Last month it was 20-year Edmonton scout/executive Kevin Prendergast that was shown the door and last week another long time Oiler employee was unceremoniously released. Chris McCarthy, a scout with Edmonton since 1992 and veteran of 17 NHL drafts at the Oilers table, was fired over the phone last Thursday.
Frequent listeners to The Pipeline Show and readers here at our blog and of my stuff during my days at Hockey's Future will recognize the name. McCarthy was a guest a few times on the radio show before the Oilers stopped allowing us to speak with their area scouts. He was also a valued source when it came to discussions on old drafts and scouting reports while I was doing those things for HF.
McCarthy was hired by Kevin Prendergast which, in the end, might be the biggest contributing factor to why he's now unemployed. That might also be a sign for others on the staff, all of whom were hired by the former VP of Hockey Operations.
Based in Boston, McCarthy was an area scout covering the Eastern NCAA Conferences and the QMJHL. He also spent a lot of time in Minnesota watching high school hockey and Midwest covering the USHL.
The Oilers scouting staff has always held to a 'draft as a team' mantra and thanks to the changes instilled by Prendergast when he took over from Barry Fraser, the entire staff did get first hand viewings of the top 50-100 players. In the later rounds the area scouts are relied upon heavily.
One of McCarthy earliest "finds" was Brad Norton who Edmonton selected in the 7th round in 1993. Norton, from Massachusetts, would go on to play parts of 6 years and 124 games in the NHL with 5 different teams.
Popular netminder Mike Morrison, another Bostonian, was also a "McCarthy guy". While he didn't reach NHL stardom, he was an injection of quality and personality into the organization.
A few years ago, McCarthy took an interest in high school forward Chris Vande Velde and brought his name to the Oilers who ended up taking him in the 4th round of the 2005 draft.
I've mentioned several times this year that I expected changes to the scouting staff. I was pretty sure that things would end for Prendergast the way they did and with the way some scouts were left wondering about their jobs last June, more changes seemed inevitable.
I've told you how scout Bob Mancini's contract expired last June 30th without any indication from Steve Tambellini whether he'd have his deal extended. As I understand it, eventually Mancini got tired of waiting and went back to work with USA Hockey.
I also told you that Mancini wasn't the only Oiler scout who went for more than a week not knowing if the organization was hiring him back or not - see Chris McCarthy. I'm told it was about ten days without any communication from Tambellini in regards to his job status before finally getting extended for another season, that's a long time to sit and stir when you have a young family at home.
At an Oil Kings game this past year I asked scouts from a few different NHL teams to find out if that was normal practice or not and I wasn't surprised by how many told me they thought it was a classless way to treat someone. Many scouts, I'm told, have contracts that get renewed early in the season for the year after meaning they know a year ahead of time that they are still going to be with the team.
McCarthy won't have to wait long to get another NHL scouting gig, if he wants one. With his connections he could end up, like Mancini, working with USA Hockey or once Prendergast lands his next NHL position, I'm sure that will facilitate a new spot for him as well.
One quick story about my initial meeting with Chris.
My first year covering the Oilers was 2003-04 and you may recall that the big story that fall was Mike Comrie's holdout. There was an air of tension around the rink and many people seemed, to me, to be on edge.
Anyway, my first morning was at training camp in Sherwood Park and I was there to get stuff for what I was writing for Hockey's Future. The Oilers have never really been partial to Internet Media but I was given a little rope, just enough to hang myself if I turned into some sort of fan boy.
To be honest, I was as nervous about being around the media people I looked up to as I was the players that I was there to interview. Mark Spector, Robin Brownlee, Dan Barnes, Jim Matheson... these were writers that I looked up to. While we waited for the rooms to open up after practice I found the nerve to actually (gasp!) speak with some of those scribes all the while just trying not to do or say anything that would (A) embarrass myself (B) get me in trouble with the team.
Day 2 of camp starts and things are going well - I've spoken with lots of prospects and have written some in-depth stuff for HF. Back in the hallway waiting for players to come out and I spot this big guy striding towards the media group. He spots me and in front of the assembled horde says "You the Hockey's Future guy?"
Well I assume that's it, I've done something wrong and the team has sent their muscle down to escort me out of the building.
"Yeah... that's me," I sigh.
The big guy, and I mean in the 6'3 or 6'4 ballpark, motions to turn me around and leads me away from the pack towards the exit. When we get out of ear shot from everyone else he stops and sticks out his hand.
"Chris McCarthy, I'm one of the scouts with the team. Love your stuff."
One minute I feel like I'm about to get kicked in the junk and the next I'm being praised by the guy I expected to be doing the punting!
I feel bad for Chris McCarthy because he's a good guy and a good scout. Although I'm sure he saw the end of his Oilers tenure coming, it has to be a tough way to leave the organization that he's been a part of for so long. Still, I have no doubt that he'll be back at the draft table in 2011 and that will be with a lucky team.