By now, pretty much all of Red Wings Nation has heard the news.
Steve Yzerman is leaving us.
For the first time in 27 years, Yzerman will not be working under the banner of the Winged Wheel. Today, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced the former Red Wings legend as their new general manager, replacing the fired Brian Lawton.
After leading Canada to a gold medal in the Olympics on their own turf, it was pretty much inevitable that Stevie Y was going to be leaving Hockeytown. A rising talent in the front office world, Yzerman had quickly become the most coveted GM candidate in the NHL. The question just became a matter of when he would bolt.
Tampa Bay fans and management must be ecstatic to finally have pried Yzerman from Motown, his adopted home the last quarter-century. For Wings fans however, the moment is bittersweet. We all wanted to see Yzerman succeed as a front office leader, but we wanted him to do it here. The difficult truth of the matter is that the Wings management just ran out of room for The Captain. With General Manager Ken Holland and assistant Jim Nill expected to sign extensions soon, the Red Wings front office already had the two best in the business running the show.
For the first time, Steve Yzerman just wasn't needed in Detroit.
As was the case with Team Canada at the Olympics, Yzerman will have much talent to work with in Tampa right away. The Bolts are led by captain Vincent Lecavalier, former Hart Trophy winner Martin St. Louis, and 2008's top draftee Steve Stamkos. The Lightning are six years removed from their 2004 Stanley Cup, and it will be Yzerman's job to build around those pieces to get them back there.
For me, this is personally a tough pill to swallow. Of all the talented players that came and went through Detroit in the 1990's and early 2000's, Steve Yzerman was my favorite of them all by far. I'm sure this is the case with many of you as well, but by the time I got into hockey Yzerman wasn't scoring those amazing goals at such a high rate anymore. It was not Yzerman's goal scoring prowess or flashy play that drew me. It was his commitment to the team.
There were a few times during his career that Yzerman could have left Detroit. After all those failed playoff appearances prior to 1997, he could have demanded a trade or signed as a free agent with another team. But he didn't. Instead, he completely revamped his game to become the best two-way player of our generation. A superstar giving up his stats for wins. That is what made him my favorite athlete of all time.
Steve Yzerman is a leader in the truest sense of the word. He is tailor-made for this new job.
Stevie Y is finally leaving us, but his legend never will. You can't take away those 692 goals and four Stanley Cup championships. You can't take away his Conn Smythe or the 23 points he scored on one knee in the 2002 playoffs. You can't take down that number 19 from the rafters. No one can ever really take Steve Yzerman away from us.
In Hockeytown, Steve Yzerman will always be The Captain.