Entering his third season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, it is safe to say assistant general manager Julien BriseBois has become well-adjusted to life in the NHL after building a track record of success in the American Hockey League.
Last season, in just his second year as general manager of the Bolts’ top AHL affiliate, BriseBois won a Calder Cup championship, and was responsible for maintaining a large portion of the team’s roster throughout the summer’s offseason, as the Syracuse Crunch are off to another fast start to the 2012-13 season.
While maintaining a steady pace to stay ready for the start of the NHL season, BriseBois has traveled back and forth from Tampa Bay to Syracuse, keeping close tabs on what is happening on all fronts of the organization.
Recently, TampaBayLightning.com caught up with BriseBois in this first edition of Quick Strikes to get his take on what has made both him and the organization successful in just a few short years since his arrival.
What is your philosophy as assistant general manager in terms of how it relates to players in the game today?
I think they’re the best they’ve ever been. They’re faster, they’re more skilled, they’re better trained, and I don’t think the game has ever been as good as it is now just because the skill level is at an all-time high. For many reasons, including how the game is played and how the game is called, the science behind player development has evolved so much that it has allowed our players to be, in a way, super players.
How much does your familiarity with coach Guy Boucher and his staff help allow for open communication between yourself and other members of the hockey operations department?
I think when I came in, just the fact that I had previously worked with Guy, Dan Lacroix and Martin Raymond, it helped me accelerate my knowledge about how they liked to use certain players and what they valued in players. That was a contribution I was able to make early on. Now I know how to do those things very well, and they have their own reports now, but back then early on when I came in I think that was how I was able to contribute.
If you could design the perfect player, what attributes would he have?
I’m sure everyone would have the same answer, but the reality is there is no such thing as the perfect player. If there was, he’d be the fastest, strongest, and he’d have the best vision, the best hands and the best hockey sense. But since that’s impossible, and I would have to just choose a few, I would go with pride and drive; the pride that keeps a player pushing himself through adversity and the drive that pushes a player to be the best.
What has been your greatest challenge since arriving in Tampa Bay two years ago, both personally and professionally?
Personally for me it was finding a house for my family, schools for my kids and making new friends for myself and my wife. That was a good experience because I had never lived that, and now I know what players go through when they get traded or called up, so now I can sympathize a little more with what they’re going through and that allows me to help them a little bit more with that transition. Professionally, it would be learning to work within a new organization and learning to work with new people. That’s what I was looking for when I made the switch, just being able to take on new challenges and get to acquire new experiences.
Our affiliate in the AHL had a great season last year and is off to another fast start this season. What do you attribute that success to?
It starts with very good players and very strong leadership starting with head coach Jon Cooper, who has done tremendous in his role. There is also leadership amongst our core down there and with our older veterans like Mike Angelidis, Jean-Philippe Cote, Mark Barberio, JT Wyman and many others. That core has played a huge role in the team’s success, but overall it’s probably having really good people. When you have that, you’re able to build a program where the players are eager and willing to stand up and sacrifice for the cause. They put their individual needs aside and they do so because they feel like they’re part of something special and because it’s gratifying to do so in that environment. I think that’s what we’ve been able to do there at the AHL level.
Recently you were named to The Hockey News’ list of top 100 most influential and powerful people. What did that mean to you?
It was flattering and it was nice to get some recognition. I don’t know how they put their list together, but honestly, I was flattered.
What do you do to stay current in today’s ever-changing NHL with the various types of new philosophies and out-of-the-box thinkers in key positions?
I read a lot regarding a lot of topics such as fitness, nutrition, management, economics, statistics and analytics. So, I read a lot, and I attend a number of specific conferences throughout the year that I think are relevant to our field. Over the years I’ve been able to make a network of contacts in various fields, but around hockey, I pick the brains of people on a regular basis and that’s how you stay ahead of the curve, or at least not behind the curve.
As the assistant general manager, how much say do you like to have or want to have with both Steve Yzerman and the coaching staff regarding on-ice strategy and how players may be used?
Really at the end of the day, that is the coaches’ job and that’s what they get paid to do. That’s their expertise and they’re the ones who are in the locker room and behind the bench. They have a pulse for what’s going on, or at least a better read of it. Our role as management is to challenge them, ask them questions, and to give opinions, but mostly it’s about providing resources and support. That’s what we try to do.