A Look At The Senators’ Expansion Partners, The Tampa Bay Lightning


The Stanley Cup final is set and for the second time in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Lightning are set to compete for a Stanley Cup.

When the Ottawa Senators entered the league in 1992, the Tampa Bay Lightning were right beside the Senators as new teams entering the league. Of course, Ottawa previously had a professional hockey team and the Lightning were a move by the NHL in hopes of expanding the game in the United States further.

The two franchises saw a lack of success at the start, much like other expansion clubs. Ottawa in particular held a record of 10-70-4 record in their first season. Each of the franchises peaked around the mid 2000’s, with each being led by their number of high end prospects and rising players, the Lightning were able to accomplish the goal of winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. Ottawa was among the league’s elite at that point in time and around the NHL lockout season, the Sens were considered a cup favourite.

Ottawa got their shot in 2007 as a roster highlighted by Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson would reach the final, eventually bowing out come 5 games vs the Anaheim Ducks.

Now, with Tampa shooting for their 2nd cup since expansion and Ottawa seeing another 1st round playoff exit, here’s a look at the two franchises since Expansion.

The Draft:

Expansion clubs have always been given exclusive rights when it comes to entry drafts. In 92, the Lightning were given the honour of selecting first overall. Ottawa had a few chances at that position in the nineties and have been a steady team since.

Tampa Bay has gone through another full-on rebuild phase. That phase allowed Tampa to select players such as Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, allowing them to compete for a Stanley Cup once again.

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The Lightning had a shot with picks in the top 10 throughout their first 6 or so seasons. The real shot at a franchise type player came in 1998 with Vincent Lecavalier who led the team to a stanley cup in 2004. Of course, playoff MVP Martin St. Louis signing on as a free agent and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin also played big parts.

The two building phases aren’t hard to discern for Tampa Bay. The first occured at expansion and the second when Steven Stamkos had his name called in 2008.

Looking at Ottawa’s drafting history and it can be argued that Ottawa didn’t go through a similar phase as the Senators haven’t had a shot at a top pick since 2001 with Jason Spezza, a pick acquired through trade.

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The Senators did have a lot of chances early on, especially through the draft. Top 3 picks during the franchise’s first 5 seasons led to a few hits and a few misses. Alexei Yashin was a good first line center, Alex Daigle didn’t turn out. Radek Bonk at number 3 could’ve been better and Bryan Berard not signing led to Wade Redden, which was a good thing. Chris Phillips is still with the franchise today whether you like it or not as he has been an important piece.

In terms of drafting, Tampa had their start, Ottawa had theirs. Tampa has the benefit of going through another building cycle which led to Stamkos and Hedman and in turn the ability to compete for a second cup.

Team Individual Awards

Just looking at the fact that Tampa has a cup and Ottawa doesn’t tells you a lot about how each team has done since expansion. There’s a point to be made that there have been more peaks and valleys with Tampa and Ottawa has been more steady, but on an individual and team level, the Lightning have accomplished more than the Ottawa Senators since 2002.

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NHL Success

It’s been 22 seasons in the NHL for these two; that’s over 1700 games. Since joining the league in 1992, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a 0.467 winning percentage and a record of 702-809-229 (W-L-T/OTL/SOL). The Senators hold a 784-725-231 record and a higher winning percentage.

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I mentioned it earlier, but in terms of NHL success since expansion, the edge has to go to the Lightning. A cup in 04 was something Ottawa wasn’t able to accomplish in a similar time frame. The Lightning have had more than a few good players pass through there franchise. Of course, the most notable include Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier.

Now, with Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and a large prospect pool, the Lightning are competing now and are set to compete again in the very near future.


Tampa Bay came into the league the same season Ottawa did. Ottawa was a force to be reckoned with in the mid 2000’s, but didn’t ever accomplish the goal of a Stanley Cup. Now, as the Senators’ expansion partner the Lightning are ready to compete once again, it’s hard to watch. What hurts even more is how former Sens goaltender, Ben Bishop has been an important piece during the run.

Next: What to the Senators have in Kyle Turris?

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