Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Lightning leaders say they believe in GM Steve Yzerman's long-term vision

WINNIPEG — It's just a feeling, general manager Steve Yzerman said, but he's pretty sure he's not the most popular guy in the Lightning locker room right now.

He knows he put the team in difficult positions by trading front-line players on three consecutive game days. He knows he has left it depleted by getting draft picks and prospects in return rather than bodies that might help in a rapidly intensifying playoff push.

In a sense, he has let the players fend for themselves.

"I'm sure," Yzerman said, "they're not thrilled with what I've done."

What Yzerman did was make a calculation that building organizational depth and a minor-league system through the draft is the best way to create a franchise that can sustain success and win a Stanley Cup.

Yzerman's haul has been impressive. Tampa Bay now has two first-round draft picks this year and up to six picks in the first two rounds, which creates plenty of options if Yzerman wants to work trades leading to Monday's trade deadline or at the June draft.

The problem is that hasn't done much for the current team, which has forced its way into the playoff picture and is on a three-game winning streak forged on days Dominic Moore, Pavel Kubina and Steve Downie, respectively, were dealt.

The talent drain became more acute when the team lost captain Vinny Lecavalier for at least three weeks with a fractured right hand.

"It doesn't make it any easier, and I think Steve knows that," wing Marty St. Louis said.

"It's tough to analyze what he's done because we haven't gotten anything but draft picks. We have to trust what he's doing, and time will tell how good a job he's doing, because draft picks are just draft picks."

Yzerman said he gets kind of the same feedback from coach Guy Boucher, with whom he discusses all his trades.

"When I mention things, his first question is what are we getting back," Yzerman said. "He's waiting for a name, not a draft pick, and I can see the wind come out of his sails when I say a draft pick."

Said Boucher, "To move forward, you have to make harsh, difficult decisions at sometimes tough moments, and that's what (Yzerman) has to do right now. I trust him. So, after the initial wind out of my sails, it takes me two, three minutes to sit and go, 'What do I have now? What's the plan, and how do I make the best of it?' "

The Lightning certainly has made the best of things. Behind a 10-3-2 run since Jan. 17, it is just five points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and five behind the first-place Panthers in the Southeast Division.

That is why Yzerman as a seller seems a little incongruous, especially after saying Monday he would evaluate where the team stood in the playoff race at the end of the week before finalizing his deadline strategy. A day later, he traded Downie to the Avalanche as part of a three-team deal that returned primarily a 2012 first-round draft pick.

"Well, you know, these opportunities come up when they come up, and you have to make a decision," Yzerman said. "You have to be prepared to act or lose the opportunity."

Yzerman said he empathizes with the players, who tonight in a huge game at the MTS Centre face the Jets, a team it must leapfrog to make the playoffs.

"They want to win now," he said. "I've been in their shoes. I understand. I want to do well now, too, but I believe there are certain things that need to be done to get us where we ultimately want to be. That's a decision I have to make, balance what's right for the rest of this year and what's right for the future."

"You trust that there is a bigger picture there," St. Louis said. "I trust Steve."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at or (727) 893-8622. View his blog at

Tampa Bay Lightning leaders say they believe in GM Steve Yzerman's long-term vision 02/22/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 11:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the warm response from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute were proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  2. Rays vs. Cubs, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Cubs

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    Chris Archer's night ended with his 11th loss, but he and the Rays should feel good about his six solid innings. After the forearm tightness scare in Chicago, he had two rough outings, allowing 15 hits and 11 runs while lasting just seven innings total.

  4. At 6-8, Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov comes with, and needs, a high ceiling

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked that the 6-foot-8 defenseman could reach the Amalie Arena ceiling.

    Oleg Sosunov, competing in the Lightning’s preseason opener, is a 6-foot-8 defense-man whom Phil Esposito jokes can reach the Amalie Arena ceiling.
  5. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494