August 29 2011 04:18PM
With Daymond Langkow traded, Jay Feaster has to figure out what the hell it is he thinks he's doing. And fast.
The problem I have — as any observer of the Calgary Flames, partial or impartial, with a brain should — with the Daymond Langkow trade is that it quite literally doesn't make any sense from any angle.
Now, I understand that Feaster claims this was a move made to improve the team but unless I'm missing something, Lee Stempniak is in no way better for this or any hockey team than Daymond Langkow. It's very, very possible that he knows something we don't about Langkow's neck, of course, but that would obviously out in that whole "pending a physical" part of the deal, nullifying the trade and wasting everyone's time.
So, what is this trade? It is, in theory, a swap for a younger guy with a smaller salary and a contract free of a no-movement clause, which Langkow had to waive to make this happen. But that younger, cheaper, more moveable guy is appreciably worse than Langkow. Don Maloney said he thought Stemniak would get 20 goals "in a bad year." He had 19 last year. So much for buying low.
But what it also accomplishes, apart from freeing up money and making the team worse, is to highlight that Jay Feaster is, once again, torn between blowing the whole thing up and trying (and probably failing) to make the playoffs.
Again, he says he wants to play in the postseason (presumably so the team can get pummeled by Vancouver or San Jose or Detroit or Chicago). I'll take him at his word on that. But between the Regehr trade and this downgrade in forward talent, that's not exactly evident. Calgary was a bubble team last year that got off to a terrible start but probably deserved to miss the playoffs. But if Miikka Kiprusoff improved and the offense stayed the same, the Flames could have easily snuck in this coming season. Hell, it probably would have happened with a healthy Langkow rather than a replacement-level center getting more minutes. The nothing-to-play-for Flames went 3-0-1 with Langkow in the lineup last year and looked markedly more organized than they did without him.
But saying you want to make the playoffs is quite a different thing from taking action to reflect those desires. To this point, they are, obviously, opposite things. What this looks like, in reality, is the Flames dealing from a position of not-much-strength (center) to acquire an iffy player who will be asked to play second-line minutes and presumably fill David Moss's spot on the right wing, which, given his defensive abilities, is, y'know, not desirable for a team that wants to improve defensively. It's essentially moving David Moss to center so that he can be replaced with a player the organization hopes can be as effective in his all-around game as David Moss.
Between this and the Regehr trade, this is starting to look like a selloff of movable pieces, but a rather passive one. You can't say you want to get better as a team, then address the team's painfully glaring weakness (defense) by trading the No. 3 defenseman for relative peanuts and a quality two-way center for a right wing who, yes, scores about 19 goals a year, but also doesn't drive possession.
So no, this team hasn't really gotten better overall in the offseason, excepting the addition of Scott Hannan, who may or may not be able to replicate Robyn Regehr's success, such as it was. And if Feaster thinks it has, he's nuts. But the problem is it also hasn't gotten worse to the point that a true, if unpleasant, selloff of players other teams may want for picks and prospects (so the team can return to an acceptable quality down the road) is a feasible option either. If anyone of note from the team were traded now, they'd be outside the Saddledome with pitchforks. Especially because Feaster keeps talking loudly to anyone that cares to listen about making the playoffs in 2012.
And so the Flames will continue to be what they have been: mediocre, and probably just not-good-enough to make the playoffs at all. But more importantly, they will continue to be what they have been since Feaster started: directionless.