Photo by Steven Christy
In late summer 2010, Steve Tambellini made a pretty important hire. Regardless of how his time was spent wheeling and dealing with the Edmonton Oilers, Tambellini had huge success in the creation and supplemental healing of the team’s farm squad in the AHL. Gerber, Giroux, McDonald – all players brought in to backstop a minor league affiliate on the ropes – the success was instant. But of all the hires that season, including Todd Nelson, snatching an AHL front office guy was probably the most important.
Four years as AHL Hockey Ops Director, Bill Scott felt the desire to turn his attention towards team building. His organizational mind, and connections around the league would prove a huge asset to the Oilers farm team almost immediately. Scott, a Michigan State grad, was intelligent and considerate beyond his years. He was largely responsible for the Barons success in season one, and alongside Todd Nelson crafted one of the most potent minor league franchises in a four year span.
Announced over the weekend, Bill Scott will become the Edmonton Oilers new Assistant to the GM.
What that means, we aren’t quite sure yet. Will he be the stopgap between minor league and major league? Most likely. Will he assist in the scouting of underlying players? I hope so. But regardless of what his job description entails there are some things you need to know about Mr. Scott.
First and foremost, he is an excellent judge of talent. We will dive a bit more into his greatest hits below, but this guy cut Arcobello out of camp in October of 2010, only to bring him up and down from the ECHL to AHL multiple times that season. As Arcobello’s confidence grew, so did Scott’s affection for this underdog. The same could be said about the mid-season acquisition of future captain, Bryan Helmer, who was playing pick up hockey at the local rink before joining a team needing some direction. Or how about Brett Clark? In a locked out season when the scales dipped toward insufferable, he was able to find experience and expertise in an older fella that helped the Barons go from zero to hero.
Secondly, he is extremely loyal to commitment. If you are a player who commits to work hard, you are going to play. During training camps, Nelson and Scott would sit high above the Cox Center section 200 to watch what was unfolding on the ice. The players that seemed the most committed to the system, and had the most skill were given opportunities to bring that to the nightly roster. His decision making on player transactions was magical. Jonatahan Cheechoo was a hired gun, but he wore a ten gallon hat that proudly displayed “TEAMWORK”. Scott signed him as a result.
So as we think back on Bill Scott, let us think fondly of his transactions and talent analysis. Rarely did Scott make a mistake when it came to player transactions, and if he did he was quick to rectify them (Bryan Rodney, lest we not forget).
Here are Bill Scott’s greatest hits:
The final day of training camp in season one, when the dust had settled, a smallish forward named Mark Arcobello was cut from the squad, and assigned to the Stockton Thunder. His eventual roller coaster of a season saw him split time between OKC and California only to land at nearly a point per game (22 in 26) in under 30 games played at the AHL. This would be enough of a confident boost for Arcobello, who would never return to Stockton again. Scott knew he was a legit contender – good hands, smart, in-control, quick – and it eventually earned him an NHL contract in 2014 with the Edmonton Oilers.
What is Bill Scott doing? Signing a veteran, mid-year who has 17 pro seasons under his belt? No way. Yes way. Bryan Helmer, the Sault Ste. Marie native, had well over 1,000 games played professionally including 147 in the NHL. Signed to a PTO (and eventually an SPC) in 2011 he would add stability to a team finding its sea legs. Scott on Helmer at the time of signing said, “Having a player like Bryan Helmer can be a key ingredient to a playoff run. We expect that our team will learn from his experience as a captain of a back-to-back AHL championship team in addition to his experience at the NHL and AHL levels.” And indeed the team got better under his tutelage. Having played back-to-back seasons with the Calder Cup winning Hershey Bears, Helmer became somewhat of a folk hero in the locker room and with fans. His “Helmer’s Heroes” campaign also paved a way for the connectivity of team to community that still exists today.
Before battling a concussion season, Andrew Lord was a player that OKC hadn’t had, and probably desperately needed at the time. An agitator. A rabble-rouser. A line teeterer(?). He was an energy line guy, would come to captain the Barons, but was signed post-Valentines day in 2011. Quickly a fan favorite, his jovial smile and intensity earned him respect from teammates. Scott wanted “hard-nosed”, and he got it
Kevin Montgomery, Dan Ringwald, Dylan Yeo, Kirill Tulupov, Andrew Hotham, Nathan Deck
The clamoring for better defense was bright and clear in Edmonton during the 2011-12 season (and continues to this day), and the Oklahoma City Barons and Bill Scott would attempt to wrangle in players that fit that desired need. While Steve Tambellini struggled to find the right defenders, Scott found his own version of saving grace in six blue liners, all signed rather quickly. Montgomery was yin to Colten Teubert’s yang, and one of the best shut down defenders team had for a four month stretch. Ringwald was a saucey puck mover who made little mistakes. Yeo was a dynamo ECHL captain with grace, and a thick shot from the point. Tulupov was the Russian defender who trapped opponents with muscle, and a keen eye for the chess game that is hockey defense. Hothan and Deck shouldered a ton of the defensive load with a new crop of young Oilers prospects, and a few locked out players named Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Eberle (have you heard of them?) All did very nice things. All have since parted ways, but they were a big reason that the Barons would go 14 games into the Calder Cup Playoffs in 2012, and nearly make the Finals in 2013.
Brett Clark, Jonathan Cheechoo
The lock out season, in hindsight, was an NHL lite season by every definition of the term (the term that I just made up). The Oilers loaded up the farm squad with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, and newcomwer Justin Schultz, and there was a bit of a world beater mentality with these guys. What transpired that season was the other NHL cities, from coast to coast, did the same things with their affiliated AHL teams. The results were high energy, high scoring, and low standings, at least for the Barons. When the lockout ended, the Barons were left with gaping holes offensively, and leadership in ruins (not because of the Hall-Nuge-Eberle-Schultz losses, but rather because they had none to begin with). Brett Clark, a sixth rounder to the Candiens, had recently played 80+ games with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was a relevant choice mainly because of his age, but moreso his knowledge of the game, and how the inner workings of teams evolve. As the team changed from NHL heavy to prospect heavy overnight, he was the missing link. Likewise, the offensive firepower lost was solved by Jonathan Cheechoo, a winger with a serious knack for putting the puck in the net. Clark + Cheechoo does not equal dynamo success, but it landed the Barons in the drivers seat by the end of the season, and their best postseason run in the team’s history.
I love this guy. Recently voted the Barons “Fan Favorite”, Stretch oozes casual, California like a walk on Venice Beach. He has great skills too that transcend any place in the lineup. Wing, center, third, fourth, top – stick him anywhere and he will have fun succeeding.
In the end, Scott “won” the NHL GM Assistant job because of his track record of success, and that’s a new thought for the traditional hiring process in Edmonton. With Dallas Eakins as the coach, Craig MacTavish the GM, and Bill Scott in the mix, I like the chances that underlying prospects or ones that no one has even thought to explore, get fully realized. Nuts and bolts aside, Scott is a great, cordial man. His family is a testament to hard work in and of themselves as they deal with dad’s / husband’s wild and woolly schedule. He is a big part of why we love Barons hockey, and how blessed we have been to see an incredible team four seasons in a row. He’ll be missed, but certainly watched and admired from afar. Take good care of him, Edmonton.