No matter the team, winning never lasts

by Gary Shelton on June 28, 2022

in general

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has had great success./TIM WIRT

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

The inherent problem with success is that it never lasts long enough.

One moment, you are dancing in confetti, and the next, the rest of the league is trying to take bites out of your hindquarters. One minute, you are top of the world, and the next, you're at the same starting point as everyone else.

Today, the players of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the former champions, can tell you all about it.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

Oh, they lasted longer than most. They successfully defended their title -- a first for a Tampa Bay team -- and then came within two wins. of doing it again. Nevertheless, they have now become one of the hunters, one of the teams chasing the Colorado Avalanche.

And darn. Did it go in a hurry or what?

One day, you are at a boat parade. The next week, you wear your new T-shirt on casual Friday. The week after that, you make sure you spend some time with that Rangers’ fan at your office. Time only allows for so much celebration.

And then the team is in training camp, starting another thousand-mile journey. The celebration never feels quite complete until the ice is fresh again.

Again, Lightning fans have nothing to complain about. Their team won 11 straight series, third in the history of the NHL. They won two Cups. They reloaded where they had to, and they measured up to a lot of big moments before they fell short in one.

Remember the 2003 Tampa Bay Bucs? The year after they won a trophy, they fell on their noses. The Bucs slid to 7-9 that year Over the next two years, they were just 12-20. By 2004, Warren Sapp was gone. John Lynch was gone. Brad Johnson was on his way out. Rich McKay was gone. Keyshawn Johnson was gone.The head coach, Jon Gruden, never won another playoff game.

In other words, those Super Bowl bumper stickers didn't have a lot of shelf life, did they?

Then there was the original champions of the Lightning in 2004. That looked to be a young, dynamic team. But the league took an entire season off the year after, and the contracts were accelerated, and Nicholas Khabibulen left.

Even after the sport resumed, the Lightning was something less. They were bounced from their next two playoff seasons. Then the bad times started.

The Rays, although they've never won a World Series, have had similar problems repeating. They've reached the World Series twice. But after the first, in 2008, they finished third. After the last one, in 2020, they won 100 games in their sequel season. But they lost in the Division Round of the playoffs.

The most recent Bucs' titlists also fell short of repeating. They won their division the next year, and they won more games, but they lost to the Rams in the Division round on a questionable coaching call on defense.

So understand this. When the Lightning players say they aren't done yet, well, that's to be seen. Winning once is difficult, winning twice is improbable.

So appreciate what the Lightning has been for three years. Remember their journey, and they're fight. They fell two steps short of the promised land, but it was close enough to smell the champagne.

Next year, they try again.

Because as fleeting as success may be, there is nothing quite as satisfying.

Previous post:

Next post: