In Part 6 of the "How to Build a Contender" series I wrote the following:
Some scouts are simply better than others. A smart organization would know who is better and give greater weight to the most accurate scouts when making their master list. Every human being has biases, you can not change that fact but you can adjust to it. Some scouts may have a good eye for something and a bad eye for other traits. A smart organization should analyze their area scouts "misses" and look for patterns. Does "Scout A" hate short players?--adjust his rankings. Does "Scout B" have a weakness for players with bad character--tell him he must add more character detail in his reports.
Scouting is a very lonely and very demanding business. Every scout works hard, eats bad food, watches terrible hockey and rarely gets thanked. I have no interest in ever working amateur scout--you must REALLY love hockey to do it. It is a hard job, but having said that, sometimes an organization must let under performing scouts go. I hate saying that about anyone in this current economy, but all of us most perform. Players who don't perform get sent to the minors, coaches who don't perform get fired. Everyone should be held to account and scouts are no different.
The scout that I had in mind when I wrote that paragraph is the guy who covered the QMJHL for the Thrashers. Let's review the picks that have come out of that league for the Thrashers.
- 2000 Simon Gamache 9th Round, 48 NHL Games. A tiny little guy with a hot dog attitude in him. He could score in bunches at every level but his lack of speed prevented him from sticking in the NHL. Plays in Switzerland now.
- 2000 Carl Mallette 4th round, 0 NHL Games. The Thrashers didn't even offer him a pro contract after he finished juniors. A bust by age 20 he played 137 ECHL games and managed just 10 AHL games. Played in weak European leagues (France and Austria) the last few seasons.
- 2003 Jimmy Sharrow D 4th round, 0 NHL Games. Skinny kid with who racked up points in the Q but wore out his welcome in the ECHL after just 23 games. Thinks he is god's gift to hockey. Still playing in the AHL at age 24.
- 2003 Guillaume Desbiens 4th rounder, 0 NHL games. I liked Desbiens as a player in the ECHL but he never really put in the hard work in the off season that would have allowed him to make a bid for a NHL job. He needed to work on his skating each off season and he looked to be in poor cardio condition at more than one Thrashers camp. He had a decent season on a loaded Manitoba AHL team last year at age 24 after the Thrashers choose not to re-sign him.
- 2005 Alex Bourret 1st round, 0 NHL Games. A huge bust and head case. The team realized they had a problem on their hands and traded after less than 2 years. In general the Thrashers give more weight to character than some other organizations--how this guy finished high on their list is a mystery to me. Not a bright guy, he dropped out of high school. After poor play at the Traverse City Rookie Tournament he declared himself "injured" and the training staff couldn't detect any problems. Twice traded, he is on his 3rd NHL organization and on the express lane to Bustville.
- 2005 Chad Denny 2nd round, 0 NHL games. He looked rather ordinary in the ECHL and he has struggled to get into games and get ice time in the AHL. They have tried him at wing. At age 22 he should be much further along than this. He certainly doesn't look worthy of a 2nd rounder to me.
- 2005 Jordan LaVallee 4th round, 4 NHL Games played. The Thrashers took him as a 19 year old and he is the best of the three Q players taken in 2005. He has averaged half a point per game in the AHL but his defensive game will determine whether he makes the NHL or not. He is in the mix with a bunch of other players heading into NHL camp this fall. According to one Wolves fan he wants out of the Thrashers organization.
- 2008 Danick Paquette 3rd round,0 NHL games. Young enough to still be a prospect, but he clearly lagged behind most other players at Prospect Camp. Some of undrafted invitees looked better to me than this 3d round pick.
- Dishonorable mention #1: Anthony Aquino, 0 NHL Games, drafted in the 3rd round by Dallas in 2001, he was acquired by the Thrashers in 2003 presumably because they had him high on their draft list. He was another head case who was scratched from ECHL games and simply couldn't execute a basic game plan on the ice.
- Dishonorable mention #2: Angelo Esposito, fell hard in the 1st round in 2007 until Pittsburgh took him. Was included in the Marian Hossa trade because the Thrashers had him high on their list (but lacked a 1st rounder due to the Tkachuk trade). Here's what I wrote about him recently:
Simply put, I'm skeptical. He has NHL speed and NHL hands but I question his judgment and hockey sense. I've watched him make a slick move to beat a defensemen only to pass the puck to an empty patch of ice. I've seen him throw three fakes in a shootout and then hit the goalie in the chest. There is no doubt he has talent, but I'm skeptical he will ever maximize that talent at the NHL level (and I'm not the only person that feels this way). He'll get a shot at the NHL because of those skills but I question if he will qualify for a NHL pension (400 games, 5 year career).
Our of the nine QMJHL players discussed above most of them had some sort of attitude problem or lacked hockey sense or were fundamentally lacking in hockey skill. For the Thrashers organization the Q has been a black hole into which they have poured money and draft picks with almost nothing to show for their investment.
In my build a franchise a series, I noted that the Thrashers need to be hard headed and even ruthless in their decision making if they hope to compete while being outspent by other NHL teams. And it appears that in this case the team has done the right thing, they did not renew the contract of Normand Poisson the primary scout for the QMJHL this summer. Good organizations demand accountability from their players, coaches and hockey operations department. Letting Poisson go indicates that failing to pay attention to character on your draft list will get you canned.