Vincent Lecavalier Still the Face of the Tampa Bay Lightning after 900 Games

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIIJanuary 19, 2011

Vincent Lecavalier reached 900 games in his NHL career
Vincent Lecavalier reached 900 games in his NHL careerBruce Bennett/Getty Images

Maybe he doesn't put the puck in the net like he used to. The Lightning have another guy to score them 50 goals a season. Perhaps his spin-o-rama or dekes don't have the same effect as they once did.

Whether his career will end as the Lightning's first representative in hockey's Hall of Fame is debatable. He'll need a few more years and get a bit closer to 600 goals before that discussion can begin in earnest.

He could never lived up to the "Michael Jordan of hockey" nickname that the bumbling bumpkin former Tampa Bay owner Art Williams placed upon him the day he was drafted—but no one really expected that.

Montreal Canadiens fans still speak about him with bated breath, still hoping that somehow, some way one day he will put on their team's storied jersey (sorry Habs fans, it's never going to happen).

Vincent Lecavalier completed his 900th NHL game Tuesday night. What an amazing, strange trip it's been for the guy many around the Bay area know as "Vinny 4."

Just inching over the age of 30, Vinny Lecavalier has a lot of hockey left. In his 12 NHL seasons, he's seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

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He's on pace for his 11th consecutive season with at least 20 goals. Lecavalier holds the team record for career goals, career points, power play goals, power play points and the single season record for goals and points.

In 2004 he won the Stanley Cup and he reached his peak in 2007, winning the Rocket Richard trophy for most goals in the season with 52.

He's a four time All-Star.

Yet it hasn't always been good for Vinny in Tampa Bay. For the last five years, as the franchise transitioned from the Davidson Group to OK Hockey to finally Jeff Vinik, Lecavalier has had to live with constant rumors of him being traded away.

Even after signing a no-movement clause last season, Lecavalier was the subject of trade speculation. The scary thing—some of it was actually true.

Some believe Len Barrie performed a backdoor deal to move Vinny out of Tampa Bay, but he lacked the authority within the organization to make that decision. It just added to growing tensions between the two partners.

"The past few years I didn't really know that was going to happen, there was always that uncertainty, and I didn't like that,'' Lecavalier told the Tampa Tribune. "I believe now that I will be here for the rest of my career, and that's something I've always wanted.''

He has the stability of a long term contract and the Lightning ownership is more stable than it has ever been in the franchise's existence. His general manager believes in him, as does his coach.

He continues to wear the captain's C but now understands what it means.

"We need a captain who inspires us, and he's doing it," head coach Guy Boucher told the St. Pete Times. "He's in the phase of his career where his job is to inspire the players around, and that's what he's doing with his work ethic. He's finishing his checks. He's back-checking. He's first on the puck. That's what we need."

He doesn't have to shoulder the scoring burden in Tampa Bay any longer—that falls on the much younger stick of Steven Stamkos—yet Lecavalier believes he still might have some magic left.

"Don't get me wrong," he said. "I still want to produce for this team. But I want to do well on both sides of the ice. I've learned so much this year about how to play the game and how to be consistent every night."

Still learning, still improving his game and still the face of the Tampa Bay Lightning.