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 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’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.
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.
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.
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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