SUN Hockey Pool

Scary prospect

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:32 PM ET

Tod Button has heard about some of the crazy questions asked during interviews leading up to the National Football League draft.

He can only chuckle when asked about them.

Some of those same oddball queries are undoubtedly made in the weeks leading up to the NHL Entry Draft, too, but the Calgary Flames director of scouting leaves those to other teams.

He knows the interview process with a prospect can be too well-rehearsed these days and means little after months of grilling coaches, teammates and even family members to get as much information about any risks involved in picking a player.

You can’t put too much stock in what a kids says or how he appears with his skates off.

If teams based their impressions of Joe Sakic on his interviews, they’re still kicking themselves for letting the bashful kid from Burnaby, B.C., slide all the way to the Quebec Nordiques, 15th overall in the first round.

“I wasn’t part of it, but I remember people talking about it,” Button said. “Joe Sakic can’t look you in the eye. Weak handshake.

“C’mon, would you not take him just cause of that? He was a shy kid.”

Of course, for every Joe Sakic, there could be a Daniel Ryder, who looked to be an absolute gem drafted in the third round by the Flames in 2005.

Ultra-talented but extremely shy, it turned out Ryder had mental issues. He quit hockey and is now being held in a hospital after being declared unfit to stand trial for an armed robbery charge.

“I don’t even care about the hockey. I hope he gets better,” Button said. “He was on his way up — that’s the tragedy of it.

“It doesn’t even matter now. You hope he gets the help he needs.”

Confidence doesn’t necessarily make a great hockey player, either.

Telling a tale passed onto him by another Flames scout, Button has a little laugh when talking about Tom Webster’s biggest regret from his days as a coach for the Windsor Spitfires.

Looking at two prospects in the 2000 OHL Bantam Draft, they went with an outspoken Italian kid named Matt Maccarone because of his outgoing nature.

“Big, strong guy. Very well spoken. Big handshake. Look you in the eye in the interview process. And they loved him,” said Button. “Great personality. Very easy to speak to.

“The other kid they talked to, he was shy. He was a quiet kid from up north and didn’t really speak that well. He didn’t really look you in the eye. And kind of a weak handshake.

“It was Eric Staal.”

Ouch.

Maccarone fizzled through a few seasons in major junior, went on to the CIS and played last season in the IHL with the Port Huron Icehawks and the Dayton Gems.

Staal, of course, starred for the Peterborough Petes, was drafted second overall in the 2003 NHL draft and went on to win a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes.

“You don’t want to fall in love with a kid because of his personality,” said Button, summing up what he’s learned over the years. “You’ve got to separate the emotion from the job. Sometimes it’s not easy because you get kids that you can talk to all day.

“You’ve got to separate that from the overall process.”

Then again, there are times the interview can’t be ignored.

One absolute dealbreaker comes to mind for Button.

It’s the only time in his own personal experience an interview instantly eliminated a prospect from a team’s list.

He wasn’t yet in an amateur role with the Flames but was sitting in with guys like Ian McKenzie, Kelly Kisio and Guy Lapointe.

“This kid came in and he trashed his whole organization — his coach, GM, the owners, everybody …” Button said. “We were stunned. Stunned.

“He left the room, and we looked around — everybody had their mouths wide open. They couldn’t believe it.

“You ask the guy an honest question ...”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca


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