DENVER | Bill Torrey, Glen Sather and Julien BriseBois. At different times, all three general managers built championship teams with the Islanders, Oilers and Lightning.
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In the NHL history books, they also have their place as the last three GMs who led their teams to three finals in three consecutive seasons.
If Jon Cooper has had the message since the start of the playoffs that the Lightning have the chance to make hockey history with three titles in a row, BriseBois opts for an approach more in his image. The 45-year-old remains calmer, less emotional and more pragmatic.
"Everyone in the organization is trying hard not to think about such things today," BriseBois said in French during media day at the Ball Arena in Denver. There is still too much work to do. We have a big challenge ahead of us with the Colorado Avalanche.
“But at the same time, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity again. It's tough to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. The players made a lot of sacrifices to get there. Physical, emotional and financial sacrifices. We want to take this another chance to win the Stanley Cup. But I don't take the time to think about things like that [the dynasty]. I keep my focus on the work ahead of us.
“In ten or twenty years, I will look more in the past, he continued. There will probably be a team reunion and we will meet to talk about it. Today, we have the Colorado Avalanche and the challenge ahead of us.”
The final picture
In Tampa since the 2010-2011 season in an assistant GM role to Steve Yzerman, BriseBois took over from the former glory of the Red Wings in September 2018. In just four years, he has already engraved his name on the cut twice and he might get there a third time. Since the 2019 sweep in the first round of the playoffs against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Lightning have won eleven straight series.
BriseBois sacrificed first-round picks to bring the Lightning to the promised land.
“Every year is a headache. You try to find the right pieces to complete your image. And the image you want at the end is your captain who is on the ice with the Stanley Cup at the end of his arms, he imagined. Yes, we lost some important pieces last summer. But it's customary. There was also an expansion draft and we definitely lost a player, like all NHL teams.
BriseBois shared the podium with Jon Cooper after Lightning practice. The charismatic coach took advantage of this platform to describe the impact of his DG.
When asked what makes BriseBois a special GM beyond transactions, Cooper offered a very lengthy answer.
“Honestly, when Jeff Vinik bought the team, we arrived late. I did my interview in August and I was clearly thinking that they did not have many options left to pass me in August. The current went well during the interview, to the point where I had to take a taxi to leave, and Julien offered to bring me back. But we got lost, I was tight for my flight. I thought he knew the area, and I didn't want to tell him, but I wondered, "Why did you offer to drive me back?" I ended up narrowly catching my flight. But the relationship we built, our communication in the minors, it transferred to the NHL.
“To get here, it takes confidence, chained Cooper. I manage the players, but not the team. I have to trust that Julien will do the right thing. From the start, the players we kept in the minors, I knew I was with someone I could trust. In 2019, he could have blown it all up, but it never crossed his mind. It takes time to build such a relationship. He's a winner. He built winning teams and I want to be part of it. It just took me a while to figure out how to hook up with him. Communication and trust are the most important things.”
Ryan McDonagh and Anthony Cirelli, two key players at the Lightning, also had bright eyes when talking about their boss.
“We have a GM who is ready to take risks to add important pieces to the team, mentioned McDonagh. We have seen that it has paid off in the last two years. In addition, he brings players with character, players who put the team first.
“Julien is incredible, added Cirelli. He is always there for his players. I like his human side. But I also like the hockey man. He made the Lightning a formidable machine.