At yesterday’s press conference to formally announce that Steve Yzerman is stepping down from his role as General Manager, Yzerman was vintage Yzerman: concise, humble, and thoughtful. His reasoning focused on his desire to be with his family and on his own perception about how the job should be handled. In his words, “To do the job the way it needs to be done, the way I feel it needs to be done, and to ultimately be with my family as well, it was becoming difficult to do—hence the decision.”
It might not make sense to fans if we try to process it logically, especially without personally knowing the guy making the decision. This is why it was probably natural that we immediately saw a slew of fans criticize Yzerman’s decision to hand the reigns over to Julien BriseBois.
But the decision wasn’t a quick one.
Yzerman says after the end of season business was handled he and owner Jeff Vinik discussed his next contract and what Yzerman wanted to do next in his life. Came to the conclusion that this was the right move for him. Fact that it is two days before camp is a coincidence.— Matthew Esteves (@mattesteves89) September 11, 2018
Some fans will harp on the timing of this move—two days before camp starts for the team—but Yzerman and owner Jeff Vinik felt it was best to get the information out there as soon as they honed the final details. Yzerman has never been one to beat around the bush. He thought about this over the summer, hashed out the details of his new role with Vinik, and ultimately chose what he believed was best for himself and the organization.
In Julien BriseBois, the Lightning have promoted from within. The organization promoted someone who was Yzerman’s right-hand man for the past eight years, and who has repeatedly been on the short list for taking a general manager position at a variety of teams. He’s regarded as one of the sharpest minds in the league and has the full confidence of Yzerman and Vinik moving forward.
BriseBois will also have Yzerman as a Senior Advisor for this season. Unfortunately, Yzerman wouldn’t commit to anything beyond this season.
Yzerman said he plans to be in advisor role for at least one year. After that, “I don’t know.”— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) September 11, 2018
Both BriseBois and Vinik expressed their desire for Yzerman to stay with the organization after his contract expires, but would respect any decision Yzerman makes after next season.
Yzerman is committed to the Lightning in his final year of his contract. JBB reinforces SY’s commitment. When asked whether or not he will join a different organization Yzerman reiterated that he is committed to TB this season and would see how it develops afterward.— Matthew Esteves (@mattesteves89) September 11, 2018
#TBLightning BriseBois said he’s “optimistic” Yzerman will be with Tampa Bay beyond this season. Will do everything he can to make this year a positive one in new role.— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) September 11, 2018
Little will change with regard to how the Lightning will operate. BriseBois understands the organization, its people, its culture, and its plan.
“The plan is the same plan that Steve and I have done the last 8 years” JBB— Matthew Esteves (@mattesteves89) September 11, 2018
Brisebois on approach to the season, “Our approach to drafting and player development will stay the same. A lot of things will stay the same except for our titles.”— Caley Chelios (@CaleyChelios) September 11, 2018
Regardless, the decision was a shock for everyone in and out of the organization. It isn’t hyperbolic to say that nobody saw this coming. Yzerman has always kept his cards close to his chest.
Jimmy Devellano on Steve Yzerman stepping down: “Like the rest of the world, I was totally surprised.” Had no inkling. #TBLightning.— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) September 11, 2018
Steven Stamkos text to The Athletic on Steve Yzerman stepping down: "I was shocked, to say the least. But I respected his decision. I have had such a great relationship with Steve and it's tough to see him step down. But Julien has been there every step of the way.. (continued)— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) September 11, 2018
Steven Stamkos cont'd: "And we have all the confidence in (BriseBois) going forward. Management and ownership have always been on the same page with the same goal. And that is to win the Stanley Cup. And nothing is going to change that goal moving forward." #tblightning— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) September 11, 2018
Until this point, I’ve mostly been reporting on what Vinik, Yzerman, and BriseBois stated and haven’t provided my own opinion.
The move shocked me along with everyone else. But after attending the press conference, listening to what Vinik, Yzerman, and BriseBois had to say, and digesting it all, I can safely say I’m content with the move. Anyone harping on Yzerman for his “timing” because camp is two days away is digging for attention. He’s always done things his way and has always been up front about any decision he’s made.
Whether or not the Lightning win a Stanley Cup in the next few years, Yzerman will be remembered for the many positive things he did with the organization. The Lightning were a joke of a franchise before Vinik and Yzerman. It was Yzerman’s vision that righted the ship and established the methodology that now directs the franchise forward.
He built this team, reignited a fanbase’s passion for hockey, and saved hockey in the Tampa Bay area. Without Yzerman, the Lightning would’ve either continued to be a joke or nonexistent. He’s more than earned the right to step down when he wants. To criticize his desire to be with his family is hilariously selfish and reinforces the point that our editor Alan made in his piece about fandom.
Yzerman was adamant in one-on-one interviews that his reasoning was centered on the fact he wanted to spend more time with his family (he has three daughters in college and still commutes from his Michigan home). Yes, speculation will run rampant once his contract expires after next season, especially with the Detroit Red Wings looking to shuffle their front office once Ken Holland’s contract expires. But he’s given us his time, and once his contract is over, it’s no longer our business.
The best thing we all can do to honor his time spent with us is support him and thank him for everything he’s done.
Let’s hope the team can finally get over the hump and win a Stanley Cup so his efforts won’t be unrewarded.
Thank you, Steve, for re-establishing the Lightning as a respectable franchise in the NHL and rekindling the passion of a fanbase that was starving for a professional sports team it could be proud of. The fans will always be thankful to you for that.