Anton BabchuK: Luxury Item

Robert Cleave
July 06 2011 01:01AM

            

 

I'll confess I've watched the reaction to the Anton Babchuk signing with a bit of bemusement since the Flames re-upped their free agent defender Monday afternoon. There seems to be a school of thought that accepts the deal as reasonable given the current silly FA market, and people believing his ticket is fair value could well be correct that it might not be out of line for what he brings. My problem, however, isn't so much with the contract per se, but with the inability of the Flames to see the forest for the trees.

First, as Kent and others have repeatedly pointed out, this is a player that has needed significant sheltering to be a functional NHL defenceman 5v5. The Flames were able to achieve that feat most of last season because they could lean on Bouwmeester, Giordano and Regehr to carry the load.

That's not in the cards for 11/12, so someone like Chris Butler is going to be asked to carry a weight he might not be capable of, and because of that, there's every chance that we'll see a trickle down effect on Bouwmeester and Giordano. They'll be asked to do everything at EV and on the PK, and those are pretty heavy minutes to carry on a team with decent, but not great forwards. Absent a quantum leap by a player that's been playing major pro hockey of some sort for half a dozen years, they won't get much help in that department from Babchuk.

Beyond the clear hole that Calgary faces 5v5, the addition of Babchuk does nothing to improve another glaring failure that we've seen from this club over the last few seasons. One of my ongoing complaints about Calgary's defence corps was that despite the significant salaries being spent on a number of them, they possessed a collective inability to win races to pucks, particularly on the PK. I noted with interest that a team that was 4th in shots against overall and 5v5 slid to 13th in shot prevention 4v5, and based on what I witnessed, it was often the case that Calgary featured of a group of defencemen that were too slow to cover the extra ice they faced when down a man.

It's not much of a secret that for most of last year the only decent skaters on the backend were Giordano and Bouwmeester, with a collection of leadfoots making up the rest of the squad. Regehr's other talents allowed him to mostly compensate for his skating deficiencies, but even he was found wanting against the better PPs, with Vancouver and Anaheim being particularly adept at exploiting the Flames' PK units by simply outskating Calgary's defence to every loose puck. 

Anton Babchuk, for good reason, averaged about 30 seconds a game on the PK for Calgary last season. He was about the last option that Brent Sutter opted to use in that scenario, and that's about the same type of utilization as we saw from Paul Maurice during Babchuk's last full year in Carolina. His lack of foot speed and agility can be covered 5v5 and on the PP, but on the PK, with the need to retreive pucks in space at a premium, there's virtually no hope that he'll be a major contributor. 

 

            

 

That inability to help the club do the work that defencemen are ultimately essential for is really at the heart of my objection to keeping Babchuk. His offense on the PP is certainly nice, and on a team with a solid top EV four he'd be a decent option to have around, operating in the way that allows Marc-Andre Bergeron to continue to have a career in the NHL despite some fairly obvious defensive lapses.

The Flames aren't in that spot. An honest interpretation of their roster reveals two proper top-four defencemen, which by my math is a shortfall of approximately two from the standard requirement, and it's an indefensible postion for a cap team to find itself in, whatever one might think of the potential for a player like Butler or possibly Brodie. Cory Sarich, who should be a top four contributor, has never really looked up to that task in four seasons with the Flames. I'm not expecting that to change.

My overwhelming sense is that the Flames, having failed to accomplish whatever primary goal they had in unloading Regehr beyond keeping Tanguay employed, simply moved to the next option on their list. It's at times like these that I often find myself invoking the Politician's Syllogism. For those unaware, the geniuses behind the British comedy Yes, Prime Minister identified this logical fallcy and laid it bare:

1. We must do something

2. This is something

3. Therefore, we must do this.

My short answer to that approach is no, no you don't. If inking a player for fairly significant dollars doesn't fix a major problem, you're simply filling the roster, and that can be accomplished for a lot less than 2.5M a year. Adding to Calgary's collection of bottom pairing defenders for that amount just seems like a waste of time and money, and even if there wasn't a wide array of terrific options left in free agency, simply spending the money because you can is no way to run a franchise. I know that the Flames haven't operated in this fashion since before the lockout, but being a bit more discerning regarding player expenditure isn't always bad, and signing Anton Babchuk is a case where that approach might well have been the wisest course. 

I don't doubt that Babchuk can post some pretty boxcar numbers in the right circumstances, and the market for PP defencemen is a bit inflated at the moment to be sure, so it's entirely possible that his contract isn't a grievous overpay by that standard. I've often called Christian Ehrhoff a faster version of Babchuk on Twitter, and we saw what Terry Pegula's ego lead him to pay Ehrhoff for the next number of seasons, so maybe Babchuk is just getting the going rate.

That said, what I still can't figure out is how he'll make the Flames a markedly better team. If he can't carry top four minutes, the club will need to hope that Butler and someone else can. That's not a bet I feel comfortable with, so there's every chance Calgary has paid real money to a player that will be a peripheral figure in the area where the club needs the most help. I don't hate the guy, and the contract isn't the type that will kill a franchise, but if the Calgary Flames were really interested in fixing what's been ailing them, Anton Babchuk is exactly the sort of player that they should have moved on from.

1a1030a8151ca7a0d81aea58f0fb1dbc
Robert Cleave is a perpetually grumpy Winnipegger.
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#1 Casey
July 06 2011, 01:25AM
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It is just July 6th. Do we really believe that the Calgary defense is already set in stone? Training camp doesn't open for two months. I have a feeling that Babchuk will be a 5-6 defenseman this year, just like last year.

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#2 Dr. Nick
July 06 2011, 02:27AM
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Hey Bob,

Can someone please write an article that provides at least one ray of sunshine into the Flames upcoming season? All these doom and gloom stories are really bumming me out. I mean you guys are supposed to be the Flames Nation. If I wanted to keep hearing how we have cap problems, too many NTCs and NMCs, our defense is gonna suck, our GM has as much brains as a Cheeto, our players are overpaid, old, slow and not getting any better, I could talk to an Oilers fan. They may even give me an answer to the question of how many people in Flames management actually graduated kindergarten which keeps keeps coming up here in one form or another.

So please, for the sake of all that is good in this universe, give me a reason to watch the Flames this season.

P.S. Because we're not the Oilers doesn't count as an answer, a friend already tried that.

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#3 Drexler
July 06 2011, 07:15AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Our goal here isn't to brighten days...it's to provide coverage and honest, critical analysis of the team. The Flames website can provide all the sunshine you need because it's aim is to market and promote the club.

We at FN write positive things when we see them as positive. For instance, if Feaster somehow plugs the top-four hole on the blueline by the time training camp rolls around, you'll no doubt see a post celebrating that fact.

I think it goes beyond that and it's entering George Johnson type territory for overall negativity.

How else do you explain the reaction of some on twitter about an unsubstantiated rumor from a "hack" insider that the Flames were going to sign Shane O'Brien. Chicken Little would have played it cooler!

I think it's time for some to step away from the computer, enjoy the weather, maybe play some actual hockey and enjoy life.

No one is saying you have to be positive about everything, but the constant groaning about anything and everything is driving people away and making calgarypuck look like a more enjoyable place which is not only sad, but unbelievable. There, it's just a bunch of idiots with an opinion. Here, it's a bunch of "experts" who know everything based on underlying numbers.

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#4 Brent G.
July 06 2011, 07:43AM
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@Kent Wilson

I appreciate you provide a good honest approach to analyzing the Flames and at times can naturally come off as a very negative outlook on the club. My complaint is that this site focuses so much energy on the bad aspects of the club and makes only a minor mention of the very positive things.

Do I legitimately think the Flames are a playoff team? No, they truly aren't built for it this upcoming year (as it stands today). Fact of the matter is there is some positives to look forward to next year.

Some of the things I am looking forward to and feel everyone should be excited for is (in no particular order):

- Langkow coming back for an entire season. If he were around all year, Bourque would have been more effective (likely) and the Flames would have made the playoffs (definitely) - Seeing how Karlsson follows up on a pretty darn good rookie season. Will he get 20 to 30 starts next year? He really should. - Is a prospect going to surprise everyone in training camp like Brodie did last year? Will Brodie stick with the big club this year? How many games will Nemisz get? He isn't as useless as many of the authors on this site will have you believe. - Backlund taking a major step forward in what should be a moneumental step in his career. Langkow will play with Bourque, Stajan sucks and Jokinen plays so well with Glencross and Moss. Me thinks the writting is on the wall that Backlund will start in a first line center role. He showed some very positive flashes to close out the season last year. - Kotalik is gone and that $3 million is someone elses problem now. - Butler is a pretty highly regarded guy by other GM's for someone very unknown around these parts. Word on the street is he is very underrated and could turn into something a little more special than anyone gives him credit for. Maybe pairing him with Gio would allow for him to be a top 4 option.

I could go on with some of the things to look forward to. Rome wasn't built in a day and it will be a very long process to get there but in the interim I, personally, would rather focus on some of the positives and be a happy positive person than constantly make it feel like the world is coming to an end and the Flames forever will be the worst team in the NHL forever.

The second Feaster does ANYTHING everyone goes on about how stupid, fat, useless, etc. he is. In the Sven signing story some started going on about what a terrible pick this was. The negatives on the kid are pretty minor (age, good team) whereas the fact the guy loves Calgary, works really hard, and has some major league talent should get you excited to see how he develops. The fact he is Swiss and there aren't any good Swiss players sickens me to think this is the mental capacity of your average Flames fan.

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#6 Greg
July 06 2011, 09:05AM
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I don't disagree the flames have a hole in their top 4 and babchuck doesn't address that. But I think what's being overlooked is the flames also had a hole on the the third pairing and powerplay, and Babchuk does address that, and his contract is quite reasonable given the market this summer.

I think what would help balance out the "negative analysis" would be to stop just saying this is a bad move and start proposing what would be better. I contend that given Feaster's options, this was as good a choice as any, but I'd love to see an article with analysis on other, realistic options that would be better and why (other than just the obvious corvo trade).

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#7 rain dogs
July 06 2011, 09:51AM
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@Greg

Babchuks contract is not reasonable for the Flames. That's the problem. You don't make a better team, especially from the Flames starting point comparing to other overpays.

If you're paying a third pairing defender 2.5mil, what are you paying your second and first pairs? Financially it doesn't make sense.

@Robert Cleave

We're likely going to need more than a hypnotist. AS the Flames defense gets worse, and puck pursuit/backchecking by the forwards falters compared to other teams the goalie is going to suffer and any talk of the opposite is nonsense.

It'd be great if Kipper bounced back from his poor year last year, but not having a strong group in front of him isn't going to help.

@All

The talk of being to negative is silly. Seeing your favorite team fall to crap is sometimes a reality in the cycles of hockey.

What I'm always surprised about is the leash that Feaster gets vs the criticism of Sutter. Calgary is a difficult sell (for reasons unknown) and we're seeing that GM'ing here isn't some video game.

However, taking a cornerstone player out of the Flames line-up for a hope and a prayer at Richards was foolish. Losing a 2nd on top of that painful.

Feaster hasn't shown me he deserves a positive review.

-Modin was a waste of a prospect -Regehr was not turned into enough return -Giving up a second to rid Kotalik was very nearsighted -Babchuk was not a smart solution for THIS team

There are reasons to be positive about the team, but they are being overshadowed by a GM situation that may not be worse, but it certainly doesn't look better to my eye.

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#8 the-wolf
July 06 2011, 10:00AM
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This article confirms my belief that we didn't get enough for Regehr and that you don't trade that type of asset based on hope. In this case, even though I'd have bet my house against him signing here, I think Feaster deluded himself into thinking he could actually sign Richards.

It also confirms that even if you could find a new top 4 D to replace Regehr for a reasonable price, then really, what the heck was the point in trading Regehr in the first place? Why move a solid asset on a good contract that you already have in your stable in the vain hopes of finding an identical one?

As far as negativity goes, I for one don't see it. Praise is given when praise is deserved, at least for the most part.

It sounds more like people are just getting tired of the fact that the Flames are going nowhere fast (at least not in the direction of a Cup). Frusturation has set in that this year's version of the team is no better than last year's and maybe even worse, and that there's little chance that next year will somehow be better.

Our destiny then is to die a slow death until age finally overcomes Iginla and we're forced into a rebuild. The inevitablity of the situation is less than desireable, causing some people on here to grasp at straws of sunshine in vain hopes of shutting out the pain, at least for a little while.

Which is why I still say we should've gutted the team at the trade deadline rather than hopping on the bandwagon and proclaiming all of that "they deserve the chance" nonsense based on a single hot streak.

Oh, and NEVER, EVER compare this site, where at least the writers are intelligent and present things in an original light (thank you for that!), not to mention freely allowing dissent and open discourse, to that circle-jerk piece of $^#%@&)@#$^(W@^@$ known as calgarypuck.

If you want sunshine and roses I'd suggest The Fan where Rob Kerr and company seem to be more and more going down the road of Flames propoganda machine. Seriously, it's unbearable sometimes; grab some journalistic integrity already.

I may not always agree with FN, but at least they're honest and sincere.

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#9 Reidja
July 06 2011, 10:07AM
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Sometimes optimism is overrated.

There have been recent offseasons where the Flames were not only seen as the class of the NW division but as cup contenders by fans and the media. I don’t think that I have to remind anyone here what happened during those seasons other than to say there were a lot of emotional let-downs – a lot of soul searching “Are we as good as we think we are? Why have we overrated ourselves?”

For me, the offseason is about management managing and fans reacting. It’s not about line combinations, hypothetical trades, or hoping players who don’t like small Canadian markets change their mind all of a sudden. Feaster is the GM, not me. I want to see what direction he takes this team in – or if he is allowed to take it in a new direction for that matter.

Honest appraisal of managerial decisions is what I’m looking for and why I read this site. I’ve learned that entering a season with high expectations because we landed the big FA defenseman, have the best goalie, have the deepest back-end, or have a full season with that first line center we’ve always needed – these optimistic proclamations ultimately lead only to disappointment. Actually, all of the moves that lead us to believe these things resulted in disappointment.

So what I want is to look objectively at our team because optimism is overrated. And hey, I always maintain that one of the reasons the spring of 2004 was so special was because we didn’t feel entitled to it but because our team earned it. And we earned it too.

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#10 Kevin R
July 06 2011, 11:16AM
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@the-wolf

I lived and had Seasons Tickets all thru that Young Guns era. Was horrible. Difference this time around is the salary cap and us having ownership willing to spend to the cap. Only thing starting to rear its ugly head & will probably be addressed next year in the CBA negotiations is 80% of teams cant throw the 10mill-11mill for 3 years on these long long term contracts to pry RFA's & sign UFA's. These are the teams like Rangers who are paying Redden 6.5mill for the next 3 years in the AHL. Our owners werent prepared to eat Kotalik's 3.0Mill in the AHL for 1 year. Another note, I dont agree that Iggy has lost his trade value, but the window is coming near & this trade deadline or next summer is going to be hotly debated and speculated.

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#11 Yourmomthinksimhot
July 06 2011, 09:50PM
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@Brent G.

In the Sven signing story some started going on about what a terrible pick this was. The negatives on the kid are pretty minor (age, good team) whereas the fact the guy loves Calgary, works really hard, and has some major league talent should get you excited to see how he develops. The fact he is Swiss and there aren't any good Swiss players sickens me to think this is the mental capacity of your average Flames fan.

That was me, and I said it because im an oilers fan. Thanks for taking the most ridiculous thing I could come up with and thinking it was real... All of you that responded by defending Bartschi are soooooooo insecure. You've officially made my day.

GOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!! BWAHAHAHAH!!!!!

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#12 Marcus
July 07 2011, 09:31AM
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I admit, some posts can come off as dry and I nav away. The Babchuk discussion is getting redundant. I'm happy the flames are slick enough to include a powerplay specialist in their plans.

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#13 Rain dogs
July 06 2011, 01:18AM
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Amen brother.

I feel like I could say something, but instead I'll just read it again because this is spot on.

We're one of few teams who have gotten worse this offseason.

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#14 ned.
July 06 2011, 02:06AM
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great article, thanks.

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#15 Kent Wilson
July 06 2011, 06:34AM
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@Dr. Nick

Our goal here isn't to brighten days...it's to provide coverage and honest, critical analysis of the team. The Flames website can provide all the sunshine you need because it's aim is to market and promote the club.

We at FN write positive things when we see them as positive. For instance, if Feaster somehow plugs the top-four hole on the blueline by the time training camp rolls around, you'll no doubt see a post celebrating that fact.

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#16 JF
July 06 2011, 08:49AM
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Whose the best d-man left (asset free) on the market anyways?... Radek Martinek? If he doesn't expect a raise he could be had for 1.5M which would fit under CGY remaining cap space.

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#17 Sincity1976
July 06 2011, 09:01AM
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Without signing Babchuk you could write a similar sad story regarding the state of the Flames PP. Babchuk isn't here to improve the PK anymore then he is here to improve goal tending.

At 2.5-million he is an affordable PP specialist. He is also 27 and will continue to improve offensively and defensively.

With Bouwmeester, Giordano, Babchuk, Butler, and Carson signed through next season we have a decent group of D that are in their 20s. The move towards mobility is a big (and correct) change for Calgary.

You can't fix it all in one season. Sarich is with the Flames next season and his 3.6 million dollar tag pretty much guarantees him ice time against tougher competition.

However, when Sarich is off the books next season the Flames will have 5-million or so to spend on upgrading their D. They could also conceivably add a piece to the D this season. Either this summer or following training camp once they see where the pieces fall.

They also have Brodie, Wilson, Mikkelson, Breen, and possibly Negrin/Seabrook knocking at the door. Any of them could make the club this season.

Hopefully one of Butler, Carson, Brodie, Babchuk, etc earn a top 4 spot in camp. If not, the Flames still have the cap room to bring someone else on. At the least they are setting themselves up to have a decent core following this season.

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#18 Scott
July 06 2011, 09:24AM
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In regards to alternative D men that are still free agents, I wonder if they could sign Scott Hannan for a little less than maybe they paid Reggie? Effectively replacing Reggie for a year, and allowing Butler and the younger guys to get good time in as 5-6 D men instead of 3-4?

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#19 Super_Gio
July 06 2011, 09:33AM
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@Brent G.

I was watching some youtube vids of Sven, this kid is for real! sure he was on a powerhouse of a team last year but the pure skill he has is something special and I for one am super happy about the signing and look forward to his development! You bring up the same points that I am also looking forward too in the coming season. Its not all doom and gloom! I like the Babchuk signing. I couldn't count how many times he would block KEY shots from everywhere. You block shots - you win games.

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#20 Graham
July 06 2011, 09:40AM
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I've gotta say, I'm having a tough time getting on board with the Hannan idea. I like his toughness and "leadership," but I think if you wanted to bring in Hannan in the 3mill per range, trading Regehr becomes a real head-scratcher.

To me, Sarich is barely quick enough to compete in a top-4 role. I think if you want Hannan in the fold, you find another home for Sarich... because a 2nd pairing of Hannan and Sarich would have a very difficult time chasing the Oilers & Canucks around. I would prefer to have a mobile, less experienced D man (Butler, Carson) in the #4 spot to learn on the job, rather than signing yet another grizzly vet to tread water, so we can shelter all of our youngsters on defence.

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#22 Scott
July 06 2011, 09:46AM
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@Graham

I absolutely understand that, but if we put in a guy like Butler and he struggles mightly, it could impede his development. Ideally I would also prefer to have the young guys in there playing more, but having a grizzly vet to support the young guys could come in handy.

Having guys fleet of foot helps in the corners, but they have to be big enough to pin the guys to the boards at the same time too.

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#23 Super_Gio
July 06 2011, 09:53AM
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@Robert Cleave

Lol ok I should have known someone would have some statistics somewhere to prove that haha. That was just my opinion. Ok let me rephrase that - I noticed during the 2 month winning stretch that the flames were blocking a ton of shots particularly Babs and well Gio just goes without saying

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#24 Tach
July 06 2011, 10:03AM
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Robert Cleave wrote:

Blocking shots wins games? The teams that were in the bottom ten in total shot blocks included six playoff teams and New Jersey, who were a good team undone by the worst shooting luck we've seen in years. In 09/10, eight of the bottom ten were playoff teams. Just sayin'.

I suspect that most of those teams with alot of blocked shots also faced alot of shots directed towards their net so I don't know if that is fair.

I think the more telling measure would be percentage of shots directed toward the net that were blocked.

I suspect the correlation to wins is minimal though in any event.

As far as Babchuck goes, I don't mind your analysis as him as an unneeded bauble. That being said, when you look at what is on the market and the Flames' roster it seems to me the bet is on one of Butler, Babchuk, Brodie or another to be a top 4 D-man. Given what is out there, I can live with that bet for this season. The only way this team can get better is for younger guys on cheaper deals to fill bigger roles.

Babchuk, if sheltered, will probably add more goals on the powerplay then he will cost as compared to a similar cost replacement.

My calculus is thus - we add another $2.5 million defender, like Montador or something similar. He might prevent say 4 or 5 more goals in a third pairing role, but would add nothing to the powerplay. Babchuk might improve our powerplay by 4 or 5 goals but give some of those back at 5 v 5.

On a net basis, he might be the best bet out there at $2.5 million. He doesn't make us a world beater nor a contender.

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#25 rain dogs
July 06 2011, 10:05AM
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@Graham

Yes.

Cory Sarich (as much as I like the guy) is NOT a top 4 defender in this league anymore. He's beat the ability out of his body years ago.

Sorry Cory, but he should have been moved long ago, and this has been a perfect example of our struggles (lack of GM vision/solution)

Every defensemen that has been moved to save cash from the backend paradoxically makes Sarich's value/cash worse on the team as he get bumped UP the depth chart.

Then he isn't only a poor value contract, he also becomes an on-ice liability.

I don't see anyway he's not a top 4 guy this year (THUS FAR) and that's just silly.

We JUST traded a guy who's at least one pairing MORE effective if not TWO. What's the cap hit difference? A massive 400k!

Sell that to a banker.

PLEASE, Flames management STOP plugging Phaneuf and Regehr sized holes with the Sarich, Staios, White, Babchuk, Bottom pairing guys of the world

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#26 the-wolf
July 06 2011, 10:09AM
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@ rain dogs "What I'm always surprised about is the leash that Feaster gets vs the criticism of Sutter. Calgary is a difficult sell (for reasons unknown) and we're seeing that GM'ing here isn't some video game.

However, taking a cornerstone player out of the Flames line-up for a hope and a prayer at Richards was foolish. Losing a 2nd on top of that painful.

Feaster hasn't shown me he deserves a positive review.

-Modin was a waste of a prospect -Regehr was not turned into enough return -Giving up a second to rid Kotalik was very nearsighted -Babchuk was not a smart solution for THIS team"

Yes. Exactly this.

btw, Feaster gets the long leash , at least for now, because the media were tired of being told they were idiots for 7 years by Sutter and now they have a 'friend' in Jay - aprofessional lawyer who knows the art of spin and PR as well as anyone. Probably one of the reasons he get the job.

- interst in signing Richards leaks out.

- Jay can neither "confirm nor deny" an ddon't read into that.

- we were runner-up! See how great we are! Yeah, we didn't get him and don't have Regehr either or a 2nd round pick next year (there's that 'deficit spending' again), but we took a long-shot run at the biggest FA of the summer!

Big whoop.

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#27 Scott
July 06 2011, 10:14AM
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I used to love listening to the Fan, but the BS that went with the Sutter firing and glorifying Feaster and continually defending Feaster has made me sick, which is why I love coming here. Sure there may be bias, but there is always evidence to back it up!

In regards to the Flames in general, as you guys have mentioned, the most fustrating part of all of their transactions is the lack of a strategy or overall plan. Why sign Tanguay if you are going to let Reggie go for a young guy. Feaster says the problem with Sutter was he traded away all the draft picks, then he trades away draft picks. They seem to do one thing, and then the very next trade signing they make directly contradicts the first one.

I would agree the guys above in saying that Feaster and KK deserve zero credit for any of there moves thus far, outside of the first round of the draft.

Maybe I've read too much Domebeers, but the whole upper management needs to go, and bring in guys that can create a plan.

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#28 Sincity1976
July 06 2011, 10:16AM
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@rain dogs

My general rule of thumb is you spend around 20-million on D. With Gio (4), Bouwmeester (6.7), Babchuck (2.5), and Butler (1.3) under contract next season you will have around 4-million to round out your top 4. A bit more if you want to sacrifice some on F.

There is pressure that either Butler, Babchuk, or Brodie can be a number 4 D but that is a reasonable gamble IMO.

For example:

CAPGEEK.COM CAP CALCULATOR

DEFENSEMEN Jay Bouwmeester ($6.680m) / Mark Giordano ($4.020m) New Guy ($4.000m) / Chris Butler ($1.250m) T.J. Brodie ($0.741m) / Anton Babchuk ($2.500m) Brett Carson ($0.575m)

SALARY CAP: $20,000,000; CAP PAYROLL: $19,908,333;

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#29 Scott
July 06 2011, 10:21AM
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@Sincity1976

I would agree with you there, but given the crop of defensemen still in FA, it appears we would have to trade for one. As mentioned above, it seems silly to do this after trading Reggie away. I think I've now switched opinions and think we need to stick it out with our young guys, because in my mind, the flames traded Reggie because they felt they had what they needed already under contract, ie Butler, Brodie.

Anything we would have to give up in a trade would be more than we can afford. The only forwards I would trade would be Hagman and Stajan, and they aren't worth a bag of peanuts, so then your looking at draft picks, and we already short on those.

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#30 Kevin R
July 06 2011, 10:23AM
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Sincity1976 wrote:

Without signing Babchuk you could write a similar sad story regarding the state of the Flames PP. Babchuk isn't here to improve the PK anymore then he is here to improve goal tending.

At 2.5-million he is an affordable PP specialist. He is also 27 and will continue to improve offensively and defensively.

With Bouwmeester, Giordano, Babchuk, Butler, and Carson signed through next season we have a decent group of D that are in their 20s. The move towards mobility is a big (and correct) change for Calgary.

You can't fix it all in one season. Sarich is with the Flames next season and his 3.6 million dollar tag pretty much guarantees him ice time against tougher competition.

However, when Sarich is off the books next season the Flames will have 5-million or so to spend on upgrading their D. They could also conceivably add a piece to the D this season. Either this summer or following training camp once they see where the pieces fall.

They also have Brodie, Wilson, Mikkelson, Breen, and possibly Negrin/Seabrook knocking at the door. Any of them could make the club this season.

Hopefully one of Butler, Carson, Brodie, Babchuk, etc earn a top 4 spot in camp. If not, the Flames still have the cap room to bring someone else on. At the least they are setting themselves up to have a decent core following this season.

Totally agree! The core had to go thru a transition & many get pretty emotionally attached to a longterm core such as we had. But lets face it, the window is pretty much closed on the core we had. Yes, we will have great debate on returns we get, but we need to go forward. Is this year gonna suck? Probably, our deficiencies will probably be exposed by November. The thing I am most excited about is for the first year in a long long time, new faces and young kids are going to get a chance. We will have failures but I think we may have some really good suprises. The pleasant suprises will be like: -Backlund getting a legit shot at 1st line centre & comes through with a breakout year & 65 points -If you watch some of the Buffalo vs Philly playoff games last April, Butler played regularily and played well in a playoff scenario. He just may embrace the opportunity and chance to earn that #4 dman. -Carson or Brodie may step up as well & if Sarich is a trade deadline move come February, one of these kida may get top 4 minutes as well & make huge strides. -even more exciting is that we drop like oer 16 mill off our cap & we will probably have a very good draft pick. -the flip side is Langkow plays great, Backlund clicks, Kipper's save % is back up to .930 & JBO plays like the 6.68Mill man he's paid & we enjoy a playoff race while beating Oilers 4 out of 6 games. This stuff is long overdue. We operated on a win now mentality of a GM and his faith in a very good core. The winds of change are & it will be hard, but like Tom Hanks says in that movie, "it's the hard that makes it great". This will be a win win year for the Flames.:)

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#31 Sworkhard
July 06 2011, 10:25AM
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To me this team is trying to walk the line between developing their prospects and younger players and still be competitive for a playoff spot. Of course, if something occurs one way or the other (ie, Richards signs in Calgary), then they will push for a cup, or go a more tear down-rebuild rout, but as it stands, they are trying to keep the team about as good as it is, hope they can reach the playoffs, acquire skill through the draft and via trades, develop the players they have, and have cap space left for the trade deadline in case we are competitive, or a good player is suddenly available but only if we don't ship salary the other way.

This article is right on the money about Babchuck, IMO. I do think management could use someone a bit more cautious to balance out Conroy's optimism though. Hopefully our new AGM can provide a more cautious perspective for Feaster.

I'm not convinced they are operating under the Politicians Syllogism though. In a year I might be, but not yet.

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#32 MC Hockey
July 06 2011, 10:48AM
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Hi Kent, Roberta, and all, Agree somewhat that all the negativity (not always from the authors but commentators moreso) is overkill. See Brent G's points. Also, the underlying numbers don't tell the future about Babchuk, he can improve on D-work with Hartsburg coaching him. Flames nearly made playoffs last year and might have without key injuries happening. Anyways, here's a thought...Washington signed Brouwer and is over the cap, so let's get Jeff Schultz in trade (huge defensive D-man) for David Moss as we have too many centres (he played centre last year and may want a big raise next year).

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#33 the-wolf
July 06 2011, 10:50AM
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@ Sworkhard and Sincity - my problem with this is that it didn't work in the Young Guns era - "something for now, something for the future." You generally can't do both, you either have to go for it or rebuild. So why didn't we gut at the dealine and maximize return on Iggy, etc.?

The only other option is to properly choose the timing of your rebuild like Philly has done twice now. Unfortunately, that time has passed now. For this team to have moved forward, Iginla should've been traded after his 50 goal season. Now, it's either gut or go for it because by the time some of these young guys are just starting to make an impact our vets will have lost their impact/trade value.

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#34 Domebeers.com
July 06 2011, 11:21AM
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Very good article. The only reason I could see this being a good signing for the Flames is if it didnt come with a NTC, so that we could have traded Badsucks pretty boxcars at the deadline (like we should have done last year, but thats last year) for something of value, but the guy did get a NTC, so that isnt even an option. Just baffling that Feaster would come into the team complaining about some of the contracts Darryl signed and then proceeds to sign a 5/6 dman to a 2.25 contract with a NTC.

On the coverage, I dunno guys, if you want sunshine, FAN960 operates 24/7, so I don't know why yall are complaining about not being able to induldge in propaganda and polite fictions about the competitiveness of the team.

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#35 rain dogs
July 06 2011, 11:31AM
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@Sincity1976

Fair enough.

I divide it out equally, and account for room. 64mil - 3mil space. 61/22 = ~2.75/player avg.

6 d x 2.75 = 19million.

If your formula is for 20 (mine 19) we seem to agree. BUT, I would say that's for a complete, competent defense. Comparables:

BOS - 18.01 DET - 20.95 VAN - 20.5 NSH - 14.5 (assuming Weber gets 7+)

I don't think we've got near the same level as those teams, but we're paying the same $$ and we've still got significant question marks/limited experience/rookies.

We're at 18.625 right now. It's a good dollar figure, but not a great roster.

I'd be happier at 16.5 with Reggie and no Sarich, no Babchuk and be shopping around with 3.5million to play beside Regehr or Gio, wouldn't you?

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#36 Rain dogs
July 06 2011, 11:36AM
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Whoops. That should say 7 x 2.75 = 19mil.

Maybe thats the same mistake Feaster made!

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#37 the forgotten man
July 06 2011, 12:52PM
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I have no problem with the Babchuk signing...frankly it was one of the better transactions that Feaster has done this off-season (+ Tanguay...except for term).

That said, though, my overall pessimism has increased regarding this franchise this off-season. Players come and go and at the end of the day are all replaceable - no big deal. Unfortunately, the rot in this organization is at the very top. Ken King is the de facto President and GM of this club (Feaster could be considered an AGM I guess). The fact that K-squared, and for that matter Tod(d) Button, still have a job I blame squarely on the ownership group, especially majority owner Murray Edwards.

Sadly, Owners (and apparently Presidents/Head Scouts) are hard to replace, so the pessimism lies in this reality going forward. Hope is in short supply when you have a newspaper huckster running Hockey Ops for a Professional Sports Franchise.

I will still watch the Flames and cheer for the Flames irregardless and thank Flames Nation for being the educational/critical outlet that a Flames Fan needs in these frustrating times.

If reality is a drink too strong for some of you, please check out the Fan 960, Calgary Herald, CalgaryPuck etc. for a sip of a Shirley Temple.

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#38 Sworkhard
July 06 2011, 01:33PM
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@the-wolf

I gotta disagree about the timing is past part. If we are going to go for a full blown rebuild, the time to do it is at the trade deadline this year and the next off season due to the number of contracts expiring. Expiring contracts are easier to trade, and lots of cap and roster space makes it easier to slot in good young players.

Also, regarding the balancing act, the economic conditions are different now than during the young guns era, so the Flames can afford to keep their good players, and they now have more than 3 scouts so they can focus better on finding diamonds in the rough, or acquiring good players from other teams. Now they are trying to build the team for the future. They are in a transition year where a lot of contracts will be expiring, giving management the opportunity to remake the team next year.

IMO, there's nothing worse than fostering a culture of losing for player development. Being competitive forces younger players to develop consistency and two way play while allowing them to build confidence in a more sheltered environment. Most cup winners have a good mix of players in their prime, old players who won it all, and rookies to provide energy and skill. In addition, they almost always have at least 1 player emerge as a real force (like Siedenberg in Boston). By giving as many players as possible NHL experience this year, in a environment where they can actually win some games and compete for a playoff spot, they are developing them for 2-3 years down the road when they could be a huge part of this team making a legit push for the cup. If they are a bottom team that suddenly makes the playoffs, quite often, they aren't prepared for the level of play in the playoffs.

Of course, it's impossible to know if it will work until they either win the cup, or finish the season off the playoff bubble and have to thoroughly rebuild out of necessity.

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#39 Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea
July 06 2011, 01:55PM
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Hi all. This is my first comment on this site and I have to say I am impressed by the thoughtful comments and the lack of inane trash talk that you see on so many other sites.

My main concern as a Flames fan is that management must develop a long term strategy, complete with yearly goals, and then make moves if they support said strategy. I felt that Sutter did this in his first few years, but then curiously veered off course and followed a path of bizarre, impulsive moves that has put us in our current state. I think that much of the criticism of Feaster comes from the fear that he will make another boneheaded move that will cripple the team going forward. We are all gun shy after a few very bad years and it will take a while to shake that horrible feeling and be able to look at life with a clear confident approach.

Living out here in Victoria, I have watched the Canucks get better through following the above strategic approach in spite of going through three GMs. I was not sure about the hiring of Mike Gillis, but he has proven to be one of the top GMs in the league and much of that success can be attributed to having a strategy and sticking to it. Not chasing Erhrhoff is a prime example of this.

So far I have yet to see what Feaster’s strategy is, although it may be too early to tell. He is also in triage mode, scrambling to stop the bleeding caused by his predecessor. I do think he should focus on building a winner in the long term, and not be concerned with getting into a dogfight for eighth and bowing out in the first round. I like to think that all the playoff talk is for public consumption as it would not play well to be seen as already giving up on the season.

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#40 JumpJet
July 06 2011, 03:07PM
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Any thoughts on the Flames snagging Andrej Sekera from Buffalo? He's up for arbitration and the Sabres have no cap space. He put up 29 points and was +11 last year, although I don't know how he was utilized. I'd say he'd be a better option as a #4 D than anyone the Flames have now, and he's only 25.

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#41 MC Hockey
July 06 2011, 04:43PM
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@JumpJet

Hey Flames nation authors and commentattors. So the Babchuk is done, get over it as he is probably staying and CAN improve with coaching. So...instead of whining... solutions help!! I personally don't mind the Sekera idea (by JumpJet) and what about my Jeff Schultz in for David Moss out idea. That trade allows both teams to meet needs (Flames get defensive D-man, Capitals get extra forward and stays under salary cap). Read THN's analysis of Jeff Schultz which is mainly all good - so he is not the best defensive D-man but very big, mobile-ish and smart, cap hit is reasonable, and former Calgary Hitman too as bonus to know city and be comfortable and thus play well from day 1. Him, Butler, and Babchuk could rotate and learn to be #4 D-man...whoever plays best with Sarich on second D-line gets the most ice!!

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#42 Flipnip
July 06 2011, 05:04PM
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This suggestion won't address the top 4 d-men problem but I think the Flames should make an offer on Mathieu Perreault. Washington is over the cap and can't really afford another one way contract. This kid is 23 years old, been a point a game player in the AHL and had 14 points in 35 games with the big club last year. We need some low risk talent on the big club so why not give this kid a one way, one year contract for $900,000 (we can argue about the money). Because it it under $1M, there is no compensation. If he doesn't work out, trade him to another team looking for a prospect. No risk really. He is a centre so him and Backlund can fight for the 1st line chance with the other sliding to the second line on the wing with Langs and Bourque.

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#43 SmellOfVictory
July 06 2011, 05:43PM
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Flipnip wrote:

This suggestion won't address the top 4 d-men problem but I think the Flames should make an offer on Mathieu Perreault. Washington is over the cap and can't really afford another one way contract. This kid is 23 years old, been a point a game player in the AHL and had 14 points in 35 games with the big club last year. We need some low risk talent on the big club so why not give this kid a one way, one year contract for $900,000 (we can argue about the money). Because it it under $1M, there is no compensation. If he doesn't work out, trade him to another team looking for a prospect. No risk really. He is a centre so him and Backlund can fight for the 1st line chance with the other sliding to the second line on the wing with Langs and Bourque.

Doesn't sound like a bad idea. I just don't know whether Feaster would want the ill will that accompanies offer sheets.

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#44 Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea
July 06 2011, 05:53PM
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I like the idea of looking to Washington to fill some of our needs. They are currently over the cap and still need to sign Alzner and then Green's contract is up next year. Signing Hamrlik seems to signal a new direction for the Caps. I like either of Alzner or Schultz, although I think McPhee would laugh his as$ off if we offered Moss for Schultz. Perreault has had many opportunities to stick in the NHL and I'm not sure if he fits with our long term needs.

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#45 MC Hockey
July 06 2011, 06:11PM
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Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea wrote:

I like the idea of looking to Washington to fill some of our needs. They are currently over the cap and still need to sign Alzner and then Green's contract is up next year. Signing Hamrlik seems to signal a new direction for the Caps. I like either of Alzner or Schultz, although I think McPhee would laugh his as$ off if we offered Moss for Schultz. Perreault has had many opportunities to stick in the NHL and I'm not sure if he fits with our long term needs.

Hi Prairie, Not sure what the Hamrlik signing means other than its bad. As for Moss for Schultz, not too crazy if you check stats. Alzner is too good and rich for us only because we would have to give up too much in trade (like a first rounder) or in an RFA signing money (remember we cannot give him a cap hit between 1.567M and 3.134M as we don't have our second rounder to give up for compensation) as we would have to pay him +3.134M and give up a first and 3rd-rounder. I guess we could sign good old Scott Hannan LOL!

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#46 Dr. Nick
July 06 2011, 08:14PM
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I guess people look at my comment as me bashing the Flames Nation for their articles or looking for sugar coating, but I assure that is not the case. I was not looking for the Flames Nation to be a 24 hr. "Yeah Flames!!" machine. I was writing it looking for hope, because I was tired of all pessimism surrounding the team, and then this article came out and kind of pushed me to the tipping point. But then I went to bed, woke up and remembered that it isn't the Flames Nation that made me a fan and it isn't their job to keep me a fan. I'm not a fan because of the wins and losses the Flames get, cause anyone can cheer for champions. I am a fan because of the time Craig MacTavish ripped out Harvey the Hound's tongue. I am a fan because of The Green Hard Hat that is now in the Hockey Hall of Fame. I am a fan because of Jarome Iginla and everything he does on and off the ice. I am also a fan because of Lanny McDonald's moustache, and for the other many classic Flames moments.

What I have learned is that, being a Flames Fan right now is not about whether Anton Babchuk was a good signing or a bad one, but whether you want to complain that it is raining or realize that it is just rain, and take a walk.

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#47 Flipnip
July 06 2011, 09:33PM
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I like Alzner too but we would have to give up something in compensation to get him. That said, it doesn't hurt to consider all possibilities. I like Perreault mostly because we need to look at getting some prospects that can potentially play in our top 6. I think we should also try to sign Nikolai Zherdev as he has the skills and since he has some baggage, may come at a discount. My biggest concern is that we are going to trade away more draft choices for next years draft which could be a huge draft year for impact players. We already lost our 2nd pick and so far, Feaster is doing a lot of things he said he didn't want to do (NTC, trading picks, etc).

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#48 RKD
July 06 2011, 09:39PM
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Definitely, footspeed was a factor. On game one as much as I hate to say it, the Oilers schooled the Flames went it came to speed.

The young kids were flying and all the Flames players were out of breath trying to keep pace.

Even though Jay-Bo is paid $6.8 million he is not capable of playing 27-30 minutes. When Van. was on their cup run their d was playing 22 minutes on average.

Butler can't replace Reggie but hopefully can eat up a lot of minutes. The forwards were cheating a lot at the blue-line too. Heck, stick Langkow on defence once in a blue moon. Bowman did it with Fedorov in Detroit.

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#49 Chad
July 06 2011, 10:42PM
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Like the idea of the signing more than the actual singing itself. I like that we have a bottom pairing D-Man that can win a game by scoring. Instead of the bottom pairing guy that can't score but won't "lose" the game for you by making a mistake or play tough and gritty.

If you don't score you can't win. To that end a team should try and have the 6 D and 12 Forward as a guy that can score then just some goon or fighter that plays few minutes in a game.

Money is high for Babchuk and we don't really have 4 even strength/penalty killers D men on the team. Would rather they kept Robin and tried to find some other/cheaper offense d man for the bottom pairing.

Also does anyone else think that offensive D man with lots of favorable ice time can be pumped up like Billy Bean does with the closer in Moneyball? Does any team do that in the NHL currently with power play time and offensive zone starts?

Quote from Moneyball "You could take a slightly above average pitcher, drop him in the closer's role, let him accumulate a gaudy number of saves, and then sell him off. You could, in essence, buy a stock, pump it up with false publicity, and sell it off for much more than you'd paid for it."

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#50 the-wolf
July 07 2011, 07:58AM
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Sworkhard wrote:

I gotta disagree about the timing is past part. If we are going to go for a full blown rebuild, the time to do it is at the trade deadline this year and the next off season due to the number of contracts expiring. Expiring contracts are easier to trade, and lots of cap and roster space makes it easier to slot in good young players.

Also, regarding the balancing act, the economic conditions are different now than during the young guns era, so the Flames can afford to keep their good players, and they now have more than 3 scouts so they can focus better on finding diamonds in the rough, or acquiring good players from other teams. Now they are trying to build the team for the future. They are in a transition year where a lot of contracts will be expiring, giving management the opportunity to remake the team next year.

IMO, there's nothing worse than fostering a culture of losing for player development. Being competitive forces younger players to develop consistency and two way play while allowing them to build confidence in a more sheltered environment. Most cup winners have a good mix of players in their prime, old players who won it all, and rookies to provide energy and skill. In addition, they almost always have at least 1 player emerge as a real force (like Siedenberg in Boston). By giving as many players as possible NHL experience this year, in a environment where they can actually win some games and compete for a playoff spot, they are developing them for 2-3 years down the road when they could be a huge part of this team making a legit push for the cup. If they are a bottom team that suddenly makes the playoffs, quite often, they aren't prepared for the level of play in the playoffs.

Of course, it's impossible to know if it will work until they either win the cup, or finish the season off the playoff bubble and have to thoroughly rebuild out of necessity.

I meant in relation to a partial rebuild on the fly it's too late.

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