Monday, November 19, 2007

Future Greats and Heartbreaks
A Q&A with author Gare Joyce

Sportswriter Gare Joyce has been a busy fellow lately: A little more than a year after his last hockey book, When the Lights Went Out, came out, he's back with yet another entry in the genre, this time an in-depth look at the world of hockey scouts.

What that entailed was essentially a year-long mock scouting mission, where Gare attempted to essentially become a hockey scout, learn the ins and outs of the gig, and, yes, see many, many hockey games. He ended up travelling from Toronto, all through the OHL and Quebec, out to the Memorial Cup in Vancouver, to the U.S., overseas to the Under-18 tournament, world juniors and who knows what else.

The narrative here is quite sprawling and all over the map (often literally), and much of the focus is on Canadian junior players, but the real coup for Gare is that he gets behind the scenes access to one NHL club's scouting interviews and draft preparation: the Columbus Blue Jackets. Given the turmoil in that organization, and the end result for GM Doug MacLean, this adds a big of an undercurrent to all of the travelling, interviewing and hockey watching.

I caught up with Gare this weekend to ask him a few questions about the new book. (This is quite long and not without a few quirky tangents — but that's what happens when you put two journalists together).


What made you want to write this book in particular? Where did the idea come from, and how did it evolve as you waded into the material?

My Crosby and Piestany books were the children I planned on. Future Greats and Heartbreaks was an accident. I was more than halfway through my research — about mid-December — before my publisher gave me the green light.

I had always wanted to do a book that featured NHL scouts. That probably spins out of covering the world juniors and other age group tournaments over the years. Tim Wharnsby from the Globe, Donna Spencer from CP, and Terry Koshan from the Sun are the core group of what we'll jokingly call the World Junior Hockey Writers Association — we'll commiserate over a jet-lagged breakfast in some far-flung place and own up to caring a little too much about junior hockey. I'll admit I'm an extreme case, being the one who's made it out to summer and spring U-18s and U-17s.

At the world under-20s the hockey writers are all pretty aware that there's a lot of NHL business going on all around us. When the tournament is in Europe the scouts outnumber the media folk by about 20 to one at the arena. At the summer under-18s, when Sidney Crosby played there in 2003, say, I was the only media type and there were over 100 NHL scouts in the arena and the only others in the stands were the families of players.

The hockey media doesn't cover the u-18s at all (editors citing the expense, writers not wanting to travel in August or before the Stanley Cup playoffs) and yet the scouts cover it like a blanket (the u-18s being more important than the u-20s in their books) ... What is a pretty crucial bit of hockey business goes on in a media vacuum. I always figured a book about scouting would have to fill in that vacuum and take the reader to the events that aren't usually (or ever) covered.

A good lot of Future Greats and Heartbreaks — Part 1, the three weeks I spent behind closed doors with the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2006 combine in Toronto, at individual workouts and interviews in Columbus and at the 2006 draft in Vancouver — really was an accident. I was working on assignment for ESPN The Magazine, a 3,000-word piece on what it's like for top prospects in the weeks leading up to draft, focusing on Phil Kessel, Derick Brassard and Peter Mueller among others. I got a little carried away with my research, I guess. Just on my notes for that story I would have had enough to write a book on that alone. And as far as "immersion journalism" goes, the idea of participating in the story, it started at the combine too. After over 100 interviews with players, the Jackets' staff was pretty punchy so they would occasionally let me ask the prospects questions.

What was also an accident (and dumb luck) was the organization that I ended up writing about: Columbus. Everyone else I pitched slammed the door in my face — most of them politely. What looked like a last resort, though, turned into a better story than I could have expected and not just because the Blue Jackets have had a great start through the first six weeks of the season. Columbus is breaking out in prospects all over. In a season, the third-rounder the Jackets took, Tom Sestito, went from a luggish 10-goal scorer to a 40-goal first liner. Brassard was the AHL rookie of the month with Columbus' affiliate in Syracuse — he'll be up this season. Jakub Voracek is on fire in the Q — by far the best player in that league right now. The Mason kid they drafted from London will likely be the Canadian under-20 goaltender. Kris Russell makes the roster as a 20-year-old and looks like the second coming of Brian Campbell. Any one of these players would rate as the best the prospect in the Leafs organization.


How close an affinity did you end up developing with the team? And what sense of the organization did you come away with?

Not to parse this like a lawyer but it really depends on what you mean by "team." If we're talking about the team's scouting staff I'd say that I came to know some of the principals (e.g. Don Boyd, the long-time scouting director, or Barry Brennan, the strength and conditioning coach) pretty well. Of the players who ended up with Columbus, I got to know Brassard and Voracek pretty well, too.

As for the organization, I think that comes across in the book: MacLean and everyone on his staff felt under the gun — or at least they knew the meter was running. Their owner's patience was not quite finite, not with the draft coming to Columbus. The Blue Jackets staffers felt that their talent at the NHL had underachieved but also had a heaping helping of hard luck. Among the scouting fraternity, the Jackets took a few knocks for not coming up with any players outside of their first-rounders. But that wasn't a knock on all the staffers personally — Boyd's record in Quebec and Ottawa is beyond reproach. MacLean took knocking for hiring friends and cronies from his old organizations ... the PEI old-timers club. Then again you could say that about a few outfits.

From the outside, Columbus looked to be in serious trouble last year, but there have certainly been positive signs in the post-MacLean era.


Would the book have been drastically different without cooperation from an NHL team?

There wouldn't have been a book. Plain and simple. That's why there hasn't been a book before. Probably not one after. And I have to say that the co-operation went only so far — by midseason, after Boyd's demotion and with MacLean on the firing line, I was more of a witness on the inside than a participant.


I know in Moneyball, one of the real key points Michael Lewis makes is that traditional scouting is an archaic and ineffective way to find good players, yet I don't get that sense from you here. Do hockey scouts do things right? Is there a right way to do it? And why are so many stars drafted in the late rounds by certain organizations?

Moneyball shook up book publishing more than it did MLB scouting. There was a notion that Billy Beane had come upon a better way of conducting business: a stats-driven approach, talent evaluation by computer, the replacement of scouts by statisticians, former players by MIT ciphers. It was sexy-sounding stuff, but a few seasons down the line, the Athletics still don't have a World Series banner (and are a lot further away than they were in 2003).

Fact is, the Athletics' success had a lot to do with a pitching staff and some players like Tejada that were inherited. The big draft in his book — with compensation picks, the five picks up high in the draft — haven't panned out. His most daring pick, the catcher Jeremy Brown hasn't panned out and he was dropped from the 40-man roster. The one player who did pan out in a big way was Nick Swisher, but Beane was hardly the only baseball executive who liked him. Joe Blanton's been good but no better than the player picked right behind him in the first round, Matt Cain, who would have been the last player Beane would have been interested in. John McCurdy, Steve Obenchain, Brown, Brant Colamarino ... don't go looking for them at the All-Star Game or even in the Athletics' lineup.

Maybe traditional scouting — in baseball, in hockey — isn't an effective way of doing business. But, like Churchill's take on democracy, it's a system that looks better when compared to others. Right now, with the prospects in the Columbus organization — Brassard, Sestito, Mason, Voracek, Russell, Stefan Legein with Niagara in the OHL, and maybe Maxim Mayorov — they're looking pretty good right now. Fact is, they're looking better a couple of years out than the Moneyball class did.

The outfit that seems to do best in the late rounds is Detroit — a tip of the hat to long-time scouting director Joe McDonnell, Euro head scout Hakan Andersson (who believed in Datsyuk when no one else did and owns a chunk of credit for Zetterberg) and assistant GM Jim Nill (who was in the mix back in Ottawa in the building of the Senators). No coincidentally, Detroit looks after their scouts: You don't see the likes of Mark Leach and others leaving the organization for other teams. They give their scouts a chance to do their jobs and they've had the same crew in place for a good long while.


You talked a little bit about the travel involved with the book — was it the most onerous part of the whole deal? Do you think you got a sense of the sort of schedule an NHL scout would keep?

Admittedly, I logged fewer games than a full-time scout ... about 85 give or take across the season, when they're doing over 200. I couldn't have written a book or had a semblance of a family life or worked on other outside projects if I'd aimed at a full load of games. That said, it's not like I "lived the life of a scout" for a week or two. It was a real, yearlong immersion in their life and work. I did travel with scouts on several occasions along the way and I probably logged as many miles as some, what with crossing over Canadian leagues and making it to international events — draft in Vancouver, under-18s in Czech Republic and Slovakia in August, bouncing around the OHL in the fall, the Dub in December, under-20s in Sweden in December-January, three trips through Quebec in the New Year, a week in the Dub in Feb, under-18s in Finland, OHL playoffs and then Mem Cup in Vancouver, finally on to the draft in Columbus.

The worst bit of travel — and there were several nightmares — was my hotel at the spring u-18s in Tampere, Finland. I was up against a tight budget by that point (my own pocket) and I couldn't get into the scouts' swank hotel, the Scandic (which I can recommend at $300 a night).

I ended up staying around the corner in a dump that cost less than $250 for seven nights and was overpriced at that. It was full of junkies, hookers and Russian criminals (toilet down the hall). One jet-lagged scout at the Scandic didn't come down for breakfast the whole week, so I free-loaded five-star meals.


Do you feel like you accomplished what you set out to?

I had a couple of objectives with Future Greats and Heartbreaks. No. 1: To give the reader a look at the lives and work of NHL scouts. No. 2: To give the reader a sense of what it's like to be a junior player under the scrutiny of scouts while dealing with all the other pressures 18-year-olds face.

Those are two pretty big tasks.

What makes it even tougher is that I'm doing it across the course of a season — going in there were no guarantees that there was going to be any kind of tension or crisis. It was dumb luck on my part that I latched on to Columbus just as the organization was in turmoil and the staff was dealing with the worst kind of uncertainty ... literally, Don Boyd and other Blue Jackets scouts were scouting the under-18s, dreading going home for fear that they were going to be pink-slipped. With Doug MacLean out, they assumed they'd be joining him on the street.

Those are the "Heartbreaks" of the title; maybe readers will think that it refers to players who don't make it, but really it refers to the scouts. No one loves the game more than them, but they have to feel that it's love unrequited a lot of time. It's often lonely work and there's little in the way of security. And many times, the scouts are let go before they get to see and take credit for assembling the talent for a team that becomes a contender or wins a Cup. That could have been the case this year in Columbus.


How did the process differ from your past efforts?

I was ultimately at the mercy of events — sorta like the Columbus scouts, I guess. When I wrote the Sidney Crosby biography, the task was pretty clear: It was an unfolding story that I didn't have control of, but the focus was narrow. When the Lights Went Out was easy by way of comparison to this book: I was writing about an event twenty years in the past.

With Future Greats and Heartbreaks, well, I didn't know if Columbus would have the first pick in the draft or the 20th back in September of 2006. I ended up seeing a lot more games and talked to a lot more players than I could write about in any detail — a lot had to end up on the cutting room floor and those are decisions that I had to make after the draft. When Columbus picked Jakub Voracek, his role in the book had to become bigger. If the Blue Jackets had drafted Sam Gagner, then I would have included a few more London games in the text and done more with him at the world juniors.


And did working with teenagers as interview subjects present any challenges?

No, not at all. I prefer working with juniors than pros. I think you get more honest answers if you can work up some empathy and sincerity. Juniors: I'm Walt Disney and they're my Mouseketeers.


Who did you ultimately get the closest to in putting the project together (scouts, players, etc.)?

I stay in touch with a few of the principals from the book — yesterday I was exchanging emails with Akim Aliu, for instance. He's certainly one of the players I'll be staying in touch with. Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek likewise. And there are scouts and executives who I'm on the phone with every week or so. But a lot of those — say, someone like Dale Tallon or Rick Dudley in Chicago — I knew for years before the book and really it hasn't changed anything. A couple of my friends among the scouts are a little press shy even though I've been hanging out with them for several years now — if they're named it's only in passing. Better not name them here or I'll never hear the end of it.


Do you feel like you'll always be following the Blue Jackets and the draft class of 2007 from now on?

I get ribbed at my local bar, TKOs on the Danforth. The owner, a diehard Leafs fan who has all but died hard the last couple of years, says he's thinking about converting it to a Blue Jackets bar. Yeah, right. But at least he accommodates me when I ask him to throw a Columbus game on when the Leafs are playing.

But as you suggest, I'm probably more tied to the players in the draft classes. I don't know if it's quite like Michael Apted's 7-Up documentary series where he has gone back an interviewed a bunch of young English kids every seven years right up to age 49. But I check to see what players in the book have done almost on a daily basis. Brassard and Voracek have had unbelievable seasons so far.

The other day I was up in Gatineau and saw Les Olympiques — Claude Giroux, the kid who wasn't drafted in the OHL, was incredible and looks like he's going to be Simon Gagne redux for Philly. A great, great player. The kid I liked but went undrafted in the draft in June, Vitaly Karamnov, ended up going to the Edmonton Oilers' camp and is playing for Everett in the Dub ... if he's a midround draft pick or better in 2008, well, I'll be able to dine out on it for about five minutes. (Admittedly, it's not up there with John Ferguson, Sr., pushing Ottawa to draft Daniel Alfredsson.)

On the release of Future Great & Heartbreaks I'm restarting my dormant blog with a new handle, Scout's Honour, and a new weave, keeping up with what's happening with players from the 2006 and 2007 draft classes and other stuff that would be of interest to readers of the book, fans of junior hockey, draftniks and friends in and out of the business.

Hopefully Scout's Honour will be something like Future Greats and Heartbreak's epilogue, a postscript that evolves in real time — that way, the reader is as up-to-date as last night's scores on the implications of the 2006 and 2007 draft. I know that Michael Lewis is planning a book looking back on Moneyball in a couple of years (he has some 'splaining to do) ... here at Gareco Enterprises, you get to see it as it happens.



Gare's a good guy, someone who's logged about million more years than little old me in this crazy business and who I've taken to chatting with on email once in a while.

In any event, my "review" may not be the most unbiased one, but I did enjoy the book, and a lot of it reminded me of being a teenager back in Kamloops and watching my friends trying to "make it" in Junior A and doing things like taking Creatine and being uprooted, poked and prodded by clubs. It's a great lesson in what it's like to be a junior hockey player, what that entails and you get a perspective on just how young a lot of these kids are. Many of them have spent the majority of their young lives striving for this entry draft business, and that's really only the beginning of a pro hockey career.

As for the scouting end of things, well, you certainly learn of a lot of guys who are labouring well behind the scenes, putting in ridiculous hours and hoping that one day they find the next Henrik Zetterberg somewhere.

It's a worthwhile read, even for just an insider's look at the Blue Jackets and a better understanding of how the scouting machinery works. The hockey business really is it's own little animal, and a lot of these guys on staff never, ever get any time in the sun.

There honestly aren't enough good hockey books being produced in this country, so here's hoping Gare can keep pumping these things out.


Future Greats and Heartbreaks
A Season Undercover in the Secret World of NHL Scouts
Written by Gare Joyce
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pub Date: November 20, 2007

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19 Comments:

At 10:26 AM, November 19, 2007, Anonymous Danny Tolensky said...

Thanks for typing all that up James - this was a great book and I'm looking forward to his next project..

 
At 11:21 AM, November 19, 2007, Blogger Hawerchuk said...

I'm surprised that Joyce is still unclear on what "Moneyball" is - simply, the idea that there are inefficiencies in the market for players, and that you need a mix of scouting and analysis to maximize your team's performance. They are constantly searching for what's undervalued - I don't see how you can attack a general strategy like that.

Until about the time the book came out, the A's basically controlled the market for certain types of undervalued players. But now that a bunch of other teams (Boston, Cleveland and San Diego, in particular) are run by people who combine scouting and stats, it's getting harder for the A's to consistently do what they were doing with a limited budget.

Joyce might want to write the A's off, but only Anaheim, Boston and the Yankees and their huge payrolls have had winning records the last three seasons. Oakland now falls in with Detroit, the White Sox, Cleveland and Minnesota - teams that sometimes win with sometimes lower budgets. It is incorrect to say that an entirely scouting-based approach is better than all others. Clearly, a combination of methods is better than one in isolation.

There are plenty of places where some basic statistical analysis would have been smarter than all of the scouting in the world - the 1979 Entry Draft, for example. Scouts were so used to dealing with 20-year-olds coming out of Junior that they undervalued 18- and 19-year-olds like Gartner and Messier who had already played pro in the WHA.

A more recent example is Nils Ekman, who dominated the AHL at age 26 but was ignored by everyone but the Sharks because, well, 26-year-olds who couldn't make an NHL team when they were 23 have acquired the minor-leaguer tag.

As for Detroit, they drafted Datsyuk in 1998 and Zetterberg in 1999. Their 2000-2003 drafts produced not one player of consquence beyond the 3rd round. The Oakland A's have done a lot better than tht lately.

 
At 11:47 AM, November 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hawerchuk,

I'm quite clear on what Moneyball is. I just seized one point of it for my purposes here. The Greek God of Walks and all that on-base percentage--that's your "inefficiencies in market' theme. He jumped from on-base one season, saw defence as under-valued the next. Yes, I get that. Re Moneyball folly ... I was simply speaking to the pt of relying on stats overly in the matter of scouting. The way Lewis painted it, Beane marginalized his old-school scouts. Beane's successes, such that they are, have a lot more to do with identifying undervalued major-leaguers rather than finding diamonds in the dirt--Brown's case is instructive. BB might as well have been looking for a diamond with a metal detector or a Geiger counter.

gj

 
At 11:57 AM, November 19, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

Hawerchuck: I don't see how a "basic statistical analysis" would have helped in the cases you mention. For Messier and Gartner, how would WHA statistics be accurately compared to major junior statistics? The same problem you identify is still there - in fact, it's worse.

In the case of Ekman, a "basic statistical analysis" would probably confirm that most 26-year olds who haven't yet made the NHL won't, regardless of their scoring numbers. Only by scouting the player could you determine whether his minor league success would translate to the majors.

I haven't read Moneyball, but my understanding is that it was much more prescriptive than just a general note that some players are undervalued by the market.

 
At 12:17 PM, November 19, 2007, Blogger Hawerchuk said...

Gare - I think you missed the point of Jeremy Brown too. The A's had seven picks in the second half of the first round and signed six of them for slot money. Brown was a flyer at the 35th pick for fourth round money. One player, however much was written about him in a book, does not doom a strategy.

From that first round, the A's ended up with three major league regulars (Swisher, Blanton and Teahen.) The Cubs had four picks in the same round - none of them will reach the majors. Yet this draft is an indictment of the A's? It would seem to be evidence of better drafting than other organizations.

[Their success, such as it was, was to reach the playoffs five times in seven years, and miss by one game in another.]

 
At 12:33 PM, November 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who cares about baseball? I will definetly buy Gare's new book, actually few of them because I'll be sending them to my scout buddies in Europe.

Gare is a great Irish s.o.b., almost as good as any Finn.

 
At 12:39 PM, November 19, 2007, Blogger Hawerchuk said...

Adam C asks: "For Messier and Gartner, how would WHA statistics be accurately compared to major junior statistics? The same problem you identify is still there - in fact, it's worse."

1) 81 full-time players had moved from the WHA to NHL (or vice-versa) over the previous five years. They maintained 70-75% of their offensive production. That's a lot of players you could use to estimate risk.

2) It should be obvious that an 18-year-old who performs at a certain level is going to be way better than a 20-year-old who does the same. But it's not clear that NHL teams understood that. 18-year-olds were a new commodity to them, but analyzing the progression of offensive production by age in junior could have told them what to expect.

"In the case of Ekman, a "basic statistical analysis" would probably confirm that most 26-year olds who haven't yet made the NHL won't, regardless of their scoring numbers."

The statistical analysis actually shows the opposite, that guys in their mid-20s with the highest PPGs in the AHL can often make the jump to the NHL. (Mark Mowers did it the same season at the same age as Ekman following similar numbers in the A.)

Ekman had the highest PPG in the AHL in 2002-03. The Sharks signed him for the 20th-highest salary on the roster. He was their second-leading scorer despite being 2nd line PP.

The key is, you could establish the likelihood that Ekman would make the jump to being an NHL regular. Weighed against his salary, it was a great risk for the Sharks, and it was something that 30 teams' scouts didn't see.

"I haven't read Moneyball, but my understanding is that it was much more prescriptive than just a general note that some players are undervalued by the market."

It was a good story. But it wasn't an accurate reflection of what went on inside the organization. And it certainly doesn't tell you anything about what kind of statistical work the A's have done since 2002 to overcome their small scouting budget.

Look up some stories about the Cleveland Indians statistical computer program (Diamondview). Other teams have offered prospects in exchange for the program.

 
At 12:45 PM, November 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Swisher was a prospect by any measure, stats or not. He was highly regarded by one and all. It was Lewis who hyped Brown to death -- if he's not representative of Moneyball-think, that's an issue you should take up with Michael Lewis.

Knocking the Red Wings' draft record is a non-starter. Turning around a prospect for a NHL team is a lot different than drafting college kids like the Athletics. Darren Helm looked like pretty good value at No. 132 in Mem Cup and @ under-20s last year. Wings drafted a great big Swede, Ericsson, now in second full year in A, with the last pick in the draft. Converting him from C to D. That's not going to happen ina season. Fact is, Oakland and baseball teams in general want/expect a player drafted out of college to be in the majors pretty quickly. The timetable, particularly with 18-year-old draftees, is somewhat different.

 
At 12:56 PM, November 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tring to figure out how to best scout players from the WHA? You're obviously looking for the museum's dinosaur wing.

 
At 1:14 PM, November 19, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

Hawerchuk:

Good points about the WHA stats - I'll give you that one.

I'm not sold on Eklund, though - I think the improvement in NHL rules enforcement had much to do with career minor leaguers suddenly becoming major league calibre. That's a shift that I don't think would have shown up in the statistics in time for a team to have spotted him in that way.

Where's Ekman gone, anyway?

 
At 1:34 PM, November 19, 2007, Anonymous Kevin Forbes said...

Adam C:

He dropped off the map (rather dramatically) after being traded to the Penguins prior to the 2006-07 season. Plagued with injuries that limited his time to just 34 games, he was (unsurprisingly) not offered a contract for this season and currently plies his wares in Russia. In 26 games with Khimik, he has 17 points.

 
At 2:00 PM, November 19, 2007, Blogger Hawerchuk said...

"Tring to figure out how to best scout players from the WHA? You're obviously looking for the museum's dinosaur wing."

I picked the most obvious example, where the market for players was obviously inefficient. It's true of every new league - there were huge rewards first for getting a handle on Scandinavia, then on the Eastern Bloc. There are always potentially huge rewards for understanding something new and taking a risk on it - that's what Moneyball is all about.

 
At 2:03 PM, November 19, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I knew I shoulda cut the Moneyball stuff.

 
At 2:05 PM, November 19, 2007, Blogger Black Dog said...

TKOs is ok, Gare, but you should get a pint at McCarthys on Gerrard St.

Can't watch a game there though.

 
At 2:18 PM, November 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just try to get a bar owner to put on a Columbus game.

gj

 
At 4:25 PM, November 19, 2007, Blogger Hawerchuk said...

Yeah, probably. You post a good interview and everybody talks about one paragraph!

I'm going to add blocked shots to BTN this week. Only laziness has prevented me from getting it done so far...

 
At 8:51 PM, November 19, 2007, Blogger dwillms said...

The book looks fantastic, it went straight onto my Christmas wish list.

The statistical analysis actually shows the opposite, that guys in their mid-20s with the highest PPGs in the AHL can often make the jump to the NHL.

I have to disagree with this. Here are some other mid-20's PPG leaders in the AHL that season:

Benoit Gratton
Robert Dome
Cory Larose
Keith Aucoin
Jean-Guy Trudel
Stacy Roest
Jason Botterill
Francois Methot
David Ling
Mathieu Darche
Eric Manlow
John Tripp
etc etc...

None have done anything significant in the NHL since.

 
At 10:28 PM, November 19, 2007, Anonymous Baroque said...

I knew I shoulda cut the Moneyball stuff.

Yeah, that'll learn ya. :)

I like seeing a more extensive review of a sports book than just a cover blurb before I consider purchasing it. Sports books remind me of sci-fi and fantasy stories that way; they are either quite good, or absolute dreck that makes you consider gouging your eyes out if that were the only way to stop the pain of the purple prose. This one sounds like it should definitely go on my Christmas list.

 
At 3:09 AM, November 20, 2007, Blogger Hawerchuk said...

dwillms wrote:

"I have to disagree with this. Here are some other mid-20's PPG leaders in the AHL that season...None have done anything significant in the NHL since."

71 players played at least 40 games in the AHL in 2002-03 and then played in the NHL in 2003-04.

On average, they retained 54% of their even-strength goals per game. Overall, they retained 41% of their overall scoring due to reduced PP time in the NHL.

Players in the 24-26 range will typically retain 35-40% of their overall scoring (based on 121 players born 1948-1980 who played >40 games in the AHL/IHL and then played >40 games in the NHL the following year.)

The players you chose retained only 17% of their PPG in the NHL, but you also chose them because you perceived them to have done nothing in the NHL. Other players did better (hence the overall average of 35-40% for 24-26 year olds).

Keep in mind that retaining only 35% of PPG can mke a player very marginal. Darche (64 pts in 76 GP) turns into a 22 pt guy in the NHL, so a guy like him is better off going to Europe, and lots of NHL coaches wouldn't bother giving him a shot because they doubt he'll improve. That's why you need to look for guys like Ekman who lead the league in PPG (38% higher than Darche) who are at least candidates to get 40 points without playing the PP.

 

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