Monday, May 31, 2010

You're Fired!

Well, if they've got nothing else to distinguish them this year, the Canadiens are certainly outstanding for their weird sense of timing. First, Bob Gainey quit in the middle of the season, right before the trade deadline. Now his successor, Pierre Gauthier, has decided to kick half the scouting department to the curb with less than a month to go before the draft.

Yesterday, word began to leak out that Gauthier had fired amateur scouts Denis Morel, Dave Mayville, Pelle Eklund, Nikolai Vakourov, Antonin Routa, and pro scout Gordie Roberts. There are a lot of questions about why, and why now, that we need to have Gauthier address as soon as possible.

Speculation about the "why" part is rife right now, splitting between a couple theories. The more encouraging of the two is that the team's brass has realized their first-round picks are nowhere near the quality of those made by the top-flight clubs against which the Habs are competing. In that case, one would assume Gauthier is attempting to fix the problem by dumping some scouts in preparation for bringing in people he believes are better at the job.

More worrisome is the other theory about why those guys got the axe. There's a worm of doubt among fans about Gauthier's interest in the bottom line and the Molsons' desire to save money by cutting costs like scouts salaries and travel expenses. I really hope this isn't the case. The last time the Molsons owned the team, they scrimped and saved and the result was the trading of high-priced players in favour of less-talented, cheaper ones, and bad drafting by a skeleton crew. I certainly hope owners who just made two rounds of playoff bonus money they weren't expecting, and already announced higher ticket prices for next year, aren't trying to go cheap on the scouting department. Success in today's NHL is built on the draft and it's the place where a team serious about winning should be spending the most money.

I hope there's an announcement shortly that the team has hired a good bunch of people to replace them. There's certainly room for improvement. Morel, the former NHL ref, was responsible for scouting Quebec and, although there haven't been a great number of Quebecers taken in recent drafts overall, the Habs have missed most of them. Vakourov was the Russian scout, and although he spotted the talent, few of the players came over to North America, while those that have made the leap have struggled. His sacking might be an indication of the Habs general frustration with Russian players and intention to stay away from them, regardless of talent. Whatever the reasons behind the choices of guys who won't get their contracts renewed, however, the Habs need more scouts, not less.

It's the "why now" part that has me really worried. The team isn't renewing the scouts' contracts which run out at the end of June. So, we have to assume that Gauthier is going to continue to use their advice for this year's draft, even though they're getting cut loose. It doesn't give me great hope for this draft, if the guys responsible for the Habs' picks are leaving right afterwards because the they're not very good at their jobs. If, on the other hand, they are good at their jobs and they're getting turfed because the owners want to cut costs, well, that's bad too. How dedicated are those guys going to be in the weeks leading up to the draft when they know their jobs are gone, regardless? Either way, there's reason to be concerned about the Habs' chances of uncovering a gem in this draft, and, if money's at the root of this decision, in the coming years as well.

I know there are other scouts in the organization, but I don't want this to be the herald of the kind of penny-pinching we saw from the owners in the pre-Gillett years. Smaller scouting staffs in today's NHL aren't a good thing, no matter what the reason for them. So, while the timing of this announcement is odd, I hope there's at least an explanation...and preferably some new hires in the scouting department...coming before the clock strikes twelve on the Habs development system.

18 comments:

kyleroussel said...

In past years, this would have been a story I met with a shrug. Not today though. With the cap in place, scouting is where the butter meets the bread for any team.

I'm inclined to think the organization just doesn't approve of the job done by these turfed scouts. With guys like Pierre McGuire close to Geoff Molson, I doubt very much that such a purge would have happened just to save money. McGuire is all about scouting, and continually insists that the Habs need to hire the very best scouts available.

Let's just hope we get news of replacements before long.

Anonymous said...

Well when you're right you're right. But isn't it sad that there is doubt about the motivation of moves?

Still I don't think the Molson family bought the Montreal Canadiens to lose money. I know Uncle George was a likeable cuss but let's face facts. He flipped the team for a profit when he could get the best ROI.

DKerr said...

Maybe someone realized we were not getting bang for the buck from certain areas. Maybe the Russian scout didn't communicate with the prospects well enough to determine if they would come over - or maybe he got played. Quebec? There was that second and third round that netted us Lapierre, but missesd with Urguhart and Lambert. Or maybe too many 5-10 centers with some skill and defensive responsiblity. When most of the league was gobbling up Swedish prospects last year, did we?

With that in mind, I'm opting for the cleaning out the baggage theory vice the penny-pinching. Another blogger was mentioning how Geoff Molson was really into it, so maybe he did an assessment and told management to make changes. As you mentioned before, we should have the largest scouting staff, the club certainly generates enough revenue to support extra R&D expenses.

Look at our competition in the division. The Bruins under Chiarelli seem to have improved their scouting. The Sabres are the model of reaching from within to replace a cog that opts for more money. The Sens seem to be living off an era when their scouts didn't work for us and the Leafs will hit gold when they stop shipping out top picks for players - drafting in the top 10 will get you players despite your shortcomings. That places us at about 3rd in our own division - plenty of room for improvement.

Anonymous said...

You're right about team saving money and probably going to video for scouting. A bunch of dough wasted with the picks the Habs have made over the years. Maybe it'll work out.

Anonymous said...

They're cleaning up house. It's that simple.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Pierre Gauthier the Boss of that area of expertise when he was Gainey right hand man ?

Isn't he cleaning his own mess ?

V said...

I think Gauthier has been overseeing scouting for awhile. This might have been something he has wanted to do for awhile and took the opportunity of their contracts expiring to pull the trigger.

Someone mentioned somewhere that the Leafs have 24 scouts to our 9. Proof that 'less is more' me thinks.

DB said...

I find nothing weird about the timing. The scouts should have completed their evaluations of the draft eligible players and the team should have completed at least a preliminary ranking of the players. Furthermore, the end of May is likely when the renewal of the scouts' contracts is done so the team either renews or tells the scouts their time is up.


I don't expect any of these scouts to be in LA for the draft. It's likely they've been told to stay home, polish up their resumes and wait for their last paycheques.

The number of scouts they let go is what I find interesting. Is it based on performance, cost-cutting, a re-organization of the scouting department (Buffalo uses a lot of video now), making room for new scouts, or some combination of these factors. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

pfhabs said...

JT:

-until PG proclaims why, and will he be truthful?, it's all speculation as to why he let go 5 amateur scouts and 1 pro scout

-Gauthier btw was head of Pro scouting not the amateur side...now it all reports to him

-as for scouting from video for me it's the same as watching a game on TV or being at the rink---HUGE difference

-no cap on spending on scouts and other managers, coaches etc...the draft is the life blood of a team under a cap system. let's hope it's not reuction of expenses because less is not more but until the GM says why we really do not know

Andy Froncioni said...

All things point to Habs upper-management being downright incompetent. From not setting up a mentoring program for its young talent, to poor scout management, this organisation is just plain dumb.

Imagine this: Denis Morel says he never travelled to Ontario to see if his benchmarks matched those of his colleagues. How frickin' stupid!

Anyone can see that for a true scouting program to work, your scouting network needs to constantly re-balance its benchmarks.

This team deserves far better upper management than it's had...

Melly said...

According to MA Godin (via Twitter), the Habs' scouting department was one of the biggest in the league. This might be cutting dead wood, instead of penny-pinching. As these scouts have aptly demonstrated, more isn't always better.

Patrick said...

Mathias Brunet's text on that question is very insightful (in French) :

http://www.cyberpresse.ca/sports/hockey/201006/02/01-4286036-canadien-une-restructuration-plutot-quune-purge.php?utm_categorieinterne=trafficdrivers&utm_contenuinterne=cyberpresse_B13b_canadien_427188_section_POS1

pfhabs said...

@Andy:

-careful Andy words like that get you labelled as negative by certain polyanna posters. everyone knows that Boivin, Gauthier, Gainey, Martin & Pearn are pure geniuses who never make mistakes and every move made by them has made the team better and a Cup contender. :)

-hell they were in the top 4 this year weren't they ? that's proof positive that up and down the line the CH are run by the best people available ! remember Boivin turned over every 'rock' to find Gauthier...no better GM out there than the guy that brought you Niniimma, Laraque and MAB just to 3 stalwarts of the club

-more fun to come in the next 5 weeks as the mensa group running the CH get through the draft, July 1st, signing their own UFAs and RFAs

-that they got beat by the 15th seed using a 4th string goalie that cost Philly $11,000 USD off waivers and that he got 3 shutouts out of 4 wins...that's just serendipidity or was it ?

V said...

Yeah Andy, anyone who does not agree with you is a polyanna poster.

Too bad those that don't agree with you were so right this year. We said this team was better than it's season record, stated why that was the case and we were right. And if feels great.

Anonymous said...

Guys,
We just got beaten by a team full of French Canadians. Why aren't they on our team? Why couldn't we draft them? If they were drafted high, why wasn't GMs notified to trade up in the draft for them?
Briere, Gagne, GIROULX!! etc...etc..etc. Not to speak about other F-C on other teams. They ALL beat out Lapierre and Bergeron. C'mon!

We need NEW SCOUTS.

Patrick said...

@Anonymous:

How about the Pens? Lots of Québécois there... And Crosby played his junior in Rimouski.

How about Chris Pronger? Not so fluent in la langue de Molière.

I want good players, not French Speakers. I really find it easier to relate to a Mike Cammellri or to a Brian Gionta than to any of the Claude Giroux of the world. I'm tired of this old-school lame argument of the presumed advantage of having French players playing for the Habs.

How many guys from Carolina played for the Hurricanes when they won the cup? How many Californian on the Ducks in 2006? How may guys from Michigan, when Detroit won? (Rafalski is from Michigan.) How many Pensylvanians with the Pens? What a BS argument.

As long as the same language is spoken in the dressing room -- and that is English everywhere.

Update: we're in 2010, not in 1960. Elvis is dead, people have been sent to the moon, and there's no more Berlin wall.

Patrick Poulin, ex-Nordiques fan

V said...

Apparently Columbus wants Boucher and Tampa Bay wants Muller. More solid proof of the good job Gainey did of rebuilding this team.

Anonymous said...

Habs should make an offer for Coburn and force cap strapped Flyers to match or lose him.