SCOUT'S POSTCARD FROM...ALL OVER THE EAST
[Editor's note: Our series of emails from Islanders scouts on the road continues with this one from pro scout Kevin Maxwell, who is kind enough to shine a light on his road trip visiting NHL teams in the East over the last few weeks. As is the case with Mike Milbury's Memo, we would like to point out that these are emails sent to us directly from the scouts, who have graciously agreed to share some of their notes from their trips.]
On the road again. Greetings from the pro circuit. My objective in the first month of the season is to see our conference, especially with so many new faces on clubs coming out of the lockout. I put together a schedule to catch every team with the exception of Ottawa before my trip to Russia and Sweden at the end of October.
I am watching for prospective free agents and younger players in the league to compile my scouting book on them,in case there's ever an opportunity to trade for them or sign them. Here are some notes I scribbled out for the fans during my first trip of the season. It may not be Shakespeare, but hopefully it gives you an indication of life on the road for a pro scout. As I'm sure you can understand, I have to be vague in some cases because I can't let the hockey world know what I'm doing. But this should give you a taste of what goes on.
Day 1, Penguins at Devils...Sidney Crosby , the junior phenom, first NHL game, tons of press credentials from all over the hockey world anticipating his first tilt. Sidney does not disappoint, looks like the real deal to me. Brodeur however steals the show,was outstanding, but I feel the Devils have been weakened by the loss of Stevens and Niedermayer, they have some holes. Knowing the Devils, they'll eventually be fine and find a way to be a contender in no time.
Check into the LI Marriott after the game. This is home for 4 nights. File my report in the morning, updating and adding to my files on the NHL players. Get a call from Bridgeport coach Dave Bassegio. Bags tells me couple of his veteran defensemen get hurt in the first game, so we call our ECHL affiliate Trenton for recruits. Sound Tigers have our young kids there developing, likes of Colliton, Bergenheim to name a couple. We feel it is important to have a competitive team in Bridgeport, developing as well as building a winning culture.
Next couple of days I head to MSG for Rangers game against Montreal. I take the LIRR in with a lot of Ranger fans on the train. Funny seeing some of the Ranger fans having a couple of pops to get revved up for their team. Rangers playing well and as a team. Bad for us in the standings, good for the rivalry and good for hockey in New York. It's up to us to our part.
Friday on to Philadelphia, Devils are there. Flyers are big as usual but and have some trouble with the new rules as their defense is not very mobile. But they have so many great players and an outstanding coaching staff and they make the necessary adjustments just a few games in. Lots of penalties in this one, not much flow to the game, but the Flyers do have a great third period, scoring four unanswered goals to win 5-2.
Now it is Saturday, Isles opening night. My wife, Jennifer, drives down to the game. It has been almost a ritual for us the past ten years to try and see opening night together. We get some dinner at a nice LI restaurant, then score some good tickets and sit in the stands. What a blast. The energy in the building was contagious. However, I am a little nervous as we have retooled our club and I'm anxious to see how we've done. We win 3-2, great start at home. Not our best game, but it's a start and all our amazing fans go home happy. No doubt, there's work to be done.
It is absolutely pouring and we get soaked heading back to the Hotel. Jennifer heads for home in the AM, and I head for two more games in the Washngton area.
Six-day trip concludes with an afternoon tilt in Wahington and I head for home -- West Hartford is about 400 miles away, but is time to go home for a day. On my off day, I get the kids off to school and my son Jackson asks if I will take him to hockey practice, so I watch his first tryout that night.
Next morning I pack for a three-day trip that takes me south to Atlanta, Tampa, and back to Altanta. Before I leave I have to book my hotels and flights for my Russia trip and file all my paperwork just so I can get into the country.
Atlanta flight is late. I hope to get there on time for the game. I get into Atlanta just in time to drop off my luggage, throw a suit on and jump on the train downtown. I am fortunate the train drops me off right in front of the arena. Turns out the subway was built for the Olympics when they were here.
Kovalchuk is playing tonight after a contract holdout. He is rusty and they lose 2-0 to Montreal. Canadiens have the makings of a quick, skilled club with good goaltending and hard-working on D. They could definitely challenge in the East.
Next day fly to Tampa, have to rent a car. Go for a short ride. It is a beautiful day, sun is shining, check out some people wind surfing, one of the perks of the job, I guess.
Head for the game, Buffalo is in town. What a great game. Both teams were flying. This is the way our product should be played for the fans. Buffalo wins in a shootout, 4-3.
I have the pleasure of sitting with a legend, Scotty Bowman. He is consulting for Detroit. We talk hockey and systems all night. I come away from the night knowing why he was so successful as a coach. Even up in the press box he is trying to coach. He sees Tampa a lot, and gives me some insight as to what they are doing. I will drop Steve Stirling a email after the game. Hey, every little bit helps, especially getting it from a legend.
Next day back to Atlanta. Toronto is there. The game turns ugly as Tucker, yes the infamous Darcy Tucker, gets a bad check from a Thrashers player. Tucker is bleeding, and it touches off a mini brawl. Leafs win 9-1, in a fight-filled contest.
Heading for Russia and Sweden to see some our drafted prospects this week.
All this and it's only a month into the season. I will drop you a line from overseas.
October 21, 2005