The Giroux / Fischer Fiasco - Did This Get The Habs' Six Scouts Fired?


The title above would be mine, for an article translated from La Presse's Mathias Brunet yesterday. Watching Giroux play of late, is admittedly a hard pill to swallow for some. Listening to french radio over the past few days, more than one voice, callers and commentators included, tied Giroux's prominence to the Canadiens organization not renewing the contracts of six scouts on Monday.

While the firings are timely, with Giroux's playoff heroics coinciding with 2006 first round pick David Fischer not attending the Canadiens' development camp, the tie in goes all crooked from there. Brunet's article elaborates and analysizes everything quite succinctly, returning a semblence of sound and intelligent perspective to the question.

The departure of six scouts from the Canadiens organization on Monday has left a lot of room for interpretation in the past few days. To many observing the situation, it appears to be a vote of non-confidence on the part of GM Pierre Gauthier towards Trevor Timmins led staff. Is this really the case? I would be surprised.

As suggested by collegue Marc Antoine Godin, the bond shared by Gauthier and Timmins is a very tight one. Timmins in fact, while in Ottawa, learned the tricks of the trade under Gauthier's tutelege. It would be quite stunning to learn that Gauthier did not renew those six contracts without first consulting with Timmins.

In fact, a more in depth analysis of the situation sheds light on the reasoning behind the changes.

If one removes pro scout Gordie Roberts from the group, there remains five amateur scouts. Of that group, Antonin Routa and Nikolai Vakourov, European scouts bith, are of the old guard, joining the organization prior to the Timmins era. Denis Morel, who worked the Quebec league circuit part time, was brought in by Bob Gainey as few seasons ago. Pelle Eklund, based in Sweden, scouted both the amateur and pro ranks and the last two players he recommended to organization - Janne Lahti and Marcus Johansson - were busts. Dave Mayville, who worked Ontario and the United States, is the lone existing tie to the Timmins era.

Of the eight remaining scouts employed by the Canadiens, five are from the newer regime, hired by Timmins over the past few seasons, and they are Frank Jay, Vaughn Karpan, Pat Westrum, Mike McCann and Michel Boucher. The remaining three - Bill Berglund, Elmer Benning and Hannu Laine, were hired prior to 2003.

Now let's take it from a geographical point of view. Three of the five scouts fired were European and were directly under both Gauthier's supervision in the professional sector, and under Timmins, who, as well acquainted as he is with Europe, was well placed to evaluate the work of the three men.

Mayville was most likely spared because he was one too many scouts worked the Ontario region. With the arrival last season of Frank Jay, the former Senateurs director of scouting, it brought the number in the area to three.

In Quebec, the system of two part timers - Michel Boucher and Denis Morel - equalling one full timer, was far from ideal. I would not be surprised if the number of scouts in Ontario was trimmed to make way for a sort of super scout who would work Quebec full time, which was never possible until recently, as Boucher only wanted part time work due to other professional obligations, hence Gainey's hiring of Morel.

All told and taken in this light, Monday's decisions look to be more of a restructuring than an all out purge. Unquestionably, the opinion of the organization of its scouting work is a higher one that those of fans and onlookers.

Those proclaiming the virtues of Jaroslav Halak and P.K. Subban one week ago are the same ones holding the Canadiens accountable for multiple gaffes.

The organization is not perfect. All scouts, even the best ones at times, get it wrong. Choosing David Fischer instead of Claude Giroux is a glaring mistake. Turns out Andrei Kostitsyn was not the best player available where the Canadiens chose him in 2003.

Like I have often mentioned, it is easy enough to make any scout appear incompetant if one chooses to look only at their slips.

The Canadiens own the best young duo of goaltenders in the NHL in jaroslav Halak and Carey Price. P.K. Subban has the talent to become an all star. Guillaume Latendresse scored 27 goals this season for the Minnesota Wild and was named the team's player of the year. Mark Streit is the number one defenseman on the New York Islanders and one of the league's b est offensive quarterbacks. Andrei Kostitsyn, while having the capacity to boil blood, is however a top six forward capable of scoring 25 goals per season.

Maxim Lapierre, Ryan O'Byrne, Mikhail Grabovski, Kyle Chipchura and Sergei Kostitsyn are all NHL players. In total we are speaking of 11 players drafted between 2003 and 2007, and there is of course still hope for talents such as Max Pacioretty, Danny Kristo, Yannick Weber, Louis Leblanc and others. Taken all together, it is far from the desastrous results people speak of.

Haven't the Canadiens just reached the Eastern Conference finals with seven players in their lineup who were drafted between 2003 and 2009?

This isn't a bad result for an organization that has only drafted once in the top nine once in the past seven years.

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