Procurement and Development

This is Tom Poti. He was drafted out of Cushing Academy (U. S. High School) and played two years at Boston University before turning pro and coming straight to the NHL with the Oilers at age 21 in the fall of 1998. Poti never played a game in the AHL.

Recent Oiler draftees who have skipped the minor leagues include Ales Hemsky, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner. NHL teams usually elevate players as soon as they are ready and in some cases (you could certainly argue Poti, Hemsky and Gagner from the list above) bring the kids to the show early in order to oversee their development firsthand.

In the Flaming Hot 20 thread below, Bill Needle brought up an interesting point. The Oilers scouting and minor-league coaches are two separate departments. When they pick Gagner and watch him immediately pay off, the scouts should get the credit.

I completely disagree. Although the amateur scouting department should get plenty of credit for Gagner, Hemsky and the other home runs hit recently, the team (and coaches) are also responsible at some level for monitoring development and picking the right time for these young men to turn pro. Recent examples of unusual calls in this area would certainly be Hemsky (the organization decided he was better off playing a limited role on the big club) and Gagner (the bet to keep him up may well make him a better player when he’s 22 than another season shooting lights out in junior). If you agree Gagner is a better player now than he would have been in junior, then some credit must be given to Oilers management for handling the talent as they have in this case. Also, the coaches had to have spent time with Gagner in training camp and during the season building on a solid foundation. Fair? So the statement by Bill Needle above that “the scouts should get the credit” I agree completely, with additional credit going to the coaches and management group who kept him in the NHL. Again, that’s if you agree it was the right call. As for splitting hairs between major and minor league coaching, I guess that’s a point but a minor one. Kelly Buchberger’s presence not having much to do with Sam Gagner’s development would seem to be an obvious point, and I don’t think that is what Mr. Needle is arguing in the post.

Bill Needle also states that “While the scouts have been picking seemingly good offensive players with high picks — like Pouliot and Schremp were initially described — the minor-league coaching and the players have let the scouts and the Oilers organization down. The fact that Pouliot’s latest final chance with the Oilers is as a possible poor man’s replacement for the replaceable Marty Reasoner shows how far he’s regressed under Oiler tutelage.”

Again, I disagree. There are plenty of reasons Pouliot hasn’t turned out and among them are injuries, ability and action. Pouliot’s injury history has been well documented and I think we can agree valuable post-draft development time was lost due to these injuries. The Oilers found him a place to get minor league at-bats and he’s performed well in the AHL. He has been unable so far to deliver at a passing level in the major leagues and time is running out on him. How much of that is the fault of the minor league coaching is open to question, but the success of others during that same period of time would suggest (as in all walks of life) some pupils are better listeners than others. We Oiler fans have had an excellent lesson in this regard from one Bobby Nilsson this winter. How can we honestly make a case the coaching is bad when Kyle Brodziak emerged from the same system as Marc Pouliot?

Finally Bill Needle states “When they pick a lesser player and he battles his way up the chain, like Brodziak has, it’s a success for the minor-league coaching. They turned a shot in the dark into a tangible return.”

I would prefer to share the credit. The player is certainly most responsible, combining hard work, coaching and luck to reach the goal. The procurement department needs to be given credit for finding the best player available at that number, which is usually the case when a guy makes the NHL after being drafted 240-something. The minor league coaches do indeed deserve credit for honing skills, preaching the lessons needed and filling out those post game reports that go to head office after every game.

I don’t think you can split procurement and coaching, even the minor league coaches. It’s a team, and the failures of Marc Pouliot and Rob Schremp (should they fail) has to be shared on several levels, beginning with the player.

Tom Poti made the NHL through his ability, his high school and college coaches hard work and patience, and the skills of the men hired to evaluate talent and move the best talent to the front of the line. Had he turned pro at 20 he might have spent a season in the AHL learning his trade and it might have made him a better hockey player.

I believe that is worth discussing. The minor leagues aren’t for everybody, but if you are there then it means someone thinks you need some work. If the Oilers coaching and mangement were truly inept, Jani Rita, Michel Riesen, Michael Henrich and Chris Hajt would be playing every night in the NHL.

They are not.

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19 Responses to "Procurement and Development"

  1. Mr DeBakey says:

    The unanswerable question

    in 4 years
    Voracek is better than Gagner
    Whose fault?
    Procurement or development?

  2. Traktor says:

    Gagner is 100% on the scouts, IMO.

    Gagner would have improved under any org and under and coach.

    Part of scouting is also knowing which players are susceptible to coaching. Which players are going to get better and which players might just stall developmentally (Espo)

    If Edmonton drafts Angelo Esposito and he doesn’t improve enough to make a difference in the NHL, is that on scouting or coaching? That’s scouting, IMO.

    I can give the coaching staff credit for players like Stortini, Grebeshkov and Brodziak but Sam Gagner was going to be a star regardless of who was coaching him and that to me is 100% scouting.

  3. Traktor says:

    Also, if we’re going to going to hand out credit, Kevin Lowe should recieve just as much the coaching staff for not giving MacTavish the option to play Mike Johnson or another washed up vet over Gagner, Nilsson or Coglinao.

  4. Lowetide says:

    I completely disagree that Gagner is 100% on the scouts. Listen, no matter how good the kid is there’s a risk here (playing him at age in the NHL).

    Gagner may top out or stall early and part of the might be due to rapid movement up the depth chart. The Gagner story is warm and fuzzy now but there is a danger. And that’s on the management and the coaching.

    But if he turns into an exceptional player in his 20s we may be able to point to the fast track as a reason he was able to establish himself and have the game slow down for him at such a young age.

    And that’s coaching too. I remember reading an old Sporting News where Davey Johnson went in every day of 1984 spring training and begged for Dwight Gooden.

    That’s not scouting.

  5. Dennis says:

    In a roundabout way, I guess we’re talking about building an org’s depth and this is a great link I picked off HF about Lombardi doing an town hall sort of deal.…ion-75002.html

    Lombardi lays a lot of stuff out there and I’d say that it would take Matheson five lifetimes to get that out of Lowe.

    Also, with Lombardi looking for more young D to build around and those guys having 15 picks this draft, shouldn’t Matt Greene to LA be a done deal?

  6. Lowetide says:

    I couldn’t figure out Lombardi this summer:

    but now it’s obvious: he’s building for 2011. Seriously.

  7. Moose says:

    When talking about Pouliot (and Nilsson for a lesser amount of time), you also have to take into account that it wasn’t the Oilers minor league coaching staff that was handling him for 2 years. It was the Wilkes-Barre people. Yes the Oilers had their own ‘prospects’ coach, but it’s not the same. He was also playing in a different system, in the different situations, roles, etc., in AHL, then having to adjust when he came up to the NHL.

    That stuff has big impact on development. It may or may not have in his case, but who knows?

  8. Lowetide says:

    Moose: I understand your point, but how different could “systems” be? The Baltimore Orioles used to train all their young pitchers to pitch backwards (you rarely saw a fastball when the pitcher was down in the count, for instance) and they also liked their SS to be the pivot on a peg from the deep part of all three outfields.

    But what about hockey is so difficult that a player like Pouliot couldn’t adjust to a small change in the system? I’m asking because I don’t know.

    I do think there is a good argument that some prospects got left behind because they were unable to get at bats (Radunske, etc) but it doesn’t ring true for Pouliot.

    I believe he was the team MVP one year for Hamilton when they shared the franchise with the Habs.

  9. Black Dog says:

    Dennis – that link is excellent stuff – I haven’t read it all yet but the whole process behind going after UFAs and his description of his mindset is worth the read.

    Was it on the BofC the other day that I read they were after Pronger and the breaking point was Kopitar – they did not want to give him up?

    Back to point, or one of them, while the Gagner pick brings the scouts a lot of glory it is definitely up to coaching to keep that train moving. There are few guarantees and MacT has to deserve credit for Gagner’s development – for putting him in good position to succeed, for bucking him up when he failed, for allowing him to fail.

    Saying the kid is a 100% guaranteed hit ignores the fact that few of these kids are.

  10. godot10 says:

    //Gagner would have improved under any org and under and coach.//

    This is NOT true. Look at the list of “can’t miss” players who were busts until Mike Keenan arrived two or three years into their career: Chris Pronger, Joe Thornton, Oli Jokinen, Todd Bertuzzi

    Steve Yzerman was a one-dimensional offensive player until Scotty Bowman arrived in Detroit and threatened to trade him to the then pathetic Senators.

    Glen Sather had Joe Murphy. Jacques Lemaire and Bobby Carpenter.

    On the other hand, the Leafs ruined “can’t miss” player after “can’t miss” player during the eighties, when they had a top five pick almost every year.

  11. Moose says:

    LT: I totally agree that Pouliot will never be considered a guy who wasn’t given a fair chance.

    As far as the systems go, I think it’s really just metal muscle memory. You get it drummed into your head on where to be and what to do in certain situations, and then you go out and do it 800 times until it becomes reflex. If someone asks you to do it different all of a sudden, it’s an adjustment. How much of an adjustment? I don’t know, seems to me that this is where those phrases like, “thinks the game,” and “hockey IQ,” come into play.

    Wasn’t he also playing center down there and the wing with the Oil? Hell, the reads on the wing are easier! So maybe I just shot my own argument in the foot!

    At any rate, I heard Pouliot, and I think Thoresen, say that the adjustment was easier this year due to the same system, so there must be something to it. But your point is well taken.

  12. Bruce says:

    The Oilers decision to torpedo their own farm team for two years immediately after the end of the lockout was and remains a black mark on this organization IMO. After all that whining and screaming about level playing fields and whatnot, to gut their development program like that was infuckinsane. Definitely hurt our young goalie prospects, and didn’t do any favours for a number of the skaters either. There may have been one or two “think the game” types (like Zack Stortini?!? :) who benefitted from the breadth of the minor league experience, but on the whole it was a drag on the Oiler organization.

    Was that a management call or was EIG responsible for that lunacy?

  13. Bill Needle says:

    Gagner was doing pretty lousy on the fourth line — there were even a few pundits on this site who ludicrously said he should be “sent out” — until Horcoff got hurt and MacTavish was forced to put him on the power play to bolster the offence. Now MacTavish is getting credit for keeping Gagner with the big club when, really, Gagner’s first-year success with the Oilers is mostly due to picking him with the sixth pick overall.
    Some achieve coaching greatness; MacTavish has it thrust upon him.

  14. Lowetide says:

    Bill Needle: Gagner is STILL bleeding at EVs, will be until he’s 20. Horcoff’s injury forced Gagner onto the powerplay and he is having an impact there.

    I cannot understand the arguments that are given in regard to MacTavish. He DOES have weaknesses (PP, insane Sakic VS. Kidline matchup the other night) but this wonky idea that he is holdiing back youth is impossible to defend.

    It is all around him, and flourishing.

  15. Showerhead says:

    Re: Dean Lombardi…

    fuck it, we could have had Kopitar?


  16. Dennis says:

    LT: it’s still gonna be hard to convince people of certain things and it seems like a lot of the city and fanbase are caught up in the kids without giving a thought to just how much these guys are helping us win at evens.

    I posted the stats the other day; Oilers are garbage at evens and it’s no surprise.

    That’s not to damn 12-13-89 to a life of being even strength suckholes but it’s probably gonna be awhile before anyone with a clue can watch them on the road at even strength and do so without having their bag shrivel.

    Crude imagery I know, but you get the point.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t.

  17. Bruce says:

    That’s not to damn 12-13-89 to a life of being even strength suckholes but it’s probably gonna be awhile before anyone with a clue can watch them on the road at even strength and do so without having their bag shrivel.

    Ah, Dennis, you have such a gift with words. :) Sadly, shriveled sack syndrome is not confined to the presence of kids like NGC on the ice. Stoll and Reasoner evoke the same reaction, WITHOUT the hard-on at the offensive end of the ice.

  18. Dennis says:

    Bruce: let’s just stop this now:D

  19. Lowetide says:

    You know boys, this whole conversation would be much easier to endure if we were discussing female body parts. :-)

    I don’t really know how to work any of the words into a hockey conversation but if this thread continues let’s agree to make that a goal.

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