Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman had a large hand in the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning roster.
Every fan does it. You dissect every move your favorite hockey franchise makes because you think you know more than then the person in charge. You especially do it if you’re a Detroit Red Wings fan.
Some common themes include: “why did you sign that ageing player to a long-term deal?” “Why didn’t we draft a defenseman in the first round when we are weak at the blue line?” “The game management continues to fail our team and [insert coach] has to go.”
That last one is my favorite.
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In Detroit, these moves can be correlated to bloated contracts to forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, and Stephen Weiss, among others. Moves made by then general manager Ken Hollard.
Now at the helm is beloved icon Steve Yzerman, and I’m here to tell you that he is the opposite of the above and every bit as good as what the Tampa Bay Lightning turned out to be – Stanley Cup Champions – largely under his watch.
Here are three reasons why Yzerman is a respected general manager and how he’s turning the Detroit Red Wings back into a Stanley Cup contender.
No. 3: No emotional decisions
Goaltender Jimmy Howard, gone. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, gone. This quote summed it up best earlier this week when Yzerman said via the Detroit Free Press, “we will be looking in the free agent market for a goaltender. I’ve spoken with Jimmy Howard, we are not going to offer him a contract prior to the free agency period.”
He spoke to Jimmy, let him know up front and moved on. From what it sounds like there isn’t any talks of American League Hockey or staying with the organization. It’s business, and Yzerman is about it. That’ll bode well for the franchise moving forward.
No. 2: Staying Cap Friendly
Similarly, there aren’t any lingering contracts under Yzerman’s watch. Yes, he inherited some from Holland but he’s been cleaning up the mess slowly but surely and according to CapFriendly.com, the team has approximately $25 million still in cap – which will largely go to its up-and-coming pending free agent forwards Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, among others.
No. 1 Acquiring Assets
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Weaved in from emotional decisions to staying cap friendly is Yzerman’s ability to creatively acquire assets (players, picks). His best move to date arguably was flipping Jacob de La Rose for Robby Fabbri.
La Rose scored two goals in 50 games this past season with the St. Louis Blues and was sometimes a healthy scratch while Fabbri scored 15 goals, 17 assists and recently inked a two-year deal worth a modest $2.95 million.
Yzerman has also acquired 21 draft picks across the next two NHL Drafts.
Some have been traditional deadline deals like shipping Andreas Athanasiou out to Edmonton or more creatively using some of that cap space to acquire expiring contracts such as Marc Staal – a player who should stabilize the Red Wings’ blue line but also isn’t tied to a long-term deal in Detroit.
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Yzerman has a proven track record drafting as evident with his work in Tampa Bay, and having more than 20 picks in the next two drafts give him plenty of dart throws at the prospect board to help rebuild an organization who has missed the playoffs the past four seasons.