Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Brian Lawton talks about the process
There were a few moments this week when general manager Brian Lawton spoke about the Tampa Bay Lightning acting like a real organization. That is, he said he was, as commissioner Gary Bettman has mandated, able to make the hockey decisions, which, really, is what is supposed to happen.
The draft and free agency were the first real tests for the Lightning after Bettman called squabbling owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie into the principal's office and told them that Lawton was in charge of all hockey-related transactions. That did not mean Koules and Barrie were out of the loop, it just meant Lawton was the one authorized to make contractual offers and do trades; you know, the things a GM are supposed to do.
Lawton, after talking about Victor Hedman and about signing defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Matt Walker, said things went pretty much to plan.
"Just to have that clarity makes my job a lot easier," he said. "Ultimately, I'm only as good as the authority I have. If that wavers in any way shape or form, that job becomes next to impossible and, quite frankly, I wouldn't even want to do that job."
As for the overall structure under which Tampa Bay is now operating, Lawton said, "It operates like all other organizations. The owners are involved. They are consulted about everything. But they have to give me the authority to do what I see as the best course of action for this organization. They've done that with the caveat that if things don't go well, I probably won't be here. Ultimately, that's all I ask is the opportunity to make decisions for hockey operations, and to be judged on those decisions."
Just like any other organization.
"At the end of the day, our organization is built on teamwork and support, but there still has to be somewhere where the buck stops, otherwise there's no accountability and a lack of responsibility. Everybody has ideas. I take everybody's opinions seriously. But at the end of the day there has to be a clear vision. Let the GM be the GM. Let the players play. Let the owners own."