In this day and age it is increasingly rare that any professional athlete is identified with one particular franchise. For every Cal Ripken Jr., there are literally hundreds of players who bounce from team to team with seemingly little regard for tradition, rivalries or loyalty.
That is why Steve Yzerman is such a rarity in professional sports. For more than two decades, Stevie Y was the face, heart and backbone of the Detroit Red Wings. He was as recognizable of an iconic image in the Motor City as the famous Winged Wheel that adorned his sweater. He led on and off the ice by example and was a role model for not only his teammates, but also those in the community.
This is why it may have been a shock to so many people when it was announced Tuesday that after months of wooing, Yzerman had finally accepted the job as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
While many may wonder why the Lightning were Yzerman's team of choice, we are more interested in wondering if it's the right fit.
Although Yzerman has built up his managerial credentials over the last few years by serving as vice-president of the Red Wings, helping Canada capture medals in the IIHF World Hockey Championship in 2007 and 2008 and building Canada's gold medal winning team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, he has never served as a GM of a professional hockey team.
While Yzerman undoubtedly would have loved to have waited and eventually taken over the general manager's position in Detroit, the wait could have been extremely lengthy; standing in his way is current GM Ken Holland, whom many consider the best in the business, and Holland's very able assistant Jim Nill.
There is a portion of the general public that would also question why Yzerman would want to take over a team that finished 12th in the Eastern Conference this past season. But although the squad struggled on the ice, the cupboard is far from bare in Tampa Bay.
For one, the team does has co-Rocket Richard winning sniper Steven Stamkos under contract for one more year at his miniscule entry level contract level. They also have second overall pick in the past NHL Entry Draft in Victor Hedman, who should improve in his sophomore season. As well, they own the right to select sixth overall in the upcoming Draft, which could be used to select a hulking defenceman like Brandon Gormley or Derek Forbort, or perhaps a player with offensive upside like Nino Niederreiter or Alex Burmistov.
Thanks to his lengthy career with the Wings, Yzerman has plenty of experience dealing with superstar players – names like Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Datsyuk, Brett Hull and Henrik Zetterberg; it will be interesting, however, to see how he deals with veteran holdovers from the Bolts' Stanley Cup run in Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. The possibility exists that one or both may be on their way out of Tampa. The Canadiens have seemingly coveted Lecavalier's services for years and were reportedly close to acquiring him at last year's Draft. Although Lecavalier's $10 million sticker price may scare some suitors away, he will certainly generate interest should he become available.
While Lecavalier has in the past stated that he has no interest leaving the franchise, St. Louis may be a different matter entirely. Entering the final year of his contract at a very reasonable $4 million, the soon-to-be 35-year-old could be a very valuable trade piece for Yzerman to use to potentially help in bringing in the number one goalkeeper the team has lacked since Nikolai Khabibulin left town after the Cup win.
Something that could also complicate matters is the fact that both St. Louis and Lecavalier were left off Yzerman's final roster this past March at the Olympics. While both players handled the situation with class, there may well be hurt feelings hidden beneath the surface.
The team has money to spend this summer to try and lure free agents to town, and having a new owner in Jeff Vinik will certainly help matters. Vinik immediately brings credibility to the team's often-fractured ownership situation. His experience helping the Red Sox end a lengthy World Series drought in 2004 will certainly help as the Lightning attempt to bring a Stanley Cup back to the Bay area.
Yzerman's immediate concerns appear to be hiring a coaching staff, preparing for the Draft, getting restricted free agent Steve Downie under contract and attempting to acquire a true number one goaltender.
It appears as though Stevie Y has his work cut out for him as he tries to bring the Bolts back to respectability.
Our question to you in this edition of Netcrashing is this: “Is taking the Lightning job the right move for Steve Yzerman at this point?”
Let your opinions be known in our ‘Your! Call' feature below.