DETROIT - During his eight years as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Steve Yzerman quickly built a reputation as one of the best GMs in the NHL.
And despite leaving Tampa Bay two years ago to return to Detroit as executive vice president and general manager, when the Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars last Monday to win the Stanley Cup, Yzerman's elite front office status was cemented, and he couldn't have been happier for his former team.
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"I enjoyed watching the Playoffs, I enjoyed watching Tampa. They're a good team, they're an entertaining team," Yzerman said. "A lot of the players, a lot of the staff, the owner, they're all friends and I had a great working relationship with them. I was very happy to see them win."
Yzerman put together several championship-contending teams during his tenure in Tampa Bay, guiding the club to three conference finals and a Stanley Cup final, but after the Lightning were swept in the first round of the 2019 Playoffs with Yzerman as senior advisor, the former Red Wings captain left for Detroit and apologized to Lightning owner Jeff Vinik for not winning the ultimate prize.
"They've been close for a number of years, so I was really happy for them and that fan base," Yzerman said.
And now that the organization that Yzerman first resurrected as a member of the front office has again captured the greatest trophy in sports, and after experiencing the grind of experiencing a rebuild as a player, the Red Wings' GM is looking to duplicate that success again in Detroit.
"We've been through that here (in Detroit)," Yzerman said. "We were close in the mid-90s, getting close and not winning and then finally, the relief and joy of winning. So, I was really pleased for Tampa and the entire organization."
As he approaches his second draft at the helm of the Red Wings, Yzerman is hoping to use the same formula he used in Tampa Bay to return the club into a perennial championship contender.
The Wings have acquired a stockpile of draft picks throughout the last few years as the club rebuilt, and Detroit comes into the 2020 Draft with 10 selections, including the No. 4 overall pick-the club's highest since 1990-along with three second-round picks and two third-round picks.
"You need players coming in later in the draft to keep you on target or expedite the process," Yzerman said. "To speed this thing up or to keep it on track, we need some prospects to turn into NHL players, from the second round into the seventh round."
With only four days left until the 2020 NHL Draft, after the team he ultimately assembled won a championship, Yzerman is excited to welcome the next group of young talent into the Red Wings organization in the quest to bring the Stanley Cup back to Hockeytown.
"Hopefully we draft well and build the nucleus of the team," Yzerman said. "We're pretty well-organized and prepared and ready to go for Tuesday evening."