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Bolts emphasize continuity in Hockey Operations department

This weeks promotions and additions keep the core of BriseBois staff in place moving into his second season as the Lightning's GM

by Bryan Burns /

Julien BriseBois has gotten plenty of advice, solicited or not, since taking over as Tampa Bay Lightning general manager before the start of the 2018-19 season.

Some of it he's listened to.

Some of it, he's smiled, nodded and went about his business unchanged.

When it came time to solidify his hockey operations management staff, promoting Al Murray to assistant general manager - director of amateur scouting, Jamie Pushor to assistant general manager - director of player personnel and Stacy Roest to assistant general manager - director of player development and Syracuse Crunch GM while adding former Lightning player and NHL veteran Mathieu Darche as director of hockey operations, he trusted his instincts rather than relying on outside voices.

"People said bring your own people. These are my people. I've been working with some of them for nine years," BriseBois said. "They're really good at what they do. I value their opinion. We have a really good relationship, and there's a lot of value in it for me to have people who are good at their jobs that I can trust and I know they're hard working. I don't know why to make changes when we have really good people on staff."

Continuity is a key component to the management staff BriseBois has assembled following his first full season as Lightning general manager. Keeping Murray was lauded as a major coup by national hockey pundits, the architect of Tampa Bay's draft since joining the organization in 2010 legendary in his ability to unearth gems in the later rounds of the draft. Remember, Ondrej Palat was a seventh-round selection in the 2011 Draft. 2018 NHL All-Star Brayden Point was snagged by the Lightning in the third round.

Murray will continue to oversee the draft and amateur scouting but will also be more heavily involved in decision making throughout the entire organization.

"Last week, we had a couple days of year end meetings and getting ready for the summer, potential trades, potential free agent signings, review of our own players and what we're going to do with them, and typically Al would not have been involved in those meetings but I had him in last week," BriseBois said. "We'll continue to have him in all our strategic meetings going forward, keeping him in the loop as to what's going on in Tampa and Syracuse, more so than what he's been accustomed to in the last couple years."

According to BriseBois, Pushor essentially shared the role of overseeing player personnel last season with Pat Verbeek, who left the organization to join former Lightning senior advisor Steve Yzerman at the Detroit Red Wings. Pushor was hired by the Lightning in 2011 as a professional scout and just completed his eighth season with the organization, most recently in the role of director of professional scouting.

"We might very well bring someone else in to help Jamie in that role or promote someone from within to help Jamie stay on top of all the other organizations' players," BriseBois said.

Roest, who started with the Lightning organization in July 2013, will still be in charge of player development with the added role of Syracuse Crunch general manager, freeing up BriseBois to concentrate on other day-to-day tasks involved with being a NHL general manager.

Last season, BriseBois served as GM of both the Lightning and the Crunch.

"I think it's beneficial to the Crunch to have someone who is on top of things. That's their project. That's their baby. They make it their own. They take great pride in making sure it's the best program possible," BriseBois said. "I have a lot of affection for the American Hockey League and the Crunch in particular. I love the people there. I love the age group and the mindset of the people in that league. They're so hungry to improve and get better and move up. I think it's a phenomenal opportunity for Stacy and I know he'll be up to the challenge. Stacy's kind of been my de facto assistant GM in that role for the last few years and he's well aware of how we run a program, what we value in that program. I think he's going to be a great resource for our players there as well as (Crunch head coach) Ben Groulx and our other coaches."

Darche is the lone newcomer to BriseBois' management staff, although he's no stranger to the organization. The former left winger played one season for the Lightning in 2007-08, recording seven goals and 22 points in 73 games. He also played parts of three seasons with the Syracuse Crunch back when it was an affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. When BriseBois was the GM of the Hamilton Bulldogs, he signed Darche to a contract for the 2009-10 season, which he parlayed into three more NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens before hanging up his skates.

"He still has a lot of contacts around the league, guys that he played with that are still playing, guys that he played with, like Jamie Pushor for example, they played together," BriseBois said. "Tony Hrkac, one of our pro scouts, he played with Mathieu Darche. Jeff Halpern, on our coaching staff, played with Mathieu Darche. Todd Richards, on our coaching staff, coached Mathieu Darche. So, there were a lot of connections. He already knew a lot of people. He's got phenomenal people skills and a really good head for management. Just one of those guys that's a natural leader. He was a perfect fit for the job description I had in mind."

The familiarity among Lightning management will allow the staff to hit the ground running in preparation for the upcoming 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver and subsequent summer signing season without that awkward getting-to-know-you phase.

"In the case of Al, Jamie and Stacy, they're people I've worked with closely over the last nine years," BriseBois said. "…There's familiarity there. Well aware of the quality of their work. All of them contributed to us building a competitive organization over the last nine years. Now their hard work is somewhat being rewarded. It brings me a lot of comfort to know that I'll be able to keep working with them and counting on them and leaning on them in the coming years as we try to bring our organization to the next level."

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