After seven seasons of mixed/weak results in the amateur draft, the lifeblood of NHL franchises, Wayne Smith has been dismissed as the Bruins’ director of amateur scouting.
“Wayne’s a friend and he’s been with us for a while,’’ said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, reached late Monday afternoon by phone. “But we want to change the complexion of our scouting staff.’’
Smith, one of Chiarelli’s first hires when the GM took command of the front office in June 2006, was relieved of his duties in the days immediately following the draft June 30.
Chiarelli has yet to name a successor, but the lead candidate could be Keith Gretzky, the brother of league icon/scoring great Wayne Gretzky, who was hired here as an Ontario-based scout soon after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in June 2011. Gretzky’s input has been increasingly valued in the front office the last two years and he has had input on amateur players throughout Canada and the United States.
“We’ve got a couple of in-house candidates,’’ said Chiarelli. “So we’ll look there first, and decide then if we want to go outside . . . but right now I’d say that’s not likely.’’
News of Smith’s dismissal was first reported Monday by Ken Campbell of The Hockey News.
“We wanted to freshen up our amateur scouting and shift things a little bit,’’ Chiarelli told The Hockey News. “Wayne has done a good job and I’ll give him a good reference, but we wanted to inject some new life.’’
As Campbell noted in his story, Smith can be “rough around the edges’’ and it’s possible his sometimes-gruff approach finally wore thin with management and fellow Boston scouts. Chiarelli would not comment beyond his initial remarks, other than to say, “I felt I had to make a move.’’
Boston’s roster for the 2013-14 season reflects a dearth of Bruins draft picks, in part because of Chiarelli’s two major transactions that featured first-round picks Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin being dealt out of town. Kessel was drafted in June 2006, just weeks before Smith was hired, while Seguin was the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft, the highest selection made under Smith’s watch. Seguin, though, was an obvious pick at No. 2 and scouts make their reputations on finding valuable picks in later rounds.
During the later rounds of the recent playoff run, the Bruins went to battle nightly without a single Boston draft pick among their six defensemen. Doug Hamilton, their puck-moving defenseman-in-waiting and a Smith draft pick, remained on the sideline. Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk, and Adam McQuaid all joined the club via trade. Rookie Torey Krug was signed as a free agent, albeit with Smith’s input.
Up front among the forwards, again there was very little trace of Smith’s influence. Of the 12 forwards to dress in Game 6 against Chicago, Seguin was the only player drafted during Smith’s tenure. The other 11 were selected in drafts not under Smith’s watch or arrived via trade.
“He drafted some serviceable players,’’ said Chiarelli, asked if the move reflected the lack of Smith’s influence on the playoff roster. “Joe Colborne . . . Lane MacDermid . . . a couple of guys yet to make their mark, but serviceable assets.’’
Smith, though, missed badly on Zach Hamill, the club’s first-round pick, No. 8 overall, in the 2007 draft. With the No. 9 pick, the Sharks selected Logan Couture, who has gone on to score 89 goals and 167 points in 232 games.
Later in the first round, the Canadiens took Ryan McDonagh and also Max Pacioretty, just two of the players later in the first round who have become NHL regulars.
Hamill was traded to the Capitals in 2012 for Chris Bourque, then later dished to the Panthers.