Senators Making Scouting Staff Announcements

The Senators released a press release discussing some internal changes within their scouting ranks:

OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators (@Senators) announced today the promotion of Bob Lowes to the role of chief amateur scout while adding two full-time amateur scouts to the team’s scouting department.

A Regina native, Lowes originally joined the Senators as a part-time amateur scout in 2006. As chief amateur scout, he will provide direction to the entire amateur scouting staff as the group prepares for each year’s NHL Draft. Lowes, who has been an integral component of the team’s drafting regime dating to his full-time hiring in 2008, spent 12 seasons as a head coach in the Western Hockey League between 1992 and 2004, the first nine of which were with the Brandon Wheat Kings before spending the next three seasons with the Regina Pats.

Trent Mann, who had been serving in a part-time capacity since 2010, primarily in Quebec and throughout the Maritimes has been promoted to a full-time amateur scout.

Don Boyd, who had previously been serving as a scouting consultant, has been named a full-time amateur scout. Boyd spent more than 10 seasons with the Blue Jackets from the team’s inception until the conclusion of the 2010-11 campaign, primarily in the role of director of hockey operations and player personnel. He has also served as an assistant general manager with Columbus.

The size of Ottawa’s scouting staff is something that’s been discussed around the corners of the Senators interwebs (here and here) this past offseason.

Part of it has to do with former pro scout Rob Murphy has also left the Senators’ organization to join former Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray in Buffalo, but it’s also a consequence of liking a team that is owned by a heavily scrutinized individual who has campaigned hard against the idea of spending for the sake of spending and defended one of the league’s lowest payrolls by saying that the organization pours significant sums of money into scouting and player development – two facets of the organization that conveniently don’t have their budgets disclosed to the public.

The following quote came from Eugene Melnyk’s end of the 2013/14 season conference call with the media and concerns the Senators’ scouting budget:

“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.”

Later on in that same conference call, downplayed the significance of having a large staff…

“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.”

Melnyk is right in saying that a larger staff simply does not mean a better ability to identify, cultivate and develop talent, but given the team’s inability or unwillingness to spend on player talent, the fear is that similar budget constraints are also being placed on the hockey operations side.

By saying that the Senators don’t skimp on this budget, ownership is asking fans to take him at his word which had led to some people taking it upon themselves to delve a little deeper.

Using the information that’s available on each team’s respective NHL.com website, relative to other NHL teams, it appears as though the Senators have one of the smallest hockey operations departments and scouting staffs in the entire NHL.

Via Travis Yost, the following graph crudely depicts how many player development assets each NHL team:

Over at Silver Seven Sens, Amelia broke down all of the numbers into one encompassing spreadsheet:

Legend: A = Director of Player Personnel; B = Director of Amateur Scouting; C = Director of Pro Scouting; D = Director/Head of European Scouting; E = Director of Player Development; F = Misc. Scouts; G = Amateur Scouts; H = Pro Scouts; I = European Scouts; J = Hockey Analytics staff; K = Total Scouts; L = League Ranking

The data suggests a situation in which the Senators are employing less people than their hockey operations departments than their peers.

In the salary cap era, scouting and player development are the lifeblood for any organization, but in the case of the Ottawa Senators, an organization with significant financial limitations, they have to be more efficient with their drafting and player development so that they can keep developing young and inexpensive talent to replace players who may price themselves out of this market. So you can understand why some fans would have interest in or be concerned by how many people the Senators employ within their front office.

Without knowing how the Senators’ hockey operations department operates or manages its scouts, it’s impossible to say with any kind of certainty that more eyes would lead to better results or that the Senators desperately need more employees to operate efficiently and not experience a downturn in the quality of their work.

As much as I would love to see the organization add some staff to focus on hockey analytics, if the Senators believe that their scouts have the talent to identify talent and cultivate prospects, then so be it. It’s tough to disagree with their recent results and draft record.

Thoughs on the promotions…

In regards to the staff that was promoted, I don’t know much about Trent Mann or Don Boyd, but Bob Lowes was a favorite character of mine from the Senators’ short-lived Senate Reform videos that chronicled the team’s 2011 scouting and draft process.

As an amateur scout who focused principally on the Western Hockey League, it’s difficult to ignore the success that Ottawa has had finding talent (ie. Zack Smith, Jared Cowen, Curtis Lazar, Mark Stone and Chris Driedger) at various stages of the NHL draft from that league.

Other news and notes…

- USA Today‘s Kevin Allen graded each NHL team’s offseason and to no one’s surprise, he gave the Senators a ‘C’ grade, explaining “the Senators seem to have taken a half-step backward since last season. They picked up winger Alex Chiasson (pictured) and two prospects they liked for Jason Spezza and signed skating center David Legwand as Spezza’s replacement. Kyle Turris is the team’s No. 1 center, and Legwand, a two-way center, should slot in at No. 2. Legwand can’t replace Spezza’s offense.”

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