Stevie Y Goes To Central Florida
Fact is, Tampa might not be Steve Yzerman's dream position.
But it's available now, and it has some upside. More to the point, all the best jobs are taken and unavailable for at least another year. Sometimes, you have to take what's there.
Think about it. All the Original Six cities - Toronto, Montreal, Detroit, the New York Rangers, Boston and Chicago - have executes in charge who aren't going anywhere. The likeliest to open up any time soon would be the Rangers, but Glen Sather is still in charge and that might be Mark Messier's job when he's ready.
Based on Team Canada's performance at the recent worlds, Messier might not be ready quite yet.
Beyond that, the best positions would probably be Philly, Washington, Pittsburgh, Vancouver and Minnesota, depending on your perspective.
And those jobs are all taken. Canucks GM Mike Gillis might be on the shakiest ground, but that has another year, maybe two, to play out.
The other 19 spots, meanwhile, all have various upsides and downsides, again depending on your perspective. Fans of different teams will no doubt be deeply offended that others might not believe their teams are the most attractive in the sport for any executive. Edmonton and Calgary, for example, might be plum jobs to some, but both have very difficult contractual problems to work out and have GMs in place for at least another year. Ottawa is in good shape and is Yzerman's hometown, but Bryan Murray seems rock solid there.
Buffalo and San Jose are both good spots. But both have financial restrictions on what they can and can't do, and both have veteran GMs running the show.
Which brings us to the Lightning, and the weird historical twist that for the second time in hockey history, Yzerman follows Brian Lawton. The team has two quality veterans in Vinnie Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, although Lecavalier has a nasty contract. Steve Stamkos is already a 50-goal man, Victor Hedman could be a stud defenceman and the Bolts have the sixth pick overall in the June draft.
The Bolts have a lot of expiring contracts and decent prospects. What matters most, of course, is whether new owner Jeff Vinik has the wherewithal and the intent to invest in the franchise, in which case he would be the first in a long line of owners to do so. This is a team that even when it was owned by Bill Davidson of Detroit, it was run on a bit of shoestring and without a long-term committment from ownership.
Some believe Vinik is different. Dave Nonis, who decided to stay with the Leafs for largely personal reasons, believes Vinik will be an excellent owner. Yzerman must believe that, too, or he would never have signed on with the Lightning.
His experience helping to run the Detroit Red Wings and in organizing the Canadian Olympic team that won gold three months ago in Vancouver suggest he has the makings of an excellent GM. Vinik has done well by clearing the team of all management and coaching committments, so Yzerman will have the freedom to shape his own future.
This gives Tampa credibility in the marketplace, which is good news for the Bettman administration, which has been trying to stabiize this franchise for years. In many ways, its not a bad market, with fans that have proven they will come out and support a winning team. There just hasn't been much consistency or commitment from ownership or management.