So what now?
Now that the Lightning has parted ways with general manager Brian Lawton and coach Rick Tocchet, where does it go from here? Owner Jeffrey Vinik hints that the first order of business will be to hire a CEO, who will then help hire a GM, who will then help hire a coach. However, I would suggest that you could hire a CEO and GM separately and simultaneously. Their jobs are far enough apart that there really isn't any overlap. Think about the old Lightning when Tom Wilson and Ron Campbell were running the organization for owner Bill Davidson, but Jay Feaster was in charge of hockey operations. Wilson and Campbell had nothing to do with hockey ops except to set the budget.
However the Lightning goes about the hiring, the most important hire will be for general manager. So who should the Lightning go after? There's no guarantee that either man is interested in the job, but if I was running the show, the first two calls would be to Steve Yzerman and Doug Risebrough.
Yzerman, the former Red Wings great, was GM of the gold-medal Canadian Olympic hockey team. This might be a longshot. It's not even known if Yzerman is ready to be general manager, and if he is, the Calgary Flames are expected to make a big pitch. The Lightning organization is in better shape than Calgary in terms of payroll and the minors, plus it has Steven Stamkos and who wouldn't want to build around that? But Yzerman is Canadian, so the Flames' job might have more appeal. Then again, the Flames' job comes with more scrutiny and pressure.
Risebrough did a heck of a job building the Minnesota Wild from an expansion team into a solid playoff team within three years. He's not one of those gamblin' general managers. He'spatient and level-headed, which is something the Lightning could use right now considering the last group (Lawton and owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie) overhauled the roster with some bad free-agent signings. Risebrough was schooled in the ways of hockey while playing for the great Canadiens teams of the 1970s and Cliff Fletcher, one of the most respected men in hockey, was his mentor. He would be a solid hire.