The Anaheim Ducks have announced their 6th General Manger in franchise history, Pat Verbeek. Verbeek a long-time NHL veteran, will bring a much needed and fresh perspective to the Ducks as they look to return to top of the hockey mountain and claim hockey’s ultimate prize.
New Man at Helm
The Anaheim Ducks have had the same front office regime since 2005 (more or less). Yes, some of the front office has changed but really since Brian Burke was named GM in the summer of 2005 it has been the same brain trust. Burke spanned into the 2008-09′ season before his assistant Bob Murray took over and was in place for 13 years. And while the Ducks by and large had their best years under that regime (on the ice) things started to run stale over the last couple years culminating in Murray’s resignation just a couple months ago. And while the reasons for the resignation are another article entirely it allows the Ducks to experience something that haven’t in a while. Change. It can be a scary, but the Ducks were in desperate need of it, and they will get it in the hiring of former Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings Assistant GM, Pat Verbeek
Verbeek, the 2x All-Star and 1999 Stanley Cup Champion played over 1400 NHL games and amassed over 1000 points in his NHL career. Affectionally known as the “little ball of hate” Verbeek had just as much scoring ability as he did tenacity and grit. Verbeek has shown just as much skill coming off the ice and moving to the front office as he was the Assistant GM in Tampa Bay from 2012-2019 where he helped bring back-to-back Stanley Cup championships to the Lightning. In fact, per the official release from the Ducks; “A total of 17 Lightning players that won consecutive Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021 were drafted, signed or acquired while Verbeek was an executive with the organization”. Thats some pretty shrewd front office work especially when the release also states Verbeek was “responsible for oversight of the team’s professional scouting operations, player recruitment, contract negotiations and overall support of the hockey operations department”. He is bringing all of that to an organization in one of its biggest transitions to date, a team that has arrived ahead of schedule and could be here for a long time to come.
Have to Hit the Ground Running
The celebrating and easing in will be short-lived as Verbeek will take over an Anaheim squad at a crossroads like maybe never before in their history. Picked by many to be at the bottom of the league standings the Ducks find themselves entering the All-Star break in a playoff spot. And Verbeek will need to walk the tight rope of not dealing off assets to make a run at the Cup but also not having a fire sale like this team is a at the bottom of the division and risk losing the room. The Ducks have earned the right to see if a piece or two can be added and make a run at the playoffs and then who knows. But the future of the franchise and the overall plan needs to stay intact. The Ducks roster is far better but you don’t want this to be Montreal of last season. Make one miraculous run to the Cup finals and then sink back to the bottom of the league. Verbeek wants to finish this rebuild and have a contender for years to come.
With impending UFAs in Hampus Lindholm, Rikard Rakell, and Josh Manson namely Verbeek will need to look at what makes the most sense and also achieves the tight rope walk. All three of these players are veterans on the team and moving one or two could cause issues in the room. This is where Verbeek being a former player as opposed to just a scout or team executive will be a huge luxury. Not that those jobs are not admirable, and they are needed but when the man calling the shots has played in the league, can read a locker room and knows that team chemistry is just as important as analytics you have yourself a perfect leader. He knows what it takes to win as a player and knows how to construct a championship roster. Look no further than Tampa Bay if you need any more examples. Verbeek, I think will want to start putting his fingerprints on this team now and I think a couple moves could be made before or on deadline day.
Off-Season of Change
Despite the need for Verbeek to get acclimated to Anaheim quickly by learning strengths/weakness etc. I think the summer is where things will really start to change. Yes, Verbeek needs to quickly make up his mind on where the likes of Lindholm, Rakell, Manson fit in to the long-term plans of this team, but he has the luxury of wait and see with most other parts of the roster. Untouchables on this roster probably include the likes of Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Sonny Milano, Cam Fowler, Jamie Drysdale and John Gibson. Add Lindholm and or Rakell to that list should Verbeek resign them. Aside from that I think everyone else is fair game. The players mentioned are more or less the new “core” the Ducks are moving forward with. You want to build around them. And Verbeek will use the last half of the regular season and hopefully the playoffs to see how this core handles the pressure of meaningful games and what he needs to be a contender year in and year out.
As far as the other front office and coaching staff I would say one looks clearer than the other. There should be no reason that Anaheim’s Assistant GMs in Jeff Solomon and Martin Madden go anywhere. Solomon took the job last year after leaving the Kings organization and could build quite a nice tandem with Verbeek. Madden has been with the organization for 14 years and is credited with finding many of the Ducks young stars. Given Verbeeks track record of also finding great young talent the Ducks prospect pool may only get richer. Madden would only be a flight risk if another team comes looking for a GM and he wants a turn being “the guy” for a franchise.
The coaching staff is another issue entirely. While Verbeek has a great mix in the new blood of Solomon and the experience of Madden the same cannot be said for head coach Dallas Eakins and his staff. Had this year looked like the last two and it would be easy to say the Ducks would have entirely new coaches next year. But just as the team has surprised as has Eakins and his new staff. Should the Ducks continue their overall good play in the second half and make the playoffs Eakins may earn himself another year to prove he’s the man for the job. But Verbeek may also want a coach he hand picks and Eakins could be the casualty of a changing of the guard. He may have just as much if not more to prove than various guys on the team do. If nothing else, we should get the absolute best from everyone top line down as the playoffs are within reach and everyone attempts to prove their worth to the new GM and show they belong as part of this team.
It is a great and exciting time to be an Anaheim Ducks fan and this stretch run and subsequent off-season sure have the makings of exciting times for all Ducks fans. Welcome to Anaheim GM Pat Verbeek!