The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/04/11 at 05:55 AM ET
Former Red Wings player and vice-president Steve Yzerman’s Tampa Bay Lightning have stunned the hockey world by taking a 3-0 lead on the Washington Capitals on Tuesday evening, and Yzerman revisited his decision to leave the Red Wings family in a conversation with the National Post’s Bruce Arthur:
“Well, first off, I think 99% of the general manager jobs that are available, you’re not just handed the keys to a Rolls Royce, you know? There’s issues; that’s why the job was available,” says Yzerman, who is a finalist for the NHL’s general manager of the year after his first year with the Tampa Bay Lightning. “Organizationally, we’re just getting started. I mean, this is positive and exciting for us, but where we are as an organization, to build to where we want to be as a perennial playoff team, and have prospects [at the minor-league level], we’re not there. That’s going to take some time. Where we ultimately want to get to, I don’t know if we’re ahead of schedule on that.”
Former Wings coach Scotty Bowman’s not surprised by Yzerman’s success as a general manager…
“He was ready to take the next move, and I talked to [Tampa Bay owner Jeff Vinik] about a year ago, and he really wanted him,” says Scotty Bowman, who coached Yzerman for nearly a decade, and was also a part of the Red Wings brain trust for a time. “And I didn’t think he’d ever leave Detroit. He’s a deep-thinking kind of guy -he doesn’t just fly off and do things. He has an analytical mind, he’s got a lot of patience, and as a player he always asked lots of questions about the type of hockey we were playing. Jacques Lemaire was the same kind of a player, same kind of a guy. They got it. They knew how to win.”
But Yzerman says he couldn’t have “left the nest,” as Arthur suggests, without his four-year internship under Red Wings GM Ken Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill and capologist Ryan Martin:
“Every experience -whether it’s negotiating a contract, making a trade, hiring someone, letting someone go -you go through these for the first time, and it’s entirely different being in the position that I was in, in Detroit, where you have all the ideas but you’re not the one making the decision,” the 45year-old says. “So what have I learned? God, it’s a daily process. So much.”
It has meant leaving his wife and three teenaged daughters -17, 13 and 12 -back in Detroit, but he has spent much of the intervening time shuttling between the two, or being visited by the family for a few days at a time. His kids grew up with him on the road as a player, and they have learned to accept that their father has to sacrifice something to do what he loves.
“A lot of time on airplanes. But the year’s flown by -it’s been busy. On airplanes you have Internet access now, and it just means a lot of time spent on the phone, a lot of emailing, whether in the office in Tampa, or in a hotel room on the road, or at home in Detroit, you can get a lot of work done,” Yzerman says. “But I learned this from Kenny [Holland] in Detroit—a general manager has to be a presence, has to be on top of his team, just be there, has to make sure everything is OK. Because there’s always something coming up. As a player you’re coming and going a lot. When you’re working and when you’re busy, you don’t think about it; it’s the days in between when you’re not that busy, after you finish work and you go and you sit at home and you think, this isn’t right. But you know, there haven’t been too many days like that. We made the decision collectively. We make it work.”
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.