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A Different March Madness

March Madness is fun and all. The happiness (and potential stress) of creating a bracket for the NCAA Tournament. Watching major upsets happen, nail-biters between two equally matched teams, or sometimes dominant games are even fun to watch (@Zion Williamson in every game he plays).

As of March 27, my bracket is done-zo. I’d like to say that I was in good shape toward the end of the Round of 32. But one upset led to another (ehem…Mississippi State and Kansas State. Thanks for that, you guys) and I slowly fell to the bottom of the standings.

But, on March 21, a unique bracket came out, and thankfully it had absolutely nothing to do with basketball. A well-known Tampa Bay Lightning fan, who does post-game videos and other blogs, Andrew Weiss, created the 2019 Unofficial Lightning Fan Favorite Bracket. There were 64 spots with current and former players, as well as a couple coaches.

All four sections of players are from specific eras of Lightning history: players who grew and were signed under the reign of current head coach Jon Cooper; players who were signed and grew under former general manager Steve Yzerman (#TrustTheYzerplan); players who won the lone Stanley Cup that the franchise had; and players who were before the time where the Lightning became a popular team.

What better way to complete my own bracket and avoid the polls that Weiss has put out (because I’ve disagreed with a couple of them, quite honestly). There were some good upsets in my own bracket (that I edited below for my champion…excuse the red incorrect spelling lines).

Edited with textboxes on Microsoft Power Point. Don’t @ me.

There are a couple upsets that I feel need explaining, since this is March Madness after all. Probably the biggest one, right off the bat, being Vladislav Namestnikov and Brayden Point.

When I first starting attending Syracuse Crunch games four or five years ago, when the Lightning first affiliated themselves with Syracuse. Vladdy was on that roster and was one of the top prospects they had – he was even drafted above Nikita Kucherov (sorry…but that was a huge mistake). The first Crunch jersey I ever got was Vladdy’s, so he is close to my heart. But I couldn’t let him beat the man who has brought all this success: Jon Cooper.

The next one is Dave Andreychuk over Vincent Lecavalier. Vinny, one of the greatest Lightning players in franchise, and so is Andreychuk. But, for me personally, the entire process of Vinny being stripped of the captaincy early on in his career, and with Andreychuk being named captain and leading the Bolts to their only Stanley Cup Championship. While Vinny was renamed captain, you can’t disrespect the man who led your team to the Cup.

Cooper vs. Nikita Kucherov? It’s extremely tough. Cooper has led this team, but Kucherov has completely dominated the league this season. Cooper has to take this one though, knowing how to make solid chemistry between players – and he did that with Kucherov. Who knows if Kucherov would be where he is at without Coop (who just signed a large contract extension).

But, now to the winner, Steven Stamkos. The first round pick in his draft in 2008. He has spent all his time with the Bolts. He now holds the franchise goal record. He had the most goals in one calendar month, six all-star selections, and numerous 90-point seasons. He is a key cog in this year’s record-breaking roster.

That’s the Lightning’s March Madness champion: Steven Stamkos, the captain and ultimate leader of this team for the 2018-2019 season.

COVER PHOTO: Lightning Fan Bracket created and provided by Andrew Weiss (@Weiss_NW) via Twitter

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