After all the weeks of supreme secrecy with the public or the media having no clue as to who would be chosen, the news broke that the new general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning would be none other than Steve Yzerman.
The press conference was scheduled for 3pm. The first to take the microphone was team owner Jeff Vinik, who described the search for the new general manager, along with his reasoning of why the general manager was hired prior to the CEO and the importance of getting the general manager hired as soon as possible before the draft. Mr. Vinik reiterated his desire to make the Tampa Bay Lightning a world class organization and his search for the general manager that ultimately led to the selection of Yzerman. Mr. Vinik said that his top choice all along was Steve and he got his man today.
Vinik then introduced Yzerman, who talked a bit about the process himself. The new GM discussed the conversations he had with the owner and how it ultimately came down to the last few weeks of discussions with his family about "is this the right time" to do this. He decided that it was the right place and time and he was ready to take on that responsibility.
In the question and answer session that followed, the first thing Yzerman was asked was how hard was it to leave the Red Wing organization and what was his order of doing things now that he was with Tampa. Yzerman admitted that it was very hard to leave an organization that he had been a part of for 27 years as both a player and an executive but he also knew that he wanted to run his own team and this was his chance. He now heads to Toronto to the scouting combine to talk with the Bolts scouting staff who are already in attendance and strategize for the June entry draft.
It’s his first day on the job and he's already kicking it into high gear.
Most of the other questions he fielded were related in some way to those first two questions, and I do believe that the Tampa Bay Lightning got it right this time -- hiring a man who's hockey pedigree is beyond reproach. He was well spoken and seemed a bit nervous.
One of the posters in our open thread commented that the general manager didn't look like a used car salesman. Trustworthy was my thought. We haven't had that in a while in Hockey Bay USA.
It was obvious that he had a statement written out ahead of time and, at one point, lost his place but recovered quickly. But in the Q & A session, he was more relaxed and even showed a bit of humor when he told one of the media, who asked a two part question, he had already forgotten what the second part of the question was. Yzerman talked repeatedly about holding everyone, staff and players alike, accountable. Treating people with respect is very important to him as well. He admitted that the team needed to do a better job of drafting players, signing players and getting their own players (free agents) signed.
There were a few current and former Bolts in attendance for the press conference: Marty St. Louis and Todd Fedoruk were there as well as Dave Andrychuk. Yzerman said he had already met briefly with Marty and Todd and in the coming weeks he wants to meet with every single player that will be returning to the Lightning for the upcoming season, to allay any concerns over the changes and also to let them know what his vision and direction will be.
It seems to me that his thought process is already filling in the blanks for the head coaching position as well as other staff for the Lightning. He said there were a lot of people, friends and some former players, that he was already considering if they would be a good fit for the organization.
I guess the big concern is that he doesn't hire cronies just to do them a favor, after all the last regime tried that and it didn't work out too well, but I don't think Yzerman would hire someone just because he's a friend or former teammate. He has to remember that this is his team, no safety net that is a general manager or other front office personnel to hide behind. The selections he makes will be the start of the legacy of Steve Yzerman, general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.