Could it be? Could Steve Yzerman finally be coming home?!
Well, that fantasy became a little more real on Tuesday as Yzerman shocked the hockey world by stepping down as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. A lot will still need to transpire for Stevie Y to return to Motown in an executive role (many hoping to be the replacement of Ken Holland as GM.) For instance, he is still under contract for one more year in Tampa, in which he will serve as a senior advisor. After that, his future is up in the air.
Linking him to the Red Wings is what many have speculated. There is no other team in the league that would make more sense for Yzerman to leave arguably the best front office gig in the business. Yzerman has stated his desire to spend more time with his family, with his wife still living in metro Detroit.
Red Wings fans have gone berserk since then, dubbing Yzerman to be the potential savior of the franchise, with his incredible track record in Tampa Bay. But have we come to expect too much, should Yzerman take over as GM in the near future?
Now I’m not saying I would turn down the former executive of the year – in fact, I would be ecstatic – but the Red Wings would present a daunting task for the franchise icon to rebuild. Hell, could anyone rebuild this mess?
Yzerman has undeniably built a powerhouse that is set to win for a long time, but there are a few things to consider:
- He inherited Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman.
- The chances of him stumbling into another Nikita Kucherov are slim to none.
- He is the only GM in the league who has handed out more No-Trade Clauses than Holland.
There are some blemishes here that make me skeptical. The Lightning have become as dominant as they are thanks to their star power; something the Red Wings core severely lacks outside of maybe Filip Zadina and Dylan Larkin. He would have to lead a basement-dwelling team for a few years to find his star power. Something he hasn’t experience because Stamkos and Hedman were already there.
The top picks he has had haven’t turn out so well. Brett Connolly and Slater Kokekkoek ended up being mistakes in the top-10. Jonathan Drouin/Mikhail Sergachev look fine until you remember Seth Jones was up for grabs. Andrei Vasilevskiy, however, turned out to be a home-run in the mid-first round (which just so happened to be with the pick they received from Detroit in the Kyle Quincey trade).
Which brings me to my next point: Yzerman’s strengths.
He is aggressive on the trade market. From dealing away Tampa Bay legend Martin St. Louis to chasing after Erik Karlsson, he is fearless in doing whatever it takes to strengthen his team. Sadly, the Red Wings aren’t in a position to do that. When the Lightning were in a transition mode they stocked up on draft picks, but that is no different than what Holland has administered over the last two years.
Could Yzerman move out some of the albatross contracts via trade? Well, we haven’t seen him in that type of situation enough to truly evaluate if he is capable of doing so.
Yzerman is also fantastic as negotiating value deals with his players. Stamkos, Hedman, and Kucherov are all on team-friendly deals, but once again, Detroit shouldn’t be too overly concerned with handing out major paychecks in the foreseeable future. It is worth noting he has had his fair share of bad contracts in Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn and J.T. Miller. But hey, at least these aren’t fourth line grinders.
Point of the story is Yzerman is one of the best out there in taking a good team to the next level. He has found some Draft Day Two steals in Kucherov, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat, but that is not something we should expect to duplicate itself a second time around. He has almost no experience in a full-blown rebuild, which leaves many questions marks as to how much success he will find.
If Yzerman becomes GM, be happy. Cry tears of joy as you relive the glory days lead by #19 in celebration. But just remember there is still going to be a few more years of pain. Don’t expect to be the next Tampa Bay.