It is easy to identify baseball scouts in spring training. Look for the old guys with the sun dried grille and (sometimes) a Juggs gun. Hockey scouts are less obvious, certainly not readily available to the public and most certainly difficult to grade. How does a pro scout build a resume?
The Oilers pro scout Morey Gare (Danny’s brother) has been in that position since fall 2001. In that time, the Oilers pro scouts would have viewed future acquisitions from Mike York through Corey Potter and miles and miles of players in between. As I understand it–and I have no inside knowledge–the role of a pro scout is to have a strong opinion on a specific player should the need arise.
NEXT STOP, HERSHEY!
The AHL is a strong training ground for NHL defensemen. It serves as the place NHL teams send struggling players, youngsters who show they are not quite ready for prime time and where "minor league veterans" dream of becoming the next Corey Potter.
I believe this is the place where very good value is available for less than 100 cents on the dollar. The NHL team willing to give a shot to the long buried AHL defender is going to get max effort and complete attention from the new hire.
I believe there are men playing defense in the AHL today who are as qualified or more qualified than some multi-millionaires in the big leagues. Of the 11 men who have been employed on defense by the Oilers this season, 11 of them played defense in the AHL at one time or another.
TRADE TARGET NUMBER TWO: IAN COLE
The St. Louis Blues have a strong, sturdy defender in Ian Cole. He is the kind of player NHL teams hold on to, but there may be an opportunity for a team like Edmonton to pry him loose at the deadline over the summer. Cole’s scouting report (6.01, 225 defender who can play a shutdown role but is limited offensively) addresses the club’s need for a more consistent defensive defender who can also play a very physical game. A left side of Whitney, Smid and Cole gives Edmonton less chaos and more stability.
A few reasons Cole might be available:
- A new coach in Ken Hitchcock may see things a little differently the previous admin. One of the first moves St. Louis made when Hitch joined them was trading for Kris Russell. Although not similar in style to Cole, Russell is LH and does take up a slot on the left side of the blueline in St. Louis.
- Some of the other kids are beginning to emerge. This is highly speculative on my part but Cade Fairchild looks like he might be a player. If the Blues add him to the already impressive group of youngsters that includes Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Russell there should be more than enough depth to offload Ian Cole.
- In December, when the Blues were on a big time roll, Cole was scratched 7 games in a row.
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE?
I know this: the cost would be painful. However, as I see it the Oilers don’t have a lot of choice. Edmonton’s forwards are lapping the defenders and even a lottery blue is going to take some time to be a real help. A player like Ian Cole:
- is a plug and play
- might be available
- St. Louis may be in the mood to add at the deadline
- Edmonton could trade a "replacement" for Cole as well as the heart of the deal since they are clearly not heading to the post-season.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
There are young defensemen out there who are not yet playing vital roles on NHL teams. The Oilers might be wise to make a list of all of the "Ian Cole’s" working in the AHL and start knocking on doors.
Someone valuable might shake loose.