Scout boss gives insight into trade

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:26 AM ET

Marshall Johnston heard the critics during a four-hour drive up from Bemidji, Minn. to Winnipeg on Friday.

No worries, though. Second-guessing is a major part of his life.

"It was interesting, I was listening on XM (Satellite) radio coming up here and they were talking about the trade, and fans were phoning in and the majority of the comments were 'Oh L.A. really lucked out with this trade' and so on," said Johnston, the director of pro scouting for the Carolina Hurricanes yesterday.

The 65-year-old, in town for a reunion of the Canadian national hockey team (which was based in Winnipeg from 1964-70), was referring to Friday's deal which saw his club ship blue-chipper D Jack Johnson and D Oleg Tverdovsky to the Kings for D Tim Gleason and F Eric Belanger.

Pundits all over the hockey world have slammed the 'Canes for moving Johnson, the third overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, but the Carolina scout said it was a necessary transaction.

"They say Johnson will be the best player in this deal and he very well may be, but we felt with our success it was important to maintain some stability," Johnston said. "We have a contending team. Johnson chose to stay (at the University of Michigan) and that's his choice ... but with Belanger and Gleason, this makes our team better this year.

"That's what we were concerned about."

The former general manager of the Ottawa Senators (1999-02) said the new economic landscape of the NHL forces clubs with a potential winning hand -- just like the defending Stanley Cup champion Hurricanes hold -- to bet big now. Cashing in on the heightened interest in the Carolina market by icing another contending club only makes sense.

No longer are teams in a position to wait for players over extended periods of time. Johnston believes this urgency to win has changed the scouting profession, too.

"What's happened with the new CBA is that it's put more emphasis on pro scouting because there's going to be fewer long-term contracts, there's going to be constant movement of players, therefore teams have to have a better grasp of the whole league," said Johnston, who during his time as the head scout for the New Jersey Devils (1983-93) was responsible for drafting players like Martin Brodeur, Brendan Shanahan and Scott Niedermayer.

"Your overall knowledge of the league has to better now to be successful."

Though he won a bronze medal with the Canadian Nats in the 1968 Olympics (he was captain of that team) and is considered to have one of the top scouting eyes in the NHL, Johnston said winning the Stanley Cup was the highlight of his career in pro hockey.

Just don't know

Now entering his second year with the 'Canes, the former Minnesota North Stars and California Golden Seals defenceman said this time -- right before the season starts -- is similar to the scouting game.

Sometimes you just don't know how things are going to play out.

"I'll be quite frank with you, I would have never projected Carolina would have won the Stanley Cup," Johnston said. "It's good for the game. (A number of magazines) had us finishing last in the league last year. There may have been five or six favourites at the start of last season. Now, everyone is saying 'Hey, we have a chance to win the cup, look at Carolina.'

"You never know how it's going to turn out."


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