We think the Vancouver Canucks may have a scouting problem(!!!!)

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I was recently having a Twitter discussion with Canucks Army contributor Patrick Johnston (@risingaction) and regular reader Ryan (@Verviticus), in which we were essentially arguing which Canucks entry draft in the Ron Delorme Era was the worst (it’s probably 2007, although 2002, 2000, and 2009 are all pretty miserable too).

We came to the conclusion that, man, Vancouver’s drafting really has been inexcusably awful for over a decade now. Sure, there have been a handful of home runs with guys like Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, and Ryan Kesler, but nearly every Canucks fan can name The One That Got Away or That Guy They #ShouldOf Drafted. Still, every team in the NHL passed up Shea Weber or Patrice Bergeron or Milan Lucic, so is Ron Delorme’s record as head of Canucks amateur scouting really that much worse than everyone else?

To find out, I decided to design an extremely basic you-don’t-have-to-even-think method of drafting and compared it to Vancouver’s draft record under Delorme. I’ve put a summer intern with nothing but a book of CHL stats and no access to any non-Canadian junior league up against an entire team of world-travelling, game-watching professional amateur scouts. If the Canucks’ brass can’t clear this woefully low hurdle, then holy hell they are awful.

Spoiler: it’s even worse than you think.

The Method

The Pension Plan Puppets have a running gag over on their blog about whether Dave Nonis (or Brian Burke or whoever the hell runs the Leafs these days. Shanahan? Lieweke? Carlyle? It’s hard to keep track!) can out-GM a potato. They outline a set of rules that the potato has to abide by and compare the teams’ theoretical moves under the leadership of a potato to those made by the actual team. An excerpt from this past summer:

“Dave Nonis and Randy Carlyle made some controversial moves yesterday, so to figure out whether the duo deserves accolades or scorn, I thought I would compare Nonis’ July 5th Leafs roster to a potato’s.

Rules: The potato cannot extend the Leafs’ UFAs, nor can it sign new ones. We will consider Colton Orr’s extension a “July 5th” move. It will not undo trades, so Bolland and Bernier are still on the roster. Lastly, the potato must re-sign RFAs at 200% of their previous AAV – it’s a potato, not a skilled negotiator. So how did our two GMs fare?”

You get the idea.

You can read that article here. 

Anyways, to avoid totally ripping off PPP’s shtick, we’ll say our sole amateur scout is the only thing more useless to a hockey game than a potato: Tom Sesti–

tom-sestitohead

–I mean, uh, we’ll say our scout is a summer intern called “Sham Sharron“. Sham will not pick and choose his draft selections. He has no access to game tape, he has seen no games, and he has no fancy stats or analytics to aid his decision. He will select all players by the following rules:

  1. All players selected will be from the Canadian Hockey League.
  2. Goalies are voodoo, they will not be selected at any time.
  3. Defensemen are voodoo, they will not be selected at any time.
  4. The Canucks’ selection will be the player still on the draft board that scored the most points in their 17 year old CHL season that was for-realsies taken between Vancouver’s selection and Vancouver’s subsequent selection.
  5. No other information other than the total number of points a player had in his 17-year old season (his first year of draft eligibility) is considered. This information was freely available at the time each draft was held.
  6. Ties are broken on the basis of points per game.
Starting with the 2000 NHL entry draft, here’s how Ron Delorme and his crew got their asses handed to them by Fake Intern Sham Sharron:

2000

00 Delorme

00 Sham

Sham and Ron agree on Brandon Reid in the 7th round, but Sham finds top-6 winger and Corsi God Justin Williams at 23rd overall. Vancouver finds 26 pointless games of Nathan Smith.

2001

01 Delorme

01 Sham

Vancouver did well in 2001, finding two impact pros in Kevin Bieksa and R.J. Umberger. However, Sham managed to find future 3-time 30-goal scorer Jason Pominville to compliment the Sedins and Kyle Wellwood and P-A Parenteau to supplement Vancouver’s depth. As we’ll see though, Wellwood is eventually forced out of Vancouver’s system by some even better talent at C. I’m Gladskikh the Canucks avoided that awkward situation..

2002

02 Delorme

02 Sham

’02 was a disaster for Vancouver, as they failed to find a single NHLer with their 11 selections. Sham whiffs on the majority of his picks too, but unearths Matt Stajan in the late 2nd round and Max Talbot in the 7th.

As an aside, this was my absolute favourite thing I discovered while doing this project: the guy Vancouver actually drafted in the 7th round, 214th overall, was a guy by the name of Marc-Andre Roy. You’ll notice that he played 58 games in his draft year, had no goals, and just one assist. So why did Brian Burke’s Vancouver Canucks waste a pick on that coke machine? I bet it had something to do with this:

royPIMs

Yes, those are SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE minutes in penalties in just 68 games. According to Hockeyfights.com, Roy had 41 fighting majors that year, which account for a total of 205 of those penalty minutes. I don’t know how one accrues 448 extra PIMs without fighting, but I assume it involves criminal activity, human sacrifice, and satanic worship at centre ice.

Thing is, Roy wasn’t the only super-ultra-mega goon roaming the QMJHL back then. I came across quite a few guys with massive PIM totals running through this study. I don’t know much about Q hockey in the early 2000’s, but I have to assume it was a total gong show.

2003

03 Delorme

03 Sham

The 2003 draft is legendary for the sheer number of quality picks that the first and second rounds produced. However, it wasn’t a really deep draft as the number of late round successes were kind of limited. Sham misses Ryan Kesler here, but picks up future ex-Flyers captain Mike Richards, as well as Clarke MacArthur. Under Sham’s drafting, Brad Richardson also starts his Vancouver Canuck tenure a decade sooner than he would in real life.

2004

04 Delorme

04 Sham

The 2004 draft is probably the crown jewel of the Delorme Era. Vancouver’s gamble on a goalie in the first round paid off, and Delorme and Co. also discovered future NHL regulars Alex Edler, Jannik Hansen, and Mike Brown. Sham takes Brandon Dubinsky over Cory Schneider and Liam Reddox (who somehow managed to sneak in 100 career NHL games…?) instead of Edler, but almost had Kris Versteeg in the 4th round instead of Peter Pohl. Versteeg has 49 points to Pohl’s 50, but did so in fewer games. If Sham was allowed to use points per game, he does not pass up Versteeg. But alas, Sham is not allowed to think, so we’re left to wonder what could have been. A MacArthur-Dubinsky-Versteeg 3rd line in 2011? That would have been something.

2005

05 Delorme

05 Sham

I never like bringing up 2005 because of the circumstances surrounding the Luc Bourdon selection. Looking back though, I was pretty stoked about him, but disappointed that Vancouver passed on the great big goofy looking guy with the funny name from the country that no one had ever heard of. I have an Anze Kopitar Kings jersey, and I get filled with regret looking at it knowing that Vancouver was this close to drafting the guy I’d decided was going to be one of my favourite players.

Granted, Sham whiffs on Kopitar too and takes Marek Freaking Zagrapan 10th overall. What the hell, Sham. You were awful in 2005. Next year, take a GOOD OL’ CANADIAN BOY in the first round instead.

2006

06 Delorme

06 Sham

Claude Giroux.

Ron Delorme and Co. cost Vancouver Claude Giroux.

I mean, this would make foregoing the 2004 haul worth it on its own.

The obvious, unthinking choice in 2006 was Claude Giroux at 14th overall. And they still screwed it up.

2007

07 Delorme

07 Sham

2007 was the trainwreck year. Not a single player drafted by the Canucks even made the American Hockey League, let alone coming close to sniffing the NHL. Unfortunately, Sham is unable to make anything from this mess either. Just to prove he’s not infallible, Sham also passes on dynamic Lewiston MAINEiacs sniper David Perron, but in favour of Brett MacLean instead of Patrick White. Eugh.

At least MacLean had played 18 more NHL games than Vancouver’s entire actual 2007 draft class.

2008

08 Delorme

08 Sham

In his first draft under Sham Sharron’s guidance, Mike Gillis saves himself a lot of grief and selects Tyler Ennis 10th overall. He’ll fit right in on the second line with Claude Giroux and Jason Pominville. Or maybe he’ll take Justin Williams’ spot on line 1 with the Sedins. Or maybe he’ll fill a checking role in place of one of the MacArthur-Richards-Burrows line. Or maybe he can just tear up the AHL with Mathieu Perreault since we already have Matt Stajan, Brandon Dubinsky and Max Talbot on line 4… *sobs uncontrollably*

2009

10 Delorme

10 Sham

Neither Sham nor Delorme have a banner year. Sham misses Ryan O’Reilly by one point, but Taylor Beck, Linden Vey, and Phil Varone all go on to form a very strong core of a good AHL team. By the time 2013-2014 rolls around, all are nearing NHL readiness scoring nearly a point-per-game in the AHL, but are being held back because of Vancouver’s absurd depth at forward.

2010

09 Delorme

09 Sham

Despite no draft picks until the 4th round, Sham finds Brendan Gallagher and this is just getting silly. Vancouver has 4 first lines and probably multiple Stanley Cups at this point and Sham is hailed as the greatest hockey mind to ever live. We erect a statue in his honour for finally drafting MOAR GIANTZZZ.

2011

11 Delorme

11 Sham

We’re getting into “too early to call who’s better” territory now. Basically everyone in these two drafts is still a prospect. That being said, I’d take Sham’s top-3 picks over Vancouver’s because Prince, Catenacci, and Pageau probably have a better shot of one of them developing into an above-average NHL player than Jensen, Honzik, and Grenier do. But hey, you never know. Also, Sham allows Vancouver to benefit from Ondrej Palat’s extremely fluky development which is just gravy at this point.

2012

12 Delorme

12 Sham

This is Ron Delorme’s final year as the director of amateur scouting for the Vancouver Canucks, and it’s too soon to tell if he’s defeated Sham in his last hurrah. I tend to think not, because I prefer Bozon, Gordon, and Smith to Mallet, Hutton, and Myron, but Ben Hutton looks like he could swing that in Delorme’s favour.

With his stellar draft record, Sham is retained as the Canucks’ head of amateur scouting and is allowed the 2013 NHL entry draft as well.

2013

13 Delorme

13 Sham

I prefer Mantha to Horvat despite the age concerns, and I like Bjorkstrand far more than Cassels, but I’m torn on Petan/Shinkaruk. Greg Chase could prove to be a good pick in round 6, so I give the early nod to Sham’s most recent draft over the Canucks’ actual one, but that’s open for plenty of debate, especially if Bo Horvat does defy the odds and become a Bergeron-type two-way force at the NHL level. As each and every one of you knows, I’m skeptical though.

Conclusion

So who did better, Vancouver’s actual scouting staff or our friend Sham who restricted himself to just one year of goal data in just the CHL and watched exactly none of the games? Well, here are all the guys who have played one or more full seasons worth of games drafted by each group:

conclusion

If Vancouver never kept a single amateur scout on staff, never paid any attention to junior hockey anywhere in the world, never watched a single game, never did any in-depth research, never prepared for the draft for more than three hours each year, and simply took the next highest scoring CHL forward with every selection they had, they would have drafted over 4000 more games of future NHL experience, nearly 1000 more goals, and over 1500 more assists than they did under the Ron Delorme regime. Vancouver’s scouting since 2000 has not just been useless, it’s been a cataclysmic failure on all fronts, and probably the single largest reason why the Canucks have not been able to accrue enough assets to build a perennial Stanley Cup contender.

This study was hardly in-depth. The methods for selecting players were extremely straightforward and comically simplistic. No shred of information that wasn’t already available at the time was used. There were still massive whiffs under this system. Good players were still passed up and first-round busts were still selected. Yet it outperformed the actual Canucks draft record to a degree that shouldn’t be possible, both in terms of player quality and player quantity.

The knowledge and opinions of a scout are only worthwhile if they can outperform any idiot with access to the internet. Vancouver has proven definitively that their scouts have been entirely worthless since Ron Delorme took over the gig in 2000, since they haven’t been able to outperform what an idiot with the internet would have done. You, reader, could have done the job better than the professionals. It’s now up to the professionals to figure out how to get their competitive edge back.

Let’s hope it starts this year.

    • Mantastic

      That would certainly improve this along with, for example, taking the junior goalie with the best save percentage or something along those lines when the Canucks selected a goalie.

      If Rhys is up for it, a better way to do this would be to tweak the criteria to include defenseman and goalie selections and to run the simulator where ALL 29 teams are following the same rules.

      As an example, the simulator suggests the Canucks should have selected Giroux at #14 whereas he was actually selected at #22 by the Flyers.

      This implies that EVERY team from, at minimum, 14-21 should have taken Giroux.

      Without looking it up, there may have been a team or multiple teams selecting from 1-13 that also should have taken Giroux following this methodology.

      Hence, if other teams were privy to the Sham playbook things would look A LOT different.

      Not to mention that Don Cherry would love the new look of the league since he and Sham both want to completely ignore the talent coming out of Europe…

      As a commenter suggested above, I’d also like to see the simulator at the 1998 draft where the Canucks would pass on the Sedins.

      Let’s see how Sham’s core stacks up to the one that was a contender from 2008-2012 largely on the strengths of Sedin, Sedin, Kesler, Raymond, Hansen, Bieksa, Edler, Schneider and could have been even more homegrown players if it had included Grabner, Umberger, Bourdon (RIP), Allen, Cooke etc.

      Ripping the Canucks without looking at what 29 other teams have done (or should have done) is not going to help dispel the notion that lower mainland hockey fans live in a bubble…

      • Mantastic

        I don’t trust any “methodology” that would pass on the Sedins in 1999, considering how terrible the rest of that draft was.

        Why would you ignore European players? Isn’t that kinda the EXACT OPPOSITE of what Detroit does?

        • Mantastic

          I would not ignore players from Euro leagues.

          Sham would.

          Along with defenseman and goalies.

          Detroit and the 29 other franchises in the NHL would laugh at this idea because, for all intents and purposes, Sham is cutting himself off from over 50% of the talent pool (defenseman, goalies and Euro forwards).

  • Mantastic

    This method of drafting got me excited…until I realized that it wouldn’t work at all in real life.

    The problem lies in number 4 of “Sham”‘s method: “The Canucks’ selection will be the player still on the draft board that scored the most points in their 17 year old CHL season that was for-realsies taken between Vancouver’s selection and Vancouver’s subsequent selection.”

    The problem is that it presumes to know who’s going to be drafted in the near-future. Let’s pretend that you had no way of knowing who the other teams were planning on taking (which would actually be the case in reality).

    In 2000, the Canucks would have passed on Justin Williams to take Ramzi Abid. Even their own NINTH-round pick, Tim Smith, put up more points than Justin Williams. So the question is: Why did the LA Kings pass on Ramzi Abid and Tim Smith to pick up Justin Williams? Answer me that, Sham.

    Also, let’s not overlook the fact that we wouldn’t have the Sedins if this method were used. Assuming that Burke would have traded for the 2nd and 3rd picks even if he hadn’t intended on drafting the twins (he wouldn’t have), he would have used those picks on Pavel Brendl and Oleg Saprykin (or James Desmarais if he didn’t have the benefit of foresight).

    Sorry, but the Canucks would have drafted much worse if you tried to use this method (even under the assumption that all players would have developed as they actually did).

    • Spiel

      Yes, point #4 in the method didn’t seem right to me either.

      Sham could simply add NHL central scouting rankings to his method. What changes if Sham chooses from the next 30 players (or number of players between subsequent Canucks picks) on NHL central scouting’s list instead of using the “for realsies” clause?

  • Mantastic

    Who on Sham’s “perennial Stanley Cup contender” is going to play defense and goalie?

    Also, it isn’t the least bit surprising that Sham’s team has produced more NHL games & points considering:

    1. Every single selection is a freaking forward

    2. Luc Bourdon (RIP) passed away and nobody on Sham’s team has suffered the same fate let alone a 10th overall selection

    3. Cory Schneider has fewer NHL games & points than a number of journeyman NHL forwards on Sham’s team.

    This exercise would be a little more telling if you played the same game with 29 other teams.

    As an example, Nashville has selected three legit #1 defenseman during this time frame (Weber, Suter, Hamhuis) and possibly a 4th in Jones.

    If you put up Sham’s fictional team using the same methodology against what Nashville has done, you may very well end up with a team of forwards with more points/games played than Nashville’s selections with significantly less impact.

    By the way, did you know that Thomas Gradin & Ron Delorme wanted to select Erik Karlsson in 2008 over Cody Hodgson but were overruled by the new GM?

    I (probably) made that up since I have as much knowledge of each individual scouts draft board as you do.

    But the point is that you have no idea how Delorme, Gradin etc have set up their boards in the last 14 years if the GM has different ideas and values different things.

    Creating a methodology that privileges forwards and creating a fantasy team that ONLY selects forwards all while ignoring what 29 other teams have been doing during the same time period misses the point…

  • Mantastic

    Interesting read. What you are also failing to account for is the inept player development that have plagued this organization for as long as I can remember. Who is to say that anyone of Sham’s picked would have turned out…?

    • RCN

      Inept player development, incompetent drafting, country clubhouse atmosphere, over rated soft players, delusional fans, mouth piece media that hates winners, I think we all know what the Canucks real problem is… ALL of the above.

    • Mantastic

      It’s because they draft for coal and polish them into diamonds. teams like the Canucks draft like a candy store. Oh I’ll take that one and everything is done. It’s not. Learn how to develop players or don’t bother drafting them. Drafting means to just picking something up, not developing what you’ve just picked up.

  • Mantastic

    I think the point of this exercise is that anyone with access to the internet and without having seen even one game could draft better than the Canucks scouts, and I think that point is well made. The reality is that the Delorme and co. seem to take an almost random approach to drafting. Even a completely unsophisticated and arbitrary methodology like above would have resulted in SIGNIFICANTLY improved drafting for the Canucks over the last decade. This is an absolutely sad indictment of the Canucks current scouting methods, and the state of scouting in general. It reminds me of that opening scene in Moneyball where all the scouts are sitting around talking about prospects, making statements like “He’s got a beautiful swing” and “he’s got a baseball body”. This sounds essentially like how the Canucks draft players. They would have been better off firing their entire scouting staff and just having a computer draft for them.

    I hope for the Canucks sake that both Linden and Benning get a hold of this article.

    • Mantastic

      Big Time,

      My point is that this isn’t a methodology – it simply wouldn’t work.

      Think of it in practical terms.

      Linden and Benning have the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft. If they follow this methodology, who will they pick?

      Should they draft the highest-scoring available forward from the CHL? Not according to this article. According to this article, they should draft the highest-scoring available forward from those who are drafted between 6th and 35th overall. But how are they going to do that, when they have no idea who will be drafted between 6th and 35th, because they haven’t been drafted yet?!

      Do you see how this “methodology” only works when you’re looking back on it, in hindsight, retroactively?

      • Mantastic

        uh… they would just look at who hasn’t been drafted yet (picks 1-5) at #6 and draft the highest remaining scoring forward from the CHL… this makes perfect sense. no hindsight required in the future

        • Mantastic

          Fine. But that’s not what they did in the above simulations.

          Look at the 2000 Entry Draft. The Canucks would’ve drafted Justin Williams in the 1st round, then Ramzi Abid in the 2nd round. But look at their stats: Ramzi Abid had MORE points than Justin Williams.

          In 2003, Nigel Dawes had MORE points than Mike Richards.

          So no, they aren’t just picking whoever had the most points. They’re picking whoever had the most points AMONG THOSE who were drafted shortly afterwards. But in real life, there’s no way to predict who’s going to be drafted shortly afterwards. Therefore, a hindsight bias is necessary.

  • Mantastic

    This was absolutely the greatest post in the history of Canucks Army.

    Just last month I was telling my friend how abysmal the Canucks drafting has been over the last 10 years, and now to see it laid out like this is hilarious, yet depressing.

  • NM00 – You are absolutely right and completely miss the point all at the same time. This is a goofy exercise for sure, but a fun and interesting one as well.

    NHL scouts have to justify their existence and what this points to a tendency to over think things big time and probably use a bunch of stupid criteria like SIZE and TRUCULENCE and STIFFNESS and such.

    Now, if you put goalies and d-men in and expanded to all regularly scouted international leagues and used the exact same criteria, I imagine the results would be a lot more muddled.

    Still, a fun read. Thanks.

  • Mantastic

    I was just curious and adjusted the model such that, whenever the canucks picked the D/G, that the Sham would also pick the same player.

    That said,

    Sham would lose Stajan, Dubinksky, D’agostini, Gallagher. A total of 1662 GP, 308G, 494A, 802P lost from the Sham model from that. But getting Bieksa, Edler, Mike Brown, Schneider ie the goalie/defense that played more than a season – contributed to (974GP 75G 184A 259P).

    Which made the Sham total to be: 7503 GP, 1504 G, 2348 A, 3852 P

    And the differential to be:
    3490 GP, 547 G, 792 A, 1339 P.

    Games played and points wise, still a significant difference. I agree it wasn’t fair with the original model that the canucks spent picks picking up goalies and defensemen when the model went and picked up the best scoring CHL forward.

    This still illustrates that even if the model picked a forward whenever the canucks picked a forward (and the same goalie/defenseman), that the canucks didn’t draft that well even for just forwards when they wanted a forward.

  • Mantastic

    This article is so cringe-worthy. And for those quibbling with the comical methodology, feel free to simply look at the draft picks in each year of the past decade of futility. My apologies if this has already been added to the discussion and I’ve missed it, but it really adds an exclamation point: http://thepensblog.com/2014-archives/shero-draft-piece.html

    Although it focuses on Pittsburgh’s terrible drafting since 2006, the league-wide comparisons mostly have Vancouver at the bottom by a large margin. It’s pretty depressing, actually.

  • PuckWatch.com

    This article is an absolutely awesome idea, but NM00 is right, it’s flawed.

    When you take the Canucks’ 95 draft picks since 2000, they drafted 40 D and G, and 55 forwards.

    So, if ‘Sham Sharron’ takes all 95 and drafts forwards, of COURSE they’re going to have more points. You’re comparing 95 players to 55.

    Comparing to other teams is also a good idea. I’m not pro-Gillis, but the draft criticism always bugged me. If you look at team with similar draft positions over that time (Detroit, San Jose, Pittsburgh and Washington all draft around 21st-25th on average), you’ll see that the Canucks have fared just as well. I did crunch these numbers pre-Gustav Nyquist, but Detroit hasn’t been as good these past few years.

    • -but Detroit hasn’t been as good these past few years.-

      Maybe because Detroit is busy rebuilding, developing players so in a few years they will have a strong contender again?

      Meanwhile the Canucks are happy spinning their wheels and in a few years when the early bird is getting its worm, the Canucks fans can once again ask wonder why another team has made the next step and they’re still stranded on 1st base.

  • Mantastic

    Wow, great article! What are the chances that you get a press pass, and make this the first question for Benning when he gets introduced: how do you improve on Sham? Alternatively, get Botchford on board.

    Of course, since no one is ever satisfied, now curiosity makes me wonder how Sham does against CSS? Or how Canucks’ scouts do against a Sham that just uses CSS lists? And what happens if you use some kind of measure that includes NHL TOI and then also include d-men?

    For the record, and with all due respect for Bourdon, I was also hoping for the Kopitar pick.

  • I wonder who the trolls are who come on here and give *every single post* a down-vote. Makes the “Trash/props” thing kind of useless.

    Also, I think most of you are missing a key point – it’s not about points, ultimately, but games played. “Sham Sharon” got literally twice as many games played out of his draft selections as Canucks scouting & management.