Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Unknown Ones

Got to spend a half hour on the phone talking to Gordie Clark about the state of New York Ranger prospects (sorry interview will be in next month's Blueshirt Bulletin) and every time I do it is time well spent.

Clark is the New York Ranger's Director of Player Personnel and I do not deny that I am a strong believer in what Clark preaches when it comes on how to scouting and development.

Scouting has to be the single toughest job to do in sports as you are only as good as your last good pick. But few ever remember your good picks because they have your bad ones written in stone.

Scouting is also a job that wears on you because of all that is involved especially on the travel end. Most scouts only serve as long as the General Manager of their team remains in his job which at times is less than 4 years.

The Rangers though have greatly upgraded their scouting and development team over the last few years. Clark is clearly the brains of the operation and does not always get the rightful credit he deserves.

The Rangers almost never talk about their scouting staff which is a huge shame in my opinion as there is some of the best scouts in hockey working for them. Wonder why the Ranger's prospect talent level has gotten better in the last few years?

This group of scouts is one of the most experienced and respected in the entire NHL. You have former GMs, former coaches and even a son but they are all very good at what they do.

Gordie Clark was no slouch as a player for New Hampshire in the 1970s and was named to the ECAC 50th Anniversary First Team. While Clark did not have a great pro career he has made his mark behind the desk and bench.

Clark started his scouting career after serving as an assistant coach for the Boston Bruin working his way to Assistant GM/Director of Pro Scouting (1992-96). Clark had some interesting picks while with the Bruins like Hal Gill, P.J. Axelsson, and Andre Roy.

From the Bruins, Clark moved on to the Islanders where Ranger fans should be grateful that those above Clark gave away what Clark drafted. On his Islander watch, Zdeno Chara, Roberto Luongo Eric Brewer and Michael Rupp were his best picks.

The best day for the Rangers came when the Islanders did not offer Clark a new deal as the Rangers grabbed him up in 2002 as a pro scout. When Tom Renney was named head coach it was Clark who replaced Renney as the Director of Player Personnel.

In one of my first conversations with Clark in 2005, the one thing that stood out is this is a person who always has a plan and believes in building via the draft. A really nice guy that everyone likes; you would have to really do something dumb to get on his bad side.

Clark's Assistant Jeff Gorton is pretty good in his own right as this is the guy who as interim General Manager of the Boston Bruins convinced the Toronto Maple Leafs to trade then prospect Tuuka Rask for washed up Andrew Raycroft. The Bruins were not too bright either as they fired Gorton  in 2007. 

The scouts are pretty good in their own right as the Rangers have one of the most experienced staffs in the NHL. When you wonder how the Rangers have signed 11 out of the last 20 prospects drafted these are the guys who did the grunt work.

Daniel Dore is one of the most respected scouts in the NHL as his main base is the QMJHL. Another dumb move by the Bruins firing him when they fired Gorton.

Rich Brown who has coached in the OHL with the Sarnia Sting. He has been with the Rangers it seems almost forever but most of the OHL picks come from his work.

Larry Bernard who was an 8th round pick of the Rangers in 1985 and coached in the WHL.

Tommy Thompson former Asst GM with the Wild (and blogger for The Hockey News ) is well go read his blog and see why he is a good addition.

Ernie Gare who used to work for Toronto covers the WHL. Gare has been out in the WHL since before I started doing this. He has a tough job given how spread out the WHL is.

Brendon Clark who even though is Gordie's son had a pretty good career with Merrimack College. But this is not a guy who lives on daddy's coattails; smart with a bright future ahead of him in his own right.

Toss in former Wild GM Doug Risebrough who doubles as scout/consultant, Adam Graves who needs no intro and the guys in Europe who are led by Anders Hedberg: Jan Gajdosik,Otto Hascak, and Vladimir Lutchenko.

If you want to keep rehashing all the bad picks they Rangers have made go right ahead as odds are it has been done every year at this time. Maybe this is why I wish the Rangers would shine a little light on their current group of scouts and developers were not why the Rangers drafted badly.

The core of this group has been with the Rangers for about as long as Clark has been in charge but the majority or I should say the additions have just started coming to work for the Rangers in 2007.

If you want to bash the Rangers for all their bad picks then why not give them some credit for the picks and prospects who are starting to pay dividends? There is a very young talented group of prospects on the verge of changing the Ranger landscape.

The Rangers are also being noticed as their prospect pool is viewed as 5th best by the Hockey News. Yes we know it has taken forever but it is finally starting to arrive so maybe 8 years after the Hugh Jessiman pick we can give that one a rest already.

The class of 2008 has 4 players who are just reaching the NHL level, the 2009 class has resulted in 3 signings which is going to rise to 5 once Kreider and Pashnin sign deals. One can make a case to include Oscar Lindberg who the Rangers got in the trade for Ethan Werek which would be 6 out of 7 picks signed.

2010 has already seen McIlrath, Wilson and Thomas signed and it too will increase when Fasth is free to come over from Europe. If Yogan can stay healthy he too can be a contributor which is another 5 prospects.

Then toss in Ryan McDonagh along with young prospects Jyri Niemi, Tommy Grant, Cameron Talbot, Carl Hagelin, and Jason Missiaen and you have a prospect group that it would be fair to say offers promise.

All of these prospects joining the Rangers in the next 2-3 years which is a long way from 2000 when there was even less than nothing on the way up.

The Rangers are not there yet according to Clark but they are getting close which is good news for Ranger fans.


At the Memorial Cup, Casey Cizikas and his Mississauga St. Michaels Majors got a small measure of revenge when they defeated the Owen Sound Attack 3-1 to earn a day off as well as a spot in Friday's semifinal.

The Attack who won the OHL championship on the same ice over the Majors can only blame themselves for why they now have to try to make the Memorial Cup final from the tiebreaker game.

They face a Kootenay Ice team who they spanked 5-0 during round robin but have to do so without their best player Joey Hishon who was injured in that same game by Brayden McNabb. If it was up to us the rule change on head shots would be that your suspension does not begin until the first game the injured player returns.

Now the question for the game (which supposedly is going to be shown live in the US on the NHL Network at 7PM) is who will start in goal for Owen Sound. Jordan Binnington has not played badly despite his 1-2 record but how much does he have left in the tank?

The tiebreaker game will be Owen Sound's 4th game in 6 days so does Owen Sound coach Mark Reeds go with a well rested Scott Stajcer or stick with Binnington? We believe that in a must win game that Reeds goes with a rested goalie who has a Ranger contract but something to prove.

(Clark Courtesy of the Rangers)


Kalel9 said...

I'm a huge Clark fan, and I agree that the scouting staff deserves huge recognition for turning the system around. It's just so different than it was, and it's because of Clark and Co. I do think Sather has been wise to let them scout, and for the most part keep the kids. I can't wait to see what we do in the draft.

The past few seasons they've had a "guy" who was their target. Will see if that holds up.

Kmp said...

Gordie played with Messier when he was a rookie with the Cincinnati Stingers.