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The Pro Scouting Department

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Winnipeg Jets v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

On June 22nd, 2017 the Oilers announced that they had traded Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome. Most fans didn’t like it, I wasn’t a fan, but a lot of us could accept that it was no more than a cap dump. A 51-point player for a 30+ point player. Although It’s not good at face value, when creating a few million in cap space, you can do a lot worse than losing 20 points. Just, you know, ignore where that cap space went.

There is usually a process to making a trade. The GM isn’t personally evaluating players around the league. After conversations with other GMs, he will find out who may be available, what other teams want and what he wants. This is accomplished through pro-scouts. They are given assignments, players to watch, and certain things to watch for. They make out a report, send it back to their GM, and the GM will use that information to make an informed decision.

Over the weekend, this news broke:

This is where it became obvious that we have a real problem. Not because Ryan Strome has four points in ten games, not because he’s slow, not even because he doesn’t back check. The problem here is that he’s playing exactly as you’d expect him to play based off of past production and the Oilers seem to be caught off guard by it. I’ve wanted to write about this for a while but didn’t want to do it before we had a respectable record. With this news, I have no choice but to pounce.

We’ve all questioned Peter Chiarelli’s trades before because lots have been less than ideal. This however, seems to be the first one he himself is questioning. You can’t get mad at Ryan Strome for being Ryan Strome. He’s delivered exactly what was ordered. If you thought you were getting something else, it’s because you were given inaccurate information. That’s on the Pro-Scouting department. Why was he targeted? Why did they give Chia reports suggesting that this is a good trade? Did they even evaluate him or did they just decide to execute and evaluate later?

One of the first moves Peter Chiarelli made upon arrival was make sweeping changes across the Amateur Scouting staff. At this point in time, it is an excellent group of people and among the best staffs in the league. We know he has the capability to hire good people and yet the pro-scouting staff consists of a whopping three guys. Lets go into detail:

*Most information is coming from the Oilers website and various other online content

Paul Messier:

Paul is Mark Messier’s older brother and as far as the internet can tell me, his only qualifications are:

I’m not sure how he’s managed to get this job, there is likely more unlisted experience but I do question how he can scout and run a hotel at the same time. I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that the hotel is at its busiest during hockey season. For all I know, Paul is actually a good scout. I doubt it, but he might be. Having people like this on your staff looks bad, but the real issue is that he makes up 1/3rd of the pro scouting staff.

Matti Virmanen:

Matti Virmanen is a Finish ex-player his qualifications include:

  • Former European-league player
  • Former Jokerit GM
  • Current Player coordinator for a Finnish hockey league team — Vaasan Sport

I have no idea what level of scouting skill this guy has, but I have a hard time imagining it’s at all effective while living in Finland. Especially if he’s part of player management on a team over there. There’s nothing wrong with having a second job, when 2 out of your three scouts have them though, it’s not a good sign.

Chris Cichocki:

Chris Cichocki is the only one of our listed pro-scouts to not have a second job. He played in a few hockey leagues including the NHL. His qualifications look pretty decent for a scout:

  • Former Head Coach of ECHL team Stockton Thunder (8 years)
  • Former Assistant coach for IHL team Cincinnati Cyclones

Coaching in the minor leagues is usually a reasonable path to scouting. Scouting is also a good path to coaching.

This is the problem. That’s the entire list. One scout over in Europe, one with a second job and one other guy. None of them seem overly qualified and their results have been predictably bad. They identified Adam Larsson as a #1 defenseman and Ryan Strome as an Eberle replacement. What exactly was Griffin Reinhart identified as?

I can’t blame Chia for the trades although I can most certainly blame him for having only three pro scouts (bad ones). The good news is that this is a pretty easy fix. Get rid of whomever was responsible for inaccurately evaluating Strome and just start hiring left, right and center. You need more than one and a half scouts dedicated to the NHL. It makes a lot more sense now that teams were claiming to not know Taylor Hall was available. Chiarelli likely didn’t have enough scouts to check more than a few teams in the New York area at the time.

I will chalk the blame of this situation up to poor scouting. If PC doesn’t make any changes and continues his path using their information, it’s 100% on him.

It’s not like scouts aren’t available for hire. Hell, WoodGuy states right on his twitter account that he’s willing to work for Steak. He even gives excellent analysis on his own blog. If the Oilers entertainment group can figure out the skipthedishes app to send him a few ribeyes, they’ll have no shortage of astute analysis. Meghan Chayka is currently running Stathletes and doesn’t have an NHL job. There’s really no shortage of potential scouts out there. You need the kind of scouts that would be willing to risk their jobs to tell their GM that he or she is considering a bad trade.

The point is, something needs to happen going forward. For a GM that likes aggressive trading, he’s going to need better information. I’ve taken screen shots of the current management staffs listed to see if there are any unannounced changes in the near future. It’s a trick I learned from the crew over at Burgundy-Rainbow, credit given where due.

UPDATE: The Oilers are now reportedly looking to move on from Jussi Jokinen. Add that to my evidence.