Will Halls of Fame remember Tampa Bay?

by Gary Shelton on January 24, 2023

in general

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

And so the window closes on a community.

Fifteen minutes ago, it seems, the Tampa Bay Lightning was a mini-dynasty. The Bucs were a World Champion. The Rays were in the World Series.

Then the page turned.

The brief rise of a city was electric. The teams all mattered, and the players all seemed like achievers. The rest of the world seemed to be chasing what Tampa Bay had, great teams with charismatic leaders.

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Now? Now the Lightning is in third place. The Bucs were a massive disappointment. The Rays can't hit on the field, and their front office isn't getting a lot of hits, either.

So what if no one rebounds? What if the Lightning stays at only "pretty good" and the Bucs are "below average" and the Rays "are just above."

Then what happens when the Halls of Fame come calling?

A guess as we look ahead:

Tom Brady, quarterback, Bucs: 112 percent. There has never been a surer bet to make the Hall of Fame. Granted, his three years in Tampa Bay were only a slice of his success, but the only thing that can stop him from entering the Hall is if he never retires.

Steven Stamkos, forward, Lightning; 97 percent. How are you going to keep Stammer out? He's a two-time Cup champion, a 500-goal scorer, a 1,000-point producer. We'll never know how good he could have been without his injuries, but he's an immortal.

Rob Gronkowski, tight end, Bucs: 94 percent. Again, much of his greatness was elsewhere. But Gronk was a great player here, too. His absence certainly was felt.

Jon Cooper, coach, Lightning: 91 percent: Cooper clinched his spot with back-to-back Stanley Cups, but he's won everywhere he's been.

Ronde Barber, cornerback, Bucs. 89 percent: Barber is a finalist, which means he'll eventually get in. It's a thick season for cornerbacks, so it might not be this year.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, goaltender, Lightning: 85 percent: Vasilevskiy is already at 249 victories in 398 games. No goalie has won as much is so few games.

Mike Evans, receiver, Bucs. 81 percent: Evans will seem like a slam dunk locally, because he's annually at more than 1,000 yards. But there are a lot of receivers with a lot of numbers. His Super Bowl helps.

Nikita Kucherov, forward, Lightning: 77 percent. Kucherov is one of the most creative players of his time. Back-to-back titles will help.

Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle, Bucs: 71 percent. Suh has been a bit of a mercenary, but he was one of the defining defensive tackles of his era. No, he was no Aaron Donald, but he should be remembered.

Brayden Point, forward, Lightning: 67 percent. Point may be hurt by so many high-profile teammates. One the other hand, he may be about to become his team’s leading goal-scorer.

David Price, pitcher, Rays: 60 percent. I don't think Price makes it. His best years came early. Still, he'll get some consideration.

Victor Hedman, defenseman, Lightning. 52 percent: Hedman has been considered one of the best defenders in the game for years. His scoring has leveled off, however.

Simeon Rice, defensive end, Bucs: 25 percent: I'd vote for Rice, the pass-rushing force of the great Bucs' defenses. But not many others would. He gets a bad rap for not playing the run, but the Bucs' coaches of the day swore he did.

Evan Longoria, third base, Rays: 19 percent. Longoria is the best player in the history of the Rays. He's been a fine player. But is he immortal?

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