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GM Brian Lawton will have new owner to impress with Tampa Bay Lightning

With Jeff Vinik to be the Lightning's fifth owner, the process of impressing the boss can begin.

With no one will that be as intense and as important as with GM Brian Lawton, who not only heads hockey operations but has a contract that expires at the end of the season and is connected at the hip to outgoing co-owner Oren Koules as they run the organization day-to-day.

Lawton does not hide from the reality.

"When I signed up for this job, some of these things are part of the criteria," he said Saturday. "If it's too hot in the kitchen at any time, then I shouldn't have signed up. I signed up with free will. I'm thrilled I did, and I would do it again in a heartbeat."

Vinik is not going to make any immediate changes.

First, he isn't the owner until he gets approval from the NHL's Board of Governors and the financial deal closes; that's a two- to four-week process. And Vinik still has to hire a CEO type to start a top-down evaluation that will include players and coaches.

But Lawton said he already had four or five conversations with Vinik at which he outlined his vision and methods.

"I'm not going to start showing up to work any earlier. I don't think that's possible," Lawton said. "It's not like I'm going to stay any later. I don't think that's possible. A big part of the process is just explaining how I think and why. … Here's how I operate and why."

To be fair, Lawton has had a free hand only since June 23, when commissioner Gary Bettman put Koules and co-owner Len Barrie in a box, so to speak, and mandated Lawton be the point man in hockey operations. He also leads a team neck-deep in the playoff chase.

"We've done exactly what we said we'd do," Lawton said. "That's the way you build long-term credibility. It's the actions that follow what you say."

"It has to do with an overall body of work," he added. "The reason people sign for four or five years in this business is it just takes time to see what somebody is trying to do."

Lawton doesn't have that luxury.

Money matters: So, let's connect a few dots.

Remember last summer when Barrie was to come up with $10 million to cover his part of this season's projected losses? Instead, the league said it was "satisfied" with a $10 million line of credit from an unnamed bank.

The NHL, despite requests, never acknowledged if Barrie provided the money. You have to think if he did, the team's financial problems would not be so acute.

Chances are, things would have gotten to this point anyway, but perhaps not as quickly.

GM Brian Lawton will have new owner to impress with Tampa Bay Lightning 02/06/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 6, 2010 9:07pm]
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