New owner Jeff Vinik and general manager Steve Yzerman helped re-establish the Lightning as a stable organization and resurrected the credibility of a franchise that under previous ownership and management was a dysfunctional mess. "They just seemed to calm everything down in terms of bad press," right wing Marty St. Louis said. How did they do it? These easy steps:
• By paying about $110 million in cash for the team, the St. Pete Times Forum lease and 5½ acres around the stadium, Vinik owns the team without the debt that debilitated previous owners Len Barrie, right, and Oren Koules.
• Hired general manager Steve Yzerman, bringing the team instant credibility within the league and among players.
• Hired chief executive officer Tod Leiweke, above, one of the most respected figures in sports business. Vinik wanted him so badly, he gave Leiweke a small piece of the team.
• Demanded the Times Forum be scrubbed and repainted before the season so there was immediate, tangible evidence of a long-term commitment to the fan experience.
• Got out of the way to let the people he hired do their jobs.
• Did not build up unreasonable expectations by gratuitously predicting a division title, a la former owner Len Barrie, below. Said building long-term success is a process.
• Signed Marty St. Louis, below, to a four-year contract extension, sending a message that the "heart and soul" of the team, as center Steven Stamkos calls St. Louis, was on board.
• Publicly stated he was not trading Vinny Lecavalier, above, blunting the rumors that had bothered the captain the past two years.
• Did not blow up the team, preferring to supplement the organization's top players, and put together a playoff contender while spending $6 million under the $59.4 million salary cap.
• Hired well, particularly up-and-coming executive Julien BriseBois, above, from the Canadiens as GM of AHL Norfolk and Al Murray from Hockey Canada as head of amateur scouting.
• Other than St. Louis' four-year extension, Yzerman has not signed a player for longer than two years, ensuring flexibility as he evaluates the organization's long-term needs.