February 22, 2012

Lightning Struck Down

Steve Downie
Up until this season Steve Yzerman was very much considered to be the general manager with the golden touch. Everything he touched turned to gold, quite literally in the case of the 2010 Team Canada's Olympic team which he managed. 

Yzerman entered last season as a rookie general manager in Tampa Bay, albeit the most heralded young GM in the game. Through some aggressive signings he found organizational depth and his winning ways continued all season long, as the Lightning surprised most people with an amazing season which saw take the Boston Bruins to game 7 in the Eastern Conference final. 

Just think about that for a second. The Tampa Bay Lightning were one win away from playing for the Stanley Cup in 2011. The Lightning, decimated in the standings and at the turnstiles thanks to previous ownership debacles, were back as a good hockey team and a good hockey market.

That seems so long ago now that they are mired in a terrible season which now sees them selling off assets in exchange for draft picks.

It appears Yzerman misjudged just how good his team was. It was a team led by a goaltender who defied father time, until this year. This is now Steven Stamkos team, but Martin St. Louis, another aging veteran, sets the pulse. Vincent Lecavalier continues to struggle to find his game of old. Yzerman went out and signed some veterans to compliment the team to get over the hump. Veterans like Pavel Kubina, who he has now dumped for draft picks.

A few months make a world of difference sometimes. Perhaps Yzerman should have foreseen this earlier, especially when he committed to 42 year old goaltender Roloson for this season. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, and Roloson earned another contract after his great playoff run last spring. His resigning may have even sold some more season tickets. But Yzerman failed to bring in exactly what the team needed most: a goaltender for the near future.

Now Yzerman stock piles draft picks (so far he has two 1st rounders and three 2nd rounders) in search of a goaltender. Perhaps he will be looking to move those picks to find his next goaltender. Will he package some of those picks for a June trade for a goalie? Or will he keep those picks and look to build organizational depth, something the team also lacks?

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