Steve Yzerman, the newly named general manager of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, has his work cut out for him. And, if history is any indication, he won’t be a successful GM in the National Hockey League. Oh, he’ll try and make all the right decisions, choose the right players, spend thoughtfully…but he has something working against him that he can’t control.
Yzerman’s problem is that, as an NHL player, he was too good. He had too much natural talent. He had too much drive. He had too much skill. And he had way too much desire and leadership qualities. All these qualities in Yzerman helped the Detroit Red Wings go from NHL laughing stock (which they had been for about fifteen years when Stevie Y arrived in June 1983) to three-time Stanley Cup champions between 1997 and 2002.
He was an incredible captain. He led by example. Yzerman was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009. He was the Red Wings’ second all-time leading scorer – behind only the legendary Gordie Howe. But he’ll struggle as a GM.
He’ll struggle because every time he assesses a player, every time he makes a personnel decision, he’ll inherently expect that player to have the desire and skill and passion that he did. And that player won’t have it. He can’t. Yzerman is one-in-a-million. Stevie Y won’t understand why the work ethic isn’t there. Where’s the passion and drive, he’ll ask himself.
Oh, he did a fine job in selecting Canada’s gold medal-winning 2010 Olympic hockey team but, truthfully, how hard was that? Sit down with ten other hockey execs and choose the 23 best Canadian-born players. The first 17 were no-brainers. All he did, essentially, was choose six guys. Nice job, but not a real challenge.
Leading the Tampa Bay Lightning will be. Even though they won the 2004 Stanley Cup, the franchise has pretty much been a Gong Show since they were born in 1992. Another former superstar, Phil Esposito, was their first GM. Espo liked to talk a lot, but he’s not going to the Hall of Fame as a GM. In their eighteen NHL seasons, the Lightning have only reached the playoffs five times.