That’s Kyle Beach (left) being interviewed by Guy Flaming. The Pipeline Show is gaining recognition for their exceptional coverage of junior and college hockey along with outstanding pre-draft and draft coverage. Flaming and Dean Millard have created an outlet for players and coaches who rarely get noticed, and offer the hockey fan the earliest look available at the future of the game.
I met Guy Flaming several years ago when he came to Team 1260 with an idea. He felt there was an audience for a radio show that would showcase the game’s best draft eligibles and to pay special attention to the Oilers and their prospects.
I talked to Guy about his show earlier this month.
How early do you get a “feel” for the elite players in each draft year?
One of the major “goals” we have on The Pipeline Show is to introduce future NHL stars to the masses before they are household names. The most obvious way that we do that is by having these players on the show as guests; one guy who is eligible for the next NHL Entry Draft is booked on almost every episode of TPS.
Both Dean and I are in regular contact with a bunch of scouts, coaches and GMs from a variety of league levels that we know so we’re always picking brains and getting more opinions. Because we focus so much on the CHL, we’re watching a lot of guys in their draft year and by then we know them pretty well. But while we concentrate on the draft eligible guys a lot, there are also a ton of teammates who are 16 or 17 that we see at the same time. That’s where we start getting that “feel”, when we see them break into the junior ranks.
To some degree, the Bantam draft might be considered our starting line, and that’s two years before a player is in his NHL draft year. Plus, unlike the vast majority of sports media that is in a NHL market, we’re at junior hockey events all the time. Speaking strictly for me, 90% of the games I take in live during the season are Major Junior, Jr. A or CIS games. That’s not meant to be a knock on the rest of the media but doing The Pipeline Show means my priorities are outside of the NHL.
Have you ever thought of releasing your own “Pipeline top 100” ala ISS or Redline report?
We have considered it. Dean and I actually discussed it at the beginning of September and we might do it in the future. There are pros and cons to doing it and I’ll admit I’m more leery of it that Dean is. I’m not 100% comfortable making a list where I am ranking players the majority of which I have not viewed live in person.
I would be OK doing a WHL list but that’s different because I follow and report on the league regularly. The players in the OHL, QMJHL, USHL, NCAA and Europe though – that’s obviously a different story.
Do I have opinions on those players? Absolutely but they are formed over the course of the season after talking to a number of different people who are in a position to watch them live. We take advantage of our ability to talk to the players on our show, and sometimes their coaches, but to get to know them as players we speak with people who are paid to watch and evaluate them.
That’s not to say we don’t watch out of market games on TV or online, but I am not one of those people who believes you can get an accurate read on a player’s overall game from that. You can’t see how that player performs away from the puck, how he interacts with his teammates, the officials, how he warms up during the pre-game skate, what he does as preparation before the games or any of the other intangibles you discover when you are there in person.
What makes your show unique?
The Pipeline Show is unique in a few ways but the biggest is because of our focus on the future of the NHL as opposed to the present. Our basic guideline for players we discuss is “NHL rookies and everyone down”. NHL sophomores are pretty much the limit for us.
That’s not to say that we won’t have someone like Shawn Horcoff on the show but when we did it wasn’t to talk about why the Oiler’s power play was sputtering or if there was a rift in the dressing room. With Horcoff we talked about growing up in BC and deciding that the NCAA route was the right path to the NHL for him and what it was like to play 4 years at Michigan State.
We’ve had Hall of Famers like Ron Francis and Luc Robitaille on the show and they loved looking back on their CHL days with the Soo Greyhounds and Hull Olympiques respectively. Patrick Roy reflecting on never winning a Memorial Cup with Granby because they got stomped by Laval and some kid named Mario Lemieux – those types of stories are what I feel make The Pipeline Show unique.
Then there is the fact that, as far as we know, we’re the only program in Canada that dedicates a segment of every show to NCAA hockey. I see you’ve asked me about that later on so I’ll explain that decision in a bit.
Your outstanding work on The Pipeline Show has given us a glimpse into scouting and the people associated with that part of the hockey world. How is Chris McCarthy (former Oilers scout) and what is he up to?
The last time I talked to Chris was in August and he told me he was headed back to University (not sure which one) to get his law degree. I think his plan is to eventually return to hockey in a management capacity at some level. I applaud him.
We’re about the same age (I’m closing in on 40 which feels old unless I’m around you, Al) and I can’t imagine going back to school to become a lawyer at this point in my life. His son Cameron is still a young guy and I’m sure Chris will enjoy being closer to home in January instead of driving down a snowy road to Moose Jaw or Rimouski.
I know you don’t follow the Oilers prospects as closely as you used to, but have you seen a change in the way the scouting department does business since Stu MacGregor was elevated to the top job?
First, I should clarify what I told you on the phone when you called about doing this Q&A. I told you that I’m not really the Oiler prospect guy anymore but that doesn’t mean I don’t follow them. What I should have said was that since I left Hockey’s Future a couple of years ago, I’m not concentrating on just the Oilers like I once did.
I still follow them but not much more than I do for the other 29 NHL teams.That said, YES I have noticed some changes in the Oilers over the last couple of years. I don’t know that it is so much a Stu MacGregor thing though. I’ve had a strong relationship with the scouting staff and in years past I’ve been fortunate enough to have met up with a few guys on the road and taken in games here and there.
You have off the record conversations and discuss things that never see print and that’s how a level of trust and rapport is established. In past years I have been able to get a pretty good feel for who was or wasn’t on the radar when it came to the NHL Draft.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised in 2007 about Alex Plante, he was my prediction for them in my HF preview that year and was soundly roasted for it by many readers. It’s also why I was convinced (wrongly) that the player they were trading up to get that same year was Mikael Backlund instead of Riley Nash so “inside knowledge” isn’t infallible.
What’s changed is that last year no one was saying anything when it came to Hall/Seguin, at least not to me. With the other picks it was far less cloak and dagger (Pitlick, Hamilton) but in regards to that #1 pick it was “I’m sorry Guy but I’m not talking about the 1st overall” and that was new.
Since then I’ve learned, and I think that it’s public knowledge, that the scouting staff didn’t know with 100% certainty which name Steve Tambellini was going to announce at the podium until the morning of the draft. It was a very closely guarded secret that the team was not going to risk leaking and I can respect that and they did a great job of it. In terms of the day-to-day operations and protocols of the scouting staff and if that’s changed over the last few years, I think the biggest thing I can glean is that the chain of command is absolute.
Lots of guys last year told me that they rarely had any contact with Steve Tambellini during the season; everything came to them from MacGregor. That is a stark difference from the days when Kevin Lowe and Kevin Prendergast headed things up and the GM would frequently contact the scouts or attend games of the AHL affiliate. I’m told Tambellini rarely spoke with the scouts until the Oilers season was over and only made a single appearance in Springfield and barely spoke with anyone while he was there.
So, I know there have been changes but I get the feeling that they are more a product of the way the new GM does things as opposed to decisions from MacGregor.
More to come in part 2