Bob Green talks scouting and the draft

BobGreen

Bob Green was promoted to Director of Player Personnel on January 18th. He was promoted to oversee all levels of scouting, pro and amateur, within the organization. Craig MacTavish promoted him, but now Peter Chiarelli is in charge, so we caught up with Green to get his thoughts on the upcoming draft, the differences in Chiarelli’s approach and more.

Gregor: In some organizations the head scout has final say at the draft, in other organizations the GM does. Are you the guy with
the final say?

Green: Well I think it’s going to be a
little bit by committee with Stu MacGregor, Scott Howson and I, and so far that
hasn’t been a problem. If it comes down to breaking a tie, well we’ll see then
but that’s kind of the way that it’s working now and it’s actually been good.

Brownlee: What has been the focus in conversations Chiarelli has had with you and
the staff?

Green: Well I can’t speak for Peter, but I
think for the most part a lot of it’s going to have to do with him getting to
know the people.

We talked a little bit about areas of
coverage and whether or not we’re doing a good enough job in that regard, and
maybe there are some different areas we need to do more work in or have more
people involved in. The conversations have been, ‘what have we done in the
past,’ ‘who’s covering it,’ and just getting thoughts on people and the areas
that we need to do a better job in.

TalentPool

Gregor:
This year’s draft class is the deepest one in a long time and you have four
picks in the first 57. When you have that many picks high in the draft does it alter
your approach?

Green: We’ve tried to do more work on
covering more information on each player. We’ve changed up a little bit how
we’re doing things since Christmas and we’ve tried to do a better job. We know
we have to do a better job of finding players later in the draft and we feel [that]one
way is we’ve regionalized our scouts more. So now they know probably the last
guy on our list as well as they know the first guy. And we’re hoping that
that’s going to help us uncover some guys in the later rounds. For Scott, and
Stu, and I we’ve really concentrated on the top forty to fifty players and
we’ve basically watched them extensively in the last four months. I think it’s
really helped us in knowing these kids.

The thing about having extra picks is that
maybe it gives you an opportunity to look at some holes that we need to fill
and maybe look at needs at some point in the draft and then make decisions
based on that but those are conversations that we’re going to have as we get
closer to the draft.

Gregor:
Does Chiarelli have a different focus or approach on the types of players he
wants compared to MacTavish?

Green: No, I don’t think so. I think that
everybody puts a premium on size and you want to find big guys who can play.
Unfortunately, they go fast in the draft but we know that as a team we have to
get bigger and stronger to compete in this conference and it’s kind of the way
that the game is being played right now. But as everybody knows the guys still
have to be able to make plays with the puck. And a lot of it comes down to the
competitiveness of the players and their ability to make plays with the puck
and their ability to play in tough situations.

There’s big guys at camp that don’t play
well in all situations and sometimes there are smaller guys that do but it’s
just something that we’ve got to deal with, sort through all of that stuff and
make sure that ultimately we have guys that are going to be able to compete.

Brownlee:
When we talk about depth, is this a deep draft in terms of elite talent or is
it deeper in the sense that there is a lot of guys who one way or another will
play in the NHL?

Green: Probably both. I think that there is
a lot of elite players in this draft and there is a lot of guys that are going
to be great players and play significant roles for teams. Even on third and
fourth lines, there are some who are going to be tremendous players in that
regard. When you look at players in the first round there is a lot of scoring,
there are good puck moving defencemen, there’s some defencemen that have an
edge.

When you’re looking at filling certain
roles on your teams there are a lot of different guys. There are power
forwards, there are a lot of good centremen, there’s a little bit of
everything. I think that’s what makes it so special.

SquarePeg

Gregor:
Right now this organization has many needs to fill. Do you always go with best
player available or do you look at needing to add specific types or styles of
players?

Green: Well, a little bit is on what you
take prior to that pick. I think that has a lot to do with it. Goalies are a
little bit different to me. I like to have a separate list of goaltenders. I like
to try to figure out where I would like to take each one of those players. You know
where our picks are and you’ve got to figure out where they fit; are there guys
that fit with the thirty-third pick, for instance?

It could be and which guys fit with the
second pick we have in the second round, and which guys fit with what we have
in the third. You go about it in that regard, but you can’t go solely on your
needs, but it’s always in the back of your mind when you’re looking at these
things and the draft is a great place to fill those spots. It’s just something
you have to look at and whether or not we pick solely based on need, I would
probably say it doesn’t happen, but it’s always in the back of your mind.

Gregor: It seems successful teams find a few gems later in the draft. How
has your approached changed to try and uncover quality later in the draft?

Green: Good question. I touched on it
earlier with the way we changed up our system, we’re really looking to our
regional guys. They each submit their list from their area and we take the best
players off of that list and the form, what we are calling our top fifty, and
then with the players that are left over (not in top-50) we grade them and those
players are ones we are aware of later in the draft.

So you’re always aware of guys you can take
late and every scout has a guy they think they can get later and that they
think has flown under the radar. We’re expecting that our scouts are looking
after their regions and they will have those types of players on a list and
we’ll look to those guys as we try to fill in the later rounds.

Gregor:
Are you looking for your scouts in those meetings right before the draft to
really stand up and defend their pick and if that leads to some healthy
disagreements that’s a good thing? Do you want scouts to argue strongly for a
player, and is that something that you think you’ve had before?

Green: Yeah, that’s always been a part of
it and I’ve been through this before, even at the junior level. If guys fight
over a player, you’ve got to fight hard and if he backs down in the end I
always looked at that as a situation where he probably didn’t like him enough.
We’re going to expect those guys to fight hard for the guys that they want and
that’s going to go a long ways in determining which player we’re going to pick.

Math

Brownlee:
How much are you incorporating analytics?

Green: Analytics is a tool and it’s becoming
a bigger and bigger tool all of the time. Everybody has an idea of what a
player is through watching him or information that you’re getting on him or
whatever and analytics becomes another tool that you can get and you try to put
all of the information that you are gathering on these players, which is a lot,
and it comes from everybody.

Everybody has different opinions so you
have different information for everybody but as you go through it and you talk
about a player, you’ll find consistencies in what everybody is saying. It gives
you a picture of the player and then analytics becomes a part of that. So you
have this picture of a player and then you get into the numbers and do the
numbers match what everyone is saying about him, or what everyone is seeing
about him and it’s a great tool in that regard. And the other thing that it
does too is that it will probably bring players forward that maybe you hadn’t
thought about or maybe you didn’t consider for something and it opens your eyes
up and then you start to dig into the player because the analytics have brought
the name forward. It’s a very helpful tool and something that is a big part of
it now and it’s probably only going to get bigger.

Gregor:
When you break down the analytics have you found one where the numbers contrast
with what you see while scouting?

Green: Ah yeah, there’s always guys like
that for sure [laughs]. A lot of it comes down to scoring and it works both
ways sometimes. They’ll alert you to a guy that they think has got a chance to
score more and the history of his numbers don’t back it up and vice versa. It’s
a good tool, it gets you thinking about guys, it gets you to look deeper into
guys and sometimes it can give you more knowledge about players. I believe the
analytics can add to it, but I’ve yet to see one that accurately calculates
desire and competitiveness. You need to watch a player numerous times to gauge
those attributes and even then it isn’t perfect.

WRAP UP

I’m curious to see what happens to the scouting department after the draft. I expect Chiarelli will bring in some of “his guys”, but I wonder if he will simply change the regional scouts or if he will want someone higher up in one of Howson, Green or MacGregor’s roles. 

Two weeks ago Chiarelli said he values size and grit, and when he was hired he stated the Oilers need to work harder, and that’s why I believe the Oilers will draft a few players who are skilled, but play with an edge. 

The other interesting point that wasn’t in this interview is that Green, MacGregor and Howson have scouted the top-50 players exclusively. They have all seen those players multiple times and have spent all their time scouting the top players. That is another major change in philosophy and it puts the onus on those three to ensure their first four picks, #1, #16, #33 and #57 become solid NHL players. The first pick is easy, but the Oilers need two of those next three picks to become regular NHLers by 2020. 


Recently by Jason Gregor:  
  

  • Quicksilver ballet

    There should be accountability for the scouts and for everyone else in management. Just look at their past scouting reports and they will tell you what kind of job they are doing.

  • Joy S. Lee

    To quote:
    “The other interesting point that wasn’t in this interview is that Green, MacGregor and Howson have scouted the top-50 players exclusively. They have all seen those players multiple times and have spent all their time scouting the top players.”

    With that kind of organizational commitment to this particular draft, it sounds to me like MacTavish’s intentions were to use those picks, because he clearly wanted to get it right.

    Question is, is Chiarelli going to throw some of that investment out with the bath water, as everyone seems to figure he will? He said he’s aware of the value of those picks, so I’m assuming he’ll be determined to get full value in order to give one or more up. This really is so interesting to watch unfold. I don’t think we can lose, and ain’t that a twist??!!?

  • Joy S. Lee

    Hey Gregor

    With respect to Chiarelli wanting to increase the Oilers size it is worth noting that the Chicago ranks 29th in average weight (Tampa 21st) and has been a consistent challenger for the past five years.

    It would appear that the old axiom is still true, “It is not the size of the dog in the fight that is important…it is the size of the fight in the dog that counts”

    Forget getting bigger, just find players that have skill and are willing to consistently compete hard.

    • Joy S. Lee

      I wholeheartedly agree, and always have.

      I’ve seen nothing – not even the recent rash in success relative to size – that has changed my mind, because even in amongst all of that size competing late in the playoffs the past few years, were key diminutive players who were vital to their teams’ success. Furthermore, the LA Kings aren’t only big; they’re highly skilled; as are the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, etc. But that also hasn’t deterred guys like Tyler Johnson and Andrew Shaw from being vital cogs to their teams this year, either, in which the pendulum has swung back towards speed and skill.

      There’s never one way to build a winner. In fact, for as many ways as have been used to build a winner, there are smart people searching for – and finding – new ways to do so. If you want to know the truth of it, it’s this: the winners of the future are those teams who find brilliant new ways to innovate their processes and development and execution to the point of perfection. And that’s why I am in complete agreement that you are absolutely correct: it’s the size of the fight in the dog that matters… in every aspect of a winning organization, including it’s players. Size is usually an advantage, and sometimes a disadvantage; and that’s all it is.