Published June 22, 2019
Look, I don’t know Moritz Seider any better than you do. Prior to seeing his photo on Friday, I could have tripped over him and not known who he was. I’m guessing you’re in the same boat.
The fans aren’t paid to evaluate hockey players. They don’t have the gene that enables one to look at a guy on skates and break him down from head to toe. The sharp evaluating of talent requires looking at players through a different, trained lens.
So when the Red Wings selected Seider, an 18-year-old German defenseman, with the sixth overall pick in Friday’s NHL entry draft in Vancouver, it’s OK if you said, “Who?”
In the world of draft experts, the selection of Seider at no. 6 was deemed a mild surprise.
But I bet after you heard the news of Seider’s drafting, you said, “Well, if Stevie Y says he’s a player, then he’s a player.”
An era of trust
Such is a smidgen of the instant credibility and trust that Yzerman, named Red Wings GM on April 19, currently enjoys.
Yzerman could have told us that the Red Wings drafted Elmer Fudd yesterday and we would have said, “Well, I’ll be darned. I didn’t know that Fudd was a rink rat.”
But of Seider, Yzerman said, “We think he has excellent hockey sense. He’s a big kid, a real good skater. In our opinion, he was one of the top defensemen in the draft. We’re pretty excited to get him. I know our fans don’t know much about him, but I think when people come to development camp (next week at Little Caesars Arena) and see him move — Google him, watch him play a little bit — I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
By the way, that’s the first time I’ve known a GM of any pro sports team to tell the fans to Google a player he drafted. Of course, even if we did Google Moritz Seider, we wouldn’t necessarily see in him what Yzerman and his scouting staff saw. Which is why they do what they do and we do things like bang away at a keyboard.
I’m not here to talk about Seider, who himself was even surprised at being selected at no. 6. This is about Yzerman, and the beginning of a honeymoon period with the fans that may turn out to be the longest that any sports executive has ever enjoyed in this town.
Yzerman is seasoned. He built the Tampa Bay Lightning from the dredges of the league into a bona fide Stanley Cup contender, and in just a few years. He knows what he’s doing.
Yzerman has the most job security of any sports figure in Detroit. He’s adored by the fans. He’s loved by his owner’s family.
To steal a line from Jerry Maguire, if Yzerman tells the fans to eat lima beans, they’ll eat lima beans.
Hanging on his every word
But here’s the other thing about Yzerman that will be a joy to watch for as long as he’s the Red Wings GM: He’s a straight shooter.
There’s no bluster about him. He carries himself with a certain degree of humility and grace. He’s wise and he’s smart. When Yzerman speaks, it’s hard not to hang on every word. His decisions won’t be driven by loyalty or past performances.
You wanna nitpick this and tell me that you were unnerved by Yzerman’s support of bringing aging defenseman Niklas Kronwall back? Well, I would counter that Kronwall, at age 38, had one of his best seasons in several years.
But I can assure you that there won’t be any silly long-term contracts handed out to old Red Wings because they’re, well, old Red Wings.
If that sounds like a knock on Yzerman’s predecessor, it is, but as I’ve also written, Kenny Holland has set the Red Wings up nicely for a hockey man like Stevie Y to finish the job.
A word of caution, however.
There will come a time when the Hockeytown denizens will be asked to take off their Yzerman-colored glasses and seriously evaluate their GM’s job performance. The trick will be knowing when to do that.
But for now, Stevie Yzerman can pretty much make any move he wants and the fans will lap it up. He’s the anti-Al Avila that way.
Yet Yzerman doesn’t take this trust lightly. He said as much at his introductory presser.
Meanwhile, Moritz Seider is a Red Wing. You got a problem with that?
Didn’t think so.