Yzerman steps aside as Lightning general manager

by Gary Shelton on September 12, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Will Yzerman be with the Bolts for more than one year?

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

They still have the best owner in sports. The accounting may vary at other spots, but you can begin with that.

They still have a bright, analytical coach. They still have a star-studded lineup. They still have a shining young goaltender.

But, no, the Tampa Bay Lightning is not as good today as it was two days ago.

Steve Yzerman stepped into limbo Wednesday afternoon, and with it, the future of the organization doesn't seem quite as stable as it was. Leadership is like that. It doesn't matter how stellar a guy's playing career was, and it doesn't matter how many people are positive he will be able to fill the shoes of his predecessor. But

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until you do it, you haven't done it. That's fair to say of Julien BriseBois as anyone. No one hires a general manager thinking it's not going to work.

With Yzerman, the Lightning had the best general manager in hockey. Now, they do not. For the next year, he will be around to advise the Lightning. After that, who knows.

It's odd. There for a while, fans were concerned that Steven Stamkos would be the next star out the door. Then it was Nikita Kucherov. But thanks, to a great degree because of Yzerman, they were locked up. But Yzerman is leaving.

He's a plain-talking man, and so I tend to believe Yzerman when he says he's doing this, to a large degree, because of his family. But already, the speculation is that Yzerman is headed back to Detroit, where he was a star player. There is talk he could head up a new franchise in Seattle -- Las Vegas shows you can be successful with a clean slate.

As far as Tampa Bay, he was the best general manager in the history of the town. He made four conference finals, including the last three. He brought structure, stability, creativity, balance.

Again, this is nothing against BriseBois, who has worked hard under Yzerman. But he is unknown, and he'll have to learn on the job. Granted, he has a good organization around him, and that will help. But when it was time to make a trade, when it was time to sign a free agent, when it was time to change coaches, Yzerman was proven.

He traded Marty St. Louis. He traded Ben Bishop. He traded Jonathan Drouin.

But you want to know what move, to me, will define Yzerman?

It was in March of 2013. Yzerman fired Guy Boucher, a young coach who had taken the team to the conference finals two years before. It was a bold, gutsy move. But Yzerman didn't share the same philosophy as Boucher, and he was concerned with losing Jon Cooper. So he pulled the trigger, and it worked.

Now, we have to hope that BriseBois works, too.

To do the job the way it needs to be done and to be with my family as well, it's becoming difficult to do," Yzerman said. "Hence the decision. I will be wherever I'm needed to be for Julien moving forward.

"This new position will allow me to spend more time with my wife and three daughters who live and attend college in cities in the northern United States. At the direction of (owner) Jeff Vinik, this organization has been committed to excellence and it will remain so under Julien's guidance."

According to BriseBois, nothing will change but the titles.

"The mission is also going to be the same and that mission is to win the Stanley Cup," BriseBois said. "I assure you that everything will be done and nothing will be neglected in our pursuit of the Cup.  I am very confident that eventually we are going to win this Cup.

"We are not quite there yet, but like I said, we are within striking distance and I'll try to keep that going for as long as possible. Most of our core players, pretty much all of them are still pretty young; they are either entering their prime or they're right smack in the middle of their prime so the challenge will be to keep it going forward."

Let's hope so. With Yzerman, there was always a watchman in charge of the franchise, someone who had a vision. No, he didn't win the Cup (former Lightning general manager Jay Feaster did), but he built a roster that is capable of it.

Now, it is up to BriseBois to get the Bolts over the hump.



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