The Captain's back! Steve Yzerman comes full-circle as Red Wings' new GM

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Steve Yzerman talks to the media.

Detroit — Steve Yzerman is returning to the Red Wings.

Yzerman, who served two decades as the Red Wings captain while leading them to three Stanley Cups, was named an executive vice president and general manager on Friday.

Ken Holland, who has been the general manager since 1997, has signed a multi-year extension and promoted to senior vice president.

“It’s an extremely exciting day in the history of our franchise,” owner Chris Ilitch said.

Yzerman, 53, has been with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the last nine seasons, the first eight as a general manager before transitioning into a consultant’s role this season in the final year of his contract.

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The Lightning reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015 and tied the Red Wings for most wins in a single season this past regular season (62), before getting swept out of the first round by Columbus.

Speculation immediately turned — as it has all season — to how long it would take for Yzerman to return to Detroit.

On Friday, Yzerman returned — on the 19th day of April in the year 2019 (Yzerman wore No. 19). Fate?

“I’ll tell you in five years,” Yzerman said. “My daughters pointed that out to me this morning. I hadn’t really given it any thought. I grew up here. I have strong ties here.”

Yzerman is excited about returning to the organization he had so much success with.

He was drafted No. 4 overall in the 1983 draft by the Wings, and in 22 years amassed 1,755 points, including 692 goals.

Yzerman moved into the team’s front office following the 2005-06 season, serving as team vice president.

“This fan base is used to winning,” Yzerman said. “Depending on your age, this takes time and we’ve been through this (rebuilding) before. It takes time.

“It takes time and I caution and temper the excitement. We will do the things necessary, we’ll follow the process, and we’ll get back to where we expect to be.”

Yzerman credited the foundation of forwards Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou and defenseman Filip Hronek as a good building block going forward.

“The foundation is here for a good core of players,” Yzerman said. “We’re off to a tremendous start."

As a Hall of Fame player with the Wings, Yzerman served two decades as the team’s captain while leading them to three Stanley Cups.

Holland, who joined the Red Wings in 1983 as a minor league goaltender and has spent 36 years with the organization since, has helped guide the Red Wings to four Stanley Cups.

“We’ve spent a lot of time together over the years and he’s a real good friend,” Holland said. “It’s a real exciting day for me to see Steve Yzerman come back to where he belongs with the Red Wings.”

Ilitch credited Holland for selflessness and the willingness to move aside to bring Yzerman into the organization.

“I got the first-class manner in which Ken Holland has handled this entire situation,” Ilitch said. “I can’t say enough in 30 years of business in my career, I haven’t seen anything like it, when a person puts his self-interest aside and really takes an attitude that I’m going to do what is best for the organization.

“Kenny Holland is a Red Wing through and through.”

Holland extended the contract of coach Jeff Blashill for two more seasons near the end of the regular season, keeping continuity in that position.

Yzerman spoke glowingly Friday of Blashill.

“He’s been successful at every level he’s coached at,” Yzerman said. “I don’t know him extremely well, (but) I look forward to talking to him, and you watch those young players develop and he did a tremendous job.

“I had a brief conversation with Jeff today and we’re going to meet after the playoffs. He’s been successful at every level.”

It’s unclear, at this point, as to whether Yzerman will make any significant changes in the front office or scouting department, possibly bringing some of his staff from the Lightning.

Yzerman said he has “ideas” but wouldn’t reveal.

Yzerman said his family never left Detroit and the home remained here, while maintaining a home also in Tampa.

The constant travel after seven or eight years while managing in Tampa, and wanting to maintain living in Detroit, basically led Yzerman to return to the Wings while leaving the Lightning.

“For the first time last year I felt at times like I wasn’t doing the job it needs, or should be, done,” Yzerman said. “I felt like it was getting harder to do the job the way it needed to be done and also spend time that I needed (with his family). 

“I’m excited about returning to the Red Wings organization, and our goal of getting the team back into contention for a Stanley Cup.”

Twitter: @tkulfan