100 games a season: Gare Joyce's puck blog

Just like being in the scouts' & press' lounge, without the bad coffee and day-old Timbits

Location: Toronto

I've written for ESPN The Magazine and espn.com the last five years. My work has made the "notable" list of the Best American Sports Writing seven times and won four Canadian National Magazine Awards. My most recent book is Future Greats and Heartbreaks: A Year Undercover in the Secret World of NHL Scouts. I've written three other sports books: When the Lights Went Out: How One Brawl Ended Hockey's Cold War and Changed the Game; Sidney Crosby: Taking the Game by Storm; and The Only Ticket Off the Island: Baseball in the Dominican Republic.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

On the Wounded Prospects: Uncertain, Hurtin'

Checked out the Ottawa-Missisauga game last night. Not a game you'll see every day.


  • Stefan Legein (a little draft-eligible player, in the 30s among North American skaters according to Central Scouting, and a guy who is growing on me) scores a 5-on-3 short-handed goal.
  • Mississauga's second goal is a conventional 5-on-4 shorthander.
  • Ottawa scores the backbreaking goal on a 6-on-3, a delayed penalty on a 5-on-3.
  • Logan Couture scored on IceDog G Loverock who evoked Tommy Salo vs Belarus -- a long shot that hit his shoulder, bounced 20 feet in the air and got lost in the lights before trickling into the net.

Re Couture, discussed here before. Talked to Killer and Bert before the game. Couture has skated three times in two weeks. Both knees have been banged up. Missed games, but couldn't miss last night with Ottawa life or death to make the playoffs. At the start of the game Kilrea had no idea what he could get out of Couture so he spotted him, limited ice time. (Look at Legein's goal plus-minus and notice that Couture wasn't on the ice.) As the game went on Couture played better and ended up with more ice time.

Maybe Couture is a (somewhat) comparable case to Alyn McCauley. Here are their hockeydb profiles.





I think Couture might have more offensive upside, certainly demonstrated in their respective draft years (though post-draft McCauley blows up to be a CHL player of the year, near goal a game). McCauley was a top OHL draft pick who was dragged down by a knee, certainly one of five best midgets in the province. Couture's status at the same juncture approximates that and LC's ailments/injuries are now too numerous to mention. New Jersey did well to gamble on an injured prospect who hadn't quite met standards expected of him. Could Couture break out and have a season like McC's 96-97 campaign? Or better? All too possible. (McCauley's world juniors in Geneva was one of the best performances in Canada's tournament history--and he did it with bronchitis.)

New Jersey did well with a gamble there but what of their most famous (or infamous) gamble on an injured player at the draft. We speak of Adrian Foster.



Yup, a first-round pick who had played 12 games and scored one goal in the two seasons leading up to the draft. Missed practically the entire draft season with an abdominal tear--a weird one that defied diagnosis. I went to Jersey scout David Conte for backstory. It seemed much more of a gamble then than it does now (with his explanation).

  • Foster had been, like McCauley, one of the three or four best kids out west coming up through bantam and midget ages.
  • It was a very soft draft year--which is to say, the Devils weren't in love with any other names on their list when the 28th pick came up. Which is sorta up for debate. If you look at the draft in the rearview mirror Cammalleri was on the radar and so was Derek Roy. But Jersey thought they didn't have the high end that Foster might.
  • Jersey saw him as a far more affordable risk in the first round rather than the second or even third. Doesn't sound right, but it makes sense. If Foster doesn't come back after a first-round selection and Jersey doesn't sign him the Devils would haver received a compensation pick.

No happy ending here. Last seen in this wire story from October '06:

The Devils sent centers Adrian Foster and David Clarkson, right wing Barry Tallackson and defensemen Andy Greene, Olli Malmivaara and Johnny Oduya to Lowell of the AHL on Tuesday. Veteran right wing Grant Marshall, a member of their Stanley Cup championship team in 2003, cleared waivers on Tuesday and was assigned to Lowell.

Foster has struggled to stay healthy. One injury after another, not tied to the ab tear and including knees and concussion. Last time I checked he hadn't played an AHL game since December. Foster has lost whole seasons of development time and it looks like his attempt to play catch-up will fall short of the NHL. Somebody with a heart should let him get a game in the league before he packs it in.

Update on a previous post: Rumbles in the scouts' room last night about the LA scouting firings back after world juniors. Evidently at least a couple of the guys thrown over had two-year contracts signed back in the summer. Conventional wisdom: Dean Lombardi's nuts were in a vice and an accountant was tightening. That is, bean counters reign and hockey guys are at their mercy. One of the guys, Grant Sonnier, was picked up by Boston a week after the LA pink slip.

The fine print ... George Armstrong was out at the game last night, holding court in the scouts' room, talking about how in his first 10 seasons in pros he worked in the mines in Sudbury during the summer. Extremely spry, might supplement his pension and Leafs' wage by picking up some shifts this summer. The Leafs picked the right guy to come out last at the anniversary ceremony. I'm not sold on the Keon thing. A grudge is one thing but Keon has made it his lifestyle. Dumb, dumb, dumb ... Frank Bonnello was around, saying that he's pulling back on his CSB duties, concerned more with Mem Cupsite-selection committee ... Talked with Rob Zamuner, who is part-time coach with IceDogs, more on that to come ... I did mention that I like the Legein kid, right? ... goaltending tandem for Dogs is Loverock and Lobsinger, what freakin' great names, but I'm betting Lucas Lobsinger is kin of Tom Lobsinger, the second-best high school miler this country ever produced (behind Kevin Sullivan, who was arguably one of the three best Canada and the US turned out) ... Liked the McGinn kid last night, San Jose draft, I thought he'd be a first-rounder based on what he did as a kid at the Mem Cup in 05 but he's as game as they come, went barrelling/sprawling into the boards to try to kill an icing in the third, great effort ... jeezus, i'm starting to read like Larry King ENOUGH