Don’t be fooled into thinking the appointment of Blair Mackasey as director of professional scouting for
the Minnesota Wild is an inconsequential move.
The hiring of Mackasey by President/General Manager Doug Risebrough is significant, and here’s why.
The way business is conducted in the NHL is much different now than it was prior to the lockout.
A salary cap is in place and players can now become unrestricted free agents when they are 27 years old. There will also be more players available in free agency – both restricted and unrestricted - than ever before, and teams will also be looking to move players at the trade deadline in an effort to free up cap space for the summer marketplace.
So it’s just common sense for Risebrough to have a handle on the pro player market and he has tabbed Mackasey to become Minnesota’s Director of Pro Scouting.
“You have to know who the players are, who is out there, what they bring, and how they would fit in,” says Risebrough. “Everyone knows the top end players but it’s the other guys he’ll be looking at.”
Mackasey will oversee the Wild’s three full-time pro scouts, and will work closely with Tom Thompson, the assistant general manager, director of player personnel who oversees the amateur scouts.
Although they’re both bloodhounds, the job descriptions for Maskasey and Thompson are as different as night and day.
Amateur scouts keep tabs on junior leagues, high school and college ranks. Their job is projecting how a prospect might develop, and the results of their efforts bear fruit three to five years after the prospect is drafted.
Pro scouts work in real time. Their impact is more immediate. They have to know the player for what he does now. Their job is to know the talent pool as well as possible in preparation for things like trades, the waiver wire, and free agency. It’s a daunting task to say the least, but a critical one given the razor-slim difference between winning and losing in the NHL.
Mackasey brings an impressive resume to Risebrough’s staff.
For the past three seasons, he was the head scout for Hockey Canada and was in charge of picking the players that attended Canada’s national junior team summer evaluation camp along with the fall selection camp. It was on Mackasey’s word that Benoit Pouliot, who was the fourth overall pick by Minnesota last June, was invited to the final selection camp for Canada’s 2006 national junior team, which won the gold medal at the World Junior Championship. In his capacity as the chief bloodhound for Canada’s national junior team, Mackasey has two gold medals and a silver to show for his efforts in the past three seasons.
Mackasey was also responsible for evaluation and player selection for Canada’s under-18 teams. Under his watch, the Canadians won two gold medals at the summer under-18 world championship and silver and gold medals at the spring under-18 world tournament
Mackasey also assisted Wayne Gretzky and Canada’s management staff in selecting
players for the 2006 men’s Olympic team.
And he’s ripe for what’s ahead of him working with Risebrough.
“It was a great job but it is time for a new challenge,” says Mackasey. “I think the Wild is a team that’s ready to take it to another level and I want to help as much as I can.”
One of the first things Mackasey wants to do is get a handle on the team, both at the NHL and minor pro level. He’ll spend most of his time with the Wild in the next couple of weeks, evaluating the players and talking to Head Coach Jacques Lemaire about his thoughts on his roster and what type of player he thinks he needs in the short term and long term.
Mackasey saw the Wild a handful of times while scouting for Canada’s Olympic team but he’s anxious to talk to the coaching staff and management about their needs.
During the Olympic break in February, he’ll make his way south to Houston where he will spend time with the Aeros and scout minor league games.
He’ll also oversee a meeting of the pro scouts set for mid-January and work with them in plotting the future.
“I’m lucky that, in working with Hockey Canada, I saw a lot of the elite players over the last four years. They were juniors but I know who they are, what their character is like and what they can do,” says Mackasey. “There are a lot of players to see and work to do. But in the end, a player is a player, whether he is an elite player or a role player. My job is to understand what they can bring to the team.”
Risebrough was running the Wild’s pro scouting department but was unable to spend as much time on it as he would have liked because of his other responsibilities as team president and general manager.
He bumped into Mackasey at the NHL draft last June and in a friendly conversation brought up the topic of pro scouting and how this part of the development scheme was becoming more important especially in light of the new collective agreement. That led to a philosophical discussion about pro scouting and the friends went their separate ways.
Later when Risebrough met Mackasey again, they talked about pro scouting and it was at that point the GM figured he found the guy he wanted. He offered the job to Mackasey, who in turn said he wanted to complete his commitment to Hockey Canada leading up to the 2006 World Junior Championship in Vancouver.
“I feel really good about working for Minnesota,” says Mackasey. “This is a team in my opinion that’s ready to take it to the next level and I’m excited about what’s ahead of me.”
And that’s why hiring Mackasey was an astute move by Risebrough.
MINNESOTA WILD HIRES HOCKEY CANADA’S
BLAIR MACKASEY AS DIRECTOR OF PROFESSIONAL SCOUTING
HOCKEY CANADA VETERAN COMES TO NHL’S WILD FOR NEWLY-CREATED POSITION
SAINT PAUL/MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Minnesota Wild President and General Manager Doug Risebrough, in conjunction with Hockey Canada, announced today that the National Hockey League (NHL) club has hired Blair Mackasey (pronounced: MACK-uh-see) as the team’s Director of Professional Scouting.
“This provides us an opportunity to work with a person who is very accomplished in terms of hockey talent evaluation,” Risebrough said. “Blair Mackasey has played an important role with Hockey Canada for many years, and brings strong ability and a wealth of experience to our professional scouting area.”
Mackasey, 50 (12/13/55), joined Hockey Canada as Head Scout in June of 2002 and was named Hockey Canada’s Director, Player Personnel in July 2005. Prior to joining Hockey Canada, Mackasey was a member of the Phoenix Coyotes’ scouting staff for six seasons (1996-2002).
For the past three seasons, Mackasey was responsible for all player evaluation and player selections for Canada’s National Junior Team Development and Selection Camps as well as Canada’s Men’s Under-18 Program. Mackasey also assisted Wayne Gretzky and Canada’s management and coaching staff in player evaluations for Canada’s 2006 Men’s Olympic Hockey Team. In three seasons with Hockey Canada, Mackasey won back-to-back World Junior gold medals (2006 and 2005) and two silver medals (2004 and 2003), overseeing player selection and operations of Canada’s National Junior Team at the IIHF World Junior Championship. Mackasey also won two gold medals with Canada’s National Under-18 Summer Team at the Junior World Cup (2005, 2004), a silver medal with Canada’s National Under-18 Team at the World Championship in April of 2005 and a gold medal in 2003.
In his new role with the Wild, Mackasey will oversee all aspects of the organization’s professional scouting. He will begin this new position with the Wild immediately.
– WILD –