The Tampa Bay Lightning's 20-year history has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.
In 2004, the Tampa Bay Lightning community reached its apex. The Lightning, whose inaugural season was in 1992-93, won the Stanley Cup just 12 seasons later.
That was the high for the Bolts until a magical run in the 2010-11 postseason. Tampa ended the Pittsburgh Penguins' run, then knocked out top-seeded Washington before being eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals by the Boston Bruins.
That turned out to be a great gift for the Bolts. The following draft season, Tampa selected Steven Stamkos to lead the next generation of Lightning stars.
With the Tampa Bay Lightning entering their 20th season in the NHL, general manager Steve Yzerman will have more pressure to put a quality product on the ice and return the Bolts to their 2004 glory.
Yzerman took over as GM in May 2010, and in his first season, the Lightning went to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Bolts' roller coaster ride continued the next season as injuries plagued the team and they finished tied for 10th in the East.
Yzerman has a track record of success at every level, doing whatever is necessary to win. Three Stanley Cups and 10 All-Star Games prove it.
This offseason, he appears to have answered the questions surrounding the Lightning's weaknesses.
He only has two years under his belt as GM, but he will bring the Bolts a Stanley Cup at some point in his tenure.
Stevie Y was drafted fourth overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 1983.
His rookie season, Yzerman netted 87 points. He followed that up the next year with 89 points, endearing himself to the Red Wing faithful.
The Red Wings are one of the most storied franchises in the NHL. Their fanbase expects to win year after year.
Yzerman set a high standard for himself in his first two seasons in Detroit—a level that could have caused a great collapse—but it didn't.
Yzerman finished his career with 1,514 regular-season games and over 1,700 points. He has nearly 200 playoff games to his credit and three Stanley Cups.
Yzerman's standout career included:
- 10-time All-Star selection
- Four-time Stanley Cup Champion (three as a player)
- 19 seasons as Red Wings team captain
- Sixth in NHL in points (1,755)
- Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame
- Inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame
If his success as a player is any indication of what he brings to the Lightning, the Bolts may be poised for conference supremacy.
In 2008, Yzerman was named the Executive Director for the Canadian Men's Hockey team that would compete in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
No home team had won the gold medal in hockey since the 1980 Olympics, the "Miracle" year.
But Yzerman rose to the challenge. He put together one of Canada's best teams in Olympic history and one of the best moments in Olympic history.
Yzerman had less than two years to assemble that team and look at what it accomplished.
Sure, the Tampa Bay Lightning don't have the NHL All-Star team that was Team Canada, but the holes in the Lightning lineup are getting filled piece by piece.
The Olympics are just one indication of the inevitable success story that is Steve Yzerman.
Notable, Yzerman is in his third season at the helm of the Bolts, going not for gold, but for Stanley Cup silver.
Steve is a competitive guy. He's cerebral and really thinks out things and doesn't have trouble making hard decisions which is a really key part of leadership. He has a vision of how he wants the team to play and we've shared that vision,
Yzerman has carried that vision over to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The NHL has seen that this offseason. Yzerman has signed big-name free agents, taken gambles on the trade market and drafted to replenish the team's needs for years to come.
Consider the Tampa Bay blue line, for example.
Four of the top defensemen on the roster are 31 years old or older.
Yzerman's answer? Drafting defensemen in each of the first two rounds of the 2012 draft.
Yzerman appears to have a vision for his team in Tampa Bay. He has seen what the team is capable of based on its success in 2010-11.
His competitive nature would lend credence to that result not being good enough.
His playing career exemplifies an individual who is never satisfied. That mentality endeared him to the heart of Red Wing fans around the world and etched his name in hockey lore.
The same mentality could endear him to Lightning fans as well.
In 2010-11, the Tampa Bay Lightning finished fifth in the Eastern Conference and was one win away from the Stanley Cup finals.
That was Yzerman's first season as general manager of the Lightning.
While most of the pieces of that team were already in place before Yzerman's influence, he did bring in some players that were crucial in the Bolts' playoff run.
He re-signed Martin St. Louis, signed goaltender Dan Ellis and traded for goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
Roloson went 10-6 in the playoffs with a .918 save percentage and a 2.54 goals-against average. He was a crucial part of the Bolts' playoff success, battling save-for-save with Boston Bruin goaltender Tim Thomas.
The Bolts were plagued by injury last season, but Yzerman has done his best to fix the glaring weaknesses: goaltending and defense.
Yzerman signed arguably the second-best defenseman on the free-agent market this offseason in Matt Carle. He also snared defenseman Sami Salo and selected Slater Koekkoek with the 10th overall pick in the draft.
The Bolts also traded for Anders Lindback, a 24-year-old goaltender from Nashville, to work in tandem with Mathieu Garon.
Garon, 34, injured his groin last season and had a .901 save percentage to accompany a 23-16-4 record.
Tampa Bay has improved drastically from the 2011-12 season, largely due to Yzerman's control as GM.
Thanks to Yzerman, the Bolts have a great combination of young guns and veteran leadership necessary to make a Stanley Cup run.
The question in Tampa Bay seems to no longer be can the Lightning get back to the glory of 2004, but when?