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Friedman: Golisano’s Scouting Cuts Hurt Buffalo’s Chances

From Elliotte Friedman at CBC.ca:

While researching how different organizations approached scouting, several other teams ripped Buffalo’s approach. At the time, Golisano considered that self-serving, because those people stood to lose their jobs if “The Sabre Way” caught on. But, what interested me most was a common thread throughout many of those conversations. It went like this: “I’ll explain to you why video scouting is a bad idea. But, I’m not going to rip Darcy because he’s at the mercy of his owner.”

In the interview, Golisano didn’t exactly disprove that theory.

“These scouts are traveling all over the world. All these expenses, could they accomplish a lot more staying in one place with the use of video?” the owner said. “And they believe they can. If somebody interprets that as not being progressive and being regressive, that’s too bad. But we think we’re far more efficient and have a much better scouting organization than we did three years ago.”

More from the piece:

Director of Pro Scouting Terry Martin, who helped make the decision to acquire Daniel Briere, bolted for Colorado in 2006. Director of Amateur Scouting Jim Benning (now in Boston) and assistant general Manager Larry Carriere (Montreal) left in 2004. For almost a decade, the Sabres found a later-round gem in the NHL draft. There was Brian Campbell (6th round, 1997), Ales Kotalik (6th, 1998), Ryan Miller (5th, 1999), Paul Gaustad (7th, 2000), Dennis Wideman (8th, 2002) and Patrick Kaleta (6th, 2004). Since then, nothing much, although it’s too soon to evaluate recent selections.

You cannot argue with the results. Back-to-back Eastern Conference finalists in 2006 and 2007 (and President’s Trophy winners that second year), the Sabres are in danger of missing the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. Golisano did some great things. He saved the franchise, obviously. After losing Briere, Chris Drury and Campbell, he said he would re-sign Ryan Miller and Jason Pominville, and delivered.

But, winning ownership is more than just signing players. It’s finding them. (The Sabres deserve credit for snaring Tyler Myers, but they had someone on the ground in the Kelowna, B.C., area.) By cutting back on their scouting at both the professional and amateur levels, Golisano compromised the Sabres’ chances to win. That’s why Lindy Ruff hasn’t signed an extension, even though he wants to stay.

I point to this today not only because I agree with the assessment in hindsight but also because I raised my own concerns about Buffalo’s scouting cuts a long time ago in a galaxy far, far (far) away.

Writing elsewhere in July of 2007, I looked closely at one of Buffalo’s first draft classes under the new approach and wondered if their new system wasn’t plucking reach after reach off the draft board:

It has been well chronicled throughout the hockey world that the Sabre higher-ups have done away with traditional amateur scouting in favor of video scouting and other new technological advances. No cause for concern up to this point, but the recent Buffalo draft class raised my eyebrows just a tad.

Buffalo’s 2007 draft picks: T.J. Brennan (31st overall), Drew Schiestel (59th), Corey Tropp (89th), Bradley Eidsness (139th), Jean-Simon Allard (147th), Paul Byron (179th), Nick Eno (187th) and Drew Mackenzie (209th.)

With Brennan as a remotely possible exception, every member of the 2007 Sabre draft class was a significant reach, with Schiestel standing apart from the rest by leaps and bounds. Ranked 223rd by ISS, Schiestel himself was admittedly stunned when selected 164 picks ahead of his ranking. Even Brennan, an offensive-minded defenseman with a wicked slapper for St. John’s in the QMJHL, was playing club hockey just two years ago and was slated for the mid-second round at best.

Of that group, only Byron has reached the NHL, debuting with Buffalo this year and playing in a pair of games with a goal and an assist to his credit. Brennan and Schiestel have spent the last two seasons at AHL Portland and Tropp is an American League rookie this year. Eidsness and Eno are still manning the nets in college at North Dakota and Bowling Green, respectively, and Mackenzie is a forward at Vermont (with six goals in 90 games over the course of three seasons). Allard, according to hockeydb.com, last played in 2009 for the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts.

This is just one draft class, mind you, with (to their credit) four picks holding down full-time AHL duties in the system but it isn’t as though they nabbed gems overnight via video monitoring.

The long-term jury is still out but Friedman makes the case that Buffalo’s different approach to scouting hurt the overall cause.

Read on…

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Filed in: NHL Teams, Buffalo Sabres, NHL Talk, NHL Business of Hockey, NHL Entry Draft, NHL Media, Hockey Broadcasting, CBC HNIC, Non-NHL Hockey, Minor League, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: darcy+regier, lindy+ruff, sabres+sale, tom+golisano


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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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