A quick interview with Maple Leafs Director of Pro Scouting Steve Kasper

A quick interview with Maple Leafs Director of Pro Scouting Steve Kasper

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Steve Kasper played nine seasons for the Bruins, followed by stints with the Kings, Flyers and Lightning.

MLHS’ Alec Brownscombe chatted with Maple Leafs Director of Pro Scouting Steve Kasper this afternoon. Topics covered include the process of pro scouting, the new off-season additions, and how the Leafs stack up at centre compared to the rest of the league. Enjoy.

Alec Brownscombe: What does the job of Director of Pro Scouting of the Maple Leafs involve on a day-to-day basis?

Steve Kasper: I stay in touch with [pro scouts] Mike Penny, Rob Cowie and Tom Watt, as well as Dave Poulin, Claude Loiselle and Dave Nonis. We’re basically out watching games. Pretty much every night one of us is out there, and most nights all of us are out there. Basically, we are collecting information. We’re looking at predominantly the NHL and the AHL, and just keeping a database on players – making a list of players we feel are playing really well and we like, and maybe players we are not as interested in.

AB: Obviously there’s a lot more scouts on the amateur side, with 12+ scouts on that side, why is the number three  the right number of pro scouts?

SK: Just logistically, look at how many teams the amateur guys have to cover. The National Hockey League has 30 teams and the AHL has the equivalent. It’s a lot easier than it is covering all of Quebec, all of Ontario, all of Western Canada as well as the the US college system and the USHL, and all the amateur teams throughout the world. It’s a much smaller ground to cover. Keep in mind we do have a European pro scout also in Jari Gronstrand, so we do cover a little more ground with that. But there’s far more amateur teams and a far bigger territory to cover.

AB: Does the pro scouting staff measure players with anything other than their “eyeballs”? Does the team use any statistical metrics within their database of players?

SK: No, we are not using a statistical analysis. I am not saying there’s not room for that in the game, but sometimes a player’s contribution does not always show up on a stat sheet. I know a statistical analysis isn’t simply looking at goals and assists, but sometimes a player can play his best game and you don’t see his name anywhere on the scoresheet. My own personal belief is that I like to be there live and see a game myself.

AB: When the management group identifies an organizational need, would they go to you and say “give us a shortlist of players to fill this need,” or how does it work?

SK: I think every situation is different. There isn’t one set of criteria that is used all the time. First of all, it’s easy to identify need but, similar drafting to players, if you have an opportunity to get a player that is going to help make your team better then you’re going to look at it. I won’t just say, “let’s just look at a center,” or defencemen or winger or a goaltender. I think Dave Nonis is always looking at ways to make the Maple Leafs better. With that said, if he is looking for a specific category, we might talk about just who we think is out there, who may be available, who can help us, and why. An awful lot of discussion amongst the group goes into coming up with a decision on who may help us or who may not be able to help us.

AB: When it comes to the acquisition of a Jonathan Bernier, would the goalie guys on the amateur side in Garth Malarchuk and Mike Palmateer be consulted?

SK: That’s not my job to consult with them. Certainly Dave Nonis can consult with anyone throughout the organization and get a view on someone’s progress based on what some of the amateur people thought of them. Basically, once they turn professional they’re handed off and then the pro side starts watching them. A player like Jonathan Bernier obviously played for a couple of years in Manchester, New Hampshire for LA’s farm team before moving on to the Kings. We have been watching him from that point on.

AB: What stood out to you and your team about Bernier?

SK: Our evaluation has been very positive on him. He seems to be a great competitor who has demonstrated the ability to keep his team in hockey games and be very steady while doing so. We just made the determination that there is very good upside there.

AB: How involved were you in the trade for Bolland and the FA acquisition of Clarkson?

SK: Dave Nonis obviously makes the final determination on anything that goes on in the organization. We’re consulted and we give our opinion. Dave accumulates all of the data and all of the information and makes his decision. I saw Bolland, and so did Mike Penny and Rob Cowie and Tom Watt. We’re out there watching all the time, and certainly Claude Loiselle and Dave Poulin are out there watching games as well. It’s not just when teams come in to play the Leafs or the Leafs are on the road… we all watch a lot of games.

AB: Bolland had a bit of a down year despite ample PP time and the opportunity to play with some good linemates in Chicago. What makes the team confident he’ll bounce back? Do you think that 2nd line scoring role was an improper one for Bolland?

SK: Well, first of all, I don’t know who is making the determination that he had a down season. You didn’t hear that from me. Obviously Chicago had a very successful year winning the championship, but were also very successful from the day the puck was dropped to the final faceoff. I just think Bolland was a regular contributor to that team, and a big contributor to that team. You didn’t hear me say he had a down year. My job is not to define his role. The coaching staff assembles the team and plays them in the role that they see fit to help Toronto win. In Dave Bolland we have a very versatile player who can contribute in all three zones, and can play in all game situations. I’m sure Randy Carlyle and the coaching staff will find the best way to utilize his skillsets.

AB: When it comes to a pending FA like Clarkson… if we take it back to the season, he may or may not be available in a few months. Do you scout a prospective UFA like him more closely knowing he could become available, or rely on an internal database of scouting info? I’d imagine that during a season, if a trade target is being discussed, your team can get out and see that player for a few viewings right away. How does it work with FAs or trade targets in the off season?

SK: Certainly, during the course of the season we are trying to get a good feel for everyone playing in the league. Obviously, once the trade deadline passes, then it’s a little easier to narrow your focus to look at pending free agents because there will be no more movement before the end of the season. It just gives you an opportunity to take a little closer look at everyone out there who may be becoming a free agent in the latter part of the season.

AB: Sticking with Clarkson, Nonis has said that he doesn’t have to score 30 to justify the contract. Specifically, what are the other elements the pro scouts loved about David?

SK: I’ll go back to what I told you about Dave Bolland. To win hockey games you need a lot of things to happen, it’s not just scoring goals. A lot of coaches will ask you the question, “if you’re not scoring for me, what is your contribution?” When you look at a David Clarkson, you are looking at a solid team player who shows up to play every game and gives maximum effort every shift. He’s effective along the wall, he goes to all the tight, difficult, dirty areas of the ice – the front of the net – and makes himself hard to play against. That all contributes to a team winning hockey games.

AB: A quieter addition on July 5 was TJ Brennan, who played 30 games in the NHL last season between Florida and Buffalo. Describe his game and if you think he could be a factor this season.

SK: I think TJ Brennan has a lot of upside potential. He was a dominant player in the American Hockey League. If you watched him play there, he was very aggressive offensively and defensively. He was very active and involved in the play. I think it’s up to him to take that next step, to carry over the way he played in the AHL to the NHL. Certainly in his limited stints in the NHL last year he showed signs of it. We just believe that he’s putting in the right effort and that there’s potential there to take the next step and do it on a regular basis.

AB: The Leafs rejigged their personnel at center ice, re-upping Bozak, buying out Grabovski and bringing in Bolland. Being highly familiar with the 29 other teams, where do you think the Leafs stack up down the middle?

SK: I think we are very competitive down the middle. I think that it’s a mistake to characterize a player as a number one center or a first line center or a second line player. I think on any given night, whatever line is ‘going’ the coach could deem fit to utilize as his number one line. I think that we’re developing great depth through the middle and in any given game, from the first line to the fourth line, that gives the coach a lot of different options as to how to utilize his players to get the most out of them. As an organization, starting right at the center spot, I think we’ve created a healthy competition amongst ourselves in terms of players vying for the ice time.

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]

Next year the Leafs have Phaneuf, Kessel, Kulemin, Fraser, Bolland, McClement, and Ranger all UFA and Reimer RFA. Franson or Kadri could still be added to that list depending what kind of deal they sign.

In the new cap structure I hope they aren't all looking for raises. 


God a young Sundin on this Leafs roster would just.....ugghgggghgghghghh


Hmm, 102 people listening.

How come nobody's talking?

Ian from Etobicoke
Ian from Etobicoke

Bill Ranford on Jonathan Bernier (June 24th, 2013 Blue Lunch):





Quick summary:

What are the Leafs getting with Bernier? 

A quality individual, a great guy—works hard on and off the ice and just a quality person. I can't say enough the young man. I've known him since he was 17. It's been a pleasure to work with him. 

Talk about his skill set. Technically, how good is he?

There is very low maintenance or work with him. He's really honed his skills. His technical package is very strong. Just little tweaks you have to make here and there throughout the season.

What is it about his game, that leads you to believe he can be a top-notch, quality starter for the Leafs?

Hes got a real calm demeanor about his game and when he's on, his rebound control is really good, and he makes the game look easy...

...his puck handling is at a real elite level. 

Are their weaknesses to his game or something the needs to adapt to to become a starter?

I don't think so. If he did struggle sometimes, it would be with his depth (in the crease). He's not a 6'5-6'6 goalie, he's around the 5'11-6ft range, but he plays big. Other than, there's not a whole lot. He handles traffic very well, his rebound control, when he's on, is very good. Has a swagger when he's on his game. 

How is he going to handle the media here?

He'll be fine with it. He has a real good personality...

Ian from Etobicoke
Ian from Etobicoke

From the 2011 World Championships, in which two new comers, Reimer and Bernier battled for the net.


BRATISLAVA — A head coach and his starting goalie don’t have to be best friends, but if their relationship isn’t at the very least symbiotic, it tends to end quickly and not well for at least one of them.

Because a goalie doesn’t start a big game like this one without first gaining his coach’s trust. And a head coach doesn’t preside over a win at this point in a world-class tournament unless his starter is at or near the top of his game.

And so, Team Canada’s bench boss Ken Hitchcock has gone to Jonathan Bernier, the last of three Team Canada goalies to arrive at the IIHF world hockey championship and the first to play an elimination game, to face Russia in the quarter-finals on Thursday. With a third straight start, he has taken over from James Reimer and if there is a medal gleaned from these proceedings, it seems most likely that Bernier will be minding the net at the time.

“I’m just happy to be in. I didn’t expect it,” he said. “The deal for me was, if they were going to give me one game I was going to take it and go from there. Obviously my focus was to come in, really do my job and give my team a good chance to win every night, making the save at the right time. Sometimes you can’t control that, some nights it just seems easier. I’ve just got to keep building in that direction.”

He was matter-of-fact, even while claiming to be excited. He takes that demeanour to the ice with him Thursday, just as he did against Sweden and Norway.

“He just played calm,“ Hitchcock said by way of explaining his choice. “The guys played calm in front of him. He made big saves. I think the thing that was surprising to us, was with no trapezoid, how much puck handling was such a factor here. I don’t think any of us recognized that. We kind of didn’t think much about it going in but it is a huge factor. The goalies have almost twice as many handles with the puck than they do in our league and he’s very good at it. He distributes the puck well, he’s calm with it and I think that’s a big factor for us.“

The 22-year-old Bernier watched a lot of hockey in Los Angeles this year. Jon Quick was the main man and Bernier made just 25 appearances and none in the playoffs, but he apparently showed up here ready for prime time.

“I think a lot of young guys realize everybody is watching now,“ said Hitchcock. “This is kind of tryouts for down the road for a lot of younger guys. They want to play in these big games and they want to prove they belong on the big stage and the stage doesn’t get any bigger than the one that starts tomorrow, other than the Stanley Cup finals and stuff like that. He’s excited. He wants to play well because he wants to be in the mix too down the road.”

The Russians will do what they can to block that path and Bernier must stand in against them during their quarter-final match at Orange Arena. It is a rematch of sorts from last year when the Canadians were two forwards short in Germany — Steven Stamkos and Ryan Smyth were out with injury — and they did not get the kind of goaltending from Chris Mason that propels a Canadian team through a Russian opponent at this point in the tournament.

The Russians can be counted on, whenever they play an elimination game, to crank up the offence. Even in the quarter-final at the 2010 Olympics, when Canada crushed the Russians 7-3, it wasn’t a day off for Roberto Luongo.

“You can’t beat the Russians without your goalie being very good,“ said Hitchcock. “As well as we played in the Olympics against the Russians, Luongo had to make six or seven 10-bell saves. You’re not going to get away with it. Even the games they’ve lost here, they’ve had five, six breakaways in a game, a bunch of two-on-ones. They haven’t lacked for scoring chances. They haven’t defended as well as they normally do but that’s going to get dialed up.”

Ilya Kovalchuk concurs.

“We didn’t play perfect game yet but you know, I think we are preparing for the playoffs and we’ll see,” said the Russian forward. “I think everywhere we can be better. We got a couple good challenges against good teams like Czechs and Germans and they showed we have to be much better to win.

“It’s playoffs. That’s what’s fun about hockey. You prepare yourself for those kind of games and Canada is always big rivalry with Russia and I’m sure fans are excited about the game. We just have to shoot puck and we’ll see what’s going to happen.“

Kovalchuk has shot the puck 18 times and has yet to score. Alex Ovechkin has 11 shots and no goals. The heat is on both of them.

“Everybody is waiting for me to produce offence,“ said Kovalchuk. “Hopefully it will be (Thursday).“

Ovechkin and Kovalchuk are obviously acknowledged as key players for the Russians, particularly in a big game like this one.

“Obviously, probably the best two one-on-one players in the league, so for us, stay focused and play our system game,“ said Bernier.

But there are other threats too, like Sergei Zinoviev, Danis Zaripov and Alexei Morozov, who can all factor in the offence.

“They’re great players, especially on the big ice,“ Kovalchuk said of the trio who star with Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. “They use that size real well. They play with each other a lot of years. They’re a huge part of our team, definitely.“

The Canadians have to counter with more than their goalie. They need their top line of Rick Nash, James Neal (who is nursing an injury but will play) and Jason Spezza to carry the load against an experienced Russian attack. They need defencemen Dion Phaneuf and Brent Burns to play big minutes. And yes, they also need Bernier.

“If you’re going to win in this tournament now, your best players have to be your best players,“ said Hitchcock. “You can’t win this tournament without all your top dogs barking. For us, our top dogs have to be great. We’ve got to get great performances from Spezza, from Nash, from Neal, from (Alex) Pietrangelo, from Phaneuf and Burns. Those guys have got to be great for us if we’re going to win. It’s the same for the Russians. It goes through the KHL five and then it goes through Kovalchuk and Ovechkin.“

All that is true. But if it goes through or around or under or over Bernier too often, it will not end well.


Lombardi on the Bernier trade from six weeks ago:

"Goalies are hard to move," Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said in a brief phone interview with The Times. "They're really hard to move, you're never going to get total value but you try to get the best you can."

The interest in Bernier started at about 15 teams and it appeared as though three or four teams were involved in the latter stages. Media reports had cited that Philadelphia and Minnesota had interest in Bernier and apparently so did the Columbus Blue Jackets, at some point during the process.

"It's a good young team that wants to win. It's obviously a great organization, that will do pretty much anything to win," Bernier said. "I'm very happy to go play for a great club and great organization."

Did he start to think this day would never come?

"It felt that way," Bernier said. "But I'll look in ten years and I'll be like, 'Oh, it was just a short time in my career.' I'm very happy. And Tim (Leiweke) just called. He's very excited to have me on board."

Frattin, 25, played in 25 games for Toronto last season, scoring seven goals and 13 points and was a plus-six.

Lombardi said he tried to trade for Frattin a couple of years ago.

"He's a little bit of a rebel, which I like. Darryl (Sutter) will be good for him," Lombardi said.


I'm really looking forward to having the whole Kadri and Franson situation dealt with. That way i can sleep easier. 


What stat or aspect of the game do you guys expect to change the most this coming season for the Leafs?

1) Better overall on the cycle and ozone possession.

2) Decreased goals against, perhaps down around the 2.2 GAA give or take 0.1

3) A top five PP.


I'd take a 32-35 year old Sundin or a couple of years while the team worked on finding a long term centre. The guy had a 32-goal 78-poiny season as a 36 year old with the leafs with no help at all.



Yup, it's scary to think of how good Sundin and Kessel would be together if both were in their prime at the same time.


"When he's on his game"

So at times he's terrible, but to make up

for it "he has a great personality"

Ian from Etobicoke
Ian from Etobicoke

5 March 2013, 11:59 am

-Since his five-game winning streak began, I haven’t really found anything in Jonathan Bernier’s game to call into question. He has been very good, and was again last night. It’s something that I wanted to discuss with Bill Ranford, as I generally rely on a simplistic approach to evaluating a goaltender (ie: what is his save percentage? Is he leaving pristine rebounds available? Is he “fighting the puck”?). Beyond that, the nuances of goaltending aren’t as easy for me to pick up from upstairs. That said, Bernier again made critical saves at important parts of the game. The Kings allowed a Grade-A scoring chance within the game’s first 45 seconds as Roman Josi was allowed to skate unimpeded into the high slot and unleash a crisp shot up high that Bernier never fought off. He stopped it. There was no available rebound. Play was whistled dead. The trajectory of the game obviously would have taken a completely different course if Bernier hadn’t made that save.

To provide more accurate analysis of Bernier’s performance, I consulted with Goaltending Coach Bill Ranford at this morning’s skate.

Bill Ranford, on Jonathan Bernier’s recent performances:
“I think as we came out very slow in the first periods in not really creating a whole lot, he just made the big save at the right time and played a very composed game. On nights where it goes well, it looks good. On nights where it doesn’t, people talk about it, that it doesn’t look like he’s trying. He just plays a very composed game and keeps it simple.”

Ranford, on Bernier stopping the early Roman Josi shot:
“He got into a good position early and got his eyes on it and controlled the rebound, and that’s the sort of thing you need early on in a game. I think in the second period once we got the great hop for the go-ahead goal, he was solid…Fortunately our team got her going in the third and kind of put the game away.”

Ranford, on Bernier’s positioning, rebound control and staying square to the shooter:
“That’s kind of the style he plays. He’s a little bit of more of a hybrid than most guys out there. He plays a little bit more stand-up style than butterfly, and with his size – he’s not 6’7 – he relies on his positioning and his patience. When he’s at the top of his game, you really notice those two areas.”



Mike: just put the Blow Jobs on. Sleep will come quickly. The signing not so much.


@B_Leaf I say #1, I think it's an area the coaches would like to see improved.   They may not want to listen to the same questions and comments that they did this summer.


Frattin didn't even make the team out of training camp last year.



I think its kinda funny when people evaluate Frattin, they will say he was inconsistent etc. Well for one he was in his first full NHL campaign. He also started the season coming off a major knee injury, and then that injury flared up again mid season. Knee injuries aren't like a boo that heals with a band aid. 



Probably similar, but Clarkson brings more sandpaper, Frattin has better hands.

Mind Bomb
Mind Bomb

@Bobsyouruncle Clarkson Bob, He will Play PP 2 for Sure, I am not sure Frats will get PP time , he looks prime to win a top 6 role on the Wing in LA, but...... we will see


@Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

Yup, I remember him saying that his plan was to eventually hand of the reigns of Maple Leafs GM to Nonis, while remaining the President of MLSE.


@Bon Scott was a Leaf fan @Dangle_My_Berries @Waiting4LSC isn't he the direct boss of all 3 of the GM's from the different teams. I assume he sets their mandate, checks on progress, does business forecasting, etc...He calls the shots in terms of who gets hired and fired as far as the GM's are concerned. He mentioned often that he trying to build a winning culture, so im assuming hes the managing director in the sense that he sets the vision, goals, and tone of the organization and puts people in place to achieve those goals


@Waiting4LSC I think we are being far too critical about semantics, lets let the guy work and judge him by his results. If he wins us a Cup, all this is quickly forgotten


Dangle; we need better than fine. We need a Pat Giilick. Oh well. The life of a Leaf fanatic, live in hope, see mediocrity. :)


@4evrblue @B_Leaf 

We are a pretty solid team on the rise...gotta see how the changes work or don't work but if things go right...