Earlier this afternoon, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced Steve Yzerman has officially stepped down as the team’s general manager. Julien BriseBois is set to take over GM duties for the Lightning, having served as Assistant GM and GM of the Bolts’ AHL affiliate in Syracuse.
Since taking over as GM of a struggling Lightning team in 2010, Yzerman has enjoyed an incredible run of success. In his eight seasons as general manager, the Lightning advanced to the NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals four times and the Stanley Cup Final once. When he took over duties, Yzerman became a presence. A culture change arrived, and it has been Yzerman’s way or the highway. Just ask Johnathan Drouin.
Steve Yzerman: GM, Wizard, Armed Robber
Stevie Y has been a legend and a fan favourite for a reason. The “#Yzerplan” was adopted by Lightning fans as a mantra for the philosophy put in place during his tenure as Tampa’s GM. He made a statement early in the Sunshine State, trading fan favorite forward Cory Conacher at the 2012-13 deadline for goalie Ben Bishop. Conacher had turned heads as Steven Stamkos’ linemate, posting big numbers in a small sample size.
This trade is now known as one of the most one-sided since the turn of the century. Although Bishop was sent packing to Los Angeles in 2017, he is one of the most decorated goaltenders in franchise history. Though his doesn’t join Nikolai Khabibulin’s as one engraved on Lord Stanley, he owns Lightning records for games played, wins and shutouts. Not bad considering Conacher was nearly out of hockey within a year, and is now back with the Lightning after bouncing around to several teams.
Quincey for Vasilevskiy (Essentially)
After a rough 2011-12 campaign, Yzerman was in the market to flip forward Steve Downie at the deadline. Though a fan favorite, let’s face it: Downie was a prototypical grinder, posting only 28 points on the year while racking up a whopping 121 minutes in the sin bin. Yzerman traded Downie to the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Kyle Quincey. However, Yzerman didn’t stop, dealing Quincey to the Red Wings for a 2012 first-rounder and Sebastien Piche. That selection was used to draft 2018 Vezina finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy. Not too shabby, Steve. Not too shabby at all.
Yzerman would go on to make another splash just last year. He dealt a young locker room issue, Jonathan Drouin, to Montreal. In exchange, he received one of the NHL’s top prospects. Addressing a large defensive issue in Tampa, he picked up one of the Habs’ top prospects in Mikhail Sergachev. While Drouin has struggled in red and blue, Sergachev immediately stepped in and made his mark. In just one season, he’s proven to be a dynamic threat in the opposition’s end of the ice. Although his play in his own end was up and down, he should improve in that aspect over time.nSimply put, the kid is the real deal and the sky is the limit for him in Tampa.
As roles change, all parties involved had nothing but good things to say about one another, as Yzerman looks forward to the next chapter of his career and the team aspires to use the Yzerman-laid framework as the beginning of a Stanley Cup winning franchise.
“As Steve transitions from the position of general manager into his new role, I thank him, on behalf of everyone in the Lightning organization for all that he has done to lead our team to this point, laying the groundwork for our franchise to be one of the best in the NHL,” said Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.
Yzerman firmly believes his work has the team at a championship level, and is excited to assist BriseBois going forward. “I believe the Lightning are a Stanley Cup contending team and I’m excited to be in this new role assisting Julien, Jon Cooper, and the entire hockey operations staff as Julien takes over as general manager,” said Yzerman.
Lightning Affiliates: Darlings of the AHL
Though the decision comes as a major shock to Lightning fans, the organization is in good hands moving forward. Do you recall when Guy Boucher was let go and the team was in the market for a new bench boss? Who stepped in and filled that spot? None other than the AHL’s Coach of the Year, Jon Cooper. The Syracuse Crunch and the AHL have been the Bolts’ best friend in recent years. The formerly named Norfolk Admirals’ Calder Cup Champions of 2011-12 included none other than Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn and Conacher. You could say they’ve stepped up and made a significant impact on the NHL squad.
While Cooper worked wonders as the bench boss of the Admirals, and later the Syracuse Crunch, their GM was none other than Brisebois. The message here? To take a page out of Aaron Rodgers’ book: Relax, folks. R-E-L-A-X. This team will be fine, and they are in good hands with BriseBois calling the shots.
New Partners in Crime: The Beginning of the Vinik-Brisebios Era
Vinik certainly has high hopes as he hands the torch over in good faith to a polished man who is no stranger to GM duties or the organization.
“Julien has been preparing himself for this role for much longer than the eight years he has served as our assistant general manager. He is smart, experienced, well-prepared and progressive, sharing the draft and develop philosophy with Steve that has worked so well for us,” said Vinik. “I am confident that he will maintain our standard of sustained excellence, hopefully guiding us to a Stanley Cup in the near future.”
Brisebois embraces the opportunity and is champing at the bit to get started with Vinik.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity that Jeff Vinik is providing me today and I thank Steve Yzerman for all that he has done for me personally and professionally while I worked as his assistant,” said BriseBois in accepting the position.“ Jeff is a great owner and I am excited to lead his hockey team and fulfill his vision.”
Fulfilling that vision won’t be easy, as he takes on a Lightning squad with not only a high level of skill, but a high level of expectations as well.
Where to, Steve?
As of today, Yzerman is set to continue with the Lightning. He’ll no longer be GM, but will take over as a senior advisor for the Bolts. Many project Yzerman as a possible candidate to take over duties for the dumpster fire that is the Ottawa Senators. Seattle is also viewed as a possible destination if an expansion occurs in the coming years. A return home to the Motor City certainly isn’t out of the picture, considering Stevie Y’s legendary Red Wing career as a player. An incredible run in Tampa for one of the best general managers of the 21st century, if not of all time. A tip of the cap, and onward we go.
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