What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. Rachel Anderson and Tony Wolak are the muckers who makeup THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
When the Red Wings introduced Steve Yzerman as their new general manager, one quote from Hockeytown’s long-time captain stuck out:
Clearly, Yzerman is hungry and ready to pick up where Ken Holland left off. But what will his first move as general manager be?
In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team shares their pick for Yzerman’s first action item as Detroit’s new general manager. Will he adjust the roster or build out his front office staff?
Tony Wolak: Add to Front Office
Since officially joining the Red Wings on Apr. 19, Yzerman has been a busy man. He’s met with staff, scouted the u18 World Championships, and sat down for countless interviews. But his first paper move? That’ll be adding to his management team.
After he joined the Tampa Bay Lightning, Yzerman brought over an all-star team of front office executives. Included in that bunch were former Red Wings Pat Verbeek (assistant general manager), Stacy Roest (director of player development), and Jamie Pushor (director of professional scouting). Verbeek has been linked to Yzerman and the Red Wings for a while, but may be ready for a general manager role elsewhere. There’s also Al Murray, who has run Tampa Bay’s drafts under Yzerman.
Before the annual buyout window opens, I fully expect Yzerman to hire an executive or two to join him in Detroit’s front office, whether that’s Verbeek, Murray, or another strong hockey mind. My money is on Verbeek, who could join the Red Wings as an associate general manager and Yzerman’s number-two.
With the Lightning, Verbeek is in charge of scouting and is a tireless talent evaluator. In Detroit, he could fill a similar role, but also spend more time alongside Yzerman and Holland helping their decision-making.
Rachel Anderson: Improve Development Pipeline
I’ve long held the belief that if Yzerman were to return to Detroit, that he’d shake things up and make people uncomfortable. Lucky for him, he’s Yzerman, so most will bend at his will without argument.
Now that the Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins seasons are officially done, he’s going to be pruning the dead branches, so to speak. I think his eyes will be more focused on revamping the farm system’s developmental model starting at the top.
Grand Rapids has a history of success, but the fluidity between their player development and feeding the Red Wings system has been misfiring for several seasons. Shawn Horcoff, who has been overseeing Red Wings development for three seasons, seems to be missing the mark. Though the Red Wings have successfully integrated Tyler Bertuzzi in the last few seasons, few others can be said to have made the jump with success.
Though Horcoff is a talented individual, I don’t think he’ll cut it in Yzerman’s grand plan – whatever that may be. Yzerman I believe, values development and utilizes it when ready. The Lightning’s farm team, Syracuse Crunch, for example, only became affiliated with Tampa Bay in 2012. Since then players such as Yanni Gourde, Brayden Pointe, Andre Vasilevsky, Nikita Kucherov, and so many more, have landed full-time roster spots in Tampa.
If Detroit is to become Stanley Cup contenders, the development needs to be fine-tuned and that starts at the top. Horcoff could still serve a purpose, but I believe Yzerman will be closely monitoring him as well as having a direct say in the players’ development while at the AHL level.
What will Steve Yzerman’s first move be as the new GM of the Detroit Red Wings? Share your thoughts below.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.