The Long Journey to Stanley Part 1: Science of Scouting

Hello fellow fans!  I have been kicking around an idea for a post, but the more I thought about it the more ground I wanted to cover.  Instead, I'll be putting out a series of posts to try and show the possible routes to Lord Stanley.  Hopefully, this will help mitigate our reaction to our disastrous start this year as I tend to take the long view of things.  I may post multiple parts on Fridays and I might not be able to post too often during the rest of the week.  This is mostly a mental exercise to examine the options of the Leafs both now and for the next 5 years.  Speculation based on information.  Please contribute your ideas and insights.

Science of Scouting.  When Brian Burke took the Papal Office of the Leaf Vatican, his opening address was quite clear.  He wanted to be the one to bring this team a Stanley Cup.  He refused to give a time line, but he did say he wanted to get his team competing for a Stanley Cup by the end of his current tenure.  

Obviously he did not guarantee a Stanley Cup, that would be foolish.  There are so many factors outside of the control of any one individual that such a guarantee would be pure folly.  Luckily the majority of knowledgeable Leaf fans understood his commitment to improving the team.  For the first time in a long time we had a sense of direction.  Whether everyone agreed with his strategy or tactics is up for debate.  I didn't necessarily agree with some of his decisions, but he has been in this hockey management thing almost longer than I have been alive (and I trend above the average age of the readers on this site.)

Brian took the attitude of retooling - tearing everything down is wasteful, poor management and ultimately does not promise success.  He poured resources into increasing the knowledge base of his management staff as well as beefing up his scouting ranks.  Let's get something straight - the scouting staff change is not going to impact the Leafs this year or probably even next year.  Scouting is an investment which will pay dividends, but not for several years down the road.  Also, these dividends in many ways will be subtle and not easy for us fans to discern.  Many people talk about how team X is great at scouting and team Y is horrible.  There are so many different factors that influence how players develop that it is nearly impossible for the general public(including the media) to judge how effective a scouting staff is. 

Those in the industry and in the know pretty much are the only ones who have the ability to understand why a scouting group placed more relevance on one player over another...but again, you cannot evaluate your players on a pick by pick basis.  It is fairly easy - even in our eyes - to look at the top 60 draft eligible players and figure out who you want.  Unfortunately even with the level of information available to us, the scouts know these players on a much higher level than we do. 

Usually, the true payoff from great scouting comes from drafting in the rounds after 1 and 2.  Scouts need to have an eye for everything that makes a player successful.  Those who can see qualities that can be developed better than everyone else will be able to take these diamonds in the rough.  Do all of these pan out?  No, most do not, but a good scout can't be a follower or they will never get the best potential player.

In short, we may never fully understand the process of scouting and how good our scouting staff is compared to anyone else, the variables are just too dynamic to map out in any coherent way.  I am not one for blind faith, I would rather go into any situation with the most information available (and that is what we have to expect from the Leafs scouting staff.) 

Unfortunately, this is one area in which we will have to just have a little faith in.


Part 2 will be Managing Expectations. is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of

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