Today's big NHL story, even in the midst of the Stanley Cup Final, was the retirement of surefire Hall of Fame Detroit defender Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom was the Wings captain and had a highly successful career that spanned 20 seasons and included 7 Norris Trophies and 4 Stanley Cups. While the hockey world certainly respected the Lidstrom's class, talent, and example, his retirement may not seem to heavily affect certain NHL teams, especially Eastern Conference teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, due to circumstances surrounding our GM, former Wings great Steve Yzerman, Lidstrom's retirement may be more critical to the Bolts' future than one might expect.
Indeed, Yzerman's relationship with the Red Wings franchise is well-known and long-standing- he captained the team out of the "Dead Wings" era to 3 Cups and, despite Lidstrom's pedigree, is considered the best Red Wings captain of all time, and one of the best captains of all time in any professional sport. Furthermore, Yzerman immediately climbed the Detroit front office after hanging up the skates, eventually serving as assistant GM to Ken Holland in 2010 while also building the 2010 gold medalist Canada hockey team. At this point, Yzerman knew he had GM offers outstanding from the MInnesota Wild and the Tampa Bay Lightning, and though he stressed that he wasn't attempting to push anyone out, he tried to leverage these offers into being promoted to head man in Detroit- which would have caused Ken Holland to retire or move into a different post. Of course, as we know, the Wings declined to give Yzerman the job and allowed him to leave for Tampa.
Despite SY's excellence in establishing Tampa Bay as a unique team and building a contending team (also obviously, we made the conference finals in his first season), he still maintains connections to the club he played for his entire career. Vladimir Namestnikov was on Detroit's radar and was drafted here partly due to scouting work done by Yzerman while he was in Detroit- Namestnikov lived for most of his childhood in Michigan and visited the Wings locker room often due to his being nephew to one of the famed "Russian Five". Yzerman has also stressed making an "identity" in Tampa- an identity based on professionalism and sleekness many have compared to the regime in Michigan. Critics claim that Yzerman has based Tampa's organizational design largely on Detroit's- citing especially the similarities in jersey and logo designs. Back to the transaction side, Tampa and Detroit made two deals this past trade deadline- one which was based on trust, as Yzerman trusted that if he received Quincey, Holland would accept a 1st rounder for him; the other being essentially a favor to the Bolts, as Holland basically gave us a superfluous defender we had a use for in Mike Commodore for what was technically nothing (Detroit would have only received a 7th rounder if TB had made the playoffs).
These deals, and overall Yzerman's track record here in TB, have shown that Yzerman still maintains a close relationship with the team he played for. These details would be a moot point based on DET's 2010 decision to stick with Holland and let Yzerman walk. However, the situation becomes more fluid with Lidstrom's retirement. It is no secret that the end of the defender's career marks the end of an era for the Wings; only 2 players remain from the '02 Cup champion team, and one of them is likely to follow Lidstrom in retirement. While Detroit is not a weak squad by any means due to the loss- the organization has many solid young players coming up and a talented base of forwards- this is clearly a transitional period for the Wings. With this in mind, Holland may finally have decided to end his career or at least take a lesser role in the club. He stated on one occasion earlier in Lidstrom's career that Nicklas' retirement would signal his retirement as well, and though he didn't follow up on that statement today, he has been quoted as "dreading" this day. He has accomplished much with the Wings, with him presiding over the team in some capacity since 1994. With a base in place for the future but much to be done, he may decide that now is the time, after 18 successful seasons and a clear marker separating this era and the next, to hand over the reigns to new blood. Should that happen, Yzerman would immediately become a top candidate to fill the hole.
I do feel Steve Yzerman is committed to Tampa. When he was rejected by Detroit for the lead role, I believe he intended to create a dynasty in the vein of the Wings elsewhere- not use the next job as a stepping stone to become Holland's presumed successor. However, if Holland were to vacate his post in some manner, it is not hard to see how Yzerman would be sorely tempted to take the job. After all, he did play for the Wings. He still has very close ties to owner Mike Illitch, Ken Holland, and the greater Detroit area. His entire professional career concerned the Wings until two years ago. While he has a favorable situation here- significant control of a franchise regarded as on the up- the Wings' situation is equally as favorable, with the aforementioned historical sweeteners as well. It would be difficult for him to resist returning to his professional launching pad to lead the Wings into the next era.
Personally, I feel the only way Holland would retire or step down into a lesser role would be if he had the next Detroit GM lined up. In that case, he would have to contact Yzerman prior to leaving the GM role- while Yzerman was still in our employ. With this in mind, and Holland's relative youth, comments, and attitude for the job, I still see Holland and Yzerman staying put for the immediate future, despite Lidstrom's retirement. However, this definitely begins to raise the question of if and when Ken Holland will cease to be Detroit GM, and what Steve Yzerman's reaction would be to such a situation. The retirement certainly signals a transition for Detroit, and as the Wings move into the future, both parties have to consider whether Yzerman's long-term future remains here in Tampa or back in Detroit. I feel that he will stick around with the LIghtning for the time being (with "the time being" meaning at least 5 seasons)... though if push came to shove and Detroit had the vacancy and offered the job on a silver platter, it'd be tough for me to see him rejecting the post outright when he wanted it so desperately in 2010.
What does the community think? Does Lidstrom hanging the skates up change the situation in Detroit enough to affect Yzerman and Tampa? Am I thinking too far ahead? Do you feel that Yzerman's future will eventually lead him back to the Motor City in a managerial role? I'm also considering posting this to WiM, as it concerns both teams and I'm a fan of both teams, so we'll see. Just thought it was an interesting topic in lieu of the news today out of Detroit.
Also, I'd love to flavor this with an image or two, but I'm afraid of copyright stuff, so any pointers on that would be appreciated (I'd love to use the image of SY shaking Lidstrom's hand on the TB main site but don't know if I can).