Bruce Bennett / Staff

Yzerman To Lightning Owner: “Sorry I Didn’t Bring You The Stanley Cup.”

"That’s why Steve was here, and that was his main motive."

July 10, 2019 - 4:59 pm
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In nine seasons with the Lightning -- the first eight as general manager -- Yzerman helped build a juggernaut. The Lightning won more than 400 games, reached the conference finals four times and the Stanley Cup finals once. But they never achieved the ultimate goal. 

It was a shortcoming Yzerman made note of in his introduction as Red Wings GM, his disappointment still evident. 

And before that, it was something for which he apologized to Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. 

In an interview with The Athletic, Vinik said he and Yzerman shared a long conversation in the owner's home after last season ended, diagnosing what went wrong in the team's stunning loss in the first-round of the playoffs and reflecting on Yzerman's tenure in Tampa.

"Spent three or four hours together," said Vinik. "We were talking about the last eight or nine years, talking about the season, why we lost — just enjoying each other’s company. We had a great run together.

"But he apologized: 'Sorry I didn’t bring you the Stanley Cup.' That’s why Steve was here, and that was his main motive. We wanted sustained success, a chance to win each year. And a lot has to go right to win. But we didn’t. Every year that goes by, that becomes even more our focus."

Now it's Yzerman's focus in Detroit.

Of course, the Red Wings have a long way to go to catch the Lightning. Yzerman left a Cup contender for a team that's missed the playoffs three years in a row. 

It was a move he made, first and foremost, to spend more time with his family. And thus it didn't come as much of a surprise to Vinik. 

"Steve talked about how his family needed him in Detroit and still needs him there. That was the right decision for him," Vinik said. "Certainly, in the back of my mind, I knew there’s a good chance he’d become the manager of the Wings.

"At the end, he was very respectful. He didn’t have conversations (with Detroit) until later into the season. I’m not sure that any of us were surprised. I wish him the best of luck being the second-best team in the NHL." 

Second best? Next season, at least, Yzerman would probably take it.