I’m working on some other things right now, which is part of the reason that posting’s been light of late. Internet hockey content seems to be drying up at the moment – Friedman just shut down for the summer but not before providing us with some quotes from scouts who were forced to remain anonymous.
As an aside – the use of anonymous quotes here is ridiculous. I don’t blame Friedman but none of the scouts who are quoted says anything the least bit controversial. The NHL should want people generating new hockey content over the summer and they should be doing what they can to faciliate it.
Scout number one said, “Fans should use Central Scouting rankings as a guideline,” not the definitive list.
(Several different scouts, all requesting anonymity, were contacted for this piece. Four of them will be quoted. To make it easier, each is given a number. I think I’m setting a record for most anonymous quotes ever. Unfortunately, that’s the way this business goes.)
“Everybody looks at Central Scouting or Red Line or other reports,” says No. 2. “In the end it’s what your guys see … not what they see.”
“(Central Scouting) focuses on physical ability – not mental ability, work ethic or character,” says No. 3. “It’s up to regional scouts to sort through rumours and innuendo. If something is said about a prospect, you need them to determine if this is real or a negative vendetta. That’s why these regional guys are so valuable.”
“They don’t look at character, or what guys are like in the room or on the bench,” adds Scout No. 1. “They have a different set of criteria.”
“Most guys sit across from the bench all the time so they can watch how a player reacts when the coach talks to him,” says No. 1.
This draft did have some examples of that. John McFarland, ranked 15th, went 33rd to Florida. Kirill Kabanov, the red-flagged bad boy of this class, was taken 65th, 34 spots above his North American ranking.
Meanwhile, Jeff Skinner went seventh overall to Carolina, “Exactly where I would have taken him,” according to Scout 1. Skinner’s Central ranking was 34. (That was an improvement from his mid-season position of 47.)
Elliotte’s piece is great – I wouldn’t usually quote this much from some but there’s so much there that I don’t feel I’m stealing the soul of the article. Unlike some other Oiler flavoured blogs, I tend to be a bit skeptical of their wisdom. I’ve read Gare Joyce’s book in which he talks about scouting at great length and a lot of it just seems like modern day phrenology to me. I sort of think that any reasonably competent scouting operation is able to generally sort guys into roughly where they should be but that it’s really a crap shoot beyond that. All of these things that they look for to differentiate players from one another – Brian Burke apparently liked Ryan Kesler because he put his arm around someone who was having a bad game – just strike me as so much skull reading.
If the NHL as a whole barred scouting, doubled the budget of Central Scouting and forced teams to pick from the CSB list, I’m not convinced that the league would be appreciably worse at identifying players. I don’t think you’d suddenly see Ales Hemsky’s getting drafted at 200 or something like that. The bit in Friedman’s piece about Jeff Skinner caught my eye and, as it so happens, I have a couple of lists of CSB rankings handy. I thought I’d post the guys who were taken more than five spots ahead of where CSB had them in the first round in 2000, 2001 and 2004 for a bit of fun.
Rick DiPietro, who went first in 2000 despite not being listed, is excluded – IIRC, he had to opt into the draft because he was in college or something, which is why he wasn’t listed. The list goes player, rank and pick; it’s sorted by first rounders who were picked the furthest from where CSB had them on their respective list. For example, Shaone Morrisonn was ranked 41st out of North American skaters in 2001, was the ninth NA skater picked and went 19th overall.
Adrian Foster (NJD – 2001) – NR – NR – 28
Shaone Morrisonn (BOS – 2001) – 41 (NA-S) – 9 – 19
Kris Chucko (CGY – 2004) – 29 (NA-S) – 11 – 24
Krys Kolanos (PHX – 2000) – 27 (NA-S) – 9 – 19
Jens Karlsson (LAK – 2001) – 26 (Euro-S) – 8 – 18
David Hale (NJD – 2000) – 25 (NA-S) – 10 – 22
Niklas Kronwall (DET – 2000) – 26 (Euro-S) – 12 – 29
Chuck Kobasew (CGY – 2001) – 20 (NA-S) – 6 – 14
Blake Wheeler (PHX – 2004) – 17 (NA-S) – 3 – 5
Marcel Hossa (MTL – 2000) – 20 (NA-S) – 7 – 16
Alexei Mikhnov (EDM – 2000) – 19 (Euro-S) – 8 – 17
Jason Bacashihua (DAL – 2001) – 12 (NA-G) – 3 – 26
Lars Jonsson (BOS – 2000) – 11 (Euro-S) – 2 – 7
Andy Rogers (TBL – 2004) – 24 (NA-S) – 16 – 30
Artem Kryukov (BUF – 2000) – 14 (Euro-S) – 7 – 15
Travis Zajac (NJD – 2004) – 15 (NA-S) – 9 – 20
With a few exceptions, that strikes me as a pretty terrible collection of first round picks. If I were to add 2002 and 2003, Edmonton would put another overdraft bust on the list, in the persons of Jesse Niinimaki (50th on the Euro list, he was the 3rd Euro skater taken, at 15th overall).
Only five first rounders fell more than five spots on their list – you’ve probably heard of two of them in Brad Boyes and Mike Green.
It seems to me that if you own an NHL team, your scouting department ought to justify its existence by producing more than just different information from the information produced by CSB – it ought to be producing better information. This is just a taste of what I’m accumulating but, at first impression, I’m not inclined to think that when draft departments produce vastly different information from CSB that it’s better information.