HSJ in the morning: Talking about the ‘Yzerplan’ as St. James grades the Wings’ draft performance

I’m admittedly a bit of a “front office comment” nerd here. I will watch and/or listen to the comments made by a general manager and his contemporaries, usually made at the beginning, middle and end of the regular season, as well as at the draft, at least a couple of times. During Ken Holland’s reign as GM, I found his rambling, 45-minute pressers to be a treasure trove of philosophy regarding the team’s direction and management, and while Steve Yzerman is more succinct, his commentary is no less important.

I’ve already watched/listened to the Red Wings’ videos of Yzerman, director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright and director of European scouting Hakan Andersson speaking with the media, and, this morning, the Free Press’s Helene St. James posted an article which discusses a bit of the “Yzerplan” as it applied to this year’s draft:

Steve Yzerman made 11 picks in his first assignment since taking over the Detroit Red Wings.

He was bold, choosing a German defenseman with his first pick. He determinedly chose the best players he and his staff deemed available, adding five defensemen, five forwards and one goaltender to the organizational depth chart in the NHL draft at Rogers Arena. There’s skill and size spread among the picks, but there also was an emphasis on inner drive, Hakan Andersson, the Wings’ chief European scout, revealed.

“Yzerman has been pretty strict,” Andersson said after the two-day draft concluded on Saturday. “He wants competitive players, too. There are no dogs. Like sometimes you draft a guy with high talent, Dick Axelsson is one example, but they don’t compete. But these guys all work for it.”

Yzerman’s, “You don’t rush the kids” comments read a little differently than Ken Holland’s ever-present suggestions that entitlement breeds complacency, and that if you don’t over-ripen a prospect, he may be too fragile to handle competition:

“The danger is, like, we all want our draft picks playing as soon as possible,” Yzerman said. “It helps justify the picks a little bit. But ultimately you really have to make sure you are doing what is right for these kids — that they’re playing at a level they can be competitive and can improve and excel at. Very few 18-year-olds play in the NHL today.

“We picked up 11 kids this year. We had 10 last year. We have a bunch of picks next year. Now that they’re in the fold, we’ll try to set them up as best we can, educate them and provide them the resources to develop and then we’ll see. And if it’s one year, two years, three years — some of these kids will be five years. It doesn’t mean they’re not going to be good players, but it’s going to take five years for some of them.”

St. James continues, issuing Yzerman a “B plus” for his first draft as the man in charge of the amateur scouting staff.

I will be interested to find out how many of the amateur and pro scouts return and how many end up going to Edmonton as front office contracts expire on July 1st. We’re sure to see some level of shake-up.

I’m not expecting special assistant to the GM Kris Draper, director of pro scouting Mark Howe, the aforementioned Hakan Andersson or the Wings’ development coaches, like Shawn Horcoff, Daniel Cleary or director of player evaluation Jiri Fischer, to go anywhere, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of amateur guys and Western Canadian scouts shuffle off to Edmonton. Whether Holland plucks director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright or his lieutenants will be intriguing to find out as well.

On the coaching side of things, it should be noted that assistant coaches John Torchetti and Pat Ferschweiler exited as part of the off-season shuffle, so coach Blashill will have some room to add new voices to the bench as well, and that’s a good thing, especially given that the forwards and power play, respectively, need a little more “pop.”

Long story long, what Yzerman and the front office have to say to the press at key times of the season yields hints as to the direction of the team, and in the case of this year’s draft, you get a sense that, instead of witnessing a radical adjustment in the way in which the Red Wings’ machine might be rolling, the “Yzerplan” instead involves adding some aggressive and thoughtful tweaks to the “Red Wings’ way” of doing things…

And the front office tumult isn’t over yet. The rest of the summer will tell the tale as to who’s staying, who’s headed to Edmonton to join Ken Holland, and who might join the fold.

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.