May 26th, 2010

Don’t Cry Detroit, Steve Yzerman Will Return

After news broke on Tuesday that Detroit Red Wings great Steve Yzerman would leave his front office job with the team to take over as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, two friends of mine mentioned how bummed they were that their hero was leaving the nest that had been his home since shortly after his 18th birthday.

Thinking out loud on Facebook, those two friends spent some time cursing the front office in Tampa for stealing their hero, and lamenting his departure.  Well, to both of them and any other Red Wings faithful who may be listening, I say this: dry your tears and do not despair.  Eventually, perhaps sooner than you think, the prodigal son will return older and most definitely wiser to run the team you love so much.

How can I be so sure?  Like it or not, current Red Wings GM Ken Holland isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and nor should he.  The team has been to the Finals four times under Holland and won three Cups.  At age 54, he’s not young anymore, but he’s not exactly old either, and probably has at least one Stanley Cup left to win, if not more, before he finally retires.

On the other hand you have Yzerman, who quite frankly, has probably learned all he can after working for almost the last four years under Holland.  He’s been GM of Team Canada twice, once at the 2007 IIHF World Championships and once at the 2010 Winter Olympics.  I don’t think I have to remind you that Team Canada won both tournaments.

So, after 27 years with the Red Wings, there are simply no worlds left to conquer for Yzerman in Detroit.  It’s clear that he wants to build a team of his own, and he’s earned that chance.  And with the Lightning, it’s a heck of a chance.  It’s a team that boasts Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Steve Stamkos, Ryan Malone and Victor Hedman.  That’s a core of talent that plenty of other GMs would like to be able to count on.  With Yzerman at the helm, who knows what other assets he might be able to import if he decides he wants to rearrange the deck?

Even better, the Lightning are a team without a coach, which gives Yzerman another chance to put a unique stamp on this team.  Toss in the fact that the Lightning will be starting next season with a new ownership group after the disastrous Len Barrie/Oren Koules regime, and there isn’t a blanker slate to work with in the entire NHL.

As a fan of the Washington Capitals, I’m sure that the front office here understands that the Lightning aren’t a laughing stock anymore now that Yzerman is running things.  With all the chaos that’s taken place in Tampa in recent years, it’s easy to forget that only four wins stood between the Lightning and the playoffs this season.  To make up that gap, Yzerman has to get the team one extra win every about six weeks between October and April.  I’m betting that he’ll find a way, and the Lightning will be back in the playoffs.

I’m having a hard time imagining a better job for a first time GM.  In short, Yzerman will kill in this job, and prove that he has the chops to run his own organization.  And after anywhere between 5-7 seasons, after he’s pulled the Lightning out of their six-year long funk, I don’t doubt that Holland will decide that it’s time to step aside.  And when that moment comes, Yzerman will be on the top of the Mike Illitch interview list.

So cry if you must, Detroit fans.  But it’s time for Mr. Yzerman to run his own show before he’ll be ready to run yours.  No worries, eventually, everyone will be the better for it.

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One Response to “Don’t Cry Detroit, Steve Yzerman Will Return”

  1. I believe Stevie wanted this and it was the next step in his career. I also know sometimes you can’t do what you want in the place where you started your professional life. Life happens and dreams change. Which is what happened here. I am still confused to why anyone would say he was a traitor in the D.

    He has done everything and even learned here. An apprenticeship is what he essentially had and he did it for four years. He felt he was ready to move on and you are correct about the blank slate.

    I understand why he is leaving and I support him it is just a culture shock not having him around. (I work in the arena so I still used to see him.)

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