An interesting aspect of the Leaf housecleaning is that they dismissed 15 of their scouts, weeks prior to the draft. Brendan Shanahan was questioned on this during his presser, and explained that the staff they did retain led by Director of Player Personnel Mark Hunter will be able to do the job in June.
In “Future Greats and Heartbreaks”, Gare Joyce describes a similar situation where the Columbus Blue Jackets performed a purge of the Doug MacLean régime near the end of the 2007 season, and the author speaks with the scouts who are now unemployed. This is a strain on them, obviously, but equally disappointing for them is that they miss out on the draft, they don’t get to have their Super Bowl, to play in their big game, after a long year of scouting. We can imagine how frustrating that could be in our own work life, working hard on a project for a long time, but then not being able to do the presentation.
The Blue Jackets went a different direction at the 2012 draft, where they held the draft, and then the next day fired almost their entire scouting staff. A lot of posters on social media thought that was bush league. I guess it’s hard to figure which tack is worse. Certainly, the scouts seem to understand that their ‘free agency’ is immediately following the draft, that’s when guys looking for work and teams needing help match up.
In Vancouver, General Manager Jim Benning has chosen to largely retain his team of scouts rather than ousting them when he took over, despite an abysmal track record by the team at the draft table. Team President Trevor Linden explained that they didn’t think the scouts necessarily did a bad job, but that a different draft philosophy would be held in the future. It was interesting to read that Mike Gillis had some set ideas on how to game the system at the draft, believing in the practice of drafting overagers, players who’d gone through a previous draft year without being selected by anyone. He believed that projecting 18-year-olds is hard enough, you might as well make it easier on yourself and evaluate 19 or 20-year-olds, with prospects who are closer to their full potential as players. He believed in snapping up college free agents for the same reason.
Trevor Linden thought that the same scouts could continue in their roles, but come draft day, the team would be better off picking fruits of the first harvest, the best of the CHL and European leagues, rather than try to look for diamonds in the leavings of previous years. Same staff, different attitude, and hopefully different results for him and his team.