May 25, 2010. That was the day the Tampa Bay Lightning hired Steve Yzerman – Detroit Red Wings legend – to become their general manager. It was the very next year that the Lightning would reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
Yzerman flipped this team on its head in his time with them. Everything from trading Martin St. Louis and Ben Bishop to acquiring players like Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Callahan, and – well – also Ben Bishop. He was able to deal the highly talented but very difficult Jonathan Drouin to Montreal in exchange for some defensive prospect named Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional second round pick that ended up not being sent due to Sergachev’s playing time.
Yzerman was able to work out a team friendly deal with captain and heavily sought after free agent Steven Stamkos back in 2016. Just a few days later, Victor Hedman signed his extension to match Stamkos’ contract length.
Yzerman had his hand in nearly every piece of that Stanley Cup Championship team. There were certainly key contributors like Blake Coleman, Pat Maroon, Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian, and Barclay Goodrow that Yzerman didn’t have anything to do with – but by extension, he did. It was his protégé, his assistant Julien BriseBois that made those moves. BriseBois was hand picked by Yzerman in 2010 – just two months after Yzerman got the job – to come in and run Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliates and he learned even more under Yzerman.
You don’t have the 2020 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning without all the moves, relationships, and contributions that were created by Steve Yzerman. He built them into a consistent contender and his fingerprints are (metaphorically) all over the Stanley Cup.
I think back to another team that won a championship in the same year as the Tampa Bay Lightning – the 2004 Boston Red Sox. They dealt fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs at the trade deadline before going on a historic postseason run and winning their first World Series in 86 years.
After that World Series, Garciaparra received a World Series ring. It was simply said by then GM Theo Epstein that even though he wasn’t on the team when they won, there is no championship without Nomar Garciaparra.
It’s the same thing for Yzerman. Yes, he stepped down and left for the job in Detroit and he is no longer with the team. But there is no championship without him. He’s as important to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup run as anyone in that building. So although he won’t get to lift or drink out of the Cup with the team he started, he should at least be given a championship ring as a thank you for what he did for this team and organization for nearly a decade.
I mean, wasn’t that always the Yzer-plan?