I always hated Steve Yzerman.
It’s nothing personal, really. He seems like a nice guy. It’s the player from 1997 that I hated.
Growing up without an NHL team in your city sucks, but on the other hand, it did afford me the chance to pick a team fandom to join. And the team I loved when I was young was the late 90’s Colorado Avalanche. I jumped aboard that bandwagon as soon as I started watching NHL hockey. (Of course the reason I picked them is that they were good, what do you expect from a 5-year old?) Patrick Roy was an absolute madman and is still probably my favorite player to this day. In 1996 they won the Stanley Cup and I got to rub it into my Red Wings-loving brother’s face because that’s what brothers are for. The next season rolled around and so many of my favorite guys were back. Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, Adam Foote, Sandis Ozolinsh, they were going to do it again.
Except they couldn’t beat Stevie Y and the Wings.
Detroit foiled Colorado’s plans for back to back championships the next season. After beating the living hell out of each other in their final regular season game (which Detroit somewhat ominously won in overtime), the Red Wings put the final nail in the coffin of Colorado’s grandest hopes and dreams by taking the Western Conference Finals in 6 games.
Steve Yzerman had a goal and 2 assists. He followed it up with 3 goals and another assist in the Finals against an incredibly overmatched Philadelphia Flyers. And you know what the captain of that team did next? He took them back the very next year and did it again. The gall. Now I had to live with my brother in his Red Wings jersey for two straight years, holding onto the pain that that red sweater gave me each time I looked at it.
Now, 20 years later, Yzerman is a very successful general manager whose name has started popping up in the shallow corners of Seattle NHL twitter. On Tuesday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Lightning held a press conference to announce that Yzerman would be stepping down from his role as GM and serve in an advisory role for the final year of his contract. What’s he going to do after that?
My first thought, and I’m sure I’m not alone, was that he was heading back to Detroit. He’s basically royalty in that city, and rightfully so. He spent 22 years with the team, 20 of them as the captain, and never once missed the playoffs. He brought home 3 Stanley Cups.
My take: Yzerman steps into advisory role with TBL until his contract up, then rides into Detroit's front office, shirtless on a white horse.— Kyle M. (@KyleWIIM) September 11, 2018
It does seem like a good time, seeing as how the Red Wings are in uncharted territory at the bottom of the league and without a ton of tools to rebuild in the near future. As my man Doug pointed out when Wings GM Ken Holland’s name came up last summer in the search for a Seattle GM:
“The Red Wings currently have 10 players with no-trade clauses, all of which are assigned to skaters over the age of 27. Additionally, four players over the age of 30 have contracts which extend to at least the 2020-21 season.”
This seems less than ideal for a team trying to rebuild for the future. Fortunately for the #YzermanToSeattle enthusiasts, and the 8-year old Avalanche fan still inside me, the Red Wings decided this was worth rewarding Holland with a 2-year contract extension. It seems as though they’re going to give him a shot to take them from the cellar back to the playoffs. They could of course kick Holland to the curb if Yzerman comes calling, but that would be a pretty brutal move to toss out a guy who has worked for the team for 35 years, just one year into his contract extension.
This is just one reason why I have convinced myself that he is feeling that call from the Pacific Northwest.
Yzerman just stepped down from a team that appears to be perennial Cup contenders for the near future. As noted Brad Marchand apologist Rebecca said, “they’re one Erik Karlsson away from god mode.” Would he really do that to start a brand new team, from scratch? Of course he would! He’s a professional athlete, and any athlete worth his salt that has played at the highest level is incredibly competitive. Helming an expansion team is a rare opportunity and an extremely difficult task. And right now Yzerman has a chance to take that challenge head on like he’s Brendan Shanahan throwing his body helplessly against the flying form of Patrick Roy.
But what else does Seattle have to offer you might ask? How about president and CEO Tod Leiweke, who held a similar position for five seasons with...the Tampa Bay Lightning. Leiweke and Yzerman took over the Lightning during the 2010 offseason and built the reigning Atlantic Division champions by adding studs like Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy. It’s been reported that Leiweke is looking to bring in people he trusts. I’d have to assume Yzerman makes that list. Then there’s also big-shot Hollywood producer/long-time Detroit Red Wings fan Jerry Bruckheimer, a key investor in the team. It seems safe to assume that he would be ridiculously happy to land the savior of his original hometown team to run his brand new shiny expansion team. Maybe he’ll even let Yzerman make a cameo in the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie if he comes to Seattle.
The Seattle NHL owners have a big meeting coming up next month with the league. They’ll need to secure official word from the NHL that the expansion team has passed go and collected $200 before the city will let them tear apart and rebuild Key Arena. Without that, the renovations could stall and the team would be delayed until 2021. I’m just spitballing here, but you know what might make a really enticing argument? Having a Hall of Fame talent signed on to run the team already.
I always hated Steve Yzerman. But 20 years later, with a much broader appreciation of the NHL and a rabid desire to see the league branch out into my city, I think I can finally get over it.
Steve Yzerman is a fantastic general manager.
Steve Yzerman is a legend.
Steve Yzerman belongs in Seattle.