One way or another, Steve Yzerman’s future as an NHL GM is on delay for a season, as he’s technically still working for the Tampa Bay Lightning. If another team publicly acknowledged pursuing the Hall of Fame player and top-notch executive, they’d likely be guilty of tampering.
So, take Stevie Y-related comments with a grain of salt, whether they’re coming from people involved with the Seattle expansion franchise, Detroit Red Wings, or anyone else who might be linked to Yzerman.
It’s still worth noting those comments, though, so soak in what Red Wings GM Ken Holland said when The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell asked him about possibly “looking over his shoulder” at Yzerman.
“I’ve been a manager in the league for 23 years,” Holland said. “I’ve won three Stanley Cups, five Presidents’ Trophies.* I don’t look over my shoulder.”
Should Holland look over his shoulder, or – considering the temporary limbo involved – in his rear-view mirror at Yzerman?
Logically speaking, you’d think maybe he should. Yzerman didn’t leave his post with Tampa Bay merely to placate another promising executive in Julien BriseBois, who replaced Yzerman right before the season began.
We’ve seen some succession plans in other NHL franchises that would make a lot of sense for the Red Wings, at least hypothetically speaking.
Glen Sather, another long-time executive with many skins on his wall (and cigars in his vault), made way for a younger GM in Jeff Gorton as the Rangers entered a new phase. It would make a lot of sense for Holland to essentially “move up the food chain” with a new title in Detroit, while Yzerman takes the reins as the actual GM.
(There are also less-friendly transitions to note, like with the Capitals, Coyotes, and other franchises that transitioned to a younger GM.)
Of course, the Red Wings march to the beat of their own drum, likely arguing that their way has often been a successful way. The consensus around the hockey world is that, while Holland has nodded to a rebuild at times, Detroit’s also been pretty stubborn to fully commit. That same stubbornness could conceivably keep Holland in power, even if it might be wiser to move on, particularly with a GM who’s proven to be as shrewd as Yzerman was with Tampa Bay.
During the darker moments in Detroit, there’ve been times when it felt like Yzerman was the one that got away.
There’s also the possibility that Yzerman would like to see if he can meet or exceed what Vegas GM George McPhee accomplished with an expansion franchise by building the Seattle team.
As appealing as it would be for Yzerman to swoop back into Detroit and save the day, just about any GM – not to mention plenty of sports fans who’ve daydreamed while playing “franchise” or “GM” modes – would delight in building a team from scratch. There’s something to be said, after all, for not having to deal with lingering mistakes from the previous GM; the Red Wings certainly have some shaky contracts remaining on their salary structure.
Maybe Ken Holland doesn’t feel threatened. Perhaps he’s just deflecting since the Red Wings can’t really show their hand now, anyway.
If the Red Wings are smart, they absolutely pursue Yzerman once they’re allowed to, even if it means ruffling Holland’s feathers.
* – Sportsnet indicates that Holland actually won four Presidents’ Trophies. Either way, the man is seasoned executive.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.