New Ideas on Scouting

This is Frank Musil: always a favorite of mine, since I saw him block a shot with his testicles.  His reply was something like: "I already have kids".  Gold, pure oilers' black gold.  Now if every Oiler had the heart and character this man had we would have a lot less problems this year.  But I am not going to talk about heart and the lack of it in our Captain (I'll save that for Shepso, cause his will be funnier).

Why I am bring up Musil is that he is the Oilers' professional scout in Europe, and Kent Nilsson (yes the great Flames' player and Robert's dad) is the amateur scout in Europe.  I was reading Lowetide before the Garon trade, he has an insightful post about drafting and scouting Russians.  Unfortunately no-one read this with all the excitement about a trade (I mean a real trading involving NHL players, well I mean one NHL player).  

But the Oilers till have trouble drafting from Europe, why?  The current Oilers have two Czech player (Smid and Hemsky), one Swede (Nilsson), one Slovak (Visnovasky), and one Russian (Grebeshkov).  That is five out of twenty five players (including all the ones on IR).  According to Mirtle, the NHL has 52% Canadian, 19.9% Americans, and 28.1% Europeans.  Again for the record NHL has 28.1% Europeans, and the Oilers 20% Europeans.  This might just be luck or the style of the team, but I think it demonstrates the Oilers' unwillingness to draft Europeans.

The Oilers have 8 amateur scouts, and 4 professional scouts: only one of each is a European scout scouting European leagues.  That is 12.5% amateur scouts being European and 25% professional scouts being European.  

I think we have discovered an untapped resource the Oilers are not fully exploring.  Katz and his bags of money could be doing more, since in the post-lockout you are limit on what you can spend on players but not limited to what you can spend on procurement.  I have four suggestions on novel ideas to increase our European procurement:

1) Buy a KHL team: Capitalize on the KHL losing money, buy a team, and funnel all the players of interest into and play them well untill their rights have no meaning and bring them over.  It is like a European farm team, but you might be able to make money of it to.  I doubt this would work 'cause the KHL or the NHL wouldn't be happy about a investment in a rival league.

2)  Positional Scouting:  Set up a system where each employee scouts by position rather then area: goalie scouts look at goalies, defensive forward specialist look at two way forwards, old super stars scout offensive players, etc . . . .  This means more travel costs but might be more effective and is worth a try (maybe).

3)  Shrink the Areas:  Divide up Europe like they do in North America.  Hire more scouts (n a full or part time basis) and give them a specific area to scout.  You can divide this on nationality and languages spoken.  For example, you hire a Fin to scout in the Finnish leagues (amateur and professional) because they have the contacts in their old stopping grounds, and have the language skills to talk to more people about each player: same goes with Russia, Sweden, and the Czech/Slovak republics.

4) Hire This man.  His name is Hakan Andersson:  he is the head of European scouting for the Detroit Red Wings.  His record speaks for it self (including that bobble he is holding, Datsyuk in the 6th round at 171st overall, Zetterberg at 210th overall, and Holmstom at 257th overall).  Laugh all you want, but Katz could simply wait till his contact is near expiring and send him a discreet message that the Oilers would like to give him a large pay raise. What is an extra $250,000 dollars a year to Katz  (just less then 1/8 of Moreau's salary, peanuts in the world of professional sports)?  Any smart individual, in a capitalist world, would at least listen, at worst it gives him leverage in his contract negotiations.  

Now these ideas separate seem either illogical (such as buying a KHL team), a long shot (hiring Andersson), or not cost effective (such as positional scouting).  But as always I have a better plan which is a combination of the middle two options:

1) If hiring Andersson can't be done, promote Musil to top European scout.  He is in charge of the rest of the European scouts, and reports directly to Prendergast.  He would remain the point man on all professional scouting, traveling across Europe focusing on men, not boys. 

2) Make Nilsson the point guy on amateur scouting: this means he would travel across Europe watching players that he has reports on and as the final evaluator on the kids.

3)  Get Help.   Hire more European scouts and divide them by area rather then by amateur/professional scouting.  Each scout would be a fluent speaker of the national language, and have worked in the country for a minimum of five years.  Each of these scouts gives a report to Nilsson (on all amateur players saw) and a report to Musil (on all professional players): actually they give it to number 4 and he gives it to them, but more on that later.
- Russia: one full-time scout and one part-time scout.  Each is in charge of a certain geographical area in Russia, but they work as a tandem with one of the scouts having an expertise on defensemen and the other on forwards.  The full-timer being the one in charge of reporting.  A special eye on the KHL.
- Sweden:  Hire a full-time scout.  He is in charge of evaluating all players in Sweden: I am assuming that Nilsson/Andersson can also do work in Sweden since he is based here and there are a lot of excellent players in the Swedish Elite League.  These scouts would also look at Norway (but not necessary speak Norwegian)
- Finland:  Hire one scout in this region.  He should be an individual with special expertise in goalies: I know this boarders on racism, but man the Finns are good at producing 'tenders.  This individual would be responsible on scouting professional and amateur player in Finland, as well as taking trips to see goaltenders high-lighted by other scouts.
- Czech/Slovak Republics and Germany:  Hire one scout to roam around central Europe.  The Czech league is pretty good, the Slovakian development program is improving, and there are some good players in the Professional German League.  Again, I am assuming Musil would be helping out in this region since he is based here.  The language requirement is complex here: German coaches and informants would likely speak English, so we would focus on getting Slovak or Czech speakers; either a bilingual speaker or a Slovakian speak since Musil is Czech. 

4) Hire a office guy.  His job would be to help Musil with the paper work, figure out budgets, and other odd jobs.  Most importantly run statistical analysis on European players, using any stats the individuals leagues collected.  This should provide another perspective on the players that the individual scouts could used to keep track of players between games they watch, and for Musil to use when giving his suggestions to the 'Brass' back home.

This would increase the Oilers European budget, and their staff, but the Red Wings have four European scouts (including Andersson) and we have two.  I see this as a problem.  The cost is partially prohibited, but really it is not that much: I am sure that the salaries of Russian scouts would not be excessive, while the Scandinavians most likely more (based on costs of living).  It is a change from having 2 full-time scouts to 7.5 full-time staff: if each staff is getting $80,00 a year it is only $600,000 a year (or 1/3 Moreau's salary).  With this increase in scouts, Andersson's crazy new salary, and their costs (flights, hotels etc . . . ) my rough guess is that it would cost just over a million dollars a year: or a Glenncross or Wanye Primeau (the only Oiler that has about the same salary, $1.3 million, is Cogs and I didn't want to make that comparison)

Some of these ideas might be considered crazy, but it is time to start thinking out side the box to improve the Oilers, even if it means spending a little more money on non-traditional ideas and process (I mean not throwing it at aging veterans, but using it to find the cream of the over-looked crop).


shepso said...

Agreed, mine will be funnier. As I have often stated, you are the brains of this operation, I am the comic relief. It's a part of being Jewish, natural comic timing...(I stole that from Seinfeld, in case anyone gets mad at me again...)

Now, on to the business of the hockey business. I completely agree that improving our Euro-scouts would be a fantastic idea, and since we have two former Oilers (remember, the Magic man, Bobby's dad did play here for a season) and Frankie run the show. Why not hire the greatest European player in the history of time to be our Scandinavian point man? Who better to test Finnish goalies then #17? And while we're at it, lets see if my favorite hard-ass Russian d-man is willing to check out the KHL for talent poaching as well as the Russian junior leagues. Ulanov could probably use the work. There we go, instantly we have improved our scouting staff, added numbers to put us on par with the Wings for eyes and ears across the pond, but using people that know Oiler hockey better than most.

Sidebar, technically Nilsson is Canadian. He was born in Calgary when Kent was playing there, but that really only emphasizes the lack of Euro talent on our team and in our system and how underutilized our scouting system is.

By the way, Brendan, you're totally right about Musil. He was awesome in his day...however, I can tell you've been reading too much Lowetide, starting a post with "This is (insert player name here)..." The only difference is that LT wouldn't have immediately mentioned blocking a shot with his balls. Traktor would've brought it up like 30 comments later. Shows our level of class to use balls as an indicator of balls. We have the best blog ever! I love what we do...

B.C.B. said...

Thanks, Kurri id the GM of the Finnish National team and is not going to lave that wicked job. Nilsson plays for team sweden internationally, so I think he should count as a swede, but I have no idea what Ulanov is doing, but I'd hire him.

but this brings me to something I should have address in the article: we need to hire local talent finders, not the old boys' club. I want ex-coaches or ex-GMs of these leagues. Some familiarity with the NHL is helpful, but not necessary (see Andersson's success rate). I thought I address it when I said they need to have five years of experience in working in the region they will be in charge of scouting: so they will have the contacts, and experience in these leagues to really get the Oilers' money worth. Ulanov is a beauty, but I don't think he fits my conditions. . .

shepso said...

Ulanov is a beauty, which is why I want him. As far as Kurri goes, if he leaves that sweet job, he's ideal, matching all of your conditions aside from the old boys issue. In Kurri's case I don't see it as a big deal given, well, GM of Finnish Nat'l team, giving him advanced scouting reports and a shitload of inside information. Give it a few years. Besides, what's a few unethical scouting reports between friends, right?

Picture this scenario in like 18 months, training camp around the corner and all that...

"Jari, it's Kevin. I'm in deep shit over here right now. Roli blew his hip in an unfortunate quading accident this summer. He's 42. He's not gonna make it into camp this year. I'm desperate ol' buddy."

"Kevin you stupid fucking penis, how many times have I told you, I can't give you any of my players, I can't even be talking to you right now, or the IIHF will exile me to Siberia. And why are you calling me, I thought Tambo was running the Show?!"

"Forget Tambo, Jari. I need a goalie, bad. You people breed goalies even better than the Quebecois... C'mon. Who do you know? Who can I sign that nobody's ever heard of? You OWE ME for that thing back in the fall of '87..."

"That wasn't me, it was Simmer... and Anderson, and Coco...Ok, ok...I know this guy. He was the back-up on Jokeritt last year, but his fundamentals are incredible. He's young, only 24, but I see a lot of Nick Backstrom in him, great lateral movement and he's got Jussi's rebound control... circa playoff run '06, not '04"

"Thanks Jari."

"yeah, yeah. We're even now. Don't call me anymore. How did you even get this number?"

See, think about could work. You just have to believe in the magic of the old guard. They'll never let the team or the fans down, they know what to do...

Any eligible (non-oiler alum, Ulanov excluded) potential scout should be immediately hired and given Moreau's remaining salary in one lump sum.

For the love of god, look at our track record with Euros. Rita, Riesen and Pisa come to mind. That would be fail, fail, epic fail.

Again, I love this blog...


I just went through the hall of horrors that is Edmonton's draft history. What a nightmare from either side of the Atlantic. Horcoff in the 3rd round in 98, Arnott and Hemsky could be considered good picks. After that Boyd Devereaux at 6th overall and Esa Tikannen in 1983. Jesus. The whole system needs an upgrade.

Micheal Henirich?

B.C.B. said...

Chris, I think you have to divide the drafting into 'eras'. Rather then judging what was done under sather and Lowe together (and further subdivisions of Prendergast and MacGregor). Lowetide has some really good stuff on this: for example

B.C.B. said...

I am still worried about the Ol' Boys Club running things, I figure it would go like this:

Tambo :"Hello Esa, Kev gave me your number to talk to you about being my new Finnish scout. What to you think?"

Tikkanen: "Yeabo, I whist 'en da Oiblers g'v' balh job."

Tambo: "I think your cell phone is cutting in and out can you say that again."

Tikkanen: "Bout tyming at uoo g'ver ie job."

Tambo "Sorry, I'll call you back, the line is cutting out."

*the next day*

Tambo: "Hey Esa, so did you think about the job we offered you yesterday?"

Tikkanen: "Ah, eh ake it."

Tambo: "I can't understand you, I'll pass the phone to Kev."

Lowe: "So Tik, do you want the job?"

Tikkanen: "ie 'ream zz uwo ba a Oilber egun."

Lowe: "You're a harder barginer, Say we give you $250 000 a year?"

Tikkanen: "Ya."

Lowe: "Good doing business, we send the check tomorrow, and you can start whenever."

Tikkanen: (click)

Tambo: "I could understand a word, was he speaking Finnish?"

Lowe: "Maybe, but I think it was English."

Tambo: "At least he speaks Finnish, since we want well liked, informed scouts from their home country."

Lowe: "Oh, you wanted someone who can speak Finnish and is well liked . . . I think I should inform you of something . . . on the other hand, Tik is a good guy I've know him for years."

Tambo: "Good to hear boss, I was getting worried."

Sheps, this is why I am afraid of the Oilers hiring ex-players, do you see yet?

shepso said...

If I could understand exactly what Esa was saying, I would have a far easier time understanding your point of view.

To translate this conversation for the finnglishly challenged readers, I would wager to guess the conversation went a little more like this.

Tambo: "Hello Esa? Kev gave me your number to talk to you about being my new Finnish scout. What to you think?"

Esa: "Yeah. I wished the Oilers would give me a job. I mean, my God, everyone else seems to be getting in on the action. Hell, DeBrusk is a color man on TV now and he was awful. I hear you even hired Ulanov to head up Russian scouting."

Tambo: "I think your cell phone is cutting in and out can you say that again."

Esa: "About time you gave me a job, you terrible bastard."

Tambo "Sorry, I'll call you back, the line is cutting out."

*the next day*

Tambo: "Hey Esa, so did you think about the job we offered you yesterday?"

Esa: "Ya, I take it...for no less then 1/3 of Moreau's salary."

Tambo: "I can't understand you, I'll pass the phone to Kev."

Lowe: "So Tik, do you want the job?"

Esa: "It's a dream to be an Oiler again."

Lowe: "You drive a hard bargain; say we give you $250k a year?"

Esa: "Ya...1/3 Moreau's salary + 250k...and I want my number retired. That fraud Horcoff has been dirtying it up for too long."

Lowe: "Ok, its a deal.Good doing business, we send the check tomorrow, and you can start whenever. But please don't tell Jari we gave you this job. He's gonna be pissed."

Tikkanen: (click)

Tambo: "I could understand a word, was he speaking Finnish?"

Lowe: "Maybe, but I think it was English."

Tambo: "At least he speaks Finnish, since we want well liked, informed scouts from their home country."

Lowe: "Oh, you wanted someone who can speak Finnish and is well liked . . . I think I should inform you of something . . . on the other hand, Tik is a good guy I've know him for years."

Tambo: "Good to hear boss, I was getting worried."

Well, I suppose now that I ran the original conversation through Google translator, I think I get the picture. We want to stay away from the old guard because we need a new direction and the hope that the team doesn't have to get into triple digits on the jerseys when we draft new players. The old guard just wants to bring back the glory for themselves. Yeah, that is a problem. That, and it seems that the old guard may not be as well liked as we previously suspected.

Hell, you and I could probably do a better job scouting, and we're far less obnoxious than Esa. You up for learning Finnish? I'll take the Swedes. I like the idea of tall blond women, and I know you like living in perpetual darkness. Lets have my brother draft a business proposal to Tambo and K-Lowe to immediately put us on Salary. I figure us splitting 1/3 of Moreau's wage should do us nicely...what say you?

And readers, what say you? BCB and I as scouts? I say it can't possibly fail!

B.C.B. said...

I think your starting to get my idea. Here is how I would HOPE the conversations goes:

Lowe: " Hi, Jurri, I have great news. I am on a business trip in early summer and I thought bring the family. Do you want to rent a cabin at Pyha for the weekend?"

Kuri: " Yeah that could be cool. But what brings you to Finland?"

Lowe: "Tambo and I are revamping the Oilers' European scouting staff. Hey do you want to go out for lunch and give me your thoughts on our short list?"

Kuri: "I wouldn't mind at all, send me the list before you come. If I don't know them that well, I'll ask around. You should looked in to HC Jokerit, they have a real solid track record."

Lowe: "I think Tambo has that covered: a couple guys from that organization are on the list. He has been working on this for two months, plus him and Kenny have already done one set of interviews. But back to the vacation . . ."

See short and sweet. No nepotism, just a little back scratching. We need to start hiring local scouts with a proven record in the European leagues.

For us to become scouts for the Oilers is a waste of our skills. I mean I like hockey and all, but we are 'idea men' not gofers. We should be given an office to share, report directly to Tambo, and work on out of the fish bowl ideas. Plus I don't really want to live in Scandinavia: the beer is too expensive, we would need way more then 1/3 of Moreau's salary just to keep us in folköl.

See you in a couple days.

sachia said...

good work Brendan. you obviously must have really wanted to procrastinate on some assignment.

and I basically agree with you. let's get some more scouts and have them focus on their specialities within their linguistic capabilities.

and I don't want the old boys scouts either. I think players do have an advantage as far as scouting goes cause they 'know what it takes' to make it but I suspect that this knowledge is almost exclusively from their own experience. In other words, I think they might have a tendency not to understand how different players develop differently cause the player pool from which they get their scouting knowledge is so limited. A seasoned scout like that detroit dude has seen thousands and thousands of players develop or not develop. The old boys club has seen themselves, some friends and others develop but I doubt they've actually looked at players' development as scouts in a scientific sense.

having said that, I would still support hiring Esa based exclusively on your dialogue