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Time for Tampa Bay Lightning to decide on general manager

A report from AOL Fanhouse on Wednesday said Steve Yzerman is "keen" to be general manager of the Lightning. Forgive the question, but what day is it? That seems to be how the front-runners are being identified.

With contradictory reports abundant — and owner Jeff Vinik and adviser Jac Sperling telling candidates they will be shut out if they speak to reporters — the guess is that no one on the outside really knows where the search stands, especially when it comes to Yzerman.

Consider that on May 15, the Ottawa Sun reported that the Red Wings' vice president had only "mild" interest in the job and NBC analyst Pierre McGuire was the lead candidate.

The next day, the Toronto Star wrote that former Flames GM Doug Risebrough had the inside track because Yzerman had pulled out. Now Fanhouse says it is Yzerman's job if he wants it.

That might be true. Who is to say? And that is the point. We don't know who is behind these stories because they are without named sources, and that is when agendas spread and inconsistent reports appear.

So, let's take stock:

Yzerman certainly has been interviewed, as have McGuire and Risebrough, presumably Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall and surely others, including former Lightning assistant GM Claude Loiselle, who we know would love the job but isn't returning phone calls. (See Vinik, Sperling above.)

Predators assistant GM Paul Fenton was believed to be in the mix but denied talking to Tampa Bay.

Predators director of hockey operations Mike Santos, a Tampa resident, said he wants to be in the mix but also denied contact.

That said, isn't it time the Lightning made a decision?

Yes, some candidates have obligations. McGuire has to finish working the playoffs for NBC and Canada's TSN, and Hextall, also the general manager of AHL Manchester, is in playoff mode as well.

But Tampa Bay has obligations, too.

The draft is a month away, and whether you agree or not with the Lightning's position on wing Stephane Veilleux — the team balked before finally agreeing to pay to surgically repair shoulder injuries it believes were not hockey-related — the public relations nightmare might have been mitigated had the GM position been settled.

Before Veilleux's agent, Allan Walsh, began his media and Twitter blitzes to shame Tampa Bay into paying, a general manager might have put him on notice the team could play hardball with whatever information it has about Veilleux.

Instead of a committee deciding whether to pay for the surgery — a group that probably included assistant general manager Tom Kurvers, never before a full-time GM; team medical director Ira Guttentag, lawyers and other executives — there would have been one voice.

Now, there are many talking about a prolonged search and drawing different conclusions. In fact, if I'm Hextall or Fenton, I'm insulted no one has yet called me a front-runner.

Bottom line: On April 12, when Vinik fired GM Brian Lawton and coach Rick Tocchet, he said he wanted a CEO and a general manager hired in 30 to 60 days. He is in that window. Time to get it done.

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

Time for Tampa Bay Lightning to decide on general manager 05/22/10 [Last modified: Sunday, May 23, 2010 12:21pm]
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