The Tampa Bay Lightning ushered in the next major phase of the new era in introducing Steve Yzerman as the General Manager of the team Tuesday at a press conference inside the St. Pete Times Forum.
Yzerman, a 10-time All Star and four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Detroit Red Wings, was seated beside team owner, Chairman and Governor Jeff Vinik as both addressed the media on a variety of topics such as the selection process of the General Manager position and their mutual visions and goals for the organization.
Vinik opened the discussion by introducing Yzerman to the all in attendance and described the experience of interviewing a number of candidates as a “process” that was well thought out and executed, a method that Yzerman also intends to utilize in building a winning hockey club.
“Steve is the right man to bring a winning culture back to Tampa Bay and to make the Lightning a world-class organization,” Vinik said. “His leadership, character, integrity and hard work exemplified everything that I look for. My vision, as well as his, really meshed to a high degree.”
Yzerman admitted that his acceptance of the position proved to be a difficult choice due to the good people with whom he spent many years in Detroit. He was eager, however, to begin his new role with the Lightning immediately.
“I am extremely excited and it has always been a major goal of mine to run a hockey team,” Yzerman said. “I am thrilled today that Jeff has placed his confidence in me.”
Yzerman stated that he intends to provide a good environment for players, staff and scouts so that everyone in the organization may have the opportunity to be successful. Before the wheels start turning, however, Yzerman said he first wanted to get acclimated to the organization by focusing on the NHL Draft Combine prior to plotting a course of action.
Although no specific names were brought up, potential candidates for a head coach to assist him in improving upon last year’s team were also discussed.
“Jeff and I share the same philosophies and possess the same values which I believe will help in the process,” he said. “We have high demands and high expectations, but they are realistic expectations. There is no secret recipe here and we are going to be very methodical. We are going to treat people with respect, do things the right way, and bring in a head coach who is driven, who has won before, and who has a strong passion for hockey.”
The main topic of conversation stemming from the media’s questions attempted to answer how Yzerman planned on returning the Lightning to a winning franchise. Yzerman stated that his primary long-term goal was to develop a perennial Stanley Cup contender, but to also utilize core players to keep the team competitive in the interim. Whether playing for the present or looking down the road, the same philosophy applies.
“To be a successful organization, you really need skill players,” Yzerman said. “We must be more astute in signing free agents, drafting prospects, developing young talent and being patient with them. It starts with management. It is a long process that requires us to be very methodical.”
Yzerman found solace in the fact that the Lightning already have many pieces in place. There are young stars Steven Stamkos, Steve Downie and Victor Hedman, along with, as Yzerman called them, “outstanding veterans” such as Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone. It is this nucleus of players that create a balance around which to build a future.