When Pat Verbeek started working for Steve Yzerman as a professional scout in Tampa Bay, they didn’t need to spend time figuring out how their relationship would work.
“It really happened from Day One,” Verbeek said. “We were linemates for about a year and a half (in Detroit) and I got to play with him quite a bit. We thought the game the same way. Whenever we’ve had discussions, we saw things the same. There might be the odd time we don’t, but it’s something we work ourselves through. We discuss further and at some point come to a consensus and move forward.”
Yzerman has shown considerable trust in Verbeek and that’s why it was a natural fit to give Verbeek the added title of Grand Rapids Griffins general manager this week. The job became vacant when Ryan Martin accepted a job with the New York Rangers. He will be GM of their Hartford Wolf Pack American League affiliate.
Verbeek said he will “dial back” on some amateur scouting duties to allow for more visits to Grand Rapids in the upcoming season.
Grand Rapids Crucial to Red Wings’ Player Development
The Grand Rapids GM job is critical to the Yzerman regime because the Red Wings plan to stock Grand Rapids with premium prospects over the next few seasons. It will be Verbeek’s job to make sure the team has quality role models and skilled athletes to play with Detroit’s youngsters.
“I think it’s a balancing act,” said Verbeek who still carries the title of Red Wings assistant GM. “One of the primary focuses is we got a lot of young players coming in the organization. We really want to support them with good veterans, veterans who can provide offense.”
Verbeek said he doesn’t want younger players to feel like they have to do it all in Grand Rapids.
“It gives them a big support system from an offensive standpoint. The same thing can be said for our defense,” Verbeek said. “We have quality veteran defensemen who will mentor our young defensemen. Some veterans we can use as call-ups.”
Griffins Might be Loaded this Season
Depending on who makes the Red Wings roster, Grand Rapids could add Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren or Lucas Raymond this season.
The decision on whether a younger player is ready for the NHL is always challenging no matter who they are.
“Some players can’t handle it (as youngsters),” Verbeek said. “Some players will fight their way through it. I think you do more damage when you bring a kid up too soon before they’re ready. One thing we’ve experienced with Tampa and even before in Detroit with Ken Holland’s philosophy, it’s better to have them be over-ripe than not ripe. Eventually we’d like to see them play themselves out of the AHL. When they’re starting to dominate, that’s when you know they’re ready and you bring them up. ”
The trust between Yzerman and Verbeek is especially important for call-up decisions.
“(Steve) and I think very similar on players,” Verbeek said. “There’s times you have to give the blatant truth and I can do that. I think he appreciates the honesty.”