Brian Lawton was drafted first overall by the North Stars in 1983 and played 483 NHL games before becoming a player agent and, eventually, Tampa Bay's GM. (THN Archives)
The Lightning’s sophomore GM is overseeing the rebuilding project in Tampa as he tries to turn his club into a Cup contender. The 44-year-old former NHLer and player agent talked to THN.com July 22 about this upcoming season, trading Vincent Lecavalier, his UFA signings, the ownership situation and his thoughts on this upcoming season.
Read Part 1 of the interview HERE.
The Hockey News: If you had the No. 1 pick, would you have taken Hedman?
Brian Lawton: We never comment on that; we didn’t have the No. 1 pick.
We said all along that we’d be thrilled with whomever we got and, as it turns out, we’re absolutely thrilled.
We think the world of John Tavares. He’s a tremendous player, as is Matt Duchene.
THN: Having been a No. 1 pick yourself, do you talk to these young guys about the pressures that come with being a high draft pick?
BL: Last year a lot of people thought that Steven (Stamkos) didn’t do very well and I maintained from Day 1 that he did tremendously.
His delivery in the beginning of the year didn’t meet other people’s expectations and that caused a little bit of a ruckus, but he just handled it so wonderfully.
We never had any concerns about him. He really picked it up in the second half.
My philosophy is to be very cautious with these kids and it’ll be the same thing with Victor Hedman.
Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis are great with the kids. The kids coming into our organization have two great mentors, one that was at the top of the mountain to start in Vinny Lecavalier and the other one who was at the bottom of the valley, so they see the other end of it.
THN: Were you at all close at any point to actually moving Lecavalier?
BL: No, absolutely not. All the rumors, everything – no, never.
The future of the team has been decided, as far as I’m aware of. I suppose we could buy him out if we wanted to. But other than that, I’m not aware of any options that the Tampa Bay Lightning has with Vinny Lecavalier.
We think the team is pretty set and so many people look so foolish. I’m surprised that somebody would even bring it up at this stage.
THN: Have the ownership problems made it more difficult for you to do your job?
BL: Probably a couple of extra hoops to jump through, but not a big deal. Both of those guys are passionate about hockey; both of them want to win.
There’s a lot more common ground than people would know if they just went by media reports and things like that.
In a lot of respects, as opposed to maybe a more traditional situation, yes, a couple more moves. But comparing it to what’s printed in the media, not as significant.
THN: What’s your expectation for the upcoming season?
BL: Our expectation, quite frankly, is just to try to develop into a winning hockey club every night.
That’s what you need to be in the playoffs. If you’re at .500 in this league, you’re not going to be in the playoffs.
We have to walk before we run. We were 30th and 29th the last two seasons and we were 16 games below .500 last year, so it would be a huge accomplishment to get this club back winning on a nightly basis.
We have our work cut out for us and there are no grand delusions that we’re going to win our division or our conference.
You’re not just going to snap your fingers and it completely turns around. We have great hopes. We have hopes our goaltenders, both of them, will be healthy; we have hopes that Mattias Ohlund will really help the mentoring of Victor Hedman and solidify our ‘D’ corps and help everybody play better; we have hopes that Vinny Lecavalier will come back and…that he’ll have a breakout season; we have hopes that Steven Stamkos will continue to progress; and we’ve got hopes that our new coaching staff will be more organized right from the beginning.
Right now, in the middle of the summer, that’s really all it is, hopes.
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog normally appears Thursdays.
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