The Steve Yzerman-era (2.0) is officially upon us, and the Captain and company have a busy few months ahead of them. Scouting, the draft, free agency, trades (?), etc. all happening over the next 12 weeks and many fans are wondering how quick will turn around be?
Obviously, the era starts this summer, and how aggressive Yzerman will be right away still remains to be seen. However, I’m here to try and help answer that the best I can. Let’s begin with Yzerman’s start in Tampa.
When Yzerman agreed to be the Lightning’s GM back in May of 2010, the Bolts were coming off a tough 80-point season. They finished 6th worst in the league and ended up picking that exact pick in the Taylor-Tyler draft.
They went with Brett Connolly at #6, who obviously is still in the league, but only put up 32 points in 134 games in his time with the Bolts. Not only that, but this was the 3rd year in a row the Lightning had missed the playoffs since being bounced in the 1st round back-to-back years. However, they did have future franchise players Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos already on the team.
So let’s see here. The Red Wings are picking 6th this year, coming off three-straight missed playoff appearances, after being eliminated in the 1st round back-to-back seasons. Got it.
Now obviously the Red Wings don’t have a Hedman or Stamkos already on their team. But you have an elite center in Larkin and several top prospects who have shown signs of possibly becoming elite as well.
Already you are seeing SEVERAL similarities between the two jobs. Now let’s look at how the next 12 months went for Stevie.
The first major move Stevie Y made was hiring Guy Boucher to be the Lightning’s next head coach. He inherited a team with no coach after GM Brian Lawton and head coach Rick Tocchet were fired in April. From there, he stayed relatively conservative knowing the assets he already had in house.
NHL Draft Notables: Brett Connolly (1st round, 6th overall), Radko Gudas (3rd round, 66th overall)
A relatively unsuccessful draft class in his first year, but again, he seemed to be taking a more conservative approach at first. No trades were made during the draft, and he didn’t have a 2nd round pick after it was attached with Mark Recchi in a trade to Boston back in 2009.
July 1 Notables: Re-signed Martin St. Louis to a four-year deal; traded Andrej Meszaros to Philadelphia for a 2012 2nd round pick (became RW Brian Hart)
Other Offseason Notables: Traded for F Simon Gagne, from Philadelphia for a 2011 4th round pick and F Matt Walker
Mid-Season Notables: Traded for G Dwayne Roloson from the Islanders for F prospect Ty Wishart; Traded for D Eric Brewer, from St. Louis for a 2011 3rd round pick and D prospect Brock Beukeboom
There were no huge splashes made by Yzerman in Year 1, but the team was also much closer to competing than the Red Wings currently are. Roloson, Brewer and Gagne all helped boost an already veteran-heavy team to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals that year.
However, the Lightning would go on to miss back-to-back playoffs in 2012 and 2013, then got swept in the first round in 2014, before finally became the Lightning we know today. He didn’t become very aggressive until around 2013-14 too, when he traded for Ben Bishop, traded away Martin St. Louis and bought out long time captain Vincent Lecavalier in June of 2013.
So what does this mean for the Red Wings? Well if its anything like what he did in Tampa, it’s going to take some time. He obviously preached patience in his press conference (click here to watch it) and wouldn’t give a time table, but I think it’s fair to assume this team is still 2-3 years away from competing for the playoffs regularly again.
Also of note, his 2011 draft class was one of the greatest ever and a big part of their success currently. Vlad Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Nikita Nesterov and Ondrej Palat all have benefited the Lightning tremendously, whether with the team or via a trade.
The best bet is to be patient and just trust Stevie. I’d be surprised if he makes a big splash before what’s looking like a potentially massive free agent class in 2020. Does that rule him out totally for a guy like Panarin? Not necessarily. But everyone’s best bet is to believe him when he said he’s not going to rush this, and just trust that he knows what he is doing. Because he does.