What We Learned: Is Steve Yzerman already the best GM in the league?

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.

Hell, Moore now makes like $500,000 less than Derek Boogaard(notes).

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.


Anaheim Ducks -The Ducks have a new ECHL affiliate in the Elmira Jackals. Notable only because the Jackals just signed some guy named Brock McBride which is a great hockey name.

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?

Boston Bruins - With Blake Wheeler(notes) officially signed, the Bruins have one signing to make: Tyler Seguin(notes). Oh and they're over the cap. So good luck with that.

Buffalo Sabres - Really great post over at Goose's Roost about how and why the Sabres run their organization the way they do. Hint: It has lots to do with undersized forwards.

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.

Carolina Hurricanes - The ads for the All-Star Game"

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.

Detroit Red Wings - Joey Kocur and Darren McCarty are going to play in a celebrity softball game. I pity the umps if they blow a call at any point.

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.

Minnesota Wild - The Wild really like former Bolts assistant Rick Wilson to take over from the outgoing Mike Ramsey. Wilson was also an assistant in Dallas for like 16 years, which is crazy.

Montreal Canadiens -The Habs signed '09 first rounder Louis Leblanc from Harvard. Maybe now, since he doesn't play college hockey any more, he'll get on the Canadian World Junior team.

Nashville Predators - The Preds have turned their attention to re-signing Patric Hornqvist. Y'know, their leading goalscorer this past year. That guy. They're just now getting around to signing him.

New Jersey Devils - Speaking of guys their team should really really want to re-sign: the Devils haven't begun talking about a new contract with Zach Parise(notes).

New York Islanders - Brendan Witt(notes) cleared waivers and was bought out this weekend. The guy got hit by a freaking truck and made it to practice on time. How they gonna buy him out? Shameful.

New York Rangers - The Rangers and Marc Staal(notes) are still far apart on contract talks. Meanwhile Carolina circles, hoping to bring in all the Staals, and in the darkness bind them.

Ottawa Senators - Oh good the Sens re-signed Chris Campoli(notes). Now I can FINALLY sleep at night.

Philadelphia Flyers - Sorry Flyers fans, no Marty Turco(notes) for you guys this year. I know you're all broken up over it but that's the breaks.

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.

St. Louis Blues - The DJ King(notes) trade was good for the Blues? Okay if you say so.

Tampa Bay Lightning - Dominic Moore for $1.1 million. Yes please.

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.

Vancouver Canucks - Brendan Morrison(notes) has had his name kicked around as the new Canucks radio color guy. But he says he wants to keep playing and should sign soon.

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."


Georges Laraque stars in the best video ever.


Once again, you all get a free pass. I am in a magnanimous mood this week.


User "um" (who has the best avatar in the history of HFBoards) proposes this beaut.

toronto - beauchemin

washington - flieschmann, gustafsson, 3rd rounder2011

Well done.


I totally freaked out in front of that prosecutor today. Like a little girl. In a little dress. Little saddle shoes. Little pigtails.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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