by Shawn McIntosh
Men of Steve Yzerman’s stature, and financial flexibility, do not plan vacations to Norfolk, Virginia. Tropical hotspots in Florida or the Caribbean are generally more suited for a period of relaxation in late July. However, this is no summer of sand and sun for the new Tampa Bay Lightning regime. Yzerman and BriseBois’ trip to Norfolk was purely business, just as their entire summer is shaping up to be.
While focusing on the parent club is naturally the center of efforts for Yzerman and BriseBois, they have made it a mission to steer the Norfolk Admirals’ ship on the right path; a path that this proud franchise is very familiar with. With 18 consecutive playoff trips and 3 ECHL Championships under their belt, the Admirals certainly boast a tradition of winning.
Unfortunately, this winning culture has been buried under three years of mismanagement and failed playoff births. The lack of success in recent years has left a sour taste in the mouths of fans, as well as a pessimistic view towards the future. There is a lack of trust between fans in Norfolk and the Admirals’ parent club in Tampa.
Fans in Norfolk are quick to berate any and all transactions by the Tampa brain trust. Unfortunately, three years of instability have given the fans ammunition to do so.
Yzerman recently made the decision to cut ties with former Norfolk Admirals’ head coach Jim Johnson. This decision was of course met with anger amongst the local fans, as Johnson boasted a successful 15-5-1-1 record.
Many fans see this as another “Tampa blunder.” While many fans are quick to delegate the actions of Tampa as “mistakes, ”I urge them to be patient. This is not the same Tampa Bay Lightning organization of recent years.
Yzerman and BriseBois are striving to recapture this lost trust. In rebuilding this relationship, actions speak volumes. The new Lightning management has already made noise by visiting the Admirals’ facilities and reaching out to its staff.
"It's something (previous Lightning management) never did," said Joe Gregory, the Admirals' vice president. "They asked questions and genuinely seemed to be interested in the answers.
Tampa bay’s slogan for the upcoming season is “bring it back.” This adage is also quite fitting for the Admirals, who are hoping that some stability from their parent club aids in bringing them back to the glory days.
While it is certainly too early to proclaim this new regime in Tampa a success, it is likewise too early to label it a failure. One thing is for certain; Yzerman and BriseBois are getting down to business.