Owner Jeff Vinik: GM Yzerman 'has my support 100 percent'
Under general manager Steve Yzerman, the Lightning has faced its share of bumps. It is on its second coach, has had several goaltending issues and last season fell to 28th in the 30-team league. Yzerman also has said the team might take a step back this season because of the expected turnover on the roster as Tampa Bay transitions to a younger profile.
But owner Jeff Vinik said long-term vision is more important than short-term hurdles and that Yzerman "is doing a great job" and "has my support 100 percent."
Vinik mentioned the way Yzerman, in the fourth year of a five-year contract, has transformed the organization's minor league system and how players from that system are starting to contribute to the big club. Vinik also said his vision aligns with Yzerman in that one must be patient to grow a consistent winner "because there's no other way to do it."
As for the $32.67 million buyout of captain Vinny Lecavalier (the most expensive buyout in league history), Vinik said, "I love Vinny Lecavalier. He's a great player. He's a great part of the community. But the current CBA left us no choice to buy out his contract."
Finally, Vinik said, "I think we’re right on the right track of developing this into a consistently winning program."
Vinik on patience in building a winning franchise: There’s no other way to do it. We want to win the Stanley Cup this year. Do we hava shot at winning the Cup this year? We absolutely do and I hope we do, and three years ago we almost did. So, there’s no predicting. But the way to develop a program that’s going to be in the top of the NHL year after year after year is to draft young players and have them develop in the system and be contributors over time. It takes patience, but we’re getting there. These players are coming up and making a difference right now.
On Yzerman I think Steve is doing a great job, yes. ... I couldn’t be more pleased with the job Steve Yzerman is doing. I think he's put together the best, or one of the best, staffs in all of hockey. I think they’ve done a great job in drafting and developing young players. I think he’s made a lot of good moves over the years. My general manager has my support 100 percent.
More on Yzerman: Again, Steve has my full supprt. I think I said it the day at the first press conferece … He was at Detroit for, like, 19 years. I hope he's with this organization for 19 years, too.
On the Lecavalier buyout: Steve and I discussed that. As you know, Steve makes 100 percent of decisions related to the hockey program. But when it comes to a decision of that magnitude, and a $33 million expense, it's obviously something you discuss. Right from Day 1, Steve and my objectives are the same and that’s to have a championship team here year after year and to be one of the best franchises in hockey. I love Vinny Lecavalier. He's a great player. He's a great part of the community. But the current CBA left us no choice to buy out his contract.
More on Lecavalier: "It was a very difficult decision. But from a hockey perspective and what we’re trying to accomplish, unfortunately, the new CBA gave us no choice. We wish him the best in Philadelphia, of course.