Scouting is work done in the shadows of hockey. No one is watching and the only daily evidence comes in the form of a digital report filed from hotel rooms in Minnetonka and Sault Ste. Marie and Prague.
They slip into press boxes shrouded in grim silence. When they talk or share a laugh it is among the fraternity. They make solitary travel plans, flying here and then driving there. A platinum Marriott rewards card is their badge of honour. Living on 75 bucks a day and watching the piano recitals of sons and daughters through shaky video shot by wives or in-laws. Scouting is art more than science. It's about projection. What will that 17-year-old look like in three years? In six years? Can a player's game translate from boys to men?
When the Stanley Cup is awarded each year the Sidney Crosbys of the game are first-in-line. The scout that traipsed around the world to watch them play in junior or college hockey is sometimes on the ice standing at the fringe of the crowd. The Cup may even make it into their hands after the players have nearly exhausted all the glory of the moment.
They may have seen the player first but they get their reward last.
It's one of the inequities of professional sport. Without a superior scouting staff and an unflinching commitment to the spade work of a franchise - there is no shining moment with the greatest of all trophies in professional sport.
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A millionaire with a patchy beard may score the winning goal but without the 40-something bald guy wearing glasses, a $500 suit and semi-sensible shoes - the puck never gets on the right stick. Scoring at the draft is key to constructing a contender. It's the first brick required in building to the crescendo every franchise aspires towards.
The NHL's entry draft begins Friday night and when the TV cameras pan to the table assigned to the Vegas Golden Knights there will be GM George McPhee at the head. Not far from him will be right hand man Kelly McCrimmon. Within whispering distance of both will be Bobby Lowes, Scott Luce and Misha Donskov. It's this trinity of hockey lifers who will feed the intel to the top of the food chain. For the next two days - they are the most important people in the organization. Their suggestions will be heeded. McPhee has final say but it is their lead which he will follow.
McPhee and McCrimmon have plotted and schemed and grinded their way into 13 picks in this draft. Three in the first 15 and six in the top 62. They have given Lowes, who leads the amateur scouting staff, more bullets than expected. Now he's got to aim well. He must be on target. If the Golden Knights are to begin down a path which eventually leads to the playoffs and a Cup - this draft is where it begins. It can't be overstated - this is one of those moments of truth for an organization. Get it right and good times will follow. Get it wrong and failure will grip the franchise.
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Look around the NHL and the best players on the best teams have almost to a man been drafted and developed in house.
Crosby, Malkin, Bergeron, Toews, Kane, Kopitar and Doughty. Free agents and players acquired through trade augment the core but the core must be harvested, seasoned and retained. It's the first law of success in a salary cap world.
Lowes and Luce and Donskov look as much like the fellows on your beer-league softball team as anything else. But today they're the most impactful men in pro sport in Vegas. They're the shot-callers.
And this is their moment.