If the Vancouver Canucks are going to seriously re-focus and re-structure their team, in the hopes of a returning to an elite organization again, they have to commit to continuing with the top down approach they started when they hired Trevor Linden. After they have made the improvements to their front office and addressed leadership with a new GM, they have to look at the root of many of the issues that have hampered them over the recent years. Their scouting department.
Sure, this area of the organization has been criticized somewhat for a lack of production, but it really hasn’t been scrutinized nearly enough for the decidedly minor contributions they have made under the current regime. This is possibly the most vital area for instigating a team’s growth, especially in a salary cap era where trades are hard to manufacture, and a team’s finances limit its ability to make significant moves in the free agency market.
In addition to that, it’s usually easier to take a young draftee and mold them into the type of player you want them to be, as opposed to a veteran who may have an established playing style he doesn’t want to change, or an attitude that just isn’t willing to make adjustments.
Clearly, building your team with the draft choices you have developed on your farm team is an necessity for every NHL team, so why have the Canucks had so little help from the players they’ve selected over the years? It seems time to review what the scouting staff has accomplished recently.
Criteria For The Scouting Review. It seemed most logical to compare the Canucks scouting performance with a few of the teams who have recently been responsible for some of Vancouver’s most disappointing playoff losses. Therefore I’ve used Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. I’ve also included Nashville and Detroit, as they have often been rivals but also have a reputation for their strong drafting abilities. Plus, Nashville may have an Assistant GM that the Canucks are looking at in their GM search.
Also, I’m only looking at what the Canucks have drafted and produced under the current Head Scout, but that’s significant, as it goes back a long ways. Ron Delorme’s first draft as Chief Amateur Scout was 2001, so there is a large volume of work to evaluate, and though there are other people on the scouting staff, he runs the program.
Now, success in your draft is usually determined by one of two things. Firstly, how many games have your draft picks played for you, and thus been available to make your team better? And secondly, point production. It is important to note that some player’s production, like defencemen or a goalie, would be measured on more than points, but the two together paint a pretty good picture.
One of the most important aspects of scouting, and key to a good scouting system, is the ability to find players in later rounds, as it’s deemed much easier to make a good pick in the first round. So we will only look at rounds 2-9.
So I’ve charted the aforementioned team’s drafts, as well as the Canucks, from 2001 to present. All of the numbers are totals by year from the 2nd round to the final round. GP= all of the games ever played for the drafting team, by all of the players from that draft year. PTS= All of the points ever scored for the team by all of the players in that draft year.
Boston: 2001 GP 275 PTS 33 2002 GP 38 PTS 6 2003 GP 745 PTS 580 2004 GP 680 PTS 423
2005 GP 134 PTS 2 2006 GP 794 PTS 485 2007 GP 20 PTS 4 2008 GP 2 PTS 0 2009 GP 8 PTS 0
2010 GP 35 PTS 13 2011 GP 1 PTS 0 2012 GP 0 PTS 0 2013 GP 0 PTS 0
Chicago: 2001 GP 24 PTS 5 2002 GP 1062 PTS 462 2003 GP 572 PTS 128 2004 GP 951 PTS 445
2005 GP 483 PTS 107 2006 GP 1 PTS 0 2007 GP 10 PTS 3 2008 GP 99 PTS 30 2009 GP 244 PTS 81
2010 GP 17 PTS 3 2011 GP 297 PTS 155 2012 GP 0 PTS 0 2013 GP 0 PTS 0
Los Angeles: 2001 GP 322 PTS 220 2002 GP 26 PTS 2 2003 GP 79 PTS 17 2004 GP 80 PTS 30
2005 GP 337 PTS 8 2006 GP 20 PTS 1 2007 GP 691 PTS 228 2008 GP 248 PTS 86
2009 GP 448 PTS 74 2010 GP 74 PTS 34 2011 GP 0 PTS 0 2012 GP 0 PTS 0 2013 GP 0 PTS 0
Nashville: 2001 GP 503 PTS 128 2002 GP 0 PTS 0 2003 GP 1091 PTS 435 2004 GP 355 PTS 13
2005 GP 606 PTS 301 2006 GP 43 PTS 12 2007 GP 323 PTS 87 2008 GP 210 PTS 76
2009 GP434 PTS 177 2010 GP 2 PTS 1 2011 GP 0 PTS 0 2012 GP 42 PTS 4 2013 GP 0 PTS 0
Detroit: 2001 GP 71 PTS 12 2002 GP 1535 PTS 688 2003 GP 300 PTS 6 2004 GP 569 PTS 349
2005 GP 629 PTS 193 2006 GP 185 PTS 25 2007 GP 108 PTS 25 2008 GP 99 PTS 61
2009 GP 105 PTS 48 2010 GP 14 PTS 0 2011 GP 44 PTS 15 2012 GP 0 PTS 0 2013 GP 0 PTS 0
Vancouver: 2001 GP 610 PTS 252 2002 GP 0 PTS 0 2003 GP 18 PTS 1 2004 GP 922 PTS 381
2005 GP 416 PTS 179 2006 GP 8 PTS 1 2007 GP 0 PTS 0 2008 GP 8 PTS 0 2009 GP 8 PTS 0
2010 GP 0 PTS 0 2011 GP 18 PTS 0 2012 GP 0 PTS 0 2013 GP 0 PTS 0
Results of the Review Totals : 2001-Present Chicago GP 3760 PTS 1419 Detroit GP 3659 PTS 1421 Nashville GP 3609 PTS 1234 Boston GP 2732 PTS 1566 L.A. GP 2325 PTS 700 Vancouver GP 2008 PTS 815
As you can see, the current scouting system that has been at the helm for so long is getting out performed by quite a bit. All the other teams are getting a lot more production out of their draft choices over the same period of time. And although the points total can be a bit deceiving, most of the teams still got a lot more point from their picks, and points sure help with wins.
What’s particularly noticeable is the period from 2006 until present. All of the Canuck draft picks combined for that period have played a total of 42 games in a Vancouver uniform. Ouch. That is the very definition of inefficient. All of the other team’s players drafted in that 8 year period have played hundreds of games, with the exception of Boston. But the Bruins did so well in the earlier years it didn’t matter, when they picked the Bergeron’s, Lucic’s and Marchand’s they had the base for their Cup winner.
It should be noted that in that same 8 year period, other teams were finding James Reimer, PK Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Jamie Benn, Derek Stepan, Andrei Loktionov, Tyson Barrie and Jordan Nolan, to name a few. They all went in the 2nd round or later and went after Vancouver picked. Adding to the frustration is that players like Barrie and Benn were playing in The Canucks backyard, in Kelowna and Victoria, respectively. During the same period, Vancouver were adding Shirokov, Ellington, Yann Sauve, Connauton and Patrick McNally to their roster.The results aren’t even close, the Canucks are coming up short on a regular basis and in dramatic fashion.
The Current State of Affairs There is some light peeking through the clouds, as Nicklas Jensen and Frankie Corrado are showing signs that they may be legitimate NHL players and could contribute on a full time basis. It’s encouraging, and the Canucks will take any encouragement they can get. They need to find a GM sooner than later, and put together a plan of attack for the upcoming draft in Philadelphia. Teams work on draft strategy all year, so Vancouver needs to get on it quickly.
The Future The jury is still out on Brendan Gaunce, it will be interesting to see what he does at training camp next season. Bo Horvat looks like a player the Canucks will be able to count on, he appears to be a solid 1st round pick and may even make the team in camp next year. Hunter Shinkaruk is exciting and has a lot of upside and was a late cut from the team this year. However, he will likely need another year in junior or the AHL, as he is recovering from hip surgery he underwent in early 2014.
But the bottom line is this. The Canucks have not done a good enough job drafting and developing their own talent under the current scouting staff. And when you compare what they have done with the elite teams the Canucks regularly face, or are regularly compared to, it’s even more obvious.
The new GM is going to have to possess strong player evaluation and developmental skills, and from all appearances, is going to have to re-build the Canuck scouting system from the ground up. Lorne Frey in Kelowna leaps to mind as a great choice, but whomever they pick, it appears a change is essential or Vancouver risks being average for a long time.