Calgary: The New Edmonton

Ryan Lambert
June 02 2011 02:41PM

 

 

Remember all those fun times you had? Making fun of the Oilers has been really and truly great since their Cup run ended hilariously in a Game 7 loss to Carolina.

Flames fans shouldn't be laughing any more, because their beloved team is the one to avoid like the plague.

I read Steinberg's piece on assigning blame yesterday with a mixture of bemusement and disbelief. I had seen the spinmeisters try to couch the failure to sign Tim Erixon as the only thing that could be done, but from Pat, whose opinion seems more worthy of consideration than most others in the Calgary Media Pompom Club put together? It was surprising to say the least.

The crux of his argument boiled down to his answers to three questions:

1) Why did the Flames let it get this far? 

2) Why didn't they have contingency plans in place?

3) Why didn't they do all they possibly could to keep this player around?

These were all explained away as the organization doing the very very best it could to make a very bad situation at least palatable. And personally I find the implication of such to be offensive.

I'm not an idiot, for one thing. Those that would have you believe the Flames did the very best they could are very putting lipstick on pig. One which has been lying in a puddle of slop, dead, for a week. But let's answer the questions in order.

First, why did the Flames let it get this far? They had to very much believe that a deal could be worked out. That's fair enough. Bargaining in good faith with your top prospect is, I assume, a fairly important thing for a team to do. But at some point, it had to become apparent that Erixon's wants or needs as a player — and again, he seems to be NHL-ready — were not going to be something the Flames could meet and stay safely under the salary cap. After all, there are an awful lot of bad contracts already on the books (Daaaaaaaaarryl! Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaryl!) and nearly as many clauses that prevent the team from doing anything with them. This was of course not helped by that baffling Glencross no-movement clause, which Feaster certainly had a lot to do with.

Second, as the deadline wore near, the apologists assume, Feaster had his ducks very much in a row. They'd trade him to the New York Rangers, where his dad played, for two half-decent second-round picks and a third-decent NHL prospect in Roman Horak, whom no one in the league has ever heard or thought of as anything beyond a somewhat viable third-rate prospect at best. Because that made sense. 

Any sign of collusion — Erixon being signed by his new suitors almost the second he was traded, for example — has been largely ignored by both the team and media. Was it really mere happenstance that he was traded to and immediately came to terms on a deal with the team whose arena he was born within 20 miles of? Surely there had to be one team from the other 28 possible that could have cobbled together an even slightly better package than what the Rangers offered, right? Let's not forget, the kid was a first-round pick two years ago and has been playing against men ever since. I find it remarkably difficult to believe two seconds and a throw-in prospect was the prettiest girl at the cotillion. 

Third, the answer to why Feaster didn't do all in his power to keep Erixon around is very much tied to point No. 1.

"The kid just didn't want to play here," everyone shrugs, as if that somehow should alleviate concerns. We'll likely not find out any time soon exactly why Erixon didn't want to come to Calgary, but one supposes it wouldn't have been for the lack of opportunity to get decent minutes right away.

I'll be optimistic first: More likely it was tied to one of two things which are, again, related: they couldn't squeeze his bonus demands in under the cap in accordance with their other plans (which I'm assuming include a long-term, big-money extension for a Mr. A. Tanguay), and/or there simply wasn't a guaranteed NHL roster spot for him.

If the latter is true, then Feaster is worse at his job than most of us thought (and most of us think he's really quite bad at it). If the former is true, then Feaster is worse at his job than most of us thought (and most of us think he's really quite bad at it).

Neither would be indicative of a GM who knows what he's doing.

Should your long-term plans, or hell, even short-term plans, involve denying what is apparently an NHL-ready 20-year-old bruising defenseman a legitimate chance or even the outright promise of claiming a roster spot, because you really like what known quantities such as Adam Pardy, Anton Babchuk or (god forbid) Steve Staios bring to the table, then you are a complete and utter moron.

Similarly, if you're not prepared to shuffle some chairs around this particular deck of the Titanic to squeeze such a player in, then you are entering your job as steward of a team that needs a total rebuild with the entirely wrong mindset. 

Now let's be pessimistic, and say that Erixon really didn't want to play in Calgary.

Uh oh.

That would be a very, very bad thing indeed. Most kids would fairly jump at the chance to play for any NHL team that they were lucky enough to be drafted by, right? Erixon's got the bloodlines and grew up cheering on the team he was traded to, but Taylor Hall's from Calgary, and you can bet he's just pleased as punch to be pulling on an Oilers jersey every night. So if players are now actively avoiding Calgary for the simple fact that it's Calgary, then the Flames have a major problem on their hands.

The entire league used to giggle up its sleeve every time a half-decent player did all in their power to stop playing for Edmonton. Mike Comrie and Chris Pronger asked out of town, Dany Heatley blocked a trade there and instead headed to San Jose, a few guys whose names I forget agreed to contracts in Edmonton and then went elsewhere anyway. Haw haw haw. Funny stuff all around.

That might now be what Calgary is. Maybe it already is. We didn't think about it at the time, I guess, but the "major" acquisitions of last summer weren't exactly the kind of earth-shattering blockbusters the Jay Bouwmeester deal was. Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay, picked up off the discard pile and called "progress." It almost doesn't matter that Jokinen was serviceable and Tanguay was excellent this past season, because they could have just as easily not been. But the message is clear: we're long past the days of Calgary being a major free agent — or now, apparently, draftee — destination.

Maybe that's a function of the topheavy quality of the team's current cap structure, which, by the way, isn't changing soon. But maybe players also see what's perceived to have happened to Bouwmeester — he was great now he sucks, so the legend goes — and they say they don't want a part of it. Maybe they see that the team's primed for a rebuild and don't want to be around when it's is losing 50 games a year. 

Who can blame them, any more than they could blame Pronger and Comrie and Heatley and Nylander (was that one of them?) for not wanting to go to Edmonton? Not me. Shouldn't be you either.

None of the above questions have answers that qualify as "good" or "comfortable." And anyone trying to tell you this is anything but a massive disappointment and black eye for Feaster and this organization has their head so far up the team's ass they've set up a base camp in its small intestine.

686dfac3780611cb7acad6ce5166c6c1
Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#51 Pat Steinberg
June 03 2011, 11:42AM
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Ryan, the gist of my article wasn't a blanket defence of the organization's past. It was a defence of the current guys driving the hockey bus right now. Feaster et al DID do everything in THEIR power to get this done.

What happened with Darryl and the situation he got the team into wasn't what I was defending, nor have I ever defended it.

But to throw blame at Feaster, Conroy or anyone else in Flames hockey operations isn't fair to me, because they were given crappy circumstances to work with from the get go.

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#52 the-wolf
June 03 2011, 12:59PM
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Pat Steinberg wrote:

Ryan, the gist of my article wasn't a blanket defence of the organization's past. It was a defence of the current guys driving the hockey bus right now. Feaster et al DID do everything in THEIR power to get this done.

What happened with Darryl and the situation he got the team into wasn't what I was defending, nor have I ever defended it.

But to throw blame at Feaster, Conroy or anyone else in Flames hockey operations isn't fair to me, because they were given crappy circumstances to work with from the get go.

It's fair in the sense in that after a year in the organization that Feaster should've had a btter read on his intentions.

It's fair as well in the sense that he should've set an earlier deadline. Listening tto Feaster's interview I can't believe he let himself get strung along for such a long period of time.

It's also fair in the sense that Feaster came out and stated that Regehr and the rest of the core aren't going anywhere, thus continuing the Flames reputation as a place that doesn't give young players enough opportunity.

It's also fair that he's been the man for 5 months+ and that blaming Darryl in a result-oriented business doesn't change the fact we just lost our best prospect who was ready to step in for a second round pick.

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#53 SmellOfVictory
June 03 2011, 01:08PM
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@the-wolf

Two weeks is not a long period of time in which to negotiate a contract and be strung along. The Flames lost their best prospect for 2 2nd round picks and an upgrade on their 5th round pick. It definitely could've been worse, and it's pretty tough to blame Feaster in any significant way.

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#54 the-wolf
June 03 2011, 01:32PM
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Totally could be worse. At the same time it's an entry level deal. A deadline of longer than a couple of hours before midnight could've been set. After all, look how fast NYR signed him - for obvious reasons, I agree and I would also pursue tampering charges, but by the same logic it should've been a tip-off to management from the get-go that something wasn't right. For the top prospect in the organization it seems like the Flames had no 'book' on this guy at all.

That said, we could come out ahead on this if we really swing for the fences in the 2nd round and grab a couple of highly skilled but smaller guys.

What sucks though is that'll be years down the road and it robs us of moving a guy lik eRegehr for another top 6 forward.

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#55 Emir
June 03 2011, 02:18PM
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I aide with Steinberg plain and simple.

Also, like Kerr said, this guy hasnt played a game yet. He is highly touted but who knows really. He will likely be a good nhler but Erixon had decided not to sign here because he wanted to goto nyr and did not want to be upfront about it and get a bad rep in the league.

As for the flames not playing their youth, in the last 5 years give me 3 names who we have held back for no reason. There no young talent in the org when Darryl came and now we do have young players who can come up and help the team. So frankly Erixon and his camp can hide behind their cover story and enjoy losing in nyr.

Plus I think what we got for erixon in the time frame was good and props to feaster & co. For getting it done.

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#56 Pat Steinberg
June 03 2011, 02:46PM
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@the-wolf

I fail to see what else Feaster could have done here. Max contract under entry level circumstances and max bonuses...they did that.

It's also unfair to say they waited too long. The deal was made right before the deadline, but the possibility of something happening was explored before that...a week before that.

Plus, the team only had an inkling this might not get done for about a week, when Feaster and Conroy flew to New York to meet with the Erixon camp...that was the first indication.

And even if they knew months ago, I'm still all for the Flames taking some time to convince their player, even if it means leaving yourself with only a week to negotiate a trade.

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#57 Domebeers.com
June 03 2011, 03:39PM
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@Pat Steinberg

Pat, honestly, do you really believe the organization realized Erixon's camp wasn't going to sign with a week left till the deadline?

If they did, then they are at fault for not doing their homework.

What seems to me to be the more realistic scenario is that the Flames got a boner for this guy, and convinced themselves they would be able to sign him, even though they were getting indications (from Erixons camp) of resistance, prior to last week.

It seems to me they overestimated their abilities to convince the players camp to change his mind, and ended up trading their 2009 first round for a 2011 second round pick, as they would have received a second had they let the guy go back into the draft anyways.

Regardless, in either way, the teams front office incompetence is to blame. I think most people can see that.

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#58 adm ackbar
June 03 2011, 03:51PM
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This article is completely eroneous in my opinion. Ryan, you forgot to lay out the most likely and parsimonious scenario. Erixon wanted ONLY to be a ranger.

you think the flames couldnt afford this player this year and in the near future? An ELC was offered with substantial and reasonable rookie bonus'. It would have fit this year and lasted 3 years. Have you checked to see what the flames' cap room is threes years from now? This was NOT a cap problem. That's a red hering used by Erixon's camp and has been eaten up by non-thinkers such as yourself.

The player doesn't want to be stuck in the flames' glutted up system? Have you seen the rangers defensive depth? erixon might be their 9th or tenth defenseman this year whereas he would have slotted into the flames bottom pairing very nicely. It was a good situation for an nhl ready prospect dman. Again, another red hering of an excuse. If they were worried that the flames have a rep of making their prospects earn icetime... well, more on that later.

The sad thing is, this player is in a 'star aligning' situation to act unfaithfully in these negotiations. To your point, the reason the contract was signed immediately after the trade is because no team would green light a trade without first getting permission to talk with the player. The rangers are the only one he would agree to sign a deal with and the player, agent, father, and rangers assumed that the flames would give him up for anything above the compensation package rather than have erixon go back into the draft. It is much easier to tamper over the dinner table than to do so inside of gm offices, and this is what clearly happened here. Father convinces kid to play for rangers. kid is easilly influenced by father. father whispers in sather's ear. sather swindles flames.

so... whats erixon camp's move if this was the plan? give feaster minor issues that he wants worked into his contract, ie. a clause that puts him back in SEL if he doesn't make the big team, and keep them thinking he's gonna sign. Then once these issues are hammered out, make other issues up that might seem right on the surface, but are really just excuses to get him to NYR. I just find it hard to believe that some are buying it. Nobody moreso than you Ryan Lambert.

Contrary to your views, this probably had absolutely NOTHING to do with calgary or the flames.

Silver lining: Historically, Torts doesn't get along with players who are used to having things go their way. The only way he's gonna climb up that system is a good attitude, hard work, and persistance through adversity. I'm not sold.

On another note... Erixon is a bruising dman? Have you seen him play a game? have you read a single scouting report? not to credible of a comment to say the least.

Big picture, the flames are in cap trouble for the next year or two and things arent gonna be pretty. It may not even be a very desirable place to come, I don't really know. But none of this has anything to do with erixon and the choice he made.

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#59 Brent G.
June 03 2011, 04:18PM
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I blame no one in this situation but Tim Erixson. If this whiney little b*tch doesnt think he can EARN a spot in Calgary so be it. Man what a foreign concept, earning a spot on a team...

Regardless its done now and I hope to watch him fail miserably. I wish but nothing bad on Tim Erixson and I hope he herpes blowing his daddy and is out of the league within a few short years. He had some success in the SEL doesnt necessarily mean he's going to be that great in the NHL.

Erixson definitely is not a bruising defensemen.

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#60 the-wolf
June 03 2011, 04:40PM
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Funny seeing how people's opinions of Tim Erixon's hockey ability have gone. From a sure-fire top 4 defender who was outplaying Adam Larsson, our top prospect who doesn't need any time in the AHL, etc., etc........to a complete wanker who should've never made it out of midget.

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#61 Pat Steinberg
June 03 2011, 05:07PM
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@Domebeers.com

Like I've said a number of times...how in the world do you know what the Erixon camp was telling the Flames? Honestly...if the agent and player were saying they were going to sign, why would the team, with an important future piece in play, play mind reader and make a trade?

What you're proposing in theory is great if you want to create a stance that dumps all over the Flames, which is what you do...and that's fine. Sometimes, especially recently, the team deserves criticism.

However, I don't understand your blanket "blame Feaster" argument here. We get it, you don't like the guy as GM of the team...but I'm f'ing GLAD the team tried, in vain or otherwise, to convince the kid to sign here, even if it meant going up to a week before the deadline to sign him!

Your assertion that they lost their trade leverage is an assumption and that's it. They got two picks and a prospect for a guy that wouldn't sign despite Calgary's best efforts. I'm not sure how you can spin this one in your "Feaster sucks" barrage.

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#62 SmellOfVictory
June 03 2011, 05:36PM
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@the-wolf

They're just saying he's not buising, which he was never purported to be in the first place. He's decently-sized, and he will hit, but he doesn't make a living off it; his bigger defensive strength, according to what I've read, is his stickwork. I don't think anyone is saying he's a crap player now. They're just arguing a specific claim made about him in this thread, and accusing him of having an over-developed sense of entitlement.

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#63 Tach
June 03 2011, 06:12PM
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Pat,

I think there is a potential argument to be made that Feaster over-estimated either the odds that he would sign in Calgary or his ability to convince him to sign here. Other than that, I am generally with you.

That being said, the "breadcrumbs", such as they exist, for Feaster are not looking good. Modin, Glencross, Erixon are at best harmless if unimaginative moves. I would lump in under "moves not made" failing to pick up Nik Zherdev on waivers as a miss.

Do I hope that something better evolves and am willing to cheer for Feaster to make it? Hell yeah. Do I reserve a certain stubborn crticism. Ditto.

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#64 Tach
June 03 2011, 06:13PM
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Pat,

I think there is a potential argument to be made that Feaster over-estimated either the odds that he would sign in Calgary or his ability to convince him to sign here. Other than that, I am generally with you.

That being said, the "breadcrumbs", such as they exist, for Feaster are not looking good. Modin, Glencross, Erixon are at best harmless if unimaginative moves. I would lump in under "moves not made" failing to pick up Nik Zherdev on waivers as a miss.

Do I hope that something better evolves and am willing to cheer for Feaster to make it? Hell yeah. Do I reserve a certain stubborn crticism. Ditto.

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#65 oilers1974
June 03 2011, 06:59PM
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you flames fans sound like oilers fans circa 2007. things will probably get worse before they get better. have fun.

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#66 michael Oilers fan
June 05 2011, 10:36AM
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After listen to Nation Radio yesterday and listening to the comments about the debacle that blew out out of Feasters a$$ this week by the name of Tim Erixon I wondered ho wthe other half of the province was feeling. Reading your posts was insightful. The feeling I get is that the fan base is not sold on Feaster. From afar it appears that satus qou appears to be his plan. Good Luck with that. Has he looked at the division lately? winnipeg is coming over in 2012. They have a solid core. And are only getting better. Imagine how they'll be now that there no lomger playing in the hockey wasteland that was Atlanta? Minnesota finally has shed its defence first style of play are building a more attack offence. Colorado. For one more year. They have a pretty solid core and like Edonton will a force to reckon with in a few seasons. Lastly. Poor old Edmonton. I wouldn't trade all the oil in FT MacMurray for your team. Watching Hall, Eberle and M.P. this season was a sight for sore eyes. And let me tell you there hasn't been this kind of excitement for the Oilers since 1979. Your G.M. is either very smart or is missing the boat completely. I'd bet on the missing the boat completely after the Erixon fiasco. By the way I left out mentioning that other team who plays in our division because if there is one team I hate worse than the Flames its that other team who is in the Stanley Cup final. I wonder if Feaster knows that they play in our division? Or cares?

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#67 Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"
June 06 2011, 04:41AM
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I miss the battle of Alberta that was really the War of Alberta. If we had not had the most amazing collection of players ever back then the Flames would have won 3 Stanley's not one. Time to tank this team and suck for two years so Calgary and Edmonton can meet in the Western Final for a good old fashioned war. That way I can hate the flames more than the Canucks. It is the way it should be after all.

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#68 icedawg_42
June 06 2011, 07:07AM
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Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!" wrote:

I miss the battle of Alberta that was really the War of Alberta. If we had not had the most amazing collection of players ever back then the Flames would have won 3 Stanley's not one. Time to tank this team and suck for two years so Calgary and Edmonton can meet in the Western Final for a good old fashioned war. That way I can hate the flames more than the Canucks. It is the way it should be after all.

Haha - I agree with pretty much everything you said here. Those late 80's teams in this province were awesome! The "REAL" Battle of Alberta was a sight to see and has never been duplicated!

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