Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman understands their is impatience with the team's lack of success. But that does not mean abandoning his long-term plan.
"I'm not going to be held to timelines," he said this week. "These things take time and we're going to be patient and we're going to try to draft well and we're going to try to use free agency wisely,"
Yzerman hit on several topics in his postseason news conference. Here are excerpts of what he had to say:
On the team's start: Obviously, the start was very misleading. But in this 48-game season, a lockout-shortened season that starts late, goofy things happen along the way, not only with our team but you look around the league and other teams doing unexpectedly well or unexpectedly poorly; individual players having good years, off years, it's an aberration a little bit I would say. But for our organization, we got off to a 6-1 start and we're analyzing our team, we played a lot of home games, playing teams that were playing the night before with no training camp, with players in various states of physical condition. We knew we were going on the road and things would even out. I guess it's easy to say now, but did we truly believe we were 6-1 team? I'm not sure that we truly believed that at the time, and as time went on that was proven correct.
On this summer: It's difficult to predict or sit here and say they're going to be big changes. The reality is it's difficult to make changes. We all have these ideas and sit around and talk about we should do this or do that. It's hard to make changes. It's hard to do things. You have to find a partner to match and do certain things. But the reality is our group will change, how dramatically I'm not prepared to say yet, but we will explore options as far as improvement in the areas we need to be addressed. We'll have players coming up from Syracuse next year that will have an opportunity to make this team. (Coach) Jon Cooper and his staff will have an opportunity to spend a summer preparing for a training camp, getting organized and getting the team ready to go in the regular season, so there will be some changes.
On Cooper: I'm not really a big fan of making a coaching change in the middle of a season. To assess Jon with 15 games to go with the situation we're in, no. For him it was a learning experience as far as learning the league a little bit, just things as simple as travel, the daily routine in the NHL, getting into some of these buildings, getting to know these teams a little bit and assessing our players, getting to know what he has to work with and getting comfortable with them. So, really, for Jon it's an opportunity to prepare for next year. At the stage of the season with the amount of games we had left, it was more so about next year.
On the draft: We think we'll get a pretty good young prospect (with the No. 3 overall pick). Whether they're ready to play or not next year you really don't know that until they get on the ice and in training camp. … There appears to be a couple of young players that might be ready to play in the NHL next year. The reality is you don't know that until you get into training camp and the early part of the season and see how they look at that point.
On Marty St. Louis: I'm not surprised. He's a good player, and at his age, we keep talking about his age. His age is irrelevant. There are players in this league who are older than Marty and they're 40, 41, 42. You look at how good Daniel Alfredsson is playing, Ray Whitney, Jaromir Jagr, Nicklas Lidstrom, who retired. So I can't say I'm surprised. He's very very fit. He's very conscientious. He's really professional and he's a really good player. He's been fortunate he's been able to stay healthy throughout his career as well and he can maintain a high level of play, but it's an example for every player in this league, especially our guys in our room, if you're committed to staying on top, you can play for a long time and be a really successful player. We're very fortunate to have a guy like that in our room to not only play well for us but to be a leader on the team.
On personnel needs: You just look at the statistics of our team, we score goals, we'd like to prevent more goals. We'd like to get a better differential as far as goals-for and goals-against. We'll look at trying to address the entire team. We know what our goaltending situation is going to be and for the most part our defense we know what it's going to be but we will look at ways of improving it. Radko (Gudas) came in and played very well when he was recalled and we look forward to him taking a step forward. We have a couple other young defensemen down there who are pushing and will be evaluated in training camp. I can look at trades or free agency. If you've had an opportunity to go over some of the free agency lists, a majority of players in this league are signed, so it's more likely if you are going to add to your defensive corps or add to your team you're probably doing it via trade, it's a hard thing to do but we'll certainly explore it.
On salary cap space: We'll spend the next month figuring out our plan for next year, a specific plan for what we want to do. I'm not really concerned with where we are with the cap. It's not going to be an issue for us as far as what we want to do.
On the assistant caches: We'll sit down with Jon and figure out what we're going to do with our entire staff here. We got some decisions that we need to make.
On a timeline for success: I'm not going to be held to timelines. These things take time and we're going to be patient and we're going to try to draft well and we're going to try to use free agency wisely, and if we can expedite the process through free agency or through a trade that's something we'll do.
On teams this season who made turnarounds: Montreal, they had the third team in the draft last year and they won their division. Things like that can happen. I think there are a lot of things to feel good about on our current team and in our organization, players coming. But we sit here today with the record that we have. We are what we are today, but I'm hopeful. I'm expecting us to be a better team next year.??