Calling Mr. Yzerman
Gee, what a surprise that Steve Yzerman, one of the most cerebral athletes to skate in the NHL in the last 50 years, already knows a thing or two about how to build a championship team.
|Steve Yzerman struggles to maintain his composure at a news conference announcing his retirement from hockey in Detroit in April, 2006.|
The best thing any team looking to become more competitive in the NHL could do would be to immediately try to lure Yzerman to town, but that's probably not happening.
It's not clear what his plan is, but I doubt he'll be leaving Detroit, even if it means Mike Ilitch has to give him a slice of the franchise.
But Hockey Canada, now that's a different story.
In Wayne Gretzky, Ken Holland, Steve Tambellini and others, the national body has more than a few experienced choices when it comes to naming a general manager for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Yzerman, architect of the squad that won gold at the world championships in Moscow over the weekend, can now be added to that list. (Interestingly, Yzerman downplayed his own role and credited the input of others, and the first name he mentioned was Leaf GM John Ferguson). It was interesting to see Yzerman's team filled with young players, including a college star in Jonathan Toews. It was a team that stood in stark comparison to the 2006 Canadian team that finished seventh in Turin, a team that always seemed more about past reputations than current quality.
What makes Yzerman even more appealing, however, is that he's currently, well, underemployed.
He has a senior title with the Red Wings, but mostly is learning the ropes, trying out various duties and finding out what may or may not interest him. Doug Gilmour spent last season doing something similar with the Leafs.
Is Yzerman likely to be a GM in the league next season? No.
And when you start looking at the timetable for Vancouver, he might be the person best positioned to take on what may well be the most high-profile position for any Canadian hockey executive in history.
This is going to be, you have to realize, a full-time job.
Gretzky, you may recall, was named executive director of Team Canada 16 months before the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. At the time, he was a perfect choice because while he was a part-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, he wasn't involved in day-to-day management of the team and thus was available to take on all the scouting and organization required.
Yzerman may well turn out to be in exactly the same situation. Moreover, he would also be a strong candidate to organize Team Canada for next spring's world championships in Halifax and Quebec City, which would be excellent preparation for dealing with all the distractions and issues of developing a strong national team on Canadian soil.
As usual, Vancouver 2010 will be a team approach to management, and Gretzky should again be involved, if he's interested.
But Yzerman at the top already makes a lot of sense.