Friday, November 21st, 2014

On Scouting Reports


I regularly read Lowetide partly because I keep a pretty close eye on the Oilers, but mostly because he and I grew up watching the same players. He often likes to make a point – like in this post – using things like Steve Shutt’s scouting report from 1972:

Steve Shutt plays his position (LW) exceptionally well and should be an easy pupil for an NHL coach. He patrols his wing religiously and is always well positioned in the attacking zone. Defensively, he is rated well above average for a junior. His shot is his major asset: quick, heavy and accurate. He is equally dangerous with a wrist or slap shot. Good skater and more than willing to dig in the corners. Shot is sufficiently impressive, along with heady play, that he could become point man on an NHL powerplay as a freshman with the right club. Last year, his 70 goals were only one shy of the OHA record (set by Richard Martin). – George Hanson, Montreal Star.

Lowetide notes that this is a very good scouting report, one that is of the same general nature of scouting reports around today. In this case, the report turned out to be very accurate (although I don’t think Steve ever played the point on the power play.)

Lowetide contrasts this to a scouting report delivered up by the general manager of Oiler prospect Darnell Nurse.

•Dubas: “People get obsessed with Darnell’s plus/minus (plus-1, down from plus-15 the year prior), but his underlying numbers are excellent. Relative to the competition he plays [against], he does extremely well. Far greater than 50 percent of the time, the puck is not in our end. To me, it doesn’t get much bigger than that. If we’re taking the other team’s best players and forcing them to play in their end and away from the puck, that’s a successful day. The quality of competition he’s faced is higher than anyone else in our league, especially among defencemen.”

Lowetide thinks that this is a first rate report, “insightful and give(s) the reader a true indication of progress and ability.”

I beg to differ. I loved the Shutt report because it described the player and explained why he was really good. I don’t think the Dubas report tells us anything except that Dubas knows the jargon of the advanced statistics crowd. I doubt that he has any actual data, but even if he does, so what? Wouldn’t we expect a high first round draft pick to do well against the best competition? I think Dubas sounds like a general manager defending a player with “his plus minus is misleading.” It could very well be true, but it doesn’t tell me anything about what Nurse does well and what parts of his game that need improvement.

I thought of this when I read Tyler Dellows post about Martin Marincin. I don’t know Marincin at all as a player and I didn’t learn much from Tyler’s report except that according to the way Tyler measures these things Marincin has done well so far. I found myself wishing Tyler included a paragraph that described Marincin like Hanson described Shutt.

I don’t mind if the statistical information is included as a marker of actual results achieved – if I am dubious I can apply whatever weight to the data that I wish – but I’d like to know how is achieving these results. What are his strengths? What does he need to improve? What’s his upside?

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6 Responses to “On Scouting Reports”
  1. beingbobbyorr says:

    I don’t know, Tom. I see an awful lot of poetry (read: ambiguity) in the Shutt report.

    “exceptionally well . . . religiously . . . rated (by who?) well above average . . . sufficiently impressive . . . shot is heavy”

    An “easy pupil”? One is skeptical that the author had opportunities to conduct extensive interviews with Shutt (the NHL draft just didn’t scrutinize players that deeply in 1972, let alone give that access to reporters).

    Who cares what a prospect becomes as a “freshman” (point man on the powerplay)? What matters is how good of a left wing he becomes in his prime years (~23-32).

    If the author is going to quote Shutt’s 70 goal OHA statistic (which anyone coulda looked up in a standard reference, albeit paper-based), then I’d think the QoT and QoC would be germane to the discussion. Otherwise, we could be evaluating the next Rob Brown.

  2. Tom says:

    The problem with any statistic – traditional or advanced – for the top prospects is that they are the cream of the crop. I think the Junior numbers for Rob Brown would have been excellent. The only thing that should surprise us with Darnell Nurse would be if he wasn’t playing against top competition and if he wasn’t doing well against top competition.

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