When Steve Yzerman took over the job as General Manager he cautioned everyone who would listen that this was going to a long process in building the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Even the most ardent Lightning supporters would not have predicted the team would be playing in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins in year one. However if you look back at Steve Yzerman, why should we be surprised?
Yzerman has built the hockey organization in Tampa in an image of what made him one of the greatest players and more importantly one of the greatest captains in the NHL and arguably in team sports. Why was he that successful? Well when “Will meet Skill” success is sure to follow.
Yzerman was one of the most talented players in the league scoring over 600 goals and amassing over 1,700 points during his career but it was not until he understood that you have to take care of the fine details to be successful in the league that he finally achieved team success by winning three Stanley Cups. He used all of that skill he possessed to go along with a will to win, a will to be great and a work ethic that everyone around him had to follow as he was their captain.
As the captain of the hockey operations in Tampa, he is using that same philosophy in building the Lightning that led to all the success he had on the ice as a player. It started with all of the people he has surrounded himself they are proven winners and have a work ethic and desire to compete and win as he does himself.
Julien Brisebois, assistant general manager, was the youngest GM in the AHL when he managed the Hamilton Bulldogs, which is the Montreal Canadians top AHL affiliate. Pat Verbeek, director of pro scouting and scout for Wings in the past, was known in the NHL as a bulldog on the ice. He was not the most talented scorers in the league but he scored over 500 goals and over 2500 penalty minutes in the NHL and won a Stanley Cup for Dallas. These are one of many of the staff that he has built that fit the mold of what he demands from the people he hired into the organization.
He save his best hire for his head coach, Guy Boucher, who Yzerman says “is just an honest guy that is sincere with people” which again matches Yzerman in how he treats people with class and respect. Boucher also has the drive to be great as a head coach and he is a big reason this team has gone as far as they have this year. The coach has been able to bring the culture that Yzerman and Boucher believe in to the locker room, which again is a mirror of how Yzerman played the game, with love, passion and the overall desire to compete to win championships.
Boucher helped Hamilton set or break 37 franchise records as a team last year which included a record for most points earned on the road. Boucher is a communicator. He believes that people should be treated differently based upon how they learn best whether it be a visual person, a guy who uses logic or a guy who needs to have a butt kicked to respond. Whatever it takes to achieve success is what Boucher will do and he will work as hard as he needs to achieve that goal he is has set forth. This year that goal is Boucher mind is the same as it should be every year: hoist Lord Stanley Cup.
Yzerman’s on ice moves were not just shrewd but thoughtful. He brought in guys like Dominic Moore and Sean Bergenheim in the offseason as guys who really are the “DNA” of players that will be successful with this organization.
The team’s two biggest in-season moves had to be the trade for goaltender Dwayne Roloson and the acquisition of Eric Brewer. Yzerman tried to address goaltending in the offseason, but was not afraid to admit maybe he needed to make a change by adding a veteran in Roloson. Brewer is a big and nasty a number one defenseman from the St Louis Blues. Brewer was the captain of Blues and a teammate of Yzerman on the Canadian Olympic team in the past. So Yzerman is surrounding himself with people he knows first hand, not guys that he has to read a scouting report about or get information from other people.
In life, successful people surround themselves with the same type of people. They do this to challenge themselves to be great. So Yzerman has built his hockey team on this model. You never bet against him when he wore the “C” in hockey town, so why should you start now? He is just measuring his success today from a luxury box instead of on the rink. So Yzerman is molding the Tampa Bay Lightning not in the model of the Detroit Red Wings, but in a model of himself as a player and more importantly as a person. So when “Will meets Skill” success is sure to follow and Yzerman is the perfect example.