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CSI: MacGregor

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Now with more sunglasses!

From L-to-R: Scott Howson, Leon Draisaitl, and Stu MacGregor.  MacGregor was let go by the Oilers after serving as Head Amateur Scout since 2007.
From L-to-R: Scott Howson, Leon Draisaitl, and Stu MacGregor. MacGregor was let go by the Oilers after serving as Head Amateur Scout since 2007.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Stu long, Garewell, oil wiedersehen, goodbye.

Yesterday the Edmonton Oilers released four members of their scout team, including Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor and Head Pro Scout Morey Gare.  As these two men have been with the Oilers for almost a decade, I thought it would be worthwhile to dig a little deeper to try and demonstrate why both men were let go.  However, I soon realized that it would make more sense to take a look at each of them separately, so I will cover MacGregor today and touch on Gare tomorrow.

Stu MacGregor - The Magnificent Bastard - was hired as Kevin Predergast's replacement in September of 2007.  He has since been a key member of the various braintrusts responsible for every Oilers draft pick since 2008.

Few would argue that the selections of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have been anything short of successful to this point.  However, the major criticism of MacGregor has been his work in the later rounds of the draft.  The Oilers have struggled to graduate many, if any, players of note to the NHL from rounds 2 through 7, with prospects like Anton Lander and Tyler Pitlick both struggling to gain any traction at the highest level.  To be fair both have shown flashes recently, with Lander especially starting to threaten like he may have turned the corner.  However, Lander and Pitlick appear to be more like the exceptions than the rules.  The majority of Oilers prospects drafted in these rounds have yet to show much of anything.  Below is a by-the-numbers look at the Oilers work under MacGregor.

Round # of Picks GP G A P P/GP
First 8 1449 370 556 926 0.64
Second 7 249 12 32 44 0.18
Third 9 1 0 0 0 0.00
Fourth 12 73 13 8 21 0.29
Fifth 7 3 0 1 1 0.33
Sixth 6 64 7 7 13 0.20
Seventh 6 0 0 0 0 0.00
55 1839 402 604 1005 0.55

As expected, the first round picks show well here.  What's worrying here for me is that, save for the first two rounds, the Oilers have only managed to get 141 NHL GP from a staggering 40 draft picks - including just a single game played from the group of nine players chosen in the third round.  With names like Cameron Abney and Troy Hesketh in that group, it's a easy to understand why that number is so low.

With MacGregor's termination confirmed I decided to take a look into the Oilers' draft record between 2008 and 2014, and try to see how they compared against their peers.  The prevailing opinion is that it's hard to really evaluate a draft class until at least five years later.  Despite that, I think evaluating what we can from the time MacGregor was in charge will still give us some insight as to why he was ultimately let go.

To start I gathered all of the draft data for all 30 NHL teams from hockey-reference.com dating back to 2008, and gathered information on the total number of picks, the counting stats of any drafted players who have played at least one NHL game, and the points-per-GP for that group.  The table below shows all draft picks by all teams, sorted by total points per total games played.

Team # of Picks GP G A P P/GP Diff GP/Picks
Colorado Avalanche 47 1764 388 640 1028 0.58 0.19 37.53
Edmonton Oilers 55 1839 402 604 1005 0.55 0.16 33.44
St. Louis Blues 53 1138 208 380 588 0.52 0.13 21.47
Tampa Bay Lightning 50 2180 475 628 1103 0.51 0.12 43.60
Boston Bruins 42 1139 214 326 540 0.47 0.08 27.12
Detroit Red Wings 50 850 171 202 373 0.44 0.05 17.00
New York Islanders 55 3073 499 791 1290 0.42 0.03 55.87
New York Rangers 42 1546 220 420 640 0.41 0.02 36.81
Winnipeg Jets 55 1549 249 382 631 0.41 0.02 28.16
Montreal Canadiens 46 644 113 148 261 0.41 0.02 14.00
Ottawa Senators 49 2176 318 558 876 0.40 0.01 44.41
Washington Capitals 46 1748 217 477 694 0.40 0.01 38.00
Carolina Hurricanes 45 1319 216 300 516 0.39 0.00 29.31
Buffalo Sabres 57 1798 263 433 696 0.39 0.00 31.54
Calgary Flames 45 1029 144 254 398 0.39 0.00 22.87
Columbus Blue Jackets 50 1701 254 381 635 0.37 -0.02 34.02
Vancouver Canucks 44 596 98 121 219 0.37 -0.02 13.55
Nashville Predators 56 1958 267 451 718 0.37 -0.02 34.96
San Jose Sharks 47 1187 151 284 435 0.37 -0.02 25.26
Chicago Blackhawks 61 1359 225 273 498 0.37 -0.02 22.28
LA Kings 53 2232 281 508 789 0.35 -0.04 42.11
Anaheim Ducks 50 2146 231 520 751 0.35 -0.04 42.92
Arizona Coyotes 50 1231 162 265 427 0.35 -0.04 24.62
Dallas Stars 48 946 117 211 328 0.35 -0.04 19.71
Toronto Maple Leafs 48 1190 138 262 400 0.34 -0.05 24.79
Florida Panthers 54 1711 180 366 546 0.32 -0.07 31.69
New Jersey Devils 46 1216 128 255 383 0.31 -0.07 26.43
Minnesota Wild 46 1381 136 292 428 0.31 -0.08 30.02
Pittsburgh Penguins 42 464 32 93 125 0.27 -0.12 11.05
Philadelphia Flyers 42 1132 88 170 258 0.23 -0.16 26.95
League Average 49.13 1474.73 219.50 366.50 585.97 0.39 0.00 29.72

Here we can see the data for every draft pick every team has made since 2008.  Notice that the Oilers actually compare quite favorably here, with their P/GP well above league average. Only the Colorado Avalanche - another team blessed with a plethora of early-round picks and talent - ahead of them.  Though the Oilers, and by extension MacGregor, look good here, it is important to realize that these numbers are heavily skewed by the prevalence of first-overall talent on the Oilers roster.  Generally speaking, players provide more offense the higher up they're taken in the draft.  This we already know.

So if we remove the first round completely, we get the data below, again sorted by P/GP

Team # of Picks GP G A P P/GP Diff GP/Picks
Montreal Canadiens 40 271 65 63 128 0.47 0.17 6.78
Colorado Avalanche 41 917 144 272 416 0.45 0.15 22.37
Detroit Red Wings 46 724 149 164 313 0.43 0.13 15.74
New York Rangers 37 879 128 235 363 0.41 0.11 23.76
Chicago Blackhawks 53 1120 199 224 423 0.38 0.07 21.13
New Jersey Devils 41 700 97 165 262 0.37 0.07 17.07
Calgary Flames 37 689 79 176 255 0.37 0.07 18.62
Columbus Blue Jackets 42 961 149 197 346 0.36 0.06 22.88
Dallas Stars 41 798 102 181 283 0.35 0.05 19.46
San Jose Sharks 43 840 91 205 296 0.35 0.05 19.53
Tampa Bay Lightning 41 967 129 209 338 0.35 0.05 23.59
Nashville Predators 50 1222 155 261 416 0.34 0.04 24.44
Ottawa Senators 42 1156 160 223 383 0.33 0.03 27.52
Buffalo Sabres 47 408 44 86 130 0.32 0.02 8.68
Carolina Hurricanes 39 628 57 128 185 0.29 -0.01 16.10
St. Louis Blues 47 262 32 45 77 0.29 -0.01 5.57
Anaheim Ducks 41 866 80 171 251 0.29 -0.01 21.12
Winnipeg Jets 47 294 31 51 82 0.28 -0.02 6.26
New York Islanders 45 1543 142 288 430 0.28 -0.02 34.29
Toronto Maple Leafs 41 283 40 37 77 0.27 -0.03 6.90
LA Kings 47 1343 142 222 364 0.27 -0.03 28.57
Washington Capitals 38 606 54 101 155 0.26 -0.05 15.95
Boston Bruins 36 247 21 37 58 0.23 -0.07 6.86
Minnesota Wild 39 620 66 79 145 0.23 -0.07 15.90
Vancouver Canucks 36 134 12 19 31 0.23 -0.07 3.72
Arizona Coyotes 41 308 25 39 64 0.21 -0.10 7.51
Edmonton Oilers 47 390 32 48 79 0.20 -0.10 8.30
Florida Panthers 46 485 25 66 91 0.19 -0.12 10.54
Philadelphia Flyers 37 467 29 38 67 0.14 -0.16 12.62
Pittsburgh Penguins 36 61 3 4 7 0.11 -0.19 1.69
League Average 42.13 672.97 82.73 134.47 217.17 0.30 0.00 15.78

As we can see, the Oilers compare much worse here.  The Oilers, once again, are near the bottom of the league in terms of their P/GP for picks outside of the first round.  Also note that the Oilers are comfortably above league average in terms of how many picks they had during these rounds, with only two teams – Chicago and Nashville – having more picks than they did.  In other words, the Oilers have had plenty of at-bats but little to show for it.  They can't seem to hit for power or contact.

If we sort the data strictly by NHL games played (rounds 2-7 only), we can see the following:

Team # of Picks GP G A P P/GP Diff GP/Picks
New York Islanders 45 1543 142 288 430 0.28 -0.02 34.29
LA Kings 47 1343 142 222 364 0.27 -0.03 28.57
Nashville Predators 50 1222 155 261 416 0.34 0.04 24.44
Ottawa Senators 42 1156 160 223 383 0.33 0.03 27.52
Chicago Blackhawks 53 1120 199 224 423 0.38 0.07 21.13
Tampa Bay Lightning 41 967 129 209 338 0.35 0.05 23.59
Columbus Blue Jackets 42 961 149 197 346 0.36 0.06 22.88
Colorado Avalanche 41 917 144 272 416 0.45 0.15 22.37
New York Rangers 37 879 128 235 363 0.41 0.11 23.76
Anaheim Ducks 41 866 80 171 251 0.29 -0.01 21.12
San Jose Sharks 43 840 91 205 296 0.35 0.05 19.53
Dallas Stars 41 798 102 181 283 0.35 0.05 19.46
Detroit Red Wings 46 724 149 164 313 0.43 0.13 15.74
New Jersey Devils 41 700 97 165 262 0.37 0.07 17.07
Calgary Flames 37 689 79 176 255 0.37 0.07 18.62
Carolina Hurricanes 39 628 57 128 185 0.29 -0.01 16.10
Minnesota Wild 39 620 66 79 145 0.23 -0.07 15.90
Washington Capitals 38 606 54 101 155 0.26 -0.05 15.95
Florida Panthers 46 485 25 66 91 0.19 -0.12 10.54
Philadelphia Flyers 37 467 29 38 67 0.14 -0.16 12.62
Buffalo Sabres 47 408 44 86 130 0.32 0.02 8.68
Edmonton Oilers 47 390 32 48 79 0.20 -0.10 8.30
Arizona Coyotes 41 308 25 39 64 0.21 -0.10 7.51
Winnipeg Jets 47 294 31 51 82 0.28 -0.02 6.26
Toronto Maple Leafs 41 283 40 37 77 0.27 -0.03 6.90
Montreal Canadiens 40 271 65 63 128 0.47 0.17 6.78
St. Louis Blues 47 262 32 45 77 0.29 -0.01 5.57
Boston Bruins 36 247 21 37 58 0.23 -0.07 6.86
Vancouver Canucks 36 134 12 19 31 0.23 -0.07 3.72
Pittsburgh Penguins 36 61 3 4 7 0.11 -0.19 1.69
League Average 42.13 672.97 82.73 134.47 217.17 0.30 0.00 15.78

Surprisingly, the New York Islanders lead the way here.  Homegrown players like John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Travis Hamonic helped guide the Islanders into the playoffs this season.  I'm not surprised to see all four Stanley Cup semi-finalists within the top ten here either.  Coincidence?  I doubt it.

Once again though the Oilers find themselves in the bottom-tier of the league.  Also interesting is that the Oilers are only managing to average ~8GP per draft pick since 2008, just over half of the league average.  I know this isn't a perfect metric by any means, but I still think that says something.

Of course, this data does not account for the differences between a 2nd and a 7th round selection, nor does it consider the differences between the available jobs from one team to the next.  That said, I still think there is enough here to give us a reasonable account of the Oilers' draft record with MacGregor, and at least partly explain why he was given his walking papers.  Why it took as long as it has is another debate for another time, but one we all probably already know the answer to anyway.

The Oilers have had as good a chance as any team to make their mid/late round selections successful, and had a roster so poorly conceived during that time that, in theory, there should have been plenty of opportunites for good young players to break into the NHL.  But for whatever reason that simply hasn't been the case - largely because said players simply weren't good enough - and Stu MacGregor played a role in that failure.  His primary function was to identify good young players, and quite frankly, he didn't.  Far more often than he did.  Though the jury is still out on his more recent work with young prospects like Oscar Klefbom and Martin Marincin showing well in the NHL, it was a case of too little, too late for the Oilers' chief scout.  And now, his watch is ended.