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It's been a rough seven years for the fans since the Tampa Bay Lightning took home the Stanley Cup. After the NHL lockout robbed the Lightning's opportunity to defend and cost them goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, Palace Sports and Entertainment sold the franchise to Oren Koules and Len Barrie (also known as "The Cowboys" by John Tortorella).
The Cowboys would fire their Stanley Cup-winning coach Tortorella and GM Jay Feaster for ESPN's Barry Melrose and Brian Lawton. Melrose would be fired early into his first season with the team, with Rick Tocchet taking over.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys began battling for the control of the franchise, struggled to make payroll and began trading away pieces of the Stanley Cup squad.
Finally, after the nearly putting the team into bankruptcy, nearly trading away star player Vincent Lecavalier and completely destroying the fan base, the Cowboys sold to billionaire Jeff Vinik—who paid cash for the team.
Under Vinik, the franchise has morphed into one of the most respected in sports (ranked the No. 2 best sports franchise by an ESPN the Magazine article), drawn respect around the league, put a great product on the ice and putting money into renovating the St. Pete Times Forum into a first-class hockey facility.
The fans have responded.
But all of this good will would be undone if the franchise lost their best young player in Steven Stamkos.