Wednesday, September 26, 2012
What's a GM to do during a lockout?
By Pierre LeBrun
So, what exactly does an NHL GM do while waiting out the lockout?
"Right now, we’re all going to be glorified scouts to a degree," veteran Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com Wednesday.
"All you can really do at this point is go watch games and evaluate players."
NHL GMs try to get to as many AHL, U.S. college or Canadian major junior games as they can during a normal NHL season, but the reality is that their day-to-day NHL responsibilities limit how much they can really do that.
Steve Yzerman, like many GMs, will spend the lockout watching his team's prospects.
So if there is any kind of silver lining at all for GMs during an NHL lockout, it’s the ability to spend more time watching the future.
"Obviously, everybody would rather be playing and be at [NHL] training camp right now and putting our teams together," said Holland. "But you try to do your best to make the best out of a difficult situation."
AHL rinks should be more filled than ever with NHL GMs.
"Tomorrow our American League camp starts up," Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said over the phone Wednesday. "I’ll head to Syracuse tomorrow, and I’ll continue to follow them. I’ll also watch our prospects in junior hockey, once college starts up, watch our prospects there, and then try and catch the top kids for the draft and get more involved there."
Yzerman and Holland were both quick to point out they have no intention of suddenly overstepping their boundaries when it comes to their respective scouting staffs. But because they’ve got time on their hands, both GMs are planning on watching way more of the prospects.
"When I sit in the meetings and hear the scouts talk about a player, now I can put a name to a face of a player I’ve watched and just have a bit more knowledge," said Yzerman. "I don’t intend on interfering with our amateur scouts, they’re busy and they’ve got a plan and a direction. I stay out of that. But I will look forward to going to college or junior games and seeing kids we’ve drafted."
Being based in Detroit, Holland said, is a fortunate thing with AHL, U.S. college and Ontario Hockey League games all around him.
"I’ll try to see as many kids as I can that we’ve drafted," said Holland.
"Grand Rapids [Detroit’s AHL affiliate] is going to be a young team. Lots of our future is in Grand Rapids. There’s lots of kids there between the ages of 20 and 22 -- probably three quarters of the team. I’m going to be around Grand Rapids a lot."
NHL coaches need to bide their time, as well. For the most part, NHL coaches are creatures of habit and work long, long hours. The void they’re feeling right now might be even harder to take than for GMs.
Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock is also trying to get out to see as much hockey as possible.
"I went to the U.S. junior league fall classic last weekend, my son is playing on the U.S. under-18 national development team. So that was nice," Babcock told ESPN.com Wednesday.
"The last two days I’ve been watching the Plymouth Whalers practice. Tomorrow I’ll go to the Windsor-Kitchener [OHL] game."
Staying at home all day isn’t an option.
"My wife has a rule, you can’t be home before 3 p.m.," said Babcock.
I always think of the wives during a lockout. Having their husbands home so much, whether they’re players or coaches, is always an adjustment.
"This is my plan," joked Babcock. "I’m trying to drive my wife crazy enough, so I can get a road trip. I think I’ll get it quick."