the Cup home in 1998 and 2002. That success is how the label “Hockeytown USA” got minted in Detroit. The success is how Hockeybay came to be here in Tampa Bay in the late 20000 under OK Hockey’s ownership tenure. It didn’t bring the same success. Not nearly.
But what next for the Lightning? Expectations are high from all sides. The Lightning are currently the favorite to win the Cup and with the solidarity of the roster and major additions (hello, Kevin Shattenkirk), the question shouldn’t be if they can do it this season but if they will do it this season? The two other teams who have won 75% of their games in a season took home the Cup (despite lesser results) the next season. Here’s hoping the 2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning can follow that tradition. Will the Lightning be a dominator of the NHL again like the ’77-78 Montréal Canadiens, or will they be lesser in regular-season results (with thanks to a competitive NHL?) a-la the Detroit Red Wings of ’96-97? Vote in the attached poll.
The 2019-20 Tampa ay Lightning's final results will look more like which 60+ win team's next season?