“WALKING THE SHOP FLOOR WITH YOUR BOYS”

The long death march for the NHL season begins and with that our minds turn to mush. OR, we might try something completely different!

Chances are you’re old enough to find things to do worthwhile during the lockout, but I’ve been thinking about what we might do to move the conversation forward. I mean aside from watching the prospects, reading the math detectives and making smartass remarks (which imo is the key to the internet: the belief that my shit is funnier than your shit. Even if it doesn’t get the reaction hoped for, just keep hammering. Maybe they’re not smart enough to get you!!!!) and finding ways to work Neil Young songs into the verbal that is this blog.

Most of the people involved in the NHL are dull dull dull. Not to be mean, but the quotes are mostly mind-numbing baloney and it is a rare thing for someone in the NHL’s employ to be forward thinking.

However, these men do exist. One of them is Dean Lombardi.

Earlier today, Helene Elliott published an article called “While NHL schedules talks, Kings’ Dean Lombardi takes action.” I used to use google search for “nhl general manager” but now I just search for “Lombardi NHL” or “Holland NHL” to save time.

  • Lombardi: “We’ve been digging into the amateurs and pros. Now the staff has been together five or six years. When we were coming together we knew everybody would have a learning curve, so now we can dig into what went right or wrong. We can go back to reports and say, ‘Did we have mistakes in terms of coverage?’ Why were we wrong on this kid?’
  • More Lombardi: “This is a great period to go back and look in detail and learn from it. It was a risky venture to bring in all these people and we knew people would make mistakes. Now, we can learn from those mistakes. We can dig in. These are things that get away from you.” 

Elliott ends that portion of the article by writing “Lombardi will spend some time with his scouts, which he described as ”walking the shop floor with your boys.”

I have no idea how many organizations are doing this kind of thing during the lockout, maybe they all are in one way or another. However, results suggest that teams that were making mistakes during the last lockout are the ones who are probably falling behind during this one.

I believe the Oilers would be wise to ask these questions. As someone who believes the club has done well at the draft since Stu MacGregor took over, I can still buy into the idea that there’s something to be learned from failures of the past.

Things like:

  1. What went wrong with the Hesketh pick?
  2. Next year, when the club picks 6th overall, will they remember the lesson of Sam Gagner’s development? Will they send that kid back?
  3. In light of Cameron Abney’s development timeline and role in the new NHL, was taking him at 82nd a mistake?
  4. What was the process that made the team stick with Anton Lander as an NHL player so long last season? Is that wise? Why did they get so enamored with a player who clearly–despite specific strengths–did not belong?
  5. Why does this organization have so many shoulder injuries amongst their prospect base? Is this average for an NHL team?
  6. With NHL capable defensemen so scarce, why does the organization hesitate to make those ‘Jan Hejda’ or ‘Steve Staios’ acquisitions of the past? Who was the scout who made those things happen? Was it Charlie Huddy’s guidance? Kenta Nilsson? If so, then perhaps it is worth getting that back?

What are your questions? Answers? Suggestions? I look forward to reading them.

 

 

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27 Responses to "“WALKING THE SHOP FLOOR WITH YOUR BOYS”"

  1. sliderule says:

    Things I would do if I ran the oilers

    1: Hire the best pro scout in the league to revamp pro scouting

    2.hire the best amateur scouting man available to take over from Stu..I know this would not be popular but as the head WHL scout he was instrumental in picking Riley and Plante.Unforgivable.

    3 identify the area scouts who are good and replace the ones who are bad
    Expand coverage of USHL which we currently ignore.

    4 Ban nepotism.both on the payroll and in drafting..

    5 when we go to draft table take BPA not Draft for need

    6 Talk the owner into not being such a greedy a hole and make a fair deal on arena.

  2. Lowetide says:

    Sliderule: How would you go about identifying the best area scouts? They all seem to have their share of mistakes, depending on tenure.

  3. RexLibris says:

    I was going to say, that is easier said than done.

  4. RexLibris says:

    I was encouraged to hear what Ralph Krueger said in the Journal this morning about taking this time and having all of his staff work on individual projects, like professional development time.

    I’m inclined to think that some of that is organizational and it is probably easier in some ways for a franchise that has this much excitement about its future to go to work on those ancillary projects and reports because the potential is there for everyone to see.

    That being said, I really do hope that the scouts are working at fine tuning their game. MacGregor has done a fantastic job thus far, but he needs to keep working at it, continually learning and trying to improve. This organization knows all to well what happens when scouting rests on its laurels.

  5. blackdog says:

    All scouts make mistakes, exactly.

    The KP era actually wasn’t that bad. I looked at it last year, excluded top ten picks I believe or maybe it was lottery picks, anyhow, Oilers were pretty well middle of the pack with the possibility of moving up. A lot of the guys drafted under his watch are still kids.

    As for Stu well there are a lot of good arrows now but its a long way before we will know if he is magnificent or not.

    If I were the Oilers I would be asking a question which they aren’t asking yet I think. Why do they draft players who are basically replacement level in early rounds or for that matter, at all? Abney is a great example. Moroz is probably another, the Ewynyk kid (I know I’ve misspelled his name, the kid who plays for the Oil Kings who was hurt last year) another.

    A guy like Pelss is a reach but the kid has skill. Hartikainen is another. Guys like Pitlick, Hamilton. These guys may or my not turn out but they have the tools and they produced as amateurs. Maybe Pitlick won’t score enough to be a top 6 guy. Hell maybe Paajarvi won’t. But they have size, skill, speed, worse case they will be solid bottom six guys.

    I don’t have an issue with either pick. Not every guy you draft is going to be an NHLer.

    But to draft a guy who cannot produce any offence in junior as a forward? There is absolutely no point. Goons, grinders who score 5 to 10 goals a year, these guys are a dime a dozen for the most part.

    Based on the Moroz pick though I don’t think this question is on the radar. It should be though. Zharkov should have been that first second round pick. He may not score a ton as a pro, he may not even make the NHL, but he has far far better tools than Moroz. Why you’d take Moroz first makes no sense/

  6. sliderule says:

    I would think that sorting out who are the best area scouts would be easy over one or two years.

    We all see how players drafted later than our picks have done well.What did the scout for that area think of these players?

    I believe the oilers have done this type of analysis by firing scout who pushed Hesketh.

    It wouldn’t have to be that drastic but they should be reviewing were they missed out on players who pan out for other teams

  7. Lowetide says:

    My favorite story from this draft year remains Traktor actually calling the Laleggia pick. I mean that’s incredible and he did it in early June, weeks before the draft.

    Pretty impressive.

  8. Kris11 says:

    I would use the time off to come up with a more subtle, detailed, and situation-relative version of the following rules:

    1. Never draft a goon anywhere in the draft. (Sign them for cheap if you need one.) Fighting ability shouldn’t be relevant in determining your draft list.

    2. Save more spots for undrafted players and cheap free agents by only signing picks in the fourth round or lower when they have demonstrated something reasonably impressive. (Don’t sign Abney, Hesketh, I’d even say Pelss, etc.)

    3. Be more likely to use late picks on goalies. The odds are low of that pick succeeding regardless of who you pick, but a a good goalie is best value. I might even be willing to use every pick in the fifth round or lower on goalies and overagers, but that creates a prospect bottleneck.

    4. Don’t overpay offensive players (one year deal is okay) on the basis of one (or even one and a half) year with a shooting percentage over 12.5%. Be willing to let them walk if it comes down to it.

    5. Leave prospects in the AHL until they are capable of playing 5×5 at the NHL level, playing middling competition, without going more than a little negative in Corsi.

    6. Only keep 18 year olds in the NHL instead of junior if they are very likely to score more than 22 goals or 55 points, over 82 games. (Gagner scored, but was lucky as an 18 year old. He should’ve gone down. Hall killed it and would’ve been wasted in junior.) I’d apply a similar rule for D-men, (maybe 40 points) meaning D-men should almost always get set down.

    7. Never hire anyone again on the basis of nepotism of any sort.

    8. Make the job or the pay of pro-scout performance-dependent according to some well laid out formula. (Like what people in the U.S. are proposing for teachers.) If pro-scout X says “Smith will score such and such,” and Smith does not score such and such, the pro-scout should be paid less or be closer to being fired.

  9. DSF says:

    Very interesting line of thinking here.

    Lombardi is on the shop floor and Gillis is in Chicago.

    Where are Lowe and Tambellini?

    I haven’t seen any evidence they’re spending a week in OKC.

  10. Lowetide says:

    Tambellini was in Sweden I believe to see Klefbom recently. btw, Chicago Wolves signed Jeremie Blain today, optioned him to ECHL. Nice little signing, doesn’t count toward the 50 man list and he’s a good prospect. Well done, Vancouver.

    Again.

  11. Gerta Rauss says:

    Dee Ess Eff
    The Oilers website has an interview with Tambellini posted yesterday-the brass have been in OKC and will be heading back there shortly. I’d post the link but the damn website is down at the moment…

  12. gd says:

    If I was running the Oilers I would;

    -hire a U of A law grad whose sole job will be to know the new CBA inside out as soon as possible.

    -I would ensure the Oilers have some “ahead of the curve” analytics guys who have the ear of one of the key decision-makers. If none of the decision-makers listen to the analytics guys, then we need a new decision maker.

    -I am hoping the org now has adequate positional depth, and will no longer be picking in the top 5, so the drafting should only be BPA and we should ensure we have good coverage of every region with a dependable scout.

    -It sounds like the org has greatly improved the development plans for young players, and I hope that is true. I hope every player knows what his expectations are, and I hope we start learning “best practises” from other teams. Hopefully we will start have guys stay in the minors a little too long, rather than bringing them up before they are ready (ala Lander).

  13. hunter1909 says:

    gd:
    If I was running the Oilers I would;

    -hire a U of A law grad whose sole job will be to know the new CBA inside out as soon as possible.

    -I would ensure the Oilers have some “ahead of the curve” analytics guys who have the ear of one of the key decision-makers. If none of the decision-makers listen to the analytics guys, then we need a new decision maker.

    -I am hoping the org now has adequate positional depth, and will no longer be picking in the top 5, so the drafting should only be BPA and we should ensure we have good coverage of every region with a dependable scout.

    -It sounds like the org has greatly improved the development plans for young players, and I hope that is true. I hope every player knows what his expectations are, and I hope we start learning “best practises” from other teams. Hopefully we will start have guys stay in the minors a little too long, rather than bringing them up before they are ready (ala Lander).

    Re the first point:
    “Steve Smith” – esteemed Lowetide commentator comes to mind.

    Re the second point:
    Lowetide knows some guy named Alan Mitchell, who’s insane. He’s perfect for running the Oiler’s statistical analysis wing of the U of A, maybe next to that 100 million ice facility that Katz promised. He did promise, right?

    Re the third point:
    Jonathan Willis who needs to spend a few more winter nights sleeping rough in his car, so we can appreciate what he does for a living. Black Dog was my first pick, seeing how he probably wouldn’t mind sleeping, until Katz stepped in with his veto.

    Re the final point:
    Sounds like you know more than the Oilers, but can you bring in 3 1st overall picks? Plus AHL superstar in the making Justin Shultz? All the same, you make a lot of sense. Great post!

  14. SK Oiler Fan says:

    I believe LT explained the so called “goon” picks in an earlier post:: In search of Milan Lucic. The Oilers braintrust obviously think that it is worth the risk to use 2nd round picks or lower on 1 or 2 kids per draft that have a chance of devloping into a Lucic.

    i think most prospect junkies around these parts could easily put a case together that the kids the Oilers have picked for this role have no chance at becoming even Lucic light.

  15. "Steve Smith" says:

    hunter1909: Re the first point:
    “Steve Smith” – esteemed Lowetide commentator comes to mind.

    Kind of you to say (or it would have been if you were speaking sincerely), but:
    1. He specified U of A law grad, so I’m disqualified there.
    2. I’ve got no plans to leave criminal defence. As a condition of my articles, I had to be exposed to a variety of areas. Without a word of exaggeration, whenever I had to flip through a real estate file I found myself becoming physically tired. It’s a good thing most of the files didn’t include any pointy objects (and that I was able to stay awake for the one that did…weirdest damned mortgage I ever saw). It’s tough to really get into a file when nobody was drunk during its generation.

    Actually, labour and employment is an area I could see myself getting into if crime was suddenly abolished…but my Lord, what a sad day that would be.

  16. jake70 says:

    "Steve Smith": Kind of you to say (or it would have been if you were speaking sincerely), but:
    1. He specified U of A law grad, so I’m disqualified there.
    2. I’ve got no plans to leave criminal defence.As a condition of my articles, I had to be exposed to a variety of areas.Without a word of exaggeration, whenever I had to flip through a real estate file I found myself becoming physically tired.It’s a good thing most of the files didn’t include any pointy objects (and that I was able to stay awake for the one that did…weirdest damned mortgage I ever saw).It’s tough to really get into a file when nobody was drunk during its generation.

    Actually, labour and employment is an area I could see myself getting into if crime was suddenly abolished…but my Lord, what a sad day that would be.

    If I understand correctly from past posts, you are a UNB grad n’est-ce pas? Even better… ;-) … reach out to young Hunter Tremblay, wherever he is, maybe do some agent work for him for fun…think he was a UNB Varsity Red.

  17. gd says:

    "Steve Smith",

    I’m not locked into a U of A law grad. Really just looking for someone “learned” enough to read and know as much about the new CBA as possible, and who knows how to highlight and put stickies on relevant sections so we don’t screw up AHL callups anymore. I’m assuming there would be a bigger pool of qualified people who are big hockey fans in Edmonton than in a place like Nashville.

  18. admiralmark says:

    Why did we let Jeremie Blain go might be a good question? Canucks just picked him up and assigned him to the ECL… this might come back to bite us?

  19. gd says:

    admiralmark,

    The fact no one redrafted Blain in a perceived weak draft, with a record overagers picked, makes it hard for me to condemn the Oilers for not signing him. Until he is at least an established top 4 Dman in the AHL I will not compliment the Canucks for the signing. At this point he is just one of a thousand guys playing in the minors hoping to beat the odds and make the NHL.

    Now if he becomes a legit NHLer, I hope whoever was responsible for this decision will no longer be with the Oilers.

  20. dessert1111 says:

    I am hoping they look at both areas of weakness and areas of perceived strength and ask themselves “why”. It’s a lot easier (for me at least) to come up with areas of weakness, but that’s probably because they’re a 29th place team. The things most concerning to me are:

    Pro scouting. I think part of the problem has been in most quality free agents don’t want to come to Edmonton, but that doesn’t excuse poor trades. I think the free agent signings have been worse than the trades, though.

    Fire Rick Olyczk (sp?). Too many CBA gaffes. Maybe he wasn’t the guy who made the mistake, but it’s my understanding that it’s his responsibility. There has to be someone out there who knows the CBA inside and out (and will know the new CBA) and will take it upon themselves to make that their baby.

    Reevaluate the perceived need for a goon.

    Look deeply into possession metrics and zone entries. I’ve felt this is an Oilers weakness for awhile–other teams seem to dictate the play to the Oilers.

    Pay very close attention to all prospects. This includes giving them all the resources they need to continue improving as well as cutting loose the ones you no longer see as prospects, i.e. in a 2 for 1 or 3 for 1 trade. Minor league teams might be more likely to make a trade like that with the Oilers once the lockout ends, since the NHL talent leaving will create some roster holes in the AHL.

  21. russ99 says:

    gd,

    Analytics are hooey when evaluating prospects. They’re partially hooey when evaluating NHL players.

    I”m not of a fan of this movement of sabermetrics into hockey, the sport is inherently 5 + goalie vs. 5 + goalie with multiple variations of those 5 vs 5 throughout the game – not pitcher vs. batter which is much more predictable with numbers.

    So many factors can weigh on advanced hockey statistics, like the rest of your team, the relative strength/weakness of opponents, etc. To make personnel decisions based on them, especially with drafting and prospects, is not smart.

  22. bookje says:

    sliderule:
    ThingsI would do if I ran the oilers

    1: Hire the best pro scout in the league to revamp pro scouting

    2.hire the best amateur scouting man available to take over from Stu..I know this would not be popular butas the head WHL scout hewas instrumentalin picking Riley and Plante.Unforgivable.

    3 identify the area scouts who are good and replace the ones who arebad
    Expand coverage of USHL which we currently ignore.

    4 Ban nepotism.both on the payroll and in drafting..

    5 when we go to draft table take BPA not Draft for need

    6 Talk the owner into not being such a greedy a hole and make a fair deal on arena.

    I think you are being far too specific. Here is what I would do.

    1. Hire all of the best staff.
    2. Make all of the right decisions.
    3. Draft the best players.
    4. Make the best trades
    5. Win games.
    6. Make the best arena deal ever.
    7. Be awesome.

    I don’t think it is possible to argue with that strategy. Running an NHL team is so super easy. I don’t understand why Tambelloni sucks so much.

  23. art vandelay says:

    Bookje.
    Good one.

  24. maudite says:

    I think the big one, if it’s not already in place, is coming up with metrics to evaluate scouting staff (pro and amature).

    I don’t exactly know how much detail they get into, but being that the oilers are pretty statistical I imagine not much. Should be able to follow players through though. Like in the 132 2nd spot here’s what our various scouts wanted, here is who and why we picked said player. There’s a lot you could do on the amateur side to start assessing weaknesses and seeing if anything obvious comes to the surface. A lot of obvious draft bias might become apparent. Even something as simple as tabulating the games your scouts are at, looking at the players you ‘missed’ and determining if you have some coverage issues might be a big help. I’m pretty certain the science of drafting has some pretty significant room for improvement for most teams.

  25. DeadmanWaking says:

    gd: hire a U of A law grad whose sole job will be to know the new CBA inside out as soon as possible

    An intriguing idea. One doesn’t usually see Rabbanim place so high on xmas wish lists. I think Bertuzzi’s senior council from his civil trial will be free for the bidding sometime in 2015. The problem here is that dense legalese exists in a lamentably diffuse cloud of knowability.

    Have you ever tried to read the data sheet for an electronic component where the manufacturer is pulling out the stops to prevent the intrepid reader from intuiting the secret sauce that goes into its design and manufacture? On some level, the datasheet tells you what you need to know. With monumental study and a hand-assembled five-foot thick concordance, you can piece the disclosure together, and earn enough frequent flyer miles for Luxembourg vacation from your purchase of double-ended candles. Or you can just hack up some code to see what it does in the circumstance at hand, then head for the pub.

    The textual approach is vastly better, when practical. You get fewer nasty surprises when circumstances change in seemingly minor ways, which your empirical testing failed to explore.

    The reason I’m such a die-hard skeptic out loud is that I invariably force myself to work from the textual document until long after I’m over the hump on cost-benefit. I’m fighting the long fight and losing every round. Memorizing a thesaurus is pretty much my idea of a good time. This is my personal windmill. Let me tell you, the fine print in the CBA scares me witless. Borges used to write about where souls go who wander around in labyrinths of that construction. Eventually you arrive at the cliff face where the only consistency is inconsistency and you either hang yourself or found a religion.

    Skill testing legalese:

    shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party

    What the court decided:

    What does a comma mean?

    On subsequent review, the CRTC went to the french language version of the contract. It is important to note that even though the parties had not signed the french version, the Commission had approved the french language version when they signed off on the agreement in the first place.

    I’m sure you spotted that curveball coming at you as well. BUT WAIT! It gets better.

    Somewhat curiously, the CRTC then went on to determine it had no authority to regulate the use of power poles and the entire exercise was moot …

    Consider this: the rabbinical horde charges for pear-shaped eternities by the six minute interval. The only action your belt will get is elongation. These aren’t your six minute intervals of salivary extemporization.

    PS: I always crawl out of the Wood-work.

  26. rubbertrout says:

    bookje,

    Slow clap for Bookje

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