Q&A: Greg Malone

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Greg MalonePenguins' head scout has had many thrills as a player and a member of the team's front office, but he realizes his tenure possibly could end soon.Greg Malone has spent most of his adult life in pro hockey, nearly all of it with the Penguins.

He was the team's second-round draft choice in 1976 and, after playing 495 games with them, moved on to Hartford and Quebec, where he played the balance of his 11-season career.

Then-general manager Tony Esposito added Malone to the Penguins' scouting staff in 1988, and he took over as their head scout -- a role he has filled for the past 16 seasons -- a couple of years later.

Malone, 50, has two sons, Ryan and Mark, the former of whom was the Penguins' fourth-round draft choice in 1999 and recently completed his second NHL season.

Malone recently talked to Penguins beat writer Dave Molinari about his long run as a scout in the NHL.

Q. What did you do after you retired as a player, and how did you get into scouting?

Malone: I shuffled from job to job, nothing significant. I tried to get into sales -- worked my way into sales -- but the inexperience, it was like anything else, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. I did that for a year, then Tony Esposito became general manager and I had been a player rep and got to know Tony over the years at the player rep meetings and so forth. He was looking for a scout for Ontario, and offered it to me. I just walked in and said, "Yeah, I want to get back into the game." At that time, I thought I would get into scouting, then maybe move over to another aspect of the game. All off a sudden, you look at it and it's my 18th year. It just seems like one year runs into another.

Q. How would Greg Malone, the scout, describe Greg Malone, the player?

Malone: A lot of my success was on hard work and drive. My skating was good, but I don't think I was a speedster. I think I had pretty good hands, and pretty good vision of the ice and what was going on out there.

Q. What was the highlight of your career as a player?

Malone: I can't say we won any Stanley Cups (laughs). Probably the highlight was just playing in the NHL. You always dreamed about playing in the NHL, but even when I went to junior and played in Oshawa, even after I got drafted, I figured I'd play a couple of years in the minors, then go back to school and become a school teacher, or go work in the mill like my dad or whatever. Then all of a sudden, (Penguins coach) Kenny Schinkel called me before my first training camp and said, "If you have a good training camp, there's a pretty good chance you're going to play in the NHL." And I went, "Wow. OK." My first year, Hockey Night in Canada was a big thing, and there was a game against Toronto where I scored a goal late in the game. In Toronto, they had the three stars come out and circle around, and your whole life you watched that on Saturday night, and all of a sudden, here I am being called out to center ice as the first star. That was kind of cool.

Q. Do you think much about good and bad drafts that you've had, or do you put those behind you and think more about the drafts to come.

Malone: You can learn something from (past) drafts. You can learn something every year. And you learn that, a lot of times, it doesn't go the way you see it playing out. There are always a couple of surprises. I can remember (in 2000), when Brooks Orpik landed down at 16 or 18. We figured he was going to be gone by that time, so there is something to be learned. The book (detailing) past drafts, I carry it around and read it. I sit down after every draft and look at each team's draft and rate how I think they've drafted. Obviously, that (information) is for me. I don't make it public knowledge; I don't even share that with my scouts, because the worst thing you can do is come out and say, "Well, why did they take this guy?" There's always a reason.

Q. How would you describe the high-end and overall talent available in this year's draft?

Malone: I like the top-end talent. I think there are some quality people, quality hockey players. There are some kids out there who could probably be someone you'd want to draft and build your team around. Toward the end of the draft this year, I don't think it's as strong as it has been. The depth in this year's draft, I don't think, is as strong as in the past. But I think, at the top-end is fine and in the middle rounds is fine.

Q. Have the qualities you look for in a player changed because of the way the NHL game has changed during the past year?

Malone: Oh, definitely. We look at a defenseman now and, if he's a big guy out there and he's physical but can't move his feet, he's probably not going to be too high on our list. The game now is obviously quicker and faster, and if you're a defenseman who wants to be able to play in the National Hockey League, you'd better be able to skate. Even the (evaluations of) forwards have changed. We always looked at their skating, but now, all of a sudden, you're looking for that little quickness that they can use to their advantage.

Q. Has the way you do your job changed since Ray Shero took over as general manager?

Malone: I'm always hoping for suggestions, always looking for ways to improve how we do things as a staff. I think Ray is pretty open-minded. Obviously, if he sees some things and would like to change certain areas, I'm all for it. I've always been a team player. My staff and I are like that, so I don't think it's going to change very much.

Q. Do you, or the guys on your staff, worry that the new GM might want to change the makeup of the staff?

Malone: Yeah, because our contracts are up, or whatever. But the one thing is, it's the nature of the business. ... After the draft, if he wants to make changes, that's his prerogative. That's the business. He may come to me and say, "Hey, Bugsy, it's been great, but I want to bring in my own guy," and I'm fine with that, because I know it's the nature of the business. I've seen it happen in other organizations, so why shouldn't it happen with the Pittsburgh Penguins?

Patricia McDonnell, Associated Press
Greg Malone, at the 1999 NHL draft, has been the Penguins' head scout for the past 16 seasons.
Click photo for larger image.


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