x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Tampa's fortunes turned around Lightning fast

Steve Yzerman had learned at the feet of the masters during the last of his 22 seasons in Detroit, and he was hungry to run his own NHL team.

When Tampa Bay hired Steve Yzerman, the retired superstar player, to be the team's general manager during the summer, the feeling around the NHL was the Lightning had made a good move.

Yzerman had learned at the feet of the masters during the last of his 22 seasons in Detroit, and he was hungry to run his own team.

He was not going to get that chance in Hockeytown, not with Ken Holland established as general manager and just a few years older than Yzerman, who is 45.

So it was off to Tampa, with the challenge of reviving a franchise that won the Stanley Cup in 2004 and has been in free-fall since. There would be growing pains, of course, and the Lightning would need time to turn things around.

Or maybe not. They won seven of their first nine games, good enough for first place in the Eastern Conference. Guy Boucher, the first-year coach brought in by Yzerman, has installed an aggressive, puck-pursuit system. Dan Ellis and Mike Smith provided stability in goal. The defence, while still a work in progress, is strides ahead of where it was.

Also, Steven Stamkos is blossoming into a superstar and was leading the NHL in scoring, with the help of the wingers Martin St Louis and Steve Downie.

What is most significant: the Lightning are at long last getting a taste of winning again.

Not all of these successes can be attributed to Yzerman. But the way he has carried himself since his first day on the job spoke volumes, and now the entire franchise is tuned in to Stevie Y.

It is a good start.