The Ottawa Senators Pro Scouting Will Get a Facelift

With the firings of Jim Clark and Roby Murphy, the Senators will be revamping their pro scouting, something that has been long overdue

The Ottawa Senators Pro Scouting Will Get a Facelift
Photo by Jan Kahánek / Unsplash

On Saturday evening, it was announced that longtime Ottawa Senators pro scouts, Jim Clark and Rob Murphy, were being fired from the team. It was a bit of a news dump, a little over an hour before their game against the New Jersey Devils. Considering the season is still going on, it was a bit surprising to hear, then again, it's not as if there is a whole lot of work to be done after the trade deadline.

Clark was a pro scout this season and from 2008-2014 but was also the Director of Professional Scouting from 2014-2022 and Head Pro Scout in 2022-23, so he had been in Ottawa for a long time, some of it being a prominent voice. He also spent 10 years with the Columbus Blue Jackets, five years with the Detroit Red Wings, and three years with the Florida Panthers. At the age of 70, Clark is a hockey lifer and has quite the resumé. However, it's fair to say that the overall professional scouting for the Ottawa Senators during his time was abysmal.

Rob Murphy (who is an original Ottawa Senator), was a pro scout for the Senators from 2010-2014 and again from 2018-2024. This past season he was Head Pro Scout, and he had even been Director of Pro Scouting in Buffalo from 2014-2017, so he had been climbing the ranks a little bit. Murphy is still just 55 so he has time to potentially join other organizations in his career, and I hope he does. It's never a good feeling seeing people lose their jobs, and I hope both of them either find work or end up happy with what they're doing. At the same time, this was a necessary step to fixing what has ailed the Senators for years: pro scouting.

Now, it's not as if firing Clark and Murphy will magically fix everything. Steve Staios and Michael Andlauer inherited a mess, and it's going to take some time to make this organization high-class again. Furthermore, some people have been with the team for a while and are still worth keeping. As a fan, it's too hard to pinpoint certain scouts and say "this person is great," because the reality is, we don't know group discussions behind closed doors. We can somewhat guess with amateur scouting, but with pro scouting, it's hard to say how much of it was Pierre Dorion and how much was the AGMs and his scouts.

As of now, Ottawa has Steve Staios as POHO/GM, Ryan Bowness as AGM, Dave Poulin as SVP of Hockey Operations, Tim Pattyson as Director of Hockey Operations, Sean Tierney as Director of Hockey Analytics, and Steve Stirling, Mark Flood, and Dale McTavish (Mason's father) as professional scouts. That's eight people who are theoretically looking at professional player acquisitions, but just three of them have that as their sole duty. Staios, Bowness, and Poulin can't constantly be scouting, and Tierney and Pattyson are probably more focused on the data side of things. So that leaves three dedicated people with eyes on players, which is obviously not enough.

However, we know that is going to change. Andlauer has talked at length about beefing up the front office, and he's already done that a little bit. I can almost guarantee there will be at least two professional scouts hired to make up for these losses, and I hope there are even more that come in as well. If they want to be "best in class," they need more eyes around the league (and in European leagues). No more of this "he scored a few goals against us so we're going to overrate him" anymore.

I wanted to look at the pro scouting for the team in the Dorion era. First, here is a table of NHLers he signed for over $1M as a UFA (excluding re-signed players):

Player Contract
Claude Giroux 3x$6.5M
Vladimir Tarasenko 1x$5M
Evgenii Dadonov 3x$5M
Joonas Korpisalo 5x$4M
Ron Hainsey 1x$3.5M
Michael Del Zotto 2x$2M
Nate Thompson 2x$1.65M
Tyler Motte 1x$1.35M
Alex Galchenyuk 1x$1.05M
Johnny Oduya 1x$1M

I couldn't believe that this list was so small. One of Dorion's best signings (twice) isn't even on here because he only made $800k the first time and $900k the second time, and that's Tyler Ennis. Claude Giroux is of course a home run, but anyone with a brain could have done that scouting. Vladimir Tarasenko did his job, although he wasn't really what the team needed (while they went over the cap in doing so...). Dadonov, Korpisalo, Del Zotto, Thompson, and Galchenyuk were/have been disasters, and Hainsey, Motte, and Oduya were just...there. Yes, not every player would have wanted to sign in Ottawa during this era, but good players are always available for cheap.

Next, here is a table of NHL players the team acquired via trade (excluding salary dumps), which is even less excusable, considering the players have no say here:

Acquired Traded
Dominik Kubalik, Donovan Sebrango, 1st, 4th Alex DeBrincat
Patrick Brown 6th
Jakob Chychrun 1st, 2nd, 2nd
Julien Gauthier, 7th Tyler Motte
Cam Talbot Filip Gustavsson
Alex DeBrincat 1st, 2nd, 3rd
Mathieu Joseph, 4th Nick Paul
Travis Hamonic 3rd
Dylan Gambrell 7th
Zach Sanford Logan Brown
Nick Holden, 3rd Evgeni Dadonov
Derek Stepan 2nd
Austin Watson 4th
Erik Gudbranson 5th
Matt Murray Jon Gruden, 2nd
Josh Brown 4th
Mike Reilly Andrew Sturtz, 5th
Vlad Namestnikov Nick Ebert, 4th
Anthony Duclair, 2nd, 2nd Ryan Dzingel, 7th
Anders Nilsson, Darren Archibald Mike McKenna, Tom Pyatt, 6th
Dylan DeMelo, Chris Tierney, Rudolfs Balcers, Josh Norris, 1st, 2nd, 2nd Erik Karlsson, Francis Perron
Mikkel Boedker, Julius Bergman, 6th Mike Hoffman, Cody Donaghey, 5th
Matt Duchene Kyle Turris, Andrew Hammdon, 1st, 3rd, Shane Bowers
Viktor Stalberg 3rd
Alex Burrows Jonathan Dahlen
Tommy Wingels Buddy Robinson, Zack Stortini, 7th
Mike Condon 5th
Derick Brassard, 7th Mika Zibanejad, 2nd

There are some small wins like Duclair, Condon, Reilly, and Holden, but for the most part, none of these players have made a big impact on the Senators. And even a guy like Brassard who was quite solid wasn't nearly as good as Mika Zibanejad, so it didn't matter anyway. The Erik Karlsson trade ended up working out, but Josh Norris wasn't professionally scouted, nor was Tim Stützle. Dylan DeMelo could have been a success story if he wasn't shipped out too soon.

They went big game hunting with Matt Duchene, Matt Murray, Alex DeBrincat and Jakob Chychrun, and it's backfired with all of them so far except Chychrun (who the jury is out on). They targeted other players like Cam Talbot, Travis Hamonic, Austin Watson, Erik Gudbranson, Alex Burrows, and Derek Stepan, and they just didn't move the needle at all.

It's an incredibly underwhelming list, and even those that were (rightfully!) viewed positively at the time, didn't work out quite like they had planned. That doesn't necessarily make us smarter or anything, but it does show that scouting is very difficult, and the Senators just haven't been nearly good enough for years. This isn't meant to be a Dorion smear campaign either, because there are clearly other people who have contributed to a lacklustre track record too. Have they been able to identify talent in the 18-20 year old range? Absolutely. But they somehow forget what to look for when they have already become NHLers.

I'm confident that Staios will bring in some of the right people, and they have time before the off-season begins to do that. You can't make a perfect front office in less than a year, but I'm liking most of what is going on.

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