Yzerman returns to Wings as GM, thanks to efforts of Ken Holland
Together again: Gathering at the press conference welcoming Steve Yzerman back to Detroit Friday are, from left, Chris Ilitch, Ken Holland, Marian Ilitch and Yzerman.
While Red Wings fan have been clamoring for Ken Holland’s head and pleading for Steve Yzerman to replace him, Holland has been working to do just that for the past month or so.
At Friday’s press conference at Little Caesars Arena that officially announced
Yzerman was officially introduced as the Red Wings’ new executive vice-president and general manager at a press conference at Little Caesars Arena Friday.
At the conference, owner Chris Ilitch re-iterated how Holland – who, after being the Wings’ GM for 22 years, was being promoted to senior vice-president – put what’s best for the Red Wings organization ahead of his own interests in pursuing Yzerman, who traded his position as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning for a consultant position before the 2018-19 season.
“Nobody has worked harder to bring Steve to the Detroit Red Wings than Ken Holland,” Ilitch said.
Not only are Holland and Yzerman professional colleagues with a mutual admiration and respect, but they also are close friends who met at Yzerman’s first training camp with Detroit as a player in 1983, when Holland was a minor league goaltender in the Detroit organization.
Their friendship developed after Holland became a scout and then the team’s GM and Yzerman became one of the greatest players in Red Wings history. It continued as Yzerman assisted Holland in the front office and then left to run the Lightning.
“I respect and consider Steve as one of the top general managers in the National Hockey League,” Holland said. “Steve and I have met a few times and have had many conversations over the last two or three weeks.”
The Wings asked Tampa Bay owner Jeff Vinik for permission to talk to Yzerman in March.
“Steve is a really good friend,” Holland said. “It’s a real exciting day to see Steve Yzerman come back to where he belongs, with the Detroit Red Wings.”
Yes, Yzerman is back with Detroit, where so many Red Wings fans have wanted him to be for the last few seasons as the team’s run as an NHL dynasty ran out of steam. For the past three seasons, Detroit has missed the playoffs and has been among the NHL’s worst teams.
But there will be no quick fix because Yzerman is now running the show.
“We’ve been through this before,” Yzerman said. “I urge everyone to temper your expectations. It will take time. If we follow the process, do the job right, and with a little bit of luck, we will get back to where we’re accustomed to being.”
Yzerman said he is impressed with the development of young forwards Dylan Larkin, who is expected to be named the captain before next season, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi. Yzerman also said he likes the team’s coach Jeff Blashill, whom Holland signed to a two-year contract extension late in the season.
Yzerman said he was first impressed by Blashill in 2013, when Detroit’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins – who were coached by Blashill – defeated Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, in the Calder Cup Final to win the AHL championship. Syracuse was coached by current Lightning coach Jon Cooper.
Yzerman, 53, had been the Lightning GM since 2010. Their season ended Tuesday when they suffered a first-round sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Lightning reached the conference final during Yzerman’s first season in Tampa Bay and qualified for the playoffs five times in his eight years as GM, but they did not win the Cup.
Yzerman also served as Team Canada’s executive director in 2010 and 2014. Assisted by Holland, he assembled teams that won the Olympic gold medals both years.
Yzerman was a special assistant to Holland from 2006-07 to 2009-10.
He was the longest-serving captain in NHL history, for 20 seasons from 1987 until his retirement in 2006. Yzerman played 22 seasons for the franchise and is its second leading scorer all-time with 1,755 points (692 goals, 1,063 assists in 1,514 games). He won three Stanley Cups as a player.
Yzerman was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
“When I left, I thought Kenny would be the general manager for however long and then Jim Nill – Holland’s longtime assistant who is now GM of the Dallas Stars – would be the Red Wings general manager,” Yzerman said.
He then added with a smile: “It looked like I would be 100 by the time I got the chance. I feel like I’m a 100 now.”
Red Wings fans don’t care.