Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier’s background in hockey is scouting and recruiting. And he is very good at it. Should we be surprised that he would want to put his stamp on the department that goes to his strength. Yesterday he turned a scouting department that, while under a lot of public scrutiny, was fairly successful considering the opportunites they were given.
The failure to come up with the next Guy Lafleur for the team has been a sorepoint among fans and a more than a few members of the media. But drafting for the most part in the middle of the first round is not going to get you Guy Lafleur….or Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Vincent Lecavalier or Stephen Stamkos.
It is generally considered that the results of any draft can only be measured five years after the fact. So we’ll got back five years to 2005. That was the draft year of Sidney Crosby/Bobby Ryan/Benoit Pouliot/Carey Price who took up four of the first five spots. Taken after the Canadiens drafted Price 5th overall were David Setoguchi (8th) Anse Kopitar (11th); Marc Staal (12th) Tuukka Rask (21st) and not much else of note. The Canadiens traded up to take Guillaume Latendresse 45th. Matt D’Agostini (190th), Sergei Kostitsyn (200th). Four of the Canadiens top six picks eventually played for the Canadiens. .
We’ll go back as far as the 1998 draft where the Canadiens took Andrei Markov 162nd overall. Their first round pick was 16th overall; Eric Desjardins taken ahead of his junior linemate Simon Gagne who went to the Flyers in the 22nd slot.
From 1998, (excluding 1999 when they had no first round pick) the average draft position for the Canadiens was 13th. The Canadiens drafted 16th (1998-Desjardins), 13th (2000-Ron Hainsey), 7th (2001-Mike Komisarek), 14th (2002-Christopher Higgins); 10th (2003-Andrei Kostitsyn); 18th (2004-Kyle Chipchura) 5th (2005-Carey Price). Drafting 13th is not going to get you the Sidney Crosby’s, Alexander Ovechin’s, Ilya Kovalchuk’s or Patrick Kane’s of life.
Abject failure will produce those draft picks. Between 2002 and 2006 the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted 5th (Ryan Whitney); 1st (Marc-Andre Fleury); 2nd (Evgeny Malkin); 1st-(Sidney Crosby); 2nd (Jordan Staal). Their Stanley Cup came in 2009.
If there’s been one perceived weakness in Canadiens scouting, it’s been extracting talent from the Quebec League. Part of that has been the league as a whole, which is not held in high regard by NHL scouts. Still the Canadiens had chances to take Gagne, Patrice Bergeron, Claude Giroux, Ryan Clowe and Matthew Lombardi and chose to go elsewhere.
Late developers like Cedrick Desjardins, David Desharnais, Dany Masse, Frederic St. Denis and Phillipe Lefebvre have all been signed out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after being ignored in their draft years.