The Anaheim Ducks’ decision to hire Pat Verbeek as general manager left the Detroit Red Wings with a deep hole to fill.
Verbeek’s official title was Red Wings’ assistant general manager. But Verbeek’s real job was being Steve Yzerman’s right-hand man. Yzerman and Verbeek are friends. He trusted Verbeek’s judgment on players and issues. Yzerman brought Verbeek with him when he came over from the Tampa Bay Lightning. They worked well together because they see the game similarily. Before this season, Yzerman named Verbeek general manager of the Grand Rapids’ farm team.
“Pat Verbeek is one of the brightest minds and hardest workers in the game and he has been a trusted and valued resource to me throughout my management career,” Yzerman said. “I will miss working alongside him but will continue to value the close friendship we have developed over the years. He is very deserving of his new role as general manager of the Ducks.”
Ducks owner Henry Samueli thanked Yzerman for granting permission for the Ducks to talk to Verbeek.
“We realize the middle of a hockey season is not an ideal time to lose a key member of your origination and we truly appreciate your professionalism and consideration you displayed,” Samueli said. “Steve, I can only hope some of your great character has rubbed off on Pat over your many years working together.”
Said Verbeek: “Steve gave me the opportunity to gain experience in many management roles over 13 years I’ve been given the opportunity to grow as an executive. I hope to provide to provide those same opportunities of growth in the Anaheim Ducks organization.”
Verbeek gave much to Yzerman’s organization and Yzerman won’t have an easy time replacing him.
If Yzerman promotes from within, the likely choice would be either director of amateur scouting Kris Draper or Shawn Horcoff who is the team’s director of player development. But it would create another hole to fill if he promotes one of them.
Verbeek’s role as Grand Rapids GM has some urgency to it because AHL teams are constantly adding and substracting. Before Verbeek took over, the Red Wings had Ryan Martin as Grand Rapids’ GM. He did a good job finding talent for the Grand Rapids roster. He is now New York Rangers’ general manager Chris Drury’s assistant GM.
Given that the season is half over, Yzerman could have people share all of Verbeek’s former duties to get him to the offseason. That would give him more time to consider outside candidates.
It helps that former Red Wings player Nicklas Lidstrom recently joined Yzerman’s management team as vice president of hockey operations. He will continue to live in Sweden. But he gives Yzerman another voice in his cabinet when he wants to discuss personnel decisions. It shouldn’t take Lidstrom too long to get up to speed on the Red Wings’ list of prospects.
By waiting until the offseason, Yzerman opens the door wider to the possibility of bringing in someone from another team. Yzerman has been in the NHL since playing his rookie season in 1983-84. He knows plenty of hockey people, including many who would be qualified to be his assistant general manager.