The postseason is nothing new for Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman (above). As the former captain of the Red Wings as well as a member of Detroit's management for several years, Yzerman was usually busy in the spring. Over parts of two decades in Detroit, Yzerman won four Stanley Cup rings with the Red Wings.
This past offseason, he joined the Lightning, a franchise which had missed the postseason for three consecutive seasons under the tumultuous ownership of Len Barrie and Oren Koules.
Jeff Vinik stepped in and purchased the team last year. He plucked Yzerman out of Hockeytown hoping his postseason experience would turn around a franchise which was totally lost.
In one year, Yzerman, who also served as general manager of Canada's gold-medal Olympic team last year, has been able to add key contributors such as Dwayne Roloson, Dominic Moore and Eric Brewer to a roster which already had elite talent such as Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.
The result was a team which returned to the postseason and even challenged the Capitals for the Southeast Division for much of the season.
Wednesday morning, Yzerman talked about his postseason debut as an NHL general manager, the benefits of playoff experience, and his suggestion that Mario Lemieux - his former Olympic teammate - be more invovled with the NHL.
What is like being the general manager of a playoff team for the first time?
"I guess I got to watch for four years (Red Wings general manager) Kenny (Holland), how he handled it. The role at general manager. Watching and observing the interaction with coach, management and the players. Pretty comfortable with the transition. Don’t think I’m going to be surprised by anything."
How important was it to add players such as Roloson or Moore who have been parts of long playoff runs?
"It’s very beneficial come this time, but we didn’t acquire them because they had playoff experience. They were good hockey players and filled a void we really had. That was the biggest reasons. But they will really help our young guys like Victor (Hedman) and (Steven) Stamkos who haven’t played in the playoffs yet."
How does being a general manager during the Stanley Cup playoffs compare to being the general manager of a national team during the Olympics?
"I think it’s the same. This is basically an eight-week tournament. You work beforehand. You select your team. You make all your changes and what not. Now this is our team. These are our players. There’s no more changes relatively that can be made other than bringing a guy up due to injury. It’s really more into the coaches’ hands now that they’re in control of the team. For myself, the business part for the time being is done."
Is it kind of ironic your AHL affiliate, the Norfold Admirals, are playing the Penguins' AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs also?
"Yeah, yeah. That should be a real good series. Wilkes-Barre is a great team. The regular season series, it was pretty good. It was very competitive. That should be a good series as well."
Have you talked to Mario Lemieux since you encouraged him to be more involved with the league?
"No, I haven’t."
Are there any specific ways you would encourage him to be more involved?
"Just participation. He’s a bright guy. He’s really well respected. He’s got a unique perspective. A former player who’s an owner. What he says carries a lot of weight. I encourage him to come to the board meetings. Rule changes to get more involved at the league level. It would be beneficial to us all."
Would his voice - as a hall of fame player - be much louder than some other owners?
"All the owners, they’re as loud as they want to be or choose to be. He’s a former player. For him to speak, people are going to listen. And people want to hear what he has to say."
(Photo: First-Chris O'Meara/Associated Press; Second-Paul Sancya/Associated Press; Susan Walsh-Associated Press; Third-Photobucket)