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Loyal Red Wing Steve Yzerman might be in Tampa Bay Lightning GM mix

Longtime Red Wing player Steve Yzerman has been Detroit’s vice president for four years and was a key to Team Canada’s recent Olympic and world championship success.

Associated Press

Longtime Red Wing player Steve Yzerman has been Detroit’s vice president for four years and was a key to Team Canada’s recent Olympic and world championship success.

Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings just seem to fit, don't they?

He has been with the team 27 years, after all; 23 as a Hall of Fame center and four as a vice president.

But if you listen to rumblings around the league, Yzerman might soon have to decide if it is time to make a break and, perhaps, if a job as the Lightning's general manager fits into his plans.

"We've chatted about different (positions). Tampa is there," said Bob Nicholson, president of Hockey Canada, who added, "Any team would be lucky to have him. He's more than ready, and I say that with no hesitation."

Who knows how serious the Lightning is about Yzerman, and the potential story line certainly would not be linear.

To begin: No one has denied the report from Canada's TSN that Tampa Bay has permission to speak to Yzerman. Assuming that is true, he is part of a pool that probably includes former Wild GM Doug Risebrough, who has stated his interest, and Maple Leafs assistant Dave Nonis, who, like Yzerman, has been mum.

There is the Lightning's unfinished search for a CEO, who owner Jeff Vinik has said will hire the general manager. And after two unsatisfying years with first-time GM Brian Lawton, fired April 12 with coach Rick Tocchet, does Tampa Bay want another newbie? Moreover, does Yzerman want his first stop as general manager to be a team with little organizational depth?

That said, Yzerman, who turns 45 on Sunday, is the most recognizable name of those that have surfaced, and he has built a strong resume.

He has been mentored by Red Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano, GM Kenny Holland and assistant Jim Nill, a trio believed to be the game's best. With Yzerman as its executive director, Team Canada won Olympic gold in February. As general manager, Yzerman helped Canada to gold and silver, respectively, at the 2007 and 2008 world championships.

Still, Scotty Bowman, who coached Yzerman from 1993 to 2002, said he would be "surprised" if Yzerman left Detroit. "He's like a son to the owner (Mike Ilitch). He's been there nearly 30 years, and I think he's in line to move up the chain."

But Nicholson countered, "If the right situation came, I think Steve Yzerman would step out and take the challenge."

That would be the day-to-day grind of the NHL as opposed to putting together an all-star team for international competition.

But Nicholson, whose organization is in charge of Canada's international teams, said, "There's a lot of the same ingredients. You have to know the type of team you want. Once you start to put the pieces in place, you might have to adjust a little bit, but he really drills down into the strengths of each of the players."

Nicholson said Yzerman's work ethic is unmatched. He called Yzerman a "clear communicator" and said he worked hard to make sure he and Olympic coach Mike Babcock were on the same page when it came to style of play.

"It relates a bit to how he led on the ice," Nicholson said. "He led by example. He did it in a very quiet and professional manner. … He knows his players. He knows what a player's atmosphere should be. And he has people work as a group. I love how he reaches out to everyone to make them part of the decisionmaking process."

Ultimately, though, deciding whether to leave the Red Wings is on Yzerman.

"I played with him four years in Detroit and I can't see his name beside any other logo," said former Lightning captain Tim Taylor, who was with the Wings in 1993-97. "I just can't picture it. A very loyal guy."

"But if it's something that's real good," Nicholson said, "I think there's a chance you can get Steve."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Loyal Red Wing Steve Yzerman might be in Tampa Bay Lightning GM mix 05/03/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 4, 2010 7:40am]
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