Kukla's Korner

Abel to Yzerman

The Way Ahead

I've got a friend from Tampa. He's a good hockey fan, admittedly a better fan since the Lightning got consistently good, coincidentally since Steve Yzerman took over.

We've had the discussion many times. Me: "His ties to Detroit are stronger than you realize. He'll come back eventually."  Him: "Like your ties? When are YOU going back? Great ownership in Tampa and how do you leave a place like Tampa for a place like Detroit?"

Yzerman's a loyal guy and that had always given me optimism and concern.

Opimism because he's a Wing.

Concern because he's got a job and he's never not done his job. Ever.

I've always believed, or hoped with a significant dash of optimism, that he'd return. I've always believed in that possibility because of his allegiance to the Wings. I always believed that when/if he returned it would be to restore, rebuild, re-engineer the Red Wings, the hockey team.

It never crossed my mind that maybe that loyalty transcends team and includes community.

I'd always thought his family moved to Tampa and, knowing Tampa, assumed they loved it.  And, believe me, if you've been to the Tampa, Clearwater, St. Pete area...there is a lot to love.

It shocked and genuinely encouraged me to read yesterday and today that his family stayed in Michigan.  Given the option, they chose Michigan.  With Tampa, Florida as a possible home, with that weather, that pace, those beaches...the Yzerman family chose Michigan, specifically Detroit...or whichever suburb of Detroit they call home.

The Yzermans chose Michigan, chose to stay in Michigan.  When it's time for Yzerman to broach the quality of life subject with potential UFAs, I wonder if that will come up?

Now it gets weird.

He's spent 8 years building a rival into a contender.  Hell, a lot of us were hoping they'd win it last year so that he'd feel a sense of completion, one that would allow him to leave Tampa fulfilled.  Now, we are justifiably assuming that the wheels (yes, the winged ones) are in motion and that The Return is set to occur no later than next year at this time. But they haven't won it with Yzerman and now, knowing he's leaving...he's not staying in Tampa...he's not re-signing a deal to stay on as an advisor...he's going to bide his time, spending most of it in Michigan with his family, immediate and extended, still working for the Lightning, but damn well planning and plotting for the day he succeeds Tick Tock Holland in a job he should have had 9 years ago.

How's that work? How does it work when everyone knows, or at least assumes, what I believe to be the inevitable? How does Steve Yzerman continue to collect a check from Tampa while keeping a professional eye on the franchise he's going to return to, one that happens to be a significant rival of the team that employs you?

Oh, I'm assuming too much.  Sorry. I guess I'm the only one, right?

It bothers me that Yzerman is staying on in any capacity. I'd have preferred he just cut ties completely. It bothers me because I don't like awkward. Awkward worries me.

Jimmy D lies. He's always lied. He lied yesterday when he said he was shocked. No, I'm sorry. He lied to you and the media and anyone listening and I'm really good with that.

Steve Yzerman was a Red Wing because Devellano scouted him and drafted him.  Steve Yzerman was Jimmy D's love child, then his precocious teen, then his prized adult son. Jimmy Devellano raised Yzerman after the age of 18 along with the help of an entire Wing organization.

Yzerman made the decision, allegedly, in July. Well, he started discussing it with Lightning ownership in July.  Devallano said he was "shocked."


Jimmy D knew and he knows now. He knows the plan. Yzerman knows the plan. The Lightning know the plan. Holland may be so oblivious to this that he may still be unaware of Yzerman's announced decision yesterday. I have no idea and don't care.

The (winged) wheels are in motion. The return is underway, but it's a return that isn't really a return because a few things haven't ever left Michigan: family and loyalty. Tell me you didn't feel a bit of pride in state when you read Yzerman told the Lightning players he was "returning home to Michigan."

Home to Michigan. Home. To. Michigan.

19 in '19. Of course.

Filed in: | Abel to Yzerman | Permalink


Paul's avatar

Instead of doing post after post on Yzerman/Detroit, I will put these right here.

Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star,

The truth of the matter is this: Even though Yzerman spent the past eight years building the Lightning into a Stanley Cup contender while carving out a reputation as one of the sharpest executives in the sport, he never really did leave Detroit. While he’s been working in Tampa, his wife and three now-university-aged daughters have been living in suburban Detroit. And while Yzerman has made his name as an executive in Florida, he remains synonymous with the Red Wings, with whom he won three Stanley Cups in his 20 years as captain.

Yzerman is one of just seven Red Wings to have his number retired by the club. He’s second to only Gordie Howe on the all-time franchise scoring list. And thanks to the events of Tuesday, there are those who will tell you Yzerman is also a likely candidate to return to the only NHL franchise he ever played for once his one-year obligation with the Lightning runs out.

That’s pure speculation, of course. But it adds up. The 62-year-old Holland, after all, signed a two-year deal in April to remain Detroit’s GM. But Holland has spoken publicly about being open to expanding the hockey IQ of Detroit’s front office. The Red Wings, who have missed the playoffs for two straight seasons after a remarkable 25-season run of post-season berths, are in the early stages of a rebuild. And even if Yzerman spoke Tuesday about the strain commuting to and from his NHL job had put on his life, at age 53, it’s hard to imagine he’s set on semi-retirement. Certainly, no matter what his plans, he’ll qualify as a coveted impending free agent. What team that’s not 100 per cent sold on the denizens of its management suite wouldn’t be inclined to call and inquire about his plans? Certainly the potential expansion franchise in Seattle would have to be interested.


Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times,

Yzerman, who has one season left on his contract with Tampa Bay, said repeatedly Tuesday that he is fully committed this season to his new role with the Lightning, but he refused to say what the future holds.

“Beyond this year,’’ Yzerman said, “I don’t know.’‘

In other words, he didn’t exactly shoot down the thought of being a general manager in Detroit or somewhere else someday.

If he does eventually leave the Lightning — and the guess here is that he will after this season —  you can’t blame him. He has earned that right. He has done everything the Lightning could have hoped, leaving the organization in much better shape than he found it and stepping aside while the team is a championship contender.


Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 09/12/18 at 08:52 AM ET


Speculation on my part but I really believe when he was non committal to signing a long term contract with the Bolts, and Brisbois being the hottest name in hockey for GM openings, forced Yzerman to step down to resolve the uncertainty.  Losing 2 front office executives would have thrown that franchise into chaos.  No doubt that Yzerman would love to eventually return to the Wings, but I also think he is probably burnt out and wants to take a year off to recharge.  Holland has coveted the job in Seattle (or even Vancouver) so he can be closer to Kelowna, his home and I’m sure guys like Draper and Co want to have some certainty in their lives as to where they stand when Holland’s contract is up.

Posted by bababooey on 09/12/18 at 10:36 AM ET


I had a mini nightmare last night.
Stevie likes Cooper, Copper + Blashill, then Blashill + Yzerman!
Gawds I really detest watching Blashill coach the Wings.

Posted by Ventr on 09/12/18 at 11:31 AM ET

TreKronor's avatar

Holland has coveted the job in Seattle (or even Vancouver)

“Covet” is such a strong word.  I highly doubt, at 62 years old currently, Holland wants to go to a brand new franchise.  Vancouver maybe…but they themselves are probably 8-10 years away from a potential Cup.

Posted by TreKronor on 09/12/18 at 01:43 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

It bothers me that Yzerman is staying on in any capacity. I’d have preferred he just cut ties completely.

But that’s not the kind of guy Stevie Y is, Master Chief. He wouldn’t just leave the Tampa organization to return to the organ-I-zation. So I’m okay with the way this is playing out.

Next year, either Holland leaves for Seattle and Stevie takes over as GM or Holland stays for his full two-year term and Stevie moves into an “advisory” role with the Wings for a year before taking over as GM just before the 2020 draft.

At this point, I’m just glad this wasn’t something that involved a medical issue for him or his family.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 09/12/18 at 02:38 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

Next year, either Holland leaves for Seattle and Stevie takes over as GM or Holland stays for his full two-year term and Stevie moves into an “advisory” role with the Wings for a year before taking over as GM just before the 2020 draft.

Sounds like a good analysis to me, and also my thoughts exactly. Yzerman did the right thing in Tampa creating a path for another successful GM to replace him while still honoring the last year of his contract.
True Jimmy D. along with the Red Wings front office knew, but there is this tampering thing they want to avoid.  smile

Posted by bigfrog on 09/12/18 at 09:20 PM ET

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About Abel to Yzerman

Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com