Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.
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Is Steve Yzerman back in the fold for Lightning GM slot? Who else is in the mix?
Posted May 19, 2010 by Erik Erlendsson
Updated May 19, 2010 at 10:18 PM
There have been plenty of reports swirling lately concerning whether or not Steve Yzerman is a candidate for the vacant general manager seat for the Tampa Bay Lightning or not.
It’s widely known that Yzerman wants to run his own team after spending the past four years as Vice President of Hockey Operations with the Detroit Red Wings under the guidance of general manager Ken Holland, who is generally regarded to be among the best in the business at his profession. Yzerman also put together the gold medal winning Canadian Olympic team this season, which shot his stock to the top of the “ready to run a team’’ list. With Holland, along with assistant general manager Jim Nil, set to receive contract extensions in the very near future, the writing is on the wall that if Yzerman wants to be a general manager he’s going to have to leave the only organization he has ever known since being drafted in 1983 and leave the only city his family has ever known.
So the decision can’t be easy for him to make and I’m sure he’s spent many an agonizing moment mulling things over about whether or not to jump to a new team, let alone coming to Tampa where things still appear to be up in the air for the time being and there is a lot of PR damage to repair.
With that in mind, a report appeared on The Fourth Period last week indicated that Yzerman had pulled himself out of the running for the position in Tampa Bay. The report wasn’t picked up by other national outlets and neither Yzerman nor the Red Wings came out and declared that Yzerman had indeed pulled himself out of consideration for the position with the Lightning. Now, a look on the web site tonight shows that the report has since been removed from the site.
That comes in light of a report on Fan House tonight from Chris Botta saying Yzerman hasn’t pulled out and that he is still at the top of the team’s list. In a nutshell, the report states Yzerman and Lightning owner Jeff Vinik have been holding discussions and that Yzerman is being given time to think the opportunity through. The report was essentially confirmed by two respected sources via Twitter updates, TSN Bob McKenzie and ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.
But perhaps the most interesting part of the report comes at the end where Botta quotes a league source as saying that whomever has interviewed with the team is told flat out from the beginning not to speak to the media or else their candidacy for the job will likely end. This is something which I have heard through various conversations, as well, and would make sense given the lack of comments coming from anybody who might be up for the job. The only person to speak on the record is Dave Nonis, who did pull out of consideration after restructuring his contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. His comments also revealed that Vinik himself is conducting interviews for the general manager.
So, what does this all mean? With the cone of silence it’s really a bit difficult to figure out exactly what is going on, but the Fan House report certainly seems to make sense on many levels. And since Yzerman is still keeping quiet, that would be a strong indication that he not only has been interviewed for the position, but that he is still in the running for the job. And until we hear either from Yzerman or the Red Wings that he is out, then it’s safe to say he’s still in the mix.
As far as who else has been talked to about the position, it’s a bit murky, as well. But one person that has not been mentioned to this point but I’m pretty sure has been interviewed for the open general manager seat is former Lightning general manager Claude Loiselle. As all the other potential candidates, he’s not talking to the media and has not responded to requests, which tells me that my inclination is correct and that Loiselle has interviewed for the position. It certainly makes sense because Loiselle is familiar with the organization after being brought in from the league office by former GM Jay Feaster. Loiselle is going to run his own team one day without a doubt. He is one of the architects of the current collective bargaining agreement and knows it inside and out. He is a former player who understands the game and has a great knowledge of how an organization runs. He has negotiated contracts and holds a law degree. All that adds up to an impressive resume that somebody is going to pay attention to and put him in charge of a team. Loiselle spent the past season serving as a part-time scout and consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs after being let go in September by the Lightning.
Also an intriguing option is Los Angeles Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall, who has been a big part of the Kings re-birth this season and has been in charge of the Kings’ minor league affiliate Manchester, which is currently still alive in the AHL playoffs. Word certainly has spread through various reports that Hextall is in the mix, and perhaps Manchester’s season has to be done before anything can be accomplished formally. The former Conn Smythe trophy goaltender with the Philadelphia Flyers is climbing up the same “ready to make the jump’’ list that Yzerman is on right now.
Others reportedly on the list, albeit unconfirmed, are Doug Risebrough, who spoke about the position at one point before he made contact with the team but has been silent since. Nashville assistant GM Paul Fenton, who has denied he’s been contacted by the team about the position. TSN analyst Pierrer McGuire, who was in the running for the Minnesota job last season, has been reportedly contacted by the team, but like others he declined any kind of a comment when I contacted him about the possibility of the job.
There is obviously a lot going on with the Lightning’s general manager search, but most of it is being done in secrecy with very little confirmed information floating out from the Lightning camp, which I supposed is better than the previous regime where discussions were flying around at every corner on the internet.
But there is one thing for certain in this search, time is getting short. The draft is rapidly approaching and somebody needs to be in place sooner rather than later. While assistant general manager (and current acting general manager) Tom Kurvers is running the show in preparation for the draft, somebody needs to be brought in soon, because as I tell my second-grader when he is procrastinating on his homework, tick-tock goes the clock.