Commissioner Gary Bettman not surprised by Tampa Bay Lightning's quick improvement

Commissioner Gary Bettman (wearing glasses) watches Lightning-Bruins Game 3 from the St. Pete Times Forum stands.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Commissioner Gary Bettman (wearing glasses) watches Lightning-Bruins Game 3 from the St. Pete Times Forum stands.

TAMPA — Though many are likely surprised with the Lightning's one-year turnaround from out of the playoffs to the Eastern Conference final, commissioner Gary Bettman is not among them.

And a big reason why Bettman believes Tampa Bay is, and can continue to be, successful is the mix of GM Steve Yzerman and owner Jeff Vinik, both in their first seasons with the team.

"Perhaps the most important thing for any hockey team or any sports team is ownership," Bettman said Thursday at the St. Pete Times Forum, where he attended Game 3 between the Lightning and Bruins.

"Tampa has one terrific owner. He's a hockey fan, he's smart, he's a good business person, he has the resources, he has the commitment, he knew what he was getting into and hires the right people.

"I said to Jeff just now, because he was a guest on my (weekly satellite radio) show … 'Okay, so you're a rookie owner and look how well you're doing. What's the secret sauce?' There's no secret sauce. Actually, (Vinik) is the secret sauce."

One of the "right" people Vinik hired was Yzerman, a longtime Red Wings captain who spent several postretirement seasons learning the management side in Detroit before coming to Tampa.

"He was part of a successful organization in Detroit, so it's no surprise that he's creating a successful organization here in Tampa," Bettman said. "He's really smart, very thoughtful, very cerebral. Anybody who spends time with him knows that they are in the presence of somebody special."

bruins' BERGERON BACK: Bruins star C Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup Thursday after sustaining a concussion in Game 4 of the East semifinal sweep with the Flyers. "I felt pretty good out there," he said. "I was confident I was ready." Bergeron, who had been one of the team's top scorers (12 playoff points) and faceoff men, started, logged 19:13 of ice time and won 18 of 28 faceoffs.

MIND GAMES? The Lightning praised Bruins rookie C Tyler Seguin, the second overall pick in last year's draft and who racked up six points in his first two playoff games, Games 1 and 2 against the Lightning. But Bruins coach Claude Julien believed there was more to the Lightning's flattery of Seguin. "I don't think they're worried so much about Tyler more than they want to flatter him, and we know that there are mind games that teams play," he said.

IN AND OUT: D Randy Jones was out of the lineup and C Blair Jones in. Jones was plus-1 with an assist in five playoff games. He refused to use the ankle injury that sidelined him the final two months of the regular season as an excuse. "If I'm good enough to be out there and play and lace them up, then there are no excuses and no restrictions," Jones said. "Has it affected me? I don't think you have to be a rocket scientist to notice that."

MISCELLANY: C Dana Tyrell (foot) participated in warmups, and Boucher said he's "ready to go." But he missed his 10th straight game. … Boucher said D Pavel Kubina (upper-body injury), injured in Game 1 against the Capitals in the semifinals when a Washington elbow bounced his head off the glass, hasn't skated yet and "we're going to wait."

Commissioner Gary Bettman not surprised by Tampa Bay Lightning's quick improvement 05/19/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 20, 2011 1:32am]

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