For someone as renowned and idolized — someone who hasn’t had to buy a drink in the state of Michigan since 1997 — as Steve Yzerman, he’s a pretty quiet guy. From his playing days, the three time Stanley Cup champion was mostly known for the way he lead by example, rather than how he verbally rallied the troops. That approach hasn’t changed for the former Red Wings captain, now turned executive.
Its all business, all the time.
The way the front office has buttoned itself up is the primary reason why most of Yzerman’s moves have come off as quite unexpected, frankly. Each of Yzerman’s standout moves were all met with mild surprise because of how tight lipped their operation is. From the Moritz Seider selection, to the Adam Erne trade, to waiving Jonathan Ericsson, there has been no shortage of curve balls thrown our way.
Which is why, once again, we are left with more questions than answers following a trade with the Blackhawks. Internally, those answers have been all squared away, but for the public? Nothing more can be done other than to look at the facts.
The trade sparking this topic of conversation, in question: forward Brendan Perlini to the Red Wings from Chicago, in exchange for defensive prospect Alec Regula.
In a bubble, this transaction can be taken as a win for both sides. In essence, its really a maybe for a maybe. You might win, or you might lose, but its so low risk there won’t be much to lose sleep over.
The Red Wings pick up Perlini, a 23-year-old forward looking for a change of scenery. Perlini was only seeing about 10-13 minutes per game, with no powerplay time, over 46 games with the Blackhawks last season. Due to the little opportunity he was receiving from the coaching staff, the former first round pick requested a trade, and here we are.
Highly touted for being a speedy forward in a big body, Perlini has scored 45 goals in 200 NHL games, including a 17 goal campaign in 2017-18. Overall he has put up solid goal totals, but his somewhat high 13.3 career shooting percentage will be hard to maintain. In terms of his impact outside of decent depth goal scoring, he hasn’t shown to be much of a needle mover.
Brendan Perlini was taken 12th overall in 2014. He hasn't exactly been a world-mover, but he's only 23 years old and now a big body at LW for Detroit.
— Ryan Hana (@RyanHanaWWP) October 28, 2019
Still relatively young, there is always the potential for growth, especially if he can click with his linemates. There is some familiarity already, in fact, having played with both Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou in his junior days. That should bode well for his adjustment to the Detroit locker room.
Going the other way is Regula, a third round pick in 2018 who has enjoyed a strong start with London of the OHL, posting 4 goals and 11 points in 10 games. The big, right-handed blue-liner projects anywhere from a third-pair D-man to a marginal NHL talent, which doesn’t hold much actual value. Maybe he blossoms into a middle pair defensemen, but you’re splitting hairs at that point. Regula was the draft pick of Tyler Wright, who has since departed to Edmonton to run their scouting department. Yzerman wasn’t going to hold his breath for a prospect he didn’t even draft.
Under former general manager Ken Holland, now of Edmonton, this type of deal probably doesn’t happen. Over the course of his final two years managing the Red Wings, Holland’s rebuilding plan was clear: Get as many “kicks at the can” as possible, develop, and cross your fingers. That was pretty much it, making 18 draft picks in 2017 and 2018 combined. He approached the draft knowing most of the selections wouldn’t turn out, but the more shots you take, the more likely you are to cash in on one or two of them.
Seeing as Holland brought in former Red Wings Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan to Edmonton, both of whom he dealt for draft picks, he obviously valued both players, yet, opted for the picks in the name of the rebuild. That has been the complete opposite approach to the one Yzerman has taken in his first few months as Detroit GM.
Not to say its a bad ideology, in fact, it makes a lot of sense. But in practice, the results are mixed (you expect that going in though). There were some hits along the way. Drafting Filip Hronek in the second round of the 2016 draft (after trading down in the first round) has turned out to be a steal.
With that sort of philosophy the ultimate reward outweighs the net loss, as seen with the Hronek pick. However, that net loss doesn’t necessarily go away.
Holland’s draft approach was logical in a theoretical sense, meant to work around the uncertainty that is apart of underage scouting, but again, it also leaves you with an abundance of meh.
It appears as though Yzerman has come in and attempted to gain back some of that missed value, fixating his attention to the logjam that plagues the lower tier of the Red Wings’ depth chart. In each of the Erne, Biega, and Perlini trades, he gave up a low-end future, that, in all likelihood, won’t come back to bite them. That would never have happened under Holland.
Likewise, Yzerman isn’t just handing out futures for the hell of it. His purpose has been to bring in tangible assets that still hold real value (ie: Perlini for a prospect), something that was ignored towards the finale of the Holland era.
The reasoning behind that respond is pretty simple: the current roster has not been good enough, no matter how you want to look at it. Under Holland’s watch, he mainly let the process play out, no matter how ugly the on-ice product got. Yzerman, however, isn’t content with making due, as evident by his aggressiveness to reshape the depth of the lineup with players who will help build the identity he wants, even if they won’t change much of their current season trajectory.
The differing philosophies between the two colleagues is fascinating to dissect. Each have their own vision to rebuilding, most likely with the same end destination, but its the journey there that makes it unique. The journey in front of Yzerman is a much longer one, but with the proven GM behind the wheel, the drive could be well worth it.