Even though Brian Lawton drafted Hedman and did what he could to accomidate him by signing fellow Swede Matias Ohlund in order to make Hedman's transition to the U.S. smoother its Yzerman who will help Victor the most.
With Ohlund last year its hard to determine whether he made a significant impact off the ice with Hedman because Victor came to America very prepared. He spoke english very well, he already lived with his girl friend at 17, he had been playing against men already so he knew what he was getting into as far as physicality is concerned for the most part. So the Ohlund signing doesn't really make sense to me(especially for 6 years). Even this time last year it seemed that Hedman was adjusting quite rapidly and all the hype was warranted.
Hedman ended up having an okay rookie season but the results weren't as high as the expectations. In fact you kind of got the feeling the weight on his shoulders started to bother him. Hockey great Peter Forsberg's comment before his draft day when he said "he is the best defense man to come on of Sweden since Niklas Lidstrom" surely added some pressure. And with the team's finish the previous season being 29th and with the start of the 09 year ahead most of the media were predicting Tampa to squeeze into the playoffs. you could imagine the pressure on a 18 year old rookie who steps into a top 2 defensive role.
Yzerman played along side Lidstrom for years and he knows what impact a yound D man can have on a team because Lidstrom's rookie season he had 60 points and was a calder trophy finalist for rookie of the year.
This year will be different for Victor. With Pavel Kubina returning to the lightning and stepping in as the team's power play quarterback it should take a lot of pressure off of Hedman. And with Brett Clark and Randy Jones and Mike Lundin they surely can be depended upon more than that of Meszarous, Foster, and Walker last year. Allowing him to eventually fully regain that confidence we saw early in the year before things started to unravel.
Nobody has questioned the work effort of #77 but a lightened work load this year could be just what the doctor(GM) ordered. Although new head coach Guy Boucher has said he doesn't like his players getting into their comfort zones and for the most part I agree with him but in Hedman's situation I think he would be better off if the felt more comfortable. Seeing as how he once again is the youngest on the team and really didn't have the kind of season he was expected too last year I'd be spending a little more of my time working with him just to be sure nothing gets in the way of him playing to the best of his ability. Which could end up being the biggest reward of the season because Hedman has a very big upside. Now I'm not predicting a Norris torphy for this year but a point total in the 45-55 range shouldn't be unreasonable. Which should put him up there around the top 10 in the league in scoring for defenseman. And thats the kind of thing that could put the lightning in the playoffs.