With realignment an eventuality now, it's time that we start focusing on new rivalries-to-be and old rivalries-to-be-renewed. We're reaching out to the fans who know the teams best to get to know more about them and what to expect.
The Team: Tampa Bay Lightning
The Blog: Raw Charge
The Head-to-Head Record (W-L-T): 25-5-2
The Last Meeting: November 30th, 2011 @DET (4-2 W)
The Brief History: Detroit hasn't lost to the expansion-era Lightning since Nikolai Khabibulin out-dueled Curtis Joseph for a 1-0 win in January of 2003. Since then, the Wings have rattled off seven wins and one tie against the Bolts, outscoring them 31-15 over that stretch.
This rivalry should actually be a lot of fun, now that the teams will face another much more often. The Lightning have become many Red Wings fans' "Eastern Conference" team since Steve Yzerman left the Detroit front office to take over the helm for Jeff Vinik. If you want to start building a dislike for them, just remember that Tampa Bay is the team that sent Kyle Quincey to Detroit (immediately after acquiring him from Colorado).
Getting to know you: Continuing our series on our new Division rivals, we've got John Fontana from Raw Charge to introduce us to the Lightning and their fans. We asked the same five questions which should help acquaint us with the group. Also, if we're going to be conversing with them, we might want to take heed of their community guidelines, which even has a link to a sub-guidelines page.
1. First off, tell us the most important things we need to know about your team.
Well, that really depends on what you consider important, doesn't it? To ultra-traditionalists, the important thing to know about the Lightning is "they play where hockey doesn't belong, they don't appreciate the sport like traditional markets appreciate the sport, and you can't give away tickets to games there."
And after 20 years of hockey in Tampa Bay, the truly important thing to know is the above statements are pretty much full of shit. Oh, sure, the market still remains un-traditional, but sell-out crowds (without the need for out of town fans to achieve it) puts down the notion the market doesn't support or appreciate hockey.
2. Who on your team are we going to hate the most?
If you hate players because they are so good, you'll hate Steven Stamkos; you'll hate Martin St. Louis because of what he is able to do despite being 5'7". Who to hate because of frustrating the Wings? At this point in time, I can't tell you that - the entire team is frustrating the Lightning fan base while underperforming at current.
3. Why should the Wings fear you?
Because the building plan in Tampa is the building plan in Detroit. It's Ken Holland's protoge, the Captain himself -- Steve Yzerman, in charge in Tampa Bay. If you have confidence in what Ken Holland has done for the Wings and what he's aiming for - you'll fear the mirror team being put together by Yzerman.
4. What do you fear most about the Wings?
The Bolts traditionally poor play the scant few times they have played the WIngs. Tampa Bay is 5-25 with one tie against the Red Wings over the past 20 years. That's not exactly encouraging.
5. What about the rest of our new division will our fanbases have no problem agreeing on?
The fact we don't like the direction of the NHL under Gary Bettman; that Damian Cox is a sports-writing troll more than a journalist; that Han Solo shot first and that "Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope - Special Edition" errantly tried to change that.
Okay, maybe two out of three? Which two are up for debate but my point is that I don't see much agreement between the perceived "traditional" markets of the Northeast/Central and the "non-traditional" markets of the south.