Is the real MVP of the Lightning … Yzerman?

by Gary Shelton on July 2, 2016 · 1 comment

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Victor Hedman signed u for another eight years, too./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Victor Hedman signed u for another eight years, too./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Saturday, 5:45 a.m.

Suddenly, he looks smart. Suddenly, he looks efficient.

Suddenly, Steve Yzerman looks hungry.

By nature, he is a quiet man, not prone to beating his chest or proclaiming where he intends to guide his hockey team. Most nights, he sits in a booth, studying his team, absorbing, analyzing. He is the silent general manager, talking only rarely and not really enjoying in then.

On the other hand, Yzerman is having a terrific summer.

He signed Steven Stamkos for eight years. He signed Victor Hedman for eight years. He signed Andrei Vasilevskiy for three. He negotiated a peace with Jonathan Drouin. He has Nikita Kucherov in his sights.

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Hedman was the Lightning's best defender last year.

Hedman was the Lightning's best defender last year.

 

He has made the Lightning, a top two team two years ago, a top four team last year, look vital and smart. He has a team for the ages now, a team that should matter until at least the year 2024 or so.

It wasn't this way before, if you'll remember. In 2004, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, and promptly went out of the business of winning. It didn't help that the league shut down, but the Lightning watched as Nikolai Khabibulin left, as Jason Cullimore left. Oh, it's understandable. That Lightning team was young, and you can't keep everyone.

But, um, isn't that what Yzerman seems to be doing now?

Yzerman may be the MVP of the Lightning.

Yzerman may be the MVP of the Lightning.

Odd. Not long ago, Yzerman wasn't especially popular. Marty St. Louis, the best player in the history of the franchise, was pouting his way out of town, and he laid the blame at Yzerman's feet. Yzerman didn't pick St. Louis in his initial list for the Olympics. It didn't matter that St. Louis made the team anyway, and it didn't matter that St. Louis had brought up the notion of being traded even before that. A front office guy who doesn't play anymore is never going to win a popularity contest with a star player.

Now, however, the world is sorry it looked sideways at Yzerman. Under his guidance, the franchise finally has a minor league system, which could be valuable if the Bolts want to be a long-term contender. It finally has a blueprint of what it wants to be as a franchise.

Funny. If you were building a Mount Rushmore for this team, you'd put Stamkos on it. You'd put Hedman. Probably, you'd put Ben Bishop, who may yet be traded (the Vasilevskiy signing seems to suggest it).

The fourth face?

I'd say it's Yzerman's. Ahead of Nikita Kucherov. Ahead of Tyler Johnson. Even ahead of Jeff Vinik, who provides the money while Yzerman provides the brain power.

How does a guy pull this off? How does he convince young, talented athletes that the best thing may not be to grab every dollar available? Oh, it isn't just Yzerman. It takes a locker room of athletes who have the ability to see a larger picture.

Then, there is this. Under Yzerman, the Bolts have played for three conference titles and a Stanley Cup.

Probably, they'll be back.

Hedman and Stamkos could approach 1,000 games together.

Hedman and Stamkos could approach 1,000 games together.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jim Willson July 2, 2016 at 11:35 am

Great column….and I agree. Yzerman is MVP. Would never want to be in a stare down with him.

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