Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and off-season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Lots of Hall of Fame athletes have gone on to be general mangers, and almost all of them have been universally terrible at their jobs.
So why, exactly, does Steve Yzerman, maybe the best player of his era, seem unable to make a mistake?
The guy took the job on May 25th and in just over two months, he's made nothing but positive moves. You can't even assail anything he's done as being anything less than "pretty good."
And I have to admit, I was skeptical. After all, he was hired by the Lightning, an organization known for not exactly having its act together, and they'd been known to sign big names before, only to have it end in tears (the flaming disaster of Mr. B. Melrose as head coach, for example). The argument could have been made - should any in the hockey media have dared to besmirch the name of Stevie Y - that he didn't exactly have the credentials to be an actual NHL GM apart from that whole "is going to be in the Hall of Fame" thing.
(Coming Up: All Star Game ads; Joe Kocur and Darren McCarty(notes) play softball; Dale Tallon goes golfing; Predators finally get to Patric Hornqvist(notes); no Turco for Philly; signings galore; Georges Laraque(notes) talking about plants; and the trade proposal of the week.)
A couple years in the Detroit front office, where his job could very well have been to simply be Steve Yzerman. And his only other real, official GMing experience was picking the roster for Team Canada at the 2007 World Championships and the Vancouver Olympics. Sure, he won two gold medals out of it, but it's not like he was hurting for talent at any positions on any lines. Hell, he probably could have picked two Canadian teams and won a pair of medals if the competitions allowed.
But Yzerman has proven ridiculously good at his job. Granted it's only been two months, but how many GMs around the league bat 1.000 on transactions for any 60-day period? Guy Boucher was a highly sought-after coach, and he got him no problem right out from under Columbus' nose. He bought out Todd Fedoruk(notes), which can only make a team better. He re-upped Marty St. Louis to the last contract he'll likely ever have, and for a fairly reasonable price (at least not an unreasonable one). He signed mortal enemy Dan Ellis(notes) to shore up the goaltending position. He signed Pavel Kubina(notes) for a Tampa victory lap and as a bit of a tutor for Victor Hedman(notes), who perhaps didn't live up to his potential last year. He's re-signed a lot of restricted free agents. He shrewdly picked Julien BriseBois as his assistant GM (helluva lot better than Jay Feaster, eh?). He got a great crop of assistants for Boucher. He also got Dominic Moore(notes) for a dirt-cheap price that I think most of the hockey world was fairly surprised by.
And he also traded almost literally nothing to Philly for Simon Gagne(notes), and that was pretty much the ballgame. His top power play unit now consists of four forwards (Gagne, St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, and Steven Stamkos(notes)) who average no less than .35 goals per game over their careers, and Hedman, who can shoot the puck through a wall.
Suddenly, the Bolts are not the disaster they were a year ago, or even three months ago. They're a good team with solid, proven talent at every position (except goal, I guess). And they're going to impress people this year.
In fact, the Lightning are going to make the playoffs. Book it. They won't win the division, but they'll give Washington a better run for their money than people probably think. They'll maybe even get out of the first round - it's the East, after all.
Back in May, I wouldn't have thought any first-time GM could have come into a situation like Tampa's and swashbuckled his way to a front office, coaching staff and team like that in this short of a timeframe. But I guess Steve Yzerman's not just any first-time GM.
He's Stevie Y.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Atlanta Thrashers - Atlanta is the team that improved itself the most in the off-season? By adding some mediocre Blackhawks and a slightly-better-than-mediocre goalie? Did Steve Yzerman run over Alan Muir's dog or something?
Calgary Flames - IanWhite has been signed, so no worries Flames fans. Ohexcept for all the extra overpaid defensemen and forwards on the team. That's a worry.
Chicago Blackhawks - Said Stan Bowman of the Niemi arbitration award even before he knew the number was a manageable $2.75 million: " We've planned this all out long ago internally. We'll see which of our five or six plans we have we're actually going to have to execute.'' How many of those plans do you think started with "Okay, say we kill Huet somehow..."
Colorado Avalanche - Top draft pick Joey Hishon is best buddies with Ryan O'Reilly(notes) and went to three Avs games last year on comp tickets. I don't know about you but I think there's some tampering going on here. Let's get the Canucks on the case.
Columbus Blue Jackets - Rusty Klesla's going to be 100 percent when the season starts. He should make a big difference for the Jackets this year, at least in theory. He's only suited up 60 times in the last two seasons combined.
Dallas Stars - News Corp., the company that owns Fox News, is among the bidders for the Stars, which has caused me no small amount of delight. Soon every Canadian, Finn and Swede on the team will be shipped out of the country on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant. Also Glen Beck will become their ultra-homer announcer.
Edmonton Oilers -For some terrible reason, the Oilers re-signed Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers. Assumedly because they want to continue to have the worst starting goaltending in the
American National Hockey League.
Florida Panthers - Dale Tallon played in the U.S. Senior Open over the weekend against legends like Tom Watson, Fred Couples and Tom Kite. Tallon said he looks forward to having more time to hit the links come April. (Jokessssss.)
Los Angeles Kings -This dude thinks both Jonathan Bernier(notes) and Brayden Schenn(notes) could be among the best rookies in the NHL this year. I'll give him Bernier, but Schenn won't even be among the three best rookie forwards in the league this year.
Phoenix Coyotes - Alex Picard recently signed with the Coyotes and told a Phoenix paper he didn't like his role in Columbus. By that, he probably means he didn't like being a first-round draft of the Blue Jackets and therefore destined for failure.
Pittsburgh Penguins - Now that Todd Rierden has landed a job as the Penguins' NHL assistant coach,that makes five straight Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coaches to go right from that job to the NHL. It's almost like Pittsburgh has a good organization or something.
San Jose Sharks - Devin Setoguchi(notes) getting $1.8 million for one year is similar to the one-year deals Ryane Clowe(notes) and Joey Pavelski got after their first contracts expired. Bet he ends up better than both of em.
Toronto Maple Leafs - JS Giguere is chock full of intangibles. Like showing Jonas Gustavsson(notes) what it takes to win a Stanley Cup. Like playing behind Chris Pronger(notes) and Scott Niedermayer(notes) when they were both still ridiculous and amazing.
Washington Capitals - Headline (in the Toronto Star of all places): "Caps looking to pull off Cup win." Scrapped headlines include "All teams looking to pull off Cup win," and "Despite hopes, Edmonton has no chance at Cup win."
GOLD STAR AWARD
Georges Laraque stars in the best video ever.