The Edmonton Oilers Professional Scouting Staff

Jonathan Willis
June 05 2012 07:26AM

The Oilers’ professional scouting staff monitor and report on players in both the NHL and AHL. Their recommendations carry weight in Edmonton’s front office, and help general manager Steve Tambellini to make decisions on personnel moves, from free agency to the trade market.

They’re also a group we don’t typically spend a lot of time on.

As of the summer of 2011, the Oilers’ pro scouting group consisted of five people: head scout Morey Gare and scouts Dave Semenko, Michael Abbamont, Chris Cichocki and Duane Sutter.

Morey Gare

Morey Gare has been with the Oilers professional scouting staff since the summer of 2001. He was a late draft pick of the New York Islanders back in 1980 (current Oilers G.M. Steve Tambellini was with the Islanders as a player until midway through the 1980-81 season) but never really paid off for them. After four seasons in college at Northern Michigan University he played a single season in the IHL with the Kalamazoo Wings.

Gare got into coaching shortly after his career ended, working as an assistant at Northern Michigan, a position he held until 1996. He took head coaching jobs with Estevan (SJHL) in 1996-97 and then with Cowichan (1997-98) before landing a job as an assistant to Walt Kyle of the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs – then the Oilers’ farm team (Kyle had both played for and coached at Northern Michigan University). He worked there for three seasons, two under Kyle and one under Claude Julien, before being moved on to the Oilers’ scouting staff in 2001.

Dave Semenko

Dave Semenko’s history with the Edmonton Oilers is a long one. He is of course best known for his role on the dynasty teams, during which time he was arguably the most feared enforcer in the NHL. Three times he finished with double digit goal totals, and in the 1984 playoffs demonstrated a surprising scoring touch, recording five goals and 10 points in 19 games.

Semenko got into broadcasting after his playing career ended (interestingly, he also dealt with an alcohol problem at that time, and credited Oilers G.M. Glen Sather with helping him move on), and then had a brief stint as part of the Oilers’ coaching staff in 1996 before moving into scouting.

Michael Abbamont

Abbamont’s definitely an under-the-radar guy, but he’s worked all over the place – employed by the league, as well as by Washington, Detroit, Florida and Ottawa before joining the Oilers.

The earliest mention of him that I can find is in 1988, where he’s listed as having been given “expanded duties” as the Washington Capitals eastern scout. He apparently moved on from there to the league office, where he worked for three years. He was then hired to a front office job in Detroit - the general manager, Bryan Murray, had worked with him in Washington. Murray lost his job in 1994; Abbamont was dismissed at the same time.

Abbamont ended up following Bryan Murray to Florida; he was the team’s head scout at least as early as 1996, a position he held until 2003.

The Edmonton Oilers hired Abbamont in the summer of 2005. Abbamont had worked with Kevin Prendergast previously while both were employed by the NHL. Abbamont was floated as a potential candidate to fill the assistant general manager role in both Minnesota and Buffalo over the last few years.

Chris Cichocki

Cichocki was never drafted, but managed to parley a high-scoring college career into a contract with the Detroit Red Wings. He picked up 21 points and a minus-8 rating in 59 games with the 1985-86 Detroit Red Wings (it’s not as bad as it sounds; that team finished minus-149) as a rookie pro, but would only play nine more games in the NHL over a career that lasted for another dozen years. He was a reliable scorer for teams in the AHL and IHL, and moved directly from the ice to behind the bench as an assistant coach with the IHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones in 1997-98.

In 2000-01, Cichocki got his first head coaching job in the ECHL. Over the next eight years, he would coach three different clubs in the ECHL, finishing with the Oilers’ affiliate, the Stockton Thunder. He was fired midway through the 2008-09 season, though he did land a job as an interim assistant coach with the Penguins’ AHL affiliate to close out the season.

I can’t find anything official as to when the Oilers hired him, but a reasonable guess would be the summer of 2009.

Duane Sutter

Sutter was a first round pick of the New York Islanders in 1979, and over the next two years was a teammate of current Oilers’ general manager Steve Tambellini. He’d go on to play 731 regular season games and 161 playoff games in the NHL, split between Long Island and Chicago.

Following his retirement, Sutter moved directly into scouting, covering amateur players in Western Canada for the Blackhawks. He moved on to work as the head coach of first the Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) and then the Indianapolis Ice (IHL). In the summer of 1995 he got back to the NHL, taking an assistant coaching job with the Florida Panthers. He would go on to work as both a professional scout and head coach for the team before taking over as the team’s director of player development in 2002. He stayed with the Panthers until the summer of 2008, when he made the jump to the Calgary Flames to take the job of director of player personnel..

In the summer of 2011, with Jay Feaster making changes in Calgary, Sutter decided to move on. The Oilers hired him in August as the newest member of their professional scouting staff.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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 Ted sheckler
June 05 2012, 07:51AM
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Last,Last,2nd Last. Great talent this organazation has put together.

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#2 Matt Henderson
June 05 2012, 08:06AM
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POS, Ankles Whitney, Foster, Barker, Khabibulin, Brad Isbister.*

*Grumbles

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#3 Ambassador humantorch
June 05 2012, 08:08AM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

POS, Ankles Whitney, Foster, Barker, Khabibulin, Brad Isbister.*

*Grumbles

Fraser. Don't forget Fraser!

Why any of those clowns still have a job just speaks even more to the fact that their boss(es) should also not still have a job.

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#4 The Oilers Shot Clock
June 05 2012, 08:14AM
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If there was a statistic to apply to the individual scouts along with a list of players they had a hand in acquiring, then everything would feel a bit more tangible. As it is, I'll look at the fact that we had a long stretch of the rough being void of any diamonds, and lump them all into a failing grade of "meh". I cant in good conscience give much credit for the last two years or this one because if you cant acquire some great talent when your second round pick is still 31st overall then you have a problem. The verdict is still out on Stu, but it seems the majority of fans have already built him a pedestal made out of internet , and named him the "Magnificent Bastard"???. Lets see what happens at the next draft where we pick outside of the top ten.(the Eberle pick not withstanding) Theres more Riley Nash's than there is Eberle's in our history.

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#5 freeze
June 05 2012, 08:15AM
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I can't say that the pro scouting staff has done much to impress me. It would be hard for Tambo to win a trade if he gets bad/questionable info. Of course, he can't talk his way out of a free topping at the yogurt shoppe either.

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#6 ernie scar
June 05 2012, 08:15AM
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Danny Gare's brother? Was Jaroslav Pousar's brother unavailable? For insight of how brilliant Dave Semenko is I suggest you read his book. Years after his playing career he couldn't grasp the concept that he wasn't in the NHL for any reason other than his scoring ability.

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#7 jonrmcleod
June 05 2012, 08:26AM
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None of those guys were great offensive talents in their playing days--Sutter being the best, I believe. Is that usual for a pro scouting staff?

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#11 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
June 05 2012, 08:45AM
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It's safe to say someone has been dropping the ball in a big way in the pro scouting department.

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#13 jonrmcleod
June 05 2012, 09:08AM
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@Jonathan Willis

I wonder what the record is for number of Sutters working for an organization.

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#14 nqmt
June 05 2012, 09:09AM
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To be honest, we don't know what this pro staff has to work wtih in terms of what players are willing to come to Edmonton and other obstacles like that...we don't know that they're able to identify talent but the player is unwilling to come to Edmonton...or Tamby is unwilling to meet the trade demands to get them...nevertheless, it's pretty apparent Edmonton is fishing from one of the shallowest pools in the league and maybe the players they got were the best they could get

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#16 CaptainLander
June 05 2012, 09:32AM
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5 scouts seems like a lot to me. How many acquisitions does a team make a year? 5-7? Seems like one or two guys could probably do the job. Then again I really have no idea what is involved. I thought it was just going to nhlnumbers.com and finding the ufa's calling anyone you are interested in on July 1st, calling ather teams and being like "Hey do you like this guy from my team? What would you give me for him?" I suppose having 5 scouts assessing players would give Tambi more things to assess. And we all know how much he loves assessing, also analyzing, deducing, debating, discussing, reviewing, evaluating, calculating, considering, measuring up and lets not forget mulling over.

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#17 Reg Dunlop
June 05 2012, 09:39AM
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First, thanks JW for the fights. How about those high boards in the corral.

Second, I think nqmt has it right when he suggests that the oil professional procurement is likely hampered by many issues that we are unaware of. It's like we are dumpster diving for bottles, we won't get much and we probably come out smelling bad.

I really don't like Sutters or flame players. A bunch of cheating, low down, no good... can we bring back Don Jackson or Dave Brown?

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#19 vetinari
June 05 2012, 10:42AM
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Wasn't Frank Musil scouting for us in Europe at one point? Or was he doing just amateur scouting? Who's doing the European pro scouting for us overseas right now?

I suspect that there's some good guys toiling around the KHL, and the Swiss, Finnish and Swedish leagues who might be decent NHLers/AHLers if given a chance.

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#20 M
June 05 2012, 11:08AM
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Jonathan:

"One of the pieces I read about Abbamont quoted him as saying he'd been to 200+ AHL/NHL games that season."

Now that we are in the age of "NHL Numbers," do you think this is a good use of time?

Or would the pro scouts be better served crunching numbers instead of trying to tell how good a player is by watching them play?

Or maybe some sort of half and half approach?

Thanks

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#21 @Oilanderp
June 05 2012, 12:13PM
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Nice info J.W. and on a topic that is steeped in mystery.

One complaint I have had in the last few years is the Oilers' lack of utilization of the waiver wire. Getting first crack at undervalued or underrated players on other deep NHL teams should have been a source of acquisition, shouldn't it have been?

We picked up Jones, which was a great addition for free. I'd love to see an examination of players we could have nabbed but chose not to.

This is the realm of the pro scouting department is it not?

Also, I am amazed given this list of scouts how we couldn't seem to find a pugilist who can also play (but that's another topic).

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#22 justDOit
June 05 2012, 12:19PM
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Ambassador humantorch wrote:

Fraser. Don't forget Fraser!

Why any of those clowns still have a job just speaks even more to the fact that their boss(es) should also not still have a job.

But Fraser is about to get his 2nd Cup ring...

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#23 justDOit
June 05 2012, 12:22PM
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CaptainLander wrote:

5 scouts seems like a lot to me. How many acquisitions does a team make a year? 5-7? Seems like one or two guys could probably do the job. Then again I really have no idea what is involved. I thought it was just going to nhlnumbers.com and finding the ufa's calling anyone you are interested in on July 1st, calling ather teams and being like "Hey do you like this guy from my team? What would you give me for him?" I suppose having 5 scouts assessing players would give Tambi more things to assess. And we all know how much he loves assessing, also analyzing, deducing, debating, discussing, reviewing, evaluating, calculating, considering, measuring up and lets not forget mulling over.

And I was thinking that 5 pro scouts isn't enough. There are something like 700 players in the NHL, and 5 scouts seems thin to me. I wonder how many pro scouts organizations like the Red Wings or Devils have? Those positions are not included in the cap number, so the more the better, IMO.

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#24 Clarkenstein
June 05 2012, 12:22PM
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Here's just a couple that come to mind...

Lowe turned down a Corey Perry for Mike Comrie deal and TambLowe nixed a Scott Hartnell for Sheldon Surrey.

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#25 justDOit
June 05 2012, 12:23PM
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I know this is off topic, but it's hockey, and it's hilarious.

http://i.imgur.com/i8K9I.jpg

(sorry - don't know how to make that a link)

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#26 justDOit
June 05 2012, 12:25PM
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@Clarkenstein

If I remember correctly, Lowe didn't exactly turn that down, but he stubbornly demanded that Comrie's bonus money be returned in the deal.

But still - DOH!

Edit: And that bonus money might have been requested by ownership.

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#27 book¡e
June 05 2012, 12:30PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

One of the pieces I read about Abbamont quoted him as saying he'd been to 200+ AHL/NHL games that season.

I don't know if five scouts is a lot, but if you assume that the Oilers keep a book on every player in the AHL/NHL, and that they're also advance scouting teams coming up next on the schedule, I can see how there would be work.

Also when you consider that each decision made has consequences in the millions of dollars, keeping 5 guys around who probably make around $100,000 each is likely good value if they help to improve your decision making (in theory).

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#28 Pucker
June 05 2012, 12:43PM
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In looking their NHL roster, I figure Belanger, Eager, Hordichuk, Jones, Barker, Potter, Schultz, Sutton and Khabi.

Khabi, Barker and Potter probably weren't 'scout's' decisions. Belanger gets an asterik because he can't be that bad. Schultz was a good find. The others are okay. From the outside, their personalities seem good and they all have the potential to bring something to the team.

Oklahoma seems to be doing well. I've never put alot of thought into it but it's been in the back of my mind that our Pro Scouting is certainly lacking but this doesn't look too bad. As mentioned earlier by someone, the big teller would be knowing how many and who got away based on Scouting, or lack of (and that Penner guy for LA looks pretty good).

In scanning this before I post it, I really don't have a lot to say. Move along now.

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#29 EHH Team
June 05 2012, 12:51PM
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As I was reading the article, I had similar thoughts to M (#20). It would be interesting to know if much weight is given to analytical review of players' performance data and review of videos or if recommendations are primariuly based on with subjective opinions from occasionally viewing live games.

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#30 Wax Man Riley
June 05 2012, 12:59PM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

POS, Ankles Whitney, Foster, Barker, Khabibulin, Brad Isbister.*

*Grumbles

Belanger, Eager.....

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#31 book¡e
June 05 2012, 01:02PM
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@Pucker

If Penner had remained an Oiler, he would be playing golf right now and not worth anything as he looked at the free agent market.

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#32 Wax Man Riley
June 05 2012, 01:04PM
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@ernie scar

Hey, Ernie Scar... Say hello to Perlene Prickleybush for me.

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#33 CaptainLander
June 05 2012, 01:11PM
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@justDOit

How many games does a pro-scout have to see of a player that is actually available for acquisition from another team that your team is interested in. With every game aired and probably recorded how many games does a scout actually need to go to. I can see the need at the AHL and International leagues but by the time a player reaches the NHL scouts should already know what the are getting. Are they out to find the diamond in the rough or provide info on a long term plan, does Tambi have info on the UFA's they like for the next 5 years and if available try sign them, or looking for a reclamation project that will actually work. The Oilers recent record does not give me a lot of hope. I just think 1 scout full time job could have found Potter, Petrell and Barker. Do the really need to watch Suter play 50 games to know what kind of player you are getting?

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#34 Pucker
June 05 2012, 01:12PM
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@book;e

If Penner had remained an Oiler, playing with the Nuge and Hall, I figure they wouldn't have gotten hurt and would have made the playoffs, and very well could've still been playing now.

There are other scenarios, but I like this one best.

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#35 Wax Man Riley
June 05 2012, 01:12PM
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justDOit wrote:

But Fraser is about to get his 2nd Cup ring...

And Ryan Whitney has a cup from Pittsburgh, so....

And I am sure Fraser's 1 career playoff goal that he scored in game #1 of this series is what put both Cup-winning teams over the top

EDIT: Ben Eager in Chicago. He has as many playoff points as Fraser... not Whitney... he was traded to Anaheim that year....my bad

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#36 CaptainLander
June 05 2012, 01:17PM
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@justDOit

Double post..weird

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#37 justDOit
June 05 2012, 01:33PM
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CaptainLander wrote:

How many games does a pro-scout have to see of a player that is actually available for acquisition from another team that your team is interested in. With every game aired and probably recorded how many games does a scout actually need to go to. I can see the need at the AHL and International leagues but by the time a player reaches the NHL scouts should already know what the are getting. Are they out to find the diamond in the rough or provide info on a long term plan, does Tambi have info on the UFA's they like for the next 5 years and if available try sign them, or looking for a reclamation project that will actually work. The Oilers recent record does not give me a lot of hope. I just think 1 scout full time job could have found Potter, Petrell and Barker. Do the really need to watch Suter play 50 games to know what kind of player you are getting?

I don't think you can accurately assess a player from a few games, nor can you by merely watching them on TV. There's so much that the camera misses, especially if you're watching a defenceman.

No, you don't have to watch Suter play 50 games, but it's not the Suters of the NHL that you're trying to get an in-depth opinion of. You're going after the future Suter, who may be toiling away in the ECHL, AHL or European leagues.

And a player like Fraser might be a good example. He's about to get his 2nd Cup ring, but he obviously isn't the straw that stirs the drink. He's an ok utility player, but he is dependant on who he plays with, and in which roles. So not only are you scouting the player, but you're scouting his linemates as well.

But I don't know scouting, this is just my opinion.

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#40 justDOit
June 05 2012, 02:25PM
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After thinking about the personalities in this scouting group, they seem (to me) to be all 'saw him ___' guys. If my stereotype about guys like Big Dave is off base, I apologize, but none of them seem like a numbers guy - and that would be a glaring omission for this group.

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#41 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
June 05 2012, 05:15PM
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Wäx Män Riley wrote:

And Ryan Whitney has a cup from Pittsburgh, so....

i find it somewhat creepy you know whitney kept his jockstrap from his time in pittsburgh.

what other cup are you referring to?

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#42 Quicksilver ballet
June 05 2012, 05:49PM
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Statistics show that people who have had the most birthdays, live the longest.

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#43 Wax Man Riley
June 05 2012, 06:17PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

Wäx Män Riley wrote:

And Ryan Whitney has a cup from Pittsburgh, so....

i find it somewhat creepy you know whitney kept his jockstrap from his time in pittsburgh.

what other cup are you referring to?

oops... my bad.

I thought the Pens won the cup in 07-08, but it was 08-09 and he was traded to Anaheim.....

I will substitute this:

And Ben Eager has a cup from chicago, so....

BTW... he could still have his jock strap from Pitts

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#44 justDOit
June 05 2012, 07:04PM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:

And Ryan Whitney has a cup from Pittsburgh, so....

And I am sure Fraser's 1 career playoff goal that he scored in game #1 of this series is what put both Cup-winning teams over the top

EDIT: Ben Eager in Chicago. He has as many playoff points as Fraser... not Whitney... he was traded to Anaheim that year....my bad

I'm not defending Fraser, and I don't want him back in Oiler colours, but I would grade a 4th line player like him not based on how many goals he scores, but on how many he prevents.

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#45 Oiler Al
June 05 2012, 09:05PM
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Very good topic ,article and commentary. I think a lot of the work pro scouts do, is focusing in on the AHL, ECL IHL, etc. looking for those diamonds in the rough, with NHL potential. There arent that many AHL games televised all over the place,and data and stats are not on the fore front like NHL players. You want to grab that Waiver player one that a team might be down playing to keep for themselves.Pure player for player trades [ ala: Schultz/Gilbert] are rare outside of Trade Deadlines, Free Agent and Draft time deals.At the end the GM makes the call., these guys just bring in the info.and input. With all the stats data available today,you could almost make a call on some guys without seeing them play.

But one curious question: Too many guys leave Oilers and play key roles on other teams, and players coming into the Oiler system dont give you the same results?

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