Archive for May, 2010

Goodbye and Good Luck, Stevie Y

Well, after the initial shock wore off, I’ve come to terms with this. And I’ll say to The Captain up front, with more feeling this time: good luck in Tampa. You’re going to do great things there (with one qualifier I’ll get to in a minute). You’ve studied at the best hockey management school in the business and I know you have it in you to turn a bad situation into a great one for the Lightning. I’ve never really been one to spare fanship for a team other than the Wings, but I’ll be keeping on eye on Tampa Bay from now on for sure.

And I hope to see a stable ownership situation. The foundation on which the Wings’ success is built is the stability of the ownership situation. Of course, plenty of teams have stable ownership and don’t get anywhere (see Chicago prior to the passing of Bill Wirtz), so it’s not everything. But the best hockey minds in the business are going to have a hard time doing their jobs if the name on the boss’s door keeps changing.

I know nothing about Jeff Vinik beyond what little I’ve picked up from reading about the process behind Yzerman’s job change, but if he can offer anything like the longevity or stability the Illitches have provided the Wings over the years, Steve’s job of building a contender out of a team that often helps put the least in Southleast becomes that much easier.

It’s just as important that Vinik gives Yzerman the time and leash to do what he needs to do. If they’re really going to get the Lightning off the ground, the owner fiddling with operations isn’t going to do the trick. So it’s good that the question of direction has been settled at the onset. Of course, you never hear of a hire like this being told he won’t have the reins, but you can bet Yzerman wouldn’t have left if he wasn’t sure the arrangement would stick.

And The Captain’s going to have a fair starting point. Once I got past the initial visceral reaction of “Tampa Bay?! Haha teh suck,” I remembered guys like Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Vincent Lecavalier (assuming he’s not dealt somehow), and Martin St. Louis. He doesn’t have a lot of players signed going in, but with over $21 million in cap space, he’ll have some room to bring guys over, even in a weak market. They don’t have the world’s greatest development system, it seems, but that can come.

The first big thing, obviously, is to find the right coach. There are a bunch of names out there, and it’s impossible to really know what he’s thinking. But I’m just going to throw Barry Smith’s name out there. They have a history, theoretically Smith would use an Yzerman-approved system (presumably, he wants something like the Wings have used and what he shot for with Team Canada), and, most importantly, he’s available. And maybe interested in working in a warmer environment than Russia. Who knows?

Whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting to watch. I just hope he’s given the time needed to form the team he needs. The Wings’ success didn’t come immediately and neither will the Lightning’s. Here’s hoping expectations in Tampa Bay are set accordingly. If given the time and leash, and if backed by stable ownership, I think we can expect great things of Steve Yzerman in this new role. He won’t be the GM to Wayne Gretzky’s coach.

Thanks for everything, Steve. It’s hard to imagine you as no longer a member of the Wings in a formal capacity, but we’ll deal. Good luck. We’ll be watching.

Steve Yzerman, The New Tampa Bay GM

Wow. I had really hoped this wouldn’t happen, but there it is: Stevie’s leaving Detroit. I didn’t want to believe it possible, but it is.

I’m amazed. With his family still tied up in Detroit and Tampa Bay being such a mess, I never thought he’d leave now. Surely other opportunities in the next year or two would have opened up with other teams. Why Tampa, Steve? Why now? He had more power to choose his time and place than practically anybody, and the decision is Tampa Bay? I’m stunned.

That said, Stevie, I wish you luck and success and know you’ll prove your managerial mettle to the hockey world big time. Thank you for everything—you really are the best.

This news has thrown off my orbit for the day. More tonight.

Ovadia’s Non-Revelatory Revelation

The fact of the matter is, while a big-name goaltender certainly doesn’t hurt a team’s chances of winning the Cup, the lack of one doesn’t mean a team can’t win it.

Yeah, I don’t know why this is such a revelation. It’s been common knowledge for years that an unknown-but-hot goalie can take his team through to the Finals and that known-but-cold goalies can be out-dueled by the other guys.

The point is you need a goalie playing well, whether known or unknown. I thought everyone knew that already.

By the way, gotta love Steve’s shots at Osgood. Especially the 2008 reference. As if the horse change in Round 1 wasn’t one of the biggest reasons for that team’s success.

Dealing Leino a Mistake? No.

Update (10:28 AM): Edited to flesh out thoughts a bit more, brush up some wording, etc. - Matt

Chris at Nightmare on Helm Street suggests it was a mistake to get rid of Ville Leino, given that the guy’s lighting it up for Philadelphia now.

Maybe it looks like a mistake at a glance, but when you consider the apparent issues Leino had in Detroit, I can’t see it as one. The guy just didn’t mesh with the coach or the system here. I’m not an expert in what Laviolette is doing in Philly, but it seems to me that something about him or his system has sparked this change in Leino. If that’s true, keeping him in Detroit would have just perpetuated the suck because the team wasn’t going to change to suit the needs of one player. The Wings have a coach and a system that requires everyone be on the same page, or close to it. Leino wasn’t there.

Chris cites Howard as an example of Holland’s usual patience and contrasts it with his apparent lack of patience with Leino. I guess the difference there is the Wings could wait for Jimmy in GR while they had fine goaltending in Detroit. Leino, on the other hand, had effectively blackmailed his way onto the team and then didn’t back it up consistently. It’s sort of apples to oranges to compare a kid in the AHL to a guy leeching on your roster in the NHL.

Some players just don’t work out in a given situation. That they end up working out in another is not necessarily a mark against the GM who moved him. Keeping him in Detroit would have been a waste of a roster spot and cap space at best and a drag on the on-ice product at worst. Holland had no idea how Leino would work out elsewhere. All he had to go on was how he was working out here.

Bah, Larsson Bolts

This, frankly, sucks. If nothing else, Larsson theoretically provided Thomas McCollum with play-enhancing competition in the AHL, something I’m not convinced Jordan Pearce can do going forward. There was also a chance of Larsson filling in as Jimmy’s backup after next season. The Wings may now be forced to rush McCollum along.

I hope they can find a veteran AHL-level goalie that can mentor the kid.

Larsson may not have had a future with the Wings thanks to Howard and McCollum, but he may have had a future in the NHL. That’s a lot less likely now.

TFP: Yzerman Turns Down Tampa Bay

Hold on the excitement until another outlet picks it up, but, if true: awesome. Though not entirely unexpected. I’ve come to accept that Stevie will leave at some point, especially if Ken Holland continues his “from my cold, dead fingers” approach in spite of Illitch’s request, but Tampa Bay was far from the ideal situation he’d want to start his GM career.

But we’ll see. When another outlet can verify TFP’s story, I’ll be more relieved. Note that’s nothing against TFP. I just like seeing a breaking story picked up by others who are also doing due diligence on it.

Sorry about the quiet around her since The Loss. On top of having little time to post, I’d also hit a bit of a blogger burnout patch at the end there and needed a few days. Still not sure if I’ll be able to muster a season post-mortem (everybody’s already said everything anyway), but we’ll see.

(link via @Mariia19)