Senators Hockey Ops Loses Scout: The Exodus Begins?

“Not at all and just to clarify the way these things operate, we don’t lose people. We allow them to speak to other teams. Those are our choices. They are under our contracts, so if there are any changes at those levels, those changes are made by us and not at the discretion of the individuals that under contract.

I think we have a first class team and again, you don’t see a lot of these people and the number of scouts. And I can name you some teams, and we all know who they are, and they spend fortunes on layers and layers of management and my god, I don’t know how they even get things done. Well frankly, they don’t get things done. We are mean and lean and we can make decisions and you have to trust the people that you hire and if you don’t trust them, they’ve got to go. And right now, I think we’re in a great spot and if we do make changes at any type of level there, please keep in mind that that’s not anybody leaving, it’s us making the decision for them to leave.” ~ Eugene Melnyk during his end of the season media conference call on April 16, 2014

Having already lost their ECHL affiliate in Elmira to the Buffalo Sabres, pro scout and one of the inaugural Ottawa Senators, Rob Murphy, has also been poached by Sabres general manager Tim Murray.

For what it’s worth, Murphy is still listed on the Senators’ hockey ops page on the team’s website, but Steve Lloyd would go on to explain that Murphy’s hiring by Buffalo was “an upwards mobility move”. It didn’t take Murphy long to change his Twitter profile picture either.

Depending on who you listen to, this move has been in the works for months, so for fans worried that this the first step in some large scale brain drain movement, maybe things aren’t that bad.

As an organization that has had considerable success finding value with it’s NHL draft picks, I’ve always been impressed with the organization’s amateur scouting and player development. Relative to these areas, I’ve always found the organization’s pro scouting has trailed behind or had much less relative success.

Or maybe I’m just trying to gloss over the fact that another of Ottawa’s hockey ops members has left the organization for a division rival.

Without knowing the inner workings of the group dynamics and the principle contributors, it’s hard to say with any certainty how much weight Rob Murphy’s voice carried. However, knowing how astute and respected Tim Murray’s evaluation skills are, the fact that he poached Murphy from the Senators probably does not bode well. He obviously respects and trusts Murphy’s opinions.

Whatever the case, Eugene Melnyk has always been quick to point out that the Senators’ budget for scouting and player development is something that he takes very seriously.

When asked in an interview in April whether he would like to add to the organization’s hockey ops staff, Melnyk responded with the following:

“They have…. You know what… they have, I don’t want to say unlimited because they’ll run with that, but they have a lot of access to capital to spend on the people… Our scouting is second to none… I really believe it’s second to none and just take a look at some of the people we’ve drafted. We added international scouts, NHL scouts, college scouts. We were one of the first ones that had college scouts. We scout other NHL teams for players that are coming up for unrestricted and restricted (free agency). We have everything pretty much we need to, but if they need more, those are tiny salaries compared to some of the players. You know, players $7 million… think of what a good scout costs. I’m not going to tell you because everybody else knows, but that’s not an area that we skimp on at all. It’s the opposite, whatever you need, we’ll give it to you.”

Suffice it to say, it’s easy for Melnyk to say that. Unlike the team’s budget for its players, the budget spent on its front office personnel is not publicly available. Fans cannot verify what he’s saying by using a site like Capgeek to monitor where the team’s spending on scouting and player development measures against what other teams are spending. Without this kind of transparency, we’re simply left to take Melnyk at his word or cynically dismiss what it is that he has to say.

And considering some of the things that he’s said over the past few seasons, why should fans continue to stomach and believe what he has to say?

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