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Old 05-19-2020, 03:30 PM   #1
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Default Agression and boldness is a way of life for the Islanders GM

Story courtesy of the Hockeychat website

When people mention the New York Islanders franchise its with a lot less reverence then it should be. The Islanders should be one of the CPHL’s cornerstone franchise. A team with 5 Stanley Cup Championships in its past as well as a CPHL title, multiple league and division champions, Coach of the Year awards, multiple individual players awards and Hall of Famers.

When one walks into the Nassau Veterans Coliseum and looks up at all of the banners hanging from the roof, and walk through the halls of the Islanders office and see all of the murals of former greats like Mike Bossy, Clarke Gilles, Dennis Potvin and Billy Smith you can’t help but being a bit intimidate. When you walk into the boardroom and see former great executives like Al Arbour and Bill Torrey starring down at the people in meetings extorting them to make good decisions and protect the legacy of the franchise.

Unfortunately the greatness that this franchise should exemplify has continually continued with bad decisions on the management side, poor owners and players that couldn’t live up to their potential, instead of being a legendary franchise the Islanders became almost as battered and careworn as the building that they play in.

In 2016 the Islanders decided to take a chance on a young up and coming wunderkind a hockey genius that could run a multi-million dollar franchise but couldn’t drink in the Nassau Coliseum bars. The Islander’s basically rolled the dice on an unknown X-Factor who could bring the Islanders back to competitiveness and prominence.

But Scorpion is not just another in a long line of the new line of spreadsheet crunching analytical nerds that pro franchises seemed to be enamoured with, he grew up playing hockey in all of its forms, which started his life long love affair with the game.

“I started when I was eight. I played ice hockey for six years until 2014–15 and I tried out for the AAA Calgary Royals before my final season. I even scored a goal in the tryout — in front of Flames GM Brad Treliving, no less — but I flubbed a few plays when given some shifts on defense and I was an early cut. Since 2017, I've been playing ball hockey in Calgary Superleagues and I won gold with the Calgary Fury at the 2018 AMBHA provincials in Medicine Hat, scoring seven goals in the five-game tournament. Of course, we were on the B side of the tournament, but that hardly matters!”

Outside of that he grew to be a huge fan the pro product and it helped form his philosophy when he took over the Islanders, as he initially became a fan of multiple pro teams, even travelling to see them in their home rinks.

“Calgary, for sure. But I also have a soft spot for Arizona and Ottawa. I lived in Ottawa for a year and saw my fair share of games at their far-flung arena.”

But his earliest hockey memories were based around his primary team the Calgary Flames

“I started following the Flames in the 2007–08 playoffs. One of my formative memories of the team is Owen Nolan's game-winner against the Sharks in 2008's Game 3. The next year, I started avidly following the Flames. My favourite players on that team were Bertuzzi, Cammalleri, and Lombardi; naturally, they were all gone within a year. Thus began my infatuation with replaceable role players.”

For the most part his favorite hockey memory was based around the Flames 2015 playoff run.

“My favorite memory has to be Game 1 of the Flames' first-round series against Vancouver in 2015. It was the first Flames playoff game in forever and I wore my David Jones jersey to the Boston Pizza on 17th, which is now closed, sadly. You can imagine my extreme happiness when Jones scored that clutch goal in the third to tie the game. I got picked up by a bunch of people at the BP and passed around the restaurant because I was wearing the guy's jersey. I was 14 and people were offering to buy me drinks!”

Classing himself as a hockey superfan something that translates to his love of being the GM of the Islanders, Scorpion remembers his most embarrassing moment from 2017, and though he wouldn’t go into detail its clear that he made an impression.

“Probably Game 3 against the Ducks in 2017, which was the first playoff game I ever attended. Not a lot I can say, other than... Brian Elliott. Embarrassing, indeed. At least the PGT was kinda fun to watch.”

However, at the same time when I asked him about his most awesome superfan moment he was very quick to answer.

“Back in 2015, the NHL held a big party in Fort Calgary to kick off the 2015-16 season. There was a huge viewing area to watch the Flames take on the Canucks in the season opener, and Lanny McDonald, Theo Fleury, and Jamie Macoun were on hand to partake in the festivities. Anyway, at the first intermission, the Flames were already losing, but I got picked out of the crowd to go up on stage and compete against a hilariously drunk 20-something in a contest to see who could put on a set of hockey gear the fastest. I wiped the floor with him... but I had the Canucks gear. After I won, the host asked me about my strategy, and I said that I wanted to get that jersey on and off as quickly as possible. My prize? A custom pair of $1000 CCM Jetspeed skates. They still feel brand-new to this day.”

Scorpion is known around CPHL GM circles as a risk taker that is willing to take leaps of faith in his day to day operation of the team and its rosters, this came to him early on when he took a massive leap of faith with Sam Bennett and it paid off.

“Back in 2015, I went to a Flames game with my dad. We arrived pretty early and perused the FanAttic before it started. I got hit with a crazy brainwave and said if Sam Bennett scored four goals that night, my dad would have to get me a 93 jersey.

They played the Panthers that night. Bennett had a hat-trick by the end of the first and capped it off in the dying seconds of the third. I still have the jersey.”
At this point we decided to turn our discussion to the CPHL Islanders and his operation of the team. Scorpion took a moment to look at the pictures of Torrey and Arbour and the jerseys hanging on the wall and jumped into the discussion with excitement and enthusiasm.

“I started with the Islanders in 2016, upon Cheese's request. They are my first and only project, thus far.”

The talk turned towards his philosophy when it comes to navigating the rapids of running a multi-million dollar professional sports franchise while living under the magnifying glass of fan and ownership expectations.

“Building and rebuilding is for schmucks. You gotta go for it every year. That's what makes this game fun. I make 100 trades a year because I'm always in it to win it. Last year, I screwed something up and my team ended up losing 15 games in a row. But sometimes, the opposite happens. In 2017-18, I found the right combo, and my team won something like 25 of 28 games. We ended up making it to Game 7 of the finals. Next year, we had 100 points. It can go either way.”

We turned the talk towards the current carnation of the Islanders which has gone through massive changes this off season as Scorpion tries to find the right combination of players while keeping an eye on the always difficult league Salary Cap.

“Honestly, I'm just glad that I don't have any more conditions to fulfil. I think the Islanders are nicely set up in goal with Lehner and possibly Francouz. On defense, Myers is a stud, Pettersson keeps getting better, Stralman is a wily vet with plenty of skill, and Gardiner is a good bounceback candidate.

The only thing I'd like to fix is the cap situation, which is proving to be a little unwieldy. Eric Staal is a very good player but I'd rather not pay $10 million for a 35-year-old. But our top-six is strong: Lee, Staal, Zuccarello, Brown, Eller, and Neal.”

Scorpion is clearly a modern day young aggressive league executive that seems to get a thrill out of being aggressive on the trade market, when we talked about his past history of trades and which ones he was most proud of, it didn’t take long for him to recall deals that he was proud of and turned out to be positives for the Islanders franchise.

“Back at the 2017 trade deadline, I managed to get Alex Radulov for a 2nd, Keith Yandle for Jooris and a 2nd, and Eric Staal for Joel Eriksson Ek. Fisher for Lucic was another fun one — crazy to think I had Lucic and Neal on the same line for a whole playoff. Those trades basically carried me to the finals.”
He was even more engaged when he talked about a massive 13 piece deal.
And then of course there was this deal with the Kings where I originally traded nine pieces for TJ Oshie, which was rejected, and then approved with some modifications that made it a 13-piece deal. That one was fun.”

For the record the finalized deal had the Kings receive Connor Hall, Evan Fitzpatrick, Artur Kayumov, Frank Vatrano, Paul Carey, Mark Fayne, 2019 2nd, 2019 4th in exchange for TJ Oshie, Cory Conacher, Phil Di Giuseppe, Alexandre Grenier, Dalton Thrower.

However Scorpion hasn’t viewed all of his gambles and deals as successes, and asked about a deal that when he looks back on it was just a plain misfire he was very quick to answer.

“Brassard and picks for Fisher was embarrassing, especially because Fisher retired less than a month after the trade happened. And then he decided to unretire mid-way through that season, and Dave gave me a poison pill of a contract to deal with. He sure was mad when I matched his offer!”

At the end of the day, Scorpion has one simple goal for his team and a single minded determination to get there, he also has a clear view in his path to that goal.

“My goal is to win the Cup, as always. We're a good team with solid players up and down the lineup. I'll have to get creative in managing the cap, but that's always been the case with me. Should be a good one!”

Winning a championship in any professional league is the most difficult thing that any GM can do, and the path to that championship is filled with pitfalls and winding roads with multiple twists and forks, and just when a GM thinks he’s on the verge of meeting that goal, he realizes that he’s on one of those old naval maps where the end of the earth is labeled “There be dragons here”.

While some GM’s chose to be cautious and deliberate in their choices to navigate these perils, carefully looking ahead for those pitfalls and traps. Scorpion has chosen the more aggressive approach charging straight ahead and risking everything in an all or nothing run to a Championship.

Whether its successful or not as an approach is yet to be seen, but everyone that follows this story and interview will probably agree that its going to be exciting to watch.

You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn’t get you anywhere. Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16…
Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!
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Old 05-19-2020, 03:37 PM   #2
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Wow terrific article

I approve of this series
Edmonton Oilers GM CPHL
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Old 05-19-2020, 03:41 PM   #3
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god I love this rookie GM class.

outstanding work!
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Old 05-19-2020, 03:56 PM   #4
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I would be remiss if I didn't thank Scorp for being a really good sport in helping me with this and providing really great answers to my questions.
You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn’t get you anywhere. Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16…
Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!
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Old 05-19-2020, 04:03 PM   #5
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I'm used to being the interviewer! Nice to be on the other side for a change. It was very fun, thanks for the opportunity.
Check out my podcast! This week I spoke to Ryan Pike!
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Old 05-19-2020, 04:36 PM   #6
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very nice. How many trades did Scorp pitch to you during this interview?
All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity - Gordie Howe
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