Screencap Credit: Hockey Canada / Youtube
If done properly, “wisdom of the crowds” is perhaps the best way to go about decision making in professional sports management. The Leafs, with their endless supply of respected minds, have taken this approach to heart in recent years and appear to have stretched it even further today by hiring Tim Speltz as the Director of Western Area Scouting.
— Guy Flaming (@TPS_Guy) August 16, 2016
This situation reminds me of the one we saw last season when the Leafs went after Brandon Wheat Kings GM Kelly McCrimmon last summer. For whatever reason, that didn’t work out (McCrimmon stayed for one more year before being hired by Las Vegas as their Assistant GM two weeks ago), but in Speltz, they get a junior name with a similar pedigree.
The 57-year-old Speltz was hired by the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs prior to the 1990/91 season, in which he immediately delivered in the form of a Memorial Cup. Despite having the disadvantage of a fewer local talents in Washington State, shrewd drafting, and player personnel decisions under Speltz’s eye led to playoff appearances in 14 of his 17 seasons as GM. Two of those years saw them win their division, and in both those seasons (1996 and 2000), the team made it to the league finals before bowing out. Spokane rose to glory one more time in 2008, when they won the WHL finals in the same way as they did in 1991 (a 4-0 sweep over Lethbridge), and won their second Memorial Cup.
Speltz tried his hand at coaching for a single game in 1994 after Brian Maxwell resigned (and won, too). After a 24-game long search for a replacement, he eventually found one; a young man who would eventually leave the team as the winningest and longest serving coach in their history.
That coach? Current Leafs bench boss Mike Babcock.
Speltz has also spent the past couple of years as part of Hockey Canada’s “Program of Excellence” group of part-time consultants, particularly at the various Under-20 levels.
UPDATE 6:15 PM EST:
The Chiefs confirmed the report from earlier today, noting that Speltz’s role will be ‘Director of Western Area Scouting’. From their release:
“The opportunity I’ve been presented with by Toronto is extraordinary and is something that I couldn’t pass up,” Speltz continued. “I am excited to take on a new challenge and get started with such an iconic NHL franchise. I am also very grateful that I’ll be able to assist in the Chiefs’ transition to a new general manager as well as continue to call Spokane home for my family.”