Julien BriseBois was not affected by the expeditious exit of his team during the playoffs last year. Obtaining a vote of confidence from owner Jeff Vinik, he gifted one to Jon Cooper before setting out to find the missing pieces to the Tampa Bay Lightning successes.
His work over the past 17 months has earned him a nomination for the Jim-Gregory Trophy, awarded to the best general manager of the year. Most importantly, here is the Lightning just four wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.
History is filled with CEOs who have dared to take risks in the hope of getting closer to top honors. Often the experience turns sour. On other occasions, as in this case, the coins have fallen neatly in the right place.
It all started in July and August 2019 when BriseBois came out of the free agent market with Patrick Maroon, Luke Schenn and Kevin Shattenkirk in its reusable bag.
Maroon and Schenn had nothing to do with the company's business model. We are far from talking about speed dealers with above average offensive skills. As for Shattenkirk, he had just seen his contract be bought by the New York Rangers.
But BriseBois had noted that each of them could fill certain gaps. The best part about it is that he managed to get them to Tampa at a fraction of their previous salary. Shattenkirk suffered the biggest cut, going from $ 6.5 million to $ 1.75 million.
“Due to our past successes, we have been able to attract these three players. Like us, they wanted to win the Stanley Cup, explained the 43-year-old Longueuil. They knew what our situation was in relation to the salary cap. They worked with us so that we didn't have to let other players go. ”
Florida's low tax rate and sunshine must also have helped the sales pitch.
Inactive at the 2019 transaction deadline, BriseBois last February decided to stake everything for everything. He gave up a 2020 first-round pick (acquired from the Vancouver Canucks) and Nolan Foote (last year's first-round pick) in return for forward Blake Coleman. Then he parted with another first-round pick this year to acquire Barclay Goodrow.
Head on the block
He was already found a little crazy to have traded two first-round picks and a bright prospect for Goodrow and Coleman. If it had taken the 142-day hiatus to turn into an outright cancellation of the end of the season and playoffs, BriseBois would have traded those three big chunks for absolutely nothing.
“It's certain that it crossed my mind at some point, admitted the former employee of the Canadiens. On the other hand, my role was to make sure that we were at our best in due course. During the break, I mainly focused my attention on what to do to make sure I was ready when the activities were about to resume. ”
The strategy seems to have been the right one. Since the start of the playoff tournament, the Lightning has lost just five games.
We'll see what the Dallas Stars will do. However, for now, the pandemic is the toughest obstacle that has stood in front of Tampa. The one who put the biggest sticks in his wheels.
A positive break
Nevertheless, he considers that the break may have been an ally of his team.
“We knew we would get our hands on top quality teammates. However, the break allowed them to get used to their new surroundings. We had to hold a new training camp during which they were able to develop affinities with the players already in place. Without this break, it wouldn't have been possible. ”
Obviously, BriseBois will not be able to say mission accomplished as long as its players do not lift the Stanley Cup. However, regardless of the outcome of this final, he will have achieved his part of the mandate.