How Barry Fraser and the Edmonton Oilers’ scouting staff did their part to end a dynasty

Jonathan Willis
October 05 2012 07:17AM

It is commonly accepted that Barry Fraser and the Oilers’ scouting staff did tremendous work early in the team’s NHL existence, laying the foundation for the dynasty years.

It is also commonly accepted that during the mid-1990’s, the same group undermined the team, squandering a host of early picks and ultimately failing to produce an adequate supply of young talent for the team.

Less well known is this: that the poor work of that scouting staff during the dynasty years helped bring an end to the powerhouse Oilers.

There’s a Scotty Bowman quote on legendary Montreal Canadiens manager Sam Pollock that I’ve quoted previously, but it applies so I’m going to include it again:

Sam was very prepared, ultra-prepared. He was a hard worker, all hockey. Traveled a lot. He had good insight into his present time, but also into the future. The Canadiens’ slogan was ‘Kids go marching on,’ which meant that he liked players coming up, adding to the team. Frank Selke was like that too, and always had lots of players in the pipeline…. Sam was never a one man show. He was very prepared and always researched everything. He was very analytical. Before he made a trade, everybody had to be onside. I mean, he was a very strong man, but he would make sure that the people who were working for him were all in agreement. He didn’t fly by the seat of his pants.

(emphasis added)

The Canadiens were successful as a dynasty in no small part because there were always kids in the pipeline ready to take the place of older players as they were moved on down the line. When the Oilers started selling off their stars, there wasn’t anyone to take their place.

The Chart

Four of the Oilers’ first five drafts were either brilliant or at the very least relatively successful. Between 1979 and 1981, Fraser and company drafted key players – Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Andy Moog, Grant Fuhr and Steve Smith. In 1983, they added Esa Tikkanen and Jeff Beukeboom. Then nothing for most of the next decade.

Over those first three drafts, the Oilers added players who would dress for 10,199 NHL games. Over the next 10 drafts, all players selected by the team would manage just 9,748 games.

In 1983, the Oilers went to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time, losing to the New York Islanders. Esa Tikkanen, drafted in the fourth round that summer, would score 630 points. Until Martin Rucinsky was taken 20th overall in 1991, no Oilers draft pick would manage to equal even half of that total.

Getting Lapped by the League

The chart above shows top-50 picks made by the Oilers between 1984 (when they first won the Stanley Cup) and 1990 (when they last won the Cup). The “Next 5” column shows the average games played by a player selected over the five picks following the Oilers’ selection. The best NHL player (not necessarily the one with the most games played) picked in that range is the final column.

Not once was an Oilers draft pick the best of the group, and only twice (defencemen Brad Werenka and Francois Leroux) was that player better than the average of the following five picks. The 1990 Draft is particularly galling – Scott Allison never played an NHL game, while three of the next four picks (Keith Tkachuk, Martin Brodeur, Bryan Smolinski) would go on to 1000+ game careers.

The Oilers scouts were getting lapped by the league, and the team would pay for it in the 1990’s.

The End

The reputation forged in those first few brilliant drafts kept Barry Fraser employed throughout the 1990’s, and it wasn’t until after a series of blown first round picks and the elevation of Kevin Lowe to the top hockey operations job that Fraser was replaced by Kevin Prendergast. While Prendergast’s tenure isn’t remembered fondly, it is beyond question that he was an improvement on the final 15 years or so of Barry Fraser and company.

Fraser and his scouts weren’t solely, or perhaps even primarily responsible for the Oilers collapse – the man who earns most of the blame is Peter Pocklington – but it seems highly likely that the Oilers would have been a competitive club for a significantly longer time had Fraser’s crew done a better job back in the dynasty years.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Skidplate
October 05 2012, 12:02PM
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Can we please limit the number of characters any one person can post? After attempting to read NAS's first ever post, I just skip over them like I am sure most (all) do, but I get teased into thinkingt there are more comments when it is only 1 comment.

Thanks

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#3 vetinari
October 05 2012, 05:01PM
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I wonder how much of the draft busts were more of a failure to develop players into NHL players? I always considered drafting to be step 1 of the scouting process whereas step 2 was the actual development of the talent. In any event, the Oil did a poor job of both in the '90s.

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#4 Eulers
October 05 2012, 07:20AM
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FEIST won the Polaris Prize.

Wow, that's astonishingly piss poor drafting. Thanks for making this so stark, JW. Say what you will about Lowe, and later Tambellini, (and I do say a lot), they did clear some of the deadwood and Tambellini brought our AHL and player development into the 21st (20th?) century.

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#6 ubermiguel
October 05 2012, 01:17PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

For most of those dry years........the Oilers were drafting at the bottom. It's too easy to pick well when you are picking number one three years in a row.

The test of any scout should be in the third and later rounds.......IMHO.

Look at that chart under "Getting Lapped by the League". Look at all those zeros compared to the next 5 players. The Oilers scouting staff got below average results 12/14 picks. I don't need to look at later rounds, they can't even get the "easy" picks right, that is a lousy scouting staff.

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#7 loosemoose
October 05 2012, 01:23PM
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The old Oilers showed two-three drafts can make a dynasty and survive poor drafting for a while(eg see Red Wings, Detroit for a recent example)

Did we draft well enough to start something that will last for a while?

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#9 Sliderule
October 05 2012, 07:33AM
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Our present group of scouts are falling into the same trap.Fraser was looking for big strong fast skating power forwards over BPA.We know how that worked out.

In 2012 when the scouts got overruled on their first pick they picked three power forwards along the same model Fraser was searching for over BPA.

I will be astounded if any of the picks we made after first round work out any better than Fraser's.

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#10 j
October 05 2012, 08:22AM
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Sliderule wrote:

Our present group of scouts are falling into the same trap.Fraser was looking for big strong fast skating power forwards over BPA.We know how that worked out.

In 2012 when the scouts got overruled on their first pick they picked three power forwards along the same model Fraser was searching for over BPA.

I will be astounded if any of the picks we made after first round work out any better than Fraser's.

This year's picks (after Yak) were a bit of a stretch but all are ranked players with upside. The Barry Fraser years are hideous and will never be matched again. At the time, the Oilers felt they were untouchable given the talent on the team and really didn't put much weight into the draft. Going forward, the emphasis on the farm system, the WHL team, and the draft are certain to keep the NHL team well supplied for years to come. Whatever problems the Oilers have had historically with drafting/developing young talent is no longer an issue IMO. In fact, as per the article Willis did re: the synergies between the WHL team and NHL team, the Oilers may be ahead of the curve.

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#11 Slopitch
October 05 2012, 08:30AM
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Shades of lowetide Willis. Nice article!

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#12 Manfly
October 05 2012, 08:31AM
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the 80's picks were pretty bad and they didn't turn out to be much but it didn't matter because the Oiler lineup back then was loaded with talent so they could get away with lousy picking. but then the 90's came and though some of the picks were pretty good, like Jason Arnott, Ryan Smyth, Miro Satan, George Laraque, Jason Chimara, Kirk Maltby, Tom Poti, Shawn Horcoff and Mike Comrie, there were a hell of a lot of bad picks and the 90's would have been when this team needed to rebuild after our dynasty players had all left.

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#14 Archaeologuy
October 05 2012, 09:59AM
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MacT ruined Richard Borgo. There, I said it. You were all thinking it.

Ruined him.

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#15 Rama Lama
October 05 2012, 10:01AM
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For most of those dry years........the Oilers were drafting at the bottom. It's too easy to pick well when you are picking number one three years in a row.

The test of any scout should be in the third and later rounds.......IMHO.

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#16 Manfly
October 05 2012, 10:07AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The thing is, if you draft a kid in 1987 - the middle of this run - than by 1991 when the team's running out of gas he's 22 and able to contribute.

You need a constant supply of these guys, constantly pushing their way through the system to maintain success.

When you draft a guy - outside of a #1 pick - ultimately you aren't drafting for *today*. You're drafting for five years from now. By the time the 1990's rolled around, it was already too late to arrest the fall.

that's very true isn't it? i wonder though how many of us ever thought Gretz, Mess, Coff, Kurri and Andy were ever gonna leave? so i wonder how many of us thought we'd need to start any kind of an actual rebuild? i didn't back then, especially after we won yet another cup in 1990. i was young and nieve enough to think the good times were just going to keep on rolling, despite evidence to the contrary with Gretz and Coff already gone.

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#17 jake
October 05 2012, 10:24AM
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The Gretzky trade netted the oilers Jimmy Carson, the central player comming back, for about a year, then he was gone.....didn't help matters any.

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#18 Dmac
October 05 2012, 10:45AM
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As was just stated above, the true test of a healthy well run team is when first round picks almost always turn into a servicable player and some gems in the second and later rounds emerge. Also as Willis stated, untill this team stops rushing the youth into the leauge we are in trouble. Good drafting and waiting untill the player is truly ready is when we will see results. Oh and Mr dithers may have to actually win the odd trade!

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#19 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
October 05 2012, 10:46AM
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How would Lorne Davis and Bullet Bob Freeman fit into all this...partners in crime?

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#20 NewAgeSys
October 05 2012, 11:03AM
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Great read,thanks.

Scouting for what SYSTEM??What system were our scouts trying to find players to fit in to?This is the golden question,it has to be answered FIRST,before we jump around. We dont even have a historical record of the SYSTEM the Olers as an organisation had committed to and were scouting ,drafting,and signing to support.Thats because it was in first Waynes head ,then in Maeks,then it was GONE---GONE---GONE. And we have never found a SYSTEM anywhere near as superior as the one those TWO INDIVIDUALS CATALYSED.We have sucked more and more ,year after year,barring the Miracle run where Mac-T actually lucked out and made it into the playoffs so he could make the old majic happen but we havent seen it again since.

The NewAge Hockey System is a superior system .

No writers or hockey people seem to be willing to even quantify the word SYSTEM,never mind describe one or discuss it,NHL teams also refuse to discuss their SYSTEMS or maybe there is no such thing as a "SYSTEM"at all and its just a fairy tale.

You cannot accurately analyse a pro scouts sucess or failure based on how many NHL games a player does or does not play,because the scout has no say in what system his found assets are put into and how they are utilised.

He only scouts for the things his team asks him to look for in players based on specific system needs,it is NOT simply physical skill level.But it IS ALL DICTATED TO A SCOUT.So what is the SYSTEM CATALYST that dictates to Oilers scouts what kind of players they pursue???How can you scout players without an existing system dynamic to fit them into---physical skills are all to close to do that.So anyone have an answer????What system or systems were those scouts working on behalf of???Was it one system??Or over the years SEVERAL systems???Because this is critical,I want to barbeque the management team and everyone else is looking at the job the scouts were doing,remember they are just the messengers,someone else is responsible for accepting the rap on this MYSTERY SYSTEM debacle,and the majority stakeholder here IS NOT the scouts its the management team.Maybe a more well versed hockey fan with managerial knowledge can pinpoint the guilty parties,just forget the scouts for a second and dig deeper.What SYSTEM were the scouts asked to work for???What SYSTEM did we play last year??Or the year before??Who within the Oilers organisation is responsible for defining and instituting our SYSTEM??Or someone please in a rational manner just deny the existance of such a thing as a system of play ,because this is borderline retarded already,this denial of responsibility,and this willingness to hang every single person remotely related to the Oilers organisation outside of management is simple cowardly??

We have lost many very qualified and suitable employees the last five to ten years over this MYSTERY SYSTEM issue,we have used everyone possible as an excuse,but we still havent gotten to the heart of the issue "system incontinuity".I even created a NEW system of playing hockey based on the last sucessful one we had here,the NewAge Hockey System and I have been ignored and suppressed and made fun of by many many idiot hockey fans and hockey people who lack the knowledge to even discuss system types online,and it is no bleeping wonder,just look at this simple stupid issue,no one even has the brains or guts or cajones to aknowledge that SYSTEMS OF PLAY are utilised by NHL teams??I have only met a handful of people online and that includes hockey writers and bloggers that has had the guts to even discuss hockey systems,this is because they are so complicated and most people INCLUDING ex-players pro or not cant even go there without having braincramps and bi-polar reactions when you corner them and force them to talk technical.

Every sport i ever played had systems with names,nicknames,traditional names,freaking coded names,but every sport has systems of play,but I never did play hockey---so maybe their are "secret systems". Hey this was a great article,I appreciate so many people are so able to ascertain responsibility for the Oilers toilet bowl performance so easily and so accurately,those scouts sure sucked,eh??By the way what do you think of our system Krueger is planning on useing????You do know what it is dont you??How about ANY system in the last 20 yrs??Because to critique the scouts of any era you better understand the system they were shopping for----or find out why the dinner menu kept changing every time they got home from the store???

Kevin Prendergast was an important and productive employee and the team will be weaker without his services,its tough to explain why he was so good at his job without discussing the SYSTEM he was working to support----and as we can see here according to many knowledgable fans and bloggers the Oilers dont ever use a SYSTEM of any type whatsoever---so i guess we will just take managements word that he wasnt getting er done,as with ALL OF THEIR MANAGEMENT DECISIONS WE ARE LEFT IN THE DARK WITHOUT A SYSTEM TO BASELINE OUR ANALYSIS OFF OF.And the Oilers are well aware of this dynamic,we cant fairly or accurately analyse the performance of players or any team personell without that critical core value system baseline.Only the front office can---we are kept like money growing mushrooms,in the dark,well fed and cared for and covered in BS every time we get a little uptight and start to ask the wrong questions.

Want to know how this crap can even be pulled off by a pro team??Just wait for the comedy routines about SYSTEM--SYSTEM--SYSTEM-- to start here in cyberspace,seriously its endless,and it is the exact reason we cannot discover how to get out of this losing rut the organisation is mired in,our skill level WILL NOT bail us out here.And most fans and bloggers dont understand the dynamic relationship between a teams SYSTEM OF PLAY and EVERY decision the team makes in every area of its operations.The System is the CATALYST,that is no secret----what player or writer or even fan wouldnt or couldnt know that simple fact????You already know the answer is ALL of them must realise this fact.So just tell the truth and say that systems are very complicated and its always left to the coaches so most havent a clue how to understand them,most NHL players never coach,ever wonder why,now you know,coaching is an entirely different animal than playing AT ANY LEVEL from pee-wee to Pro---and fans are just that much further away from the reality of the game.Say it is technical and complicated and something not everyone can comprehend in a functional manner,and that most people wouldnt enjoy working with this part of the game as opposed to playing it or watching it.But dont be cowardly and deny or supress the reality anf facts that ALL TEAM USE SYSTEMS OF PLAY.And those systems of play CATALYSE everything those teams do,EVERYTHING.

Just sayin.

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#22 The Goalie 1976
October 05 2012, 12:36PM
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One wonders of the Calgary Flames and the Columbus Blue Jackets will suffer the same fate. (fingers crossed LOL) Their drafting has been atrocious. Especially CLB. A lot of blown top 10 picks there, and CAL is already feeling the pinch of a severe lack of push from young talent.

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#23 Reg Dunlop
October 05 2012, 01:29PM
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Thanks JW. Good article with lots of valid points.

Now that the oil have lots of up and commers for the next 5 years what do you think about the oil pulling an Islander move and attempt a trade of all draft picks next year or the year after for one big puzzle piece? Personally, I dig the idea if there is a dance partner willing.

Also, do you think the bad draft record from '84 to '90 had anything to do with the lack of turnover in that time? With all that talent in front of them it must have been soul-destroying to be drafted by the oil, you knew that you were not cracking that line-up.

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#24 The Soup Fascist
October 05 2012, 01:35PM
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Looking at Frazer's draft record after years 1 - 3 in the NHL, it is almost like he was drafting from another world altogether.

Weird, huh?

@JW

"And finally: Yes, the scouts messed up. There's no magic system that makes Scott Allison a better pick than Keith Tkachuk. Thinking there is would be insane."

....unless you are picking alphabetically ;)

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#25 Scott in Grande Prairie
October 05 2012, 02:06PM
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I remember June 1990 when the Oilers picked Allison. They had just won the Cup and Mess won the Hart Trophy the week before. It seemed like the Oilers could do no wrong.

Then they pick Allison. One of my best friends, who had just got home a couple months earlier after finishing his rookie season with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds told me: “They picked … Scott Allison? Are you effing kidding me? That guy’s brutal. He can’t even skate.”

I think the thing to remember is this: Hindsight’s 20/20. If you flip through The Hockey News Draft Previews for some of those more-disastrous first-round picks the Oilers made, you might be surprised to find that the player they picked … was right where The Hockey News said he was picked.

In other words, the Selmar Odeleins and Scott Allisons and Kim Issels and Joe Hulbigs and Peter Soberlaks were all in that 16th-21st range in the draft order (some even higher) and that’s where the Oilers nabbed them. If they didn’t take them, someone else would have made first-rounders out of them. They were, at the time, considered the Best Players Available. I don’t recall them ever saying they were drafting to fill needs. If they were, they would have picked puck-rushing defencemen after Coffey left.

You can take that for what it’s worth, but it wasn’t like the Oilers were taking guys out of the Peace Cariboo Junior Hockey League or the Sarnia Oil Refinery Rec League. These guys they took were considered top prospects who didn’t pan out. It happens all the time, especially late in the first round (for some reason).

It’ll be the same thing with Nabakov. If he busts, the Oilers scouting staff will get ripped in 10 years for not taking Ryan Murray, even though everyone in the Hockey World had Nail at No. 1 as the BPA and the Oilers were committed to the philosophy of taking the BPA.

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#26 book¡e
October 05 2012, 02:21PM
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JW - My theory is that most Head Pro Scouts 'lose it' after about 3 good years. They then get 5 years of crappiness and mediocrity and then they get fired. Perhaps you can check some other teams and see if my theory holds.

With that stated, let me be the first to say that its time to replace Stu.

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#27 book¡e
October 05 2012, 02:24PM
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@Scott in Grande Prairie

I for one am horrified that the Oilers picked Nabakov. I don't think we need to wait ten years before we identify that as a mistake.

Or did you mean to say Yakupov?

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#28 Reg Dunlop
October 05 2012, 02:26PM
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@Scott in Grande Prairie

The oil drafted Nabakov? That Russian that wrote 'Lolita'.

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#29 Scott in Grande Prairie
October 05 2012, 02:39PM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

The oil drafted Nabakov? That Russian that wrote 'Lolita'.

LOL Apologies - thanks for pointing that out! Haha, must be Friday before a long weekend! Cheers, Scott

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#30 The Soup Fascist
October 05 2012, 02:40PM
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Scott in Grande Prairie wrote:

I remember June 1990 when the Oilers picked Allison. They had just won the Cup and Mess won the Hart Trophy the week before. It seemed like the Oilers could do no wrong.

Then they pick Allison. One of my best friends, who had just got home a couple months earlier after finishing his rookie season with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds told me: “They picked … Scott Allison? Are you effing kidding me? That guy’s brutal. He can’t even skate.”

I think the thing to remember is this: Hindsight’s 20/20. If you flip through The Hockey News Draft Previews for some of those more-disastrous first-round picks the Oilers made, you might be surprised to find that the player they picked … was right where The Hockey News said he was picked.

In other words, the Selmar Odeleins and Scott Allisons and Kim Issels and Joe Hulbigs and Peter Soberlaks were all in that 16th-21st range in the draft order (some even higher) and that’s where the Oilers nabbed them. If they didn’t take them, someone else would have made first-rounders out of them. They were, at the time, considered the Best Players Available. I don’t recall them ever saying they were drafting to fill needs. If they were, they would have picked puck-rushing defencemen after Coffey left.

You can take that for what it’s worth, but it wasn’t like the Oilers were taking guys out of the Peace Cariboo Junior Hockey League or the Sarnia Oil Refinery Rec League. These guys they took were considered top prospects who didn’t pan out. It happens all the time, especially late in the first round (for some reason).

It’ll be the same thing with Nabakov. If he busts, the Oilers scouting staff will get ripped in 10 years for not taking Ryan Murray, even though everyone in the Hockey World had Nail at No. 1 as the BPA and the Oilers were committed to the philosophy of taking the BPA.

I agree with the comment and remember many of the players were rated high in such publications. My only issue would be Central Scouting was either non-existent or in it's infancy at that time. Meaning there would not have been the dirth of information and number of "concensus" there is now.

I would hope our chief scout would not have been flipping through the Hockey News for his team's picks. However, if one had a beer in his hand and a$$ in the sand in Puerto Vallarta, that may indeed have been the case.

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#31 Scott in Grande Prairie
October 05 2012, 02:40PM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

The oil drafted Nabakov? That Russian that wrote 'Lolita'.

See comment above. Good catch! Thanks!

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#32 Scott in Grande Prairie
October 05 2012, 02:47PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

I agree with the comment and remember many of the players were rated high in such publications. My only issue would be Central Scouting was either non-existent or in it's infancy at that time. Meaning there would not have been the dirth of information and number of "concensus" there is now.

I would hope our chief scout would not have been flipping through the Hockey News for his team's picks. However, if one had a beer in his hand and a$$ in the sand in Puerto Vallarta, that may indeed have been the case.

Central Scouting was a strong, well-funded, flourishing organization back then. The only real difference between the drafts in the 1980s and the early 1990s and now is the amount of media hoopla.

Drafts were (sometimes) shown on Saturday's as part of CBC Sportsweekend and the coverage was in the Sunday paper. And there were no October/January/April Draft Preview shows like TSN has.

But the draft, as an entity, as well as NHL Central Scouting, was in full maturation back then. Teams had scouts everywhere back then, just as now. They may not have been as scientific, but they found players by putting miles on their cars and airlines.

And the THN's lists were always based on Central Scouting's (although, for a while, Bob McKenzie did make his own rankings, back when he was the Editor-in-Chief of THN).

Don't get me wrong - the Oilers should be ripped a bit for their draft record, but they didn't ever wander off the reservation with their picks. Francois Leroux went where he should have went. Same with Soberlak. And Tyler Wright (who actually probably wasn't a bust; he just didn't stay in Edm very long).

Of course, none of these guys were franchise players, so even if they'd turned out, the Oilers would still have sunk.

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#35 Oiler Al
October 05 2012, 03:07PM
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@Skidplate

RE: NAS... Living proof, that even asylums have computers and Web access.

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#36 The Soup Fascist
October 05 2012, 03:17PM
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@Scott in Grande Prairie

I will defer to your knowledge on the NHL CS group. They did indeed exist in the mid to late 70's, though I would assume they have evolved over time and are more effective now than they were then.

I have three lasting memories of the Fraser reign as chief scout"

1. His unbelievable skill (some would say luck) in 79 - 81 picking the nucleus of one of the greatest teams in NHL history.

2. The mathematically improbable odds of picking ELEVEN players in 1990 without having one of them play a SINGLE GAME in the NHL - for any team. This was regarded as a very good draft year.

3. The 1995 Edmonton draft where the fans were shouting "Doan, Doan, Doan" and inexplicably Fraser was smarter than 16,000 fans and took the entirely forgettable Steve Kelly.

Not sure the first one can compensate for the last two. Towards the end of his time in Edmonton Barry Fraser was incompetent, or disengaged - or both, IMO.

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#37 GVBlackhawk
October 05 2012, 03:27PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

First off, kudos to me. I read that whole comment, and it was long and featured RANDOM CAPITALIZATION which can be a real challenge to slog through.

With that said: I disagree completely. There are now 30 NHL clubs, and more than 20 when Fraser and his scouts were making their selections. The success or failure of a player at the NHL level goes beyond a single team - though the initial team in particular can obviously have a massive impact.

Scouts are not recruiting players to fit in a given system. Based on team, different styles might be more prominent, particularly in the later rounds, and team need can and does influence the decision, but the bottom line is that a scout is assessing each player's talents and saying 'this guy is the pick that has the best shot at playing in the NHL.'

Systems change, coaches change, teams change. Ultimately, a player's true level of ability (as well, of course, as circumstance) are what earn him NHL games.

As for your larger (and largely unrelated) point that systems dictate team performance: yes and no. Coaches can have a big impact on their respective teams. A guy like Jacques Lemaire or Scotty Bowman can get more out of a club than a less capable coach, or a coach running a system ill-suited to his personnel.

On the other hand, when you pick a great coach - really, any of them - you realize that they're also limited by the team at their disposal. The 2009-10 Edmonton Oilers were worse for the switch to Pat Quinn's rawhide setup, but they were going to be a bad team regardless. Scotty Bowman got a lot out of the Canadiens but they'd also won Stanley Cups in five of seven years before he took the reins.

Systems matter, but the idea that there's a magic bullet solution that reinvigorates an entire organization is ludicrous. El Dorado doesn't exist.

Also: how on Earth are we supposed to know what Krueger's going to do before we see him get a full training camp in?

And finally: Yes, the scouts messed up. There's no magic system that makes Scott Allison a better pick than Keith Tkachuk. Thinking there is would be insane.

I think the final word in your response sums it up appropriately.

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#38 loosemoose
October 05 2012, 03:42PM
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No matter the numbers, research, and available information, some of these scouts and GM's are just bullheaded.

I recall the story of Doug Maclean getting ready for Columbus's pick in 2005. The Blu Jackets had the sixth overall pick. Chicago had just taken Jack Skille and Maclean was talking with his head scout. They had their choice narrowed down to two players.

Both were centers. Both had real good junior numbers. One was a small Canadian, the other, a large kid from a country no one had ever heard of. Everything they had on these players had them neck and neck. Maclean basically said, "We might as well go with the Canadian kid from the WHL. We just felt more comfortable with it."

Imagine Columbus if they drafted Anze Kopitar instead of Gilbert Brule.

That one decision could have offset both the Zherdev and Filitov picks, no?

Makes a guy wonder the course of the NHL if a few decisions were made differently.....

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#39 Oiler Al
October 05 2012, 03:57PM
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If one were to review Oiler`s picks say from `91`to 98`. I dont think they really left a lot on the table, even viewing the picks in retrospect. Just to zero in on a few years, where they had at picks and missed: `91- " 12 picked.. Taylor Wright. Left on the table S. Kovalev, and Naslund. `92 - 13 pick - Hulbig.. Left Gonchar and J.Smith `93- 7 pick - Arnott 16 pick = Stajduhar Left Bertuzzi and S.Koivu `94- 4 pick - Bonsignore 6 pick R.Smyth This was not a great year.. Javanoski was No.1 pick that yr.Nothing left on the table here.. some decent players.. but no all-stars. `95- pick 6 - Steve Kelly.. probably Oilers worst pick.. left behind S. Doan and J. Iginla. Not a great year again.. 123 were .. Berard,Redden and Berg. If you examin he 90 closely you`ll see in restropect again, they didnt miss much based on where they were picking.. other than maybe `96. These are just highlights and I am sure a better detailed comparison could be drawn up.

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#40 BlacqueJacque
October 05 2012, 06:49PM
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Willis, normally I love your stuff and I'm not disagreeing with your premise here, but in the article teaser the sentence "Less well known is this: that the poor work of that scouting staff during the dynasty years helped bring an end to the powerhouse Oilers." is silly.

Anyone who followed or looked back on Barry Fraser's record can see that. If you're aware of his track record, you're aware that it was the other major reason for the Oilers collapse. No mere decline, the Oilers hit bottom and stayed there for a while.

The same argument can be made for Prendergast.

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#41 Johe
October 05 2012, 08:06PM
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OKC up 2-0 in the third. Martindale and Schultz the goals. Both on the pp. Yes, my nights will now consist of following the Barons twitter feed. Are you happy NHL? ARE YOU HAPPY??!!!

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#42 Pouzar99
October 05 2012, 09:20PM
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4-0 final. PP Goals for Schultz and Martindale, two helpers for Hartikainen, one each for Lander and Fedun. Goal for Pelss. It appears Nuge and Ebs didn't play. I suspect other half of team will play Game 2. Roy and Bunz split the shutout. I sure wish they would televise the games.

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#43 pelhem grenville
October 06 2012, 08:44AM
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@Q

...Bullet Bob Freeman? y'mean all those years that I refered to him as the "Human Smoking Machine" he was a scout?

...i was always under the impression that he was the driver / goofer in a suit around the locker room and was usually shuttling players who were traded or going to the airport for one thing or another ...is he still alive ?

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#44 NewAgeSys
October 06 2012, 04:19PM
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With that said: I disagree completely. There are now 30 NHL clubs, and more than 20 when Fraser and his scouts were making their selections. The success or failure of a player at the NHL level goes beyond a single team - though the initial team in particular can obviously have a massive impact.

--You are nuts Pal.If you are kept in a developmental cycle on the farm for an extra two or three years you pass the optimum threshhold for establishing yourself in the NHL in a particular career curve and if caches and systems on the big team change you might be lost forever.If a player is scouted and indoctrinated into a farm team because the players has an intangible,say a natural defensive awareness that is balanced with an above average offensive output,but his skating is average,and he is forcast to step into a system coached to utilise his Defensive awareness and above average offense ABOVE his average skating--the coach and system are functionally eliminating his average skating by not requiring him to rag the puck up and down the ice all night.Now if after his first sucessful year on the farm is complete and he has performed as expected ,BUT,the big team has switched coaches and systems,that same player may be re-evaluated by a new coach in terms of a new system and this forces the player to be analysed on JUST his physical abilitys and we lose all the scouting work put into the players intangibles and system suitability,and,if the average skating isnt up to par for the new coach and system and the defensive awareness and above average offense never get a chance to be realised then the player is deemed non-suitable and sent away to work on his skating WHICH WILL NEVER BE ABOVE AVERAGE AND WAS NEVER FORCAST TO BE SO.Hope the caps dont confuse you .

Scouts are not recruiting players to fit in a given system. Based on team, different styles might be more prominent, particularly in the later rounds, and team need can and does influence the decision, but the bottom line is that a scout is assessing each player's talents and saying 'this guy is the pick that has the best shot at playing in the NHL.'

--How observant of you,no kidding scouts arent recruiting players to fit in a given system--jeepers man--I am obviously saying that the scouts are approaching their jobs wrong when they fail to do this .What are you talking about "based on team, different styles might be prominent"get real already---different SYSTEMS are obviously prominant.Dont substitute the word styles for SYSTEMS to try to weasel your perspective into being right or accurate,it doesnt work.Later rounds of what??Explain why there is a difference in this regard between early and late rounds??No backing out now. "And team need can and does influence the decision"You bet System{stop word games already and your intentional substitution of team for system to again wordspin didnt work}needs can and do influence a successful scouts decisions.Whats your point you repeated my point but tried to eliminate the word system again.You are regurgitating my points and twisting grammatical dynamics to spin the word SYSTEM out of the conversation----it doesnt work.Because it is your error to not be using the word SYSTEM and the concept is obviously critical to any analysis you offer as a writer.You can say "team"or "style"or whatever other spindoctor catchphrase you can dig up but it all comes back to the correct word SYSTEM.You cant change the fact that the SYSTEM catalyses everything else you want to discuss and analyse.And all the Kings horses and all the Kings men wont help you change that,you may try to garner as much support for your perspective as you choose,so what?Numbers and popular opinion dont equate to being right,correct ,or accurate in your analysis,those things just equate to populatity which is what you are aiming for obviously.

Systems change, coaches change, teams change. Ultimately, a player's true level of ability (as well, of course, as circumstance) are what earn him NHL games.

--Are you a drinker??SYSTEMS----COACHES---AND TEAMS---ARE SYNONMOUS.You try to seperate them to win cheezy little points you imagine make you right.A coach first chooses a defined SYSTEM then he masters it himself with his assistants then he chooses players from the teams resources wherever that may be even the farm SYSTEM that he feels who will be suitable contributors to this SYSTEM he then commands his players to execute that SYSTEM,it is all about the SYSTEM.The SYSTEM is the core value and you must discuss it that way to be accurate.You dont want to do that,you want to beat around the bush because you are bushleague and have no idea how to discuss Systems.So you try to break it down and spin doctor.

As for your larger (and largely unrelated) point that systems dictate team performance: yes and no. Coaches can have a big impact on their respective teams. A guy like Jacques Lemaire or Scotty Bowman can get more out of a club than a less capable coach, or a coach running a system ill-suited to his personnel.

--you dont seem to be related to reality,How coaches communicate and manage their SYSTEMS can have a big impact on those SYSTEMS performances--stop trying to seperate these issues.A more capable coach who has a better system understanding or communication ability will maximise his overall SYSTEM sucess levels by the proper managment of the system personel.A coach running a system ill-suited to his personell is exactly what we are discussing,and this dynamic happens because their is an organisational breakdown that interupts SYSTEM continuity and places ill-suited players on the bench.What dont you get word-doctor???The coach picks the system then the systems dynamic needs dictate the type players he picks--so ALL of his options including the farm team have to be on HIS EXACT SYSTEM PAGE and provide him with the types of player dynamics or intangibles he needs at all times,how he manages those players he picked and rotates them in and out defines the sucess that system will achieve.So what garble are you trying to sell here??You want to put emphasis on players physical abilitys and skill levels,because thats all you can base your analysis on without any basic understanding of NHL level SYSTEMS of play ,from an organisational standpoint right down to ice level you are clueless.A scout making sure he picks a player who can demonstrate at minimum average NHL physical and skill levels is like putting your underwear on in the morning ,everybody does it,you want to make it a big deal,well forget it.There is a lot more to scouting than that,and it ALL has to do with SYSTEM requirements DYNAMICLY that must be incorporated into the physical and skill analysis of the overall system suitability of the individual as a whole.System System System,everywhere you turn.

On the other hand, when you pick a great coach - really, any of them - you realize that they're also limited by the team at their disposal. The 2009-10 Edmonton Oilers were worse for the switch to Pat Quinn's rawhide setup, but they were going to be a bad team regardless. Scotty Bowman got a lot out of the Canadiens but they'd also won Stanley Cups in five of seven years before he took the reins.

--Great coaches endorse and execute great SYSTEMS and they take them from team to team,it is the greatness of these coaches that allows them to quickly reassess all the system assets they have available and dynamicly apply them to the NEW SYSTEM they bring with them by proxy as coaches.You again try to break it down to avoid using the word SYSTEM,and again the spin doctoring doesnt work,you have to START with the word system and end with it wether you like the taste of it or not.What you fail to discuss,is the fact that these coaches and their new SYSTEMS werent allowed to be as efficient as they could have been because of contractual obligations and other team business that prevented them from blowing up their respective new teams dynamicly,they couldnt very well bring up five or six guys from within the system even if they were better system assets,because you cant sent 25 million dollars in contracts to the farm team or the bench ,it isnt possible.So they were in fact handcuffed from day one,because they werent able to properly man up what??You slippery weasel--THE SYSTEM--thats what,they didnt have unfettered acess to the exact resources they required.

Systems matter, but the idea that there's a magic bullet solution that reinvigorates an entire organization is ludicrous. El Dorado doesn't exist.

--SYSTEM CONTINUITY ACHIEVES THIS GRASSHOPPER.The Stanley Cup is El Dorado and it most certainly does exist,you just cant see a way to get to it so you choose to claim it doesnt exist----thats called a losing mentality,judging by the mentality you are showing thus far--aside from your spellchecking--you cant afford to carry any more negativity.

Also: how on Earth are we supposed to know what Krueger's going to do before we see him get a full training camp in?

--Why dont you ask him??Why try to spin doctor again?And try to make it seem like Ralph doesnt have a specific SYSTEM he will use,only in your delusional world does the word SYSTEM not catalyse everything .Are you insinuating that Ralph doesnt have a system decision made before we go through training camp???Just ask him,are you afraid you wont understand what he says--dont worry you wont need spell check to get it??Do you NEED to SEE the players at camp to criticise them without learning more about what they are actually trying to accomplish SYSTEMWISE?

You are correctly illustrating the effects of the inadequacies of the scouts ,but you are focusing on the results,not the cause or the catalyst of the problem itself,you are doing the equivilant of focusing on the stats instead of how they were produced,you have a total fan perspective,results orientated,not dynamics orientated,as a writer you should try to be more well rounded then you will find yourself being less critical.And you WILL learn why you are misguided in your overt aviodance and critique of any SYSTEM based perspectives you encounter here and anywhere else.And you will find you have more to write about ,not less.You dont need to break down a system concept into word games to create discussion topics and avenues of blame that keep people hot for the bloodlust and quick to point the finger of blame and criticism.That is sensationalism,kinda like the cheezy rags you read at the supermarket checkout with headlines like"three-headed twins born to Tom Cruise"or whatever.I like your articles sometimes in fact most times,but ocassionally they are lacking in dynamic anknowledgment and content,a little baseless,like having someone tell you about Game seven of the Stanley Cup Final that ended in Triple overtime using only statistical terminology and perspective,discussing zero dynamic content,an analysis devoid of emotion of dynamic description.This initial analysis is criticism intended,break it down to stats and start assesing credit or blame based on only that set of dynamic factors,excluding all others especially any SYSTEM based dynamics.If we put responsibility where it belongs,at the feet of the system,you run out of things to critique,you go from four or more topics to write about to one,you have to refer to the system FIRST instead of --the players,the team,the coaches,the scouts,the therapists,you cannot define a players value by their stats like you want to do you are forced to credit the SYSTEM,unless you can break things down dynamicly to suit your intentions you have a hard time finding things to dscuss or criticise.And once you accept that the SYSTEM catalyses everything it is a no-brainer to see that the scouts must abide strictly by current and immediate system needs in their future asset evaluations,they need realtime input.And there is a lagtime or an adjustment and reevaluation period before coaches have a proper system suitability analysis on every player every time there is a coaching and by proxy SYSTEM change within an organisation,unless the new coach is forced to execute a system dictated by managment as opposed to himself.In that case there is a forced or artificially induced dynamic focus or view that diminishes the coaches own individual intangibles and we get less bang for our buck because their creativity and natural tendancies are being managed by someone elses SYSTEM decision.

System continuity is a core value in every single facet of a championship organization and a championship result.Without it a scouts effectivness is diminished in large part rendering them incapable of producing system suitable assets at the right time,scouts are visionaries or futurists and if you keep changing the parameters they are basing their hypothesis on you shoot them in the foot.The SYSTEM must remain the same ofr as many years as it takes to realise the potentials of ALL the scouts picks,any time this continuity is broken all the scouts decisions actually become wrong or less right or accurate.The Oilers have suffered a series of these dynamic landmines.This is an organizational flaw a lack of SYSTEM CONTINUITY not a scouting weakness.

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