Five things: Oh no!

Ryan Lambert
January 18 2012 10:53AM

 

 

1. The Cammalleri trade

So I'm watching the Bruins/Canadiens game last week — you know, as you do — and Mike Cammalleri sure isn't getting a lot of playing time as the second period wore on.

I got it though. It was a day after he said all that stuff about the Habs playing with a losing attitude, which the francophone press conflated to "playing like losers" (in what was actually a shockingly successful attempt to run a guy out of town; the French-speaking media really needed a win after they couldn't oust Cunneyworth, after all) so I figure this is some sort of penance.

But then he didn't come out for the third period and that was when I started thinking maybe he got traded.

It was weird to see a guy get yanked in the middle of the game, but it was also excruciatingly interesting to watch all the drama unfold on Twitter. The dispatches came fast and furious, informed and not, indiscriminately. Cammalleri pulled from game, Camalleri sent to hotel, Cammalleri told to wait for more details, Cammalleri told he's been traded but not to what team, Cammalleri might have been traded to Calgary, Cammalleri definitely was traded to Calgary, Cammalleri was traded to Calgary for Rene Bourque.

We've never seen anything unfold like that before, and probably never will again. It would have been even more enthralling had it not all been so hideously related to Calgary.

2. What it means to me

Now don't get me wrong, I think Mike Cammalleri is a very good hockey player who found himself in a bad situation on a team that, as he said, had a losing attitude. And in being traded to Calgary for that rockhead Rene Bourque, he probably got what he ultimately wanted.

I'm not even especially off-put by all the talk about Cammalleri being kind of a pain in the ass in the room and none of his Montreal teammates really liking him. We've all had jobs where we loved our coworkers and jobs where we didn't and jeez what do you know I bet we all liked working at the place where we liked 'em more than the ones where we didn't. I always got the sense that, like a couple other guys, Cammalleri never really wanted to leave Calgary but didn't have a choice. He can't feel too bad about what he did in that one season in town, right? So that's all fine.

But the reason I objected to the trade the second it happened is what I thought it symbolized. That horror creeping up the back of my skull was manifested when, the next day, Jay Feaster said the Flames were "going for it." With "it" being "the absurd dream of the playoffs."

And I know what you're going to say. "There aren't a lot of teams outside the top four or five teams in the West that are appreciably better than the Flames, and Cammalleri probably makes them a better team. The playoffs are realistic." Sure they are, but as I've said a million times (approximately!) before, to what end? They sneak into the seven or eight seed, make a million bucks or so a night on the small handful of home dates they receive as they get trampled by the Canucks or Sharks or Blackhawks and then...?

It's misguided. Of course it is. This team is no closer to being able to compete legitimately for home ice in the Western Conference, let alone to be one of the top teams in the league, after the trade than it was before it, and Feaster pledging the team would push all-in seems pretty dumb considering it's the hockey equivalent of a three-five offsuit.

(Or whatever. What's a mediocre hand that's not likely to win? I don't play poker.)

3. And to those who would admonish me

As an outspoken advocate of rebuilding, I've been tsk-tsked a few times in the last week for believing that strip-it-down reworking of the team's roster so that it can more effectively tank for high draft picks.

"Look," my critics say, "at the crap job they've done of it in Edmonton."

And it's true. Edmonton has finished outside the playoffs in every season since the one in which they fluked their way to the Stanley Cup Final and Chris Pronger begged his way out of town. In just two of those campaigns have they finished higher than fifth in the division. So it would appear that simply resigning oneself to five or seven years of really poor results isn't always the solution. Of course, that ignores that the Penguins more or less did the same thing about seven years before the Oilers did and it seemed to have worked out pretty well for them (getting to draft the best player of his generation sure didn't hurt either).

But let me say that my position has never been, "Well an attempted rebuild will definitely work." But I think it's something that should be tried, because obviously, sticking with a core of guys who are north of 30 isn't getting the job done. If you're not going to make the playoffs, would you rather finish 10th in the West and like 20th in the league or between 13th and 15th/26th and 30th?

I know why I would pick the latter. I'm legitimately interested to see why some people would choose the former.

4. Tough road ahead

And now on to more at-hand business than all this theoretical and philosophical stuff:

If the Flames want to be taken seriously as contenders for a playoff spot in the West, and they clearly do at this point, the next few days will be big. I'm writing this ahead of the game with San Jose so I don't know how that's going to go obviously (2-1 SOL - ed.), but if ever there was a three-game road trip to legitimize a team's pretensions, this might be it.

San Jose is a Western Conference power and seems to be one more or less in perpetuity at this point, as they were, coming into the game, a plus-24 in goal differential, third in the West despite a poor start and only five points out of the top spot with three games in hand on St. Louis and four on Vancouver. A strong, improving team making a nice little charge up the standings with just two regulation losses in their last 16 games.

Los Angeles is the second date of the road trip and that serves as another good measuring stick. The Kings were, like the Sharks, not great to start the season, and, having hired Darryl Sutter, are now pretty much killing it out there, underwhelming OT loss to Edmonton on Sunday aside. They already beat the re-Cammalleried Flames and did it convincingly, but they're far better on the road than they are at home, so it will be interesting to see if Staples Center remains a problem for Calgary, which has won just one of its last four there.

Two road games in three days against two very good teams playing generally great hockey is a tough ask. But then there's the game at Edmonton to close out the mini-trip, which could be problematic itself. Will the team be able to get up for a game against its laboring archrivals after two assumedly-trying contests on the coast? That might be the most interesting aspect of all this.

Frankly, you'd have to be happy with three points from the trip, and downright delighted with any more than that.

5. Here's the moment you've all been waiting for

Sorry about all that. Here's Jarome.

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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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#1 Kevin R
January 18 2012, 11:45AM
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Ryan, a couple things you have to get past. 1/ The Cammi trade was simply getting a better player than what you gave up. What's wrong with that??? Bourques trade value would be zilch in his last year 4 years from now. Cammi is a legit top 6 winger, Bourque couldnt play consistently enough to crack the top 6 even with our rookie laden roster. Cammi's trade value next year or even the year after is way higher than what Bourques is today. I'm having a hard time dumping on Feaster for making a good trade. I also think he stole Jones as well. Is that bad too?

2/So what if we make the playoffs. Many of these 30 something players are going to be gone. Even if we dont trade Iggy this year, there is no guarantee he's going to resign in Calgary. Changes are coming despite what ever we do. If Iggy walks & we get zipped for return, we will get you your lottery picks. Playoff experience, even for 1 round or another round next year for players like Brodie, Backlund, Jones, Horak, Smith, Byron, Leiland, will be a huge experience. Wouldnt you want your new rookies to get playoff experience at this stage of their careers as compared to Oiler lottery picks learning to lose year after year to get more lottery picks.

3/Rebuilding is like a snowflake, there just isnt 2 alike. I think we have already begun rebuilding & we have a similar record to that veteran team from last year. What does that say? Like everything, we just have to let this thing take its course, it's easy to 2nd guess after the fact when things go right or wrong. I for one think Feaster is making changes, not all how I would do it, but let's see what happens. If it goes terribly wrong, we'll be the next Edmonton Oilers for years to come soon enough.

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#2 schevvy
January 18 2012, 11:42AM
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@icedawg_42

I know Cammy's cap hit isn't the best, but I'd take his contract over Bourque's contract any day of the week. Imagine having to live with the frustration of Bourque's play for 4 more years?

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#3 Bob in the Abbey
January 18 2012, 12:20PM
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kittensandcookies wrote:

It's all about the money. So long as Calgarians pack the Saddledome and keep season ticket sales high, then whatever drivel Feaster and King spew out will be enough.

Your right, it is all about the money. But it's not so much Feaster and King as it is ownership and the rest of the administration at the Dome. The owners fear that losing the likes of Iggy and Kipper means a loss at the gates and loss of merchandise revenue. Do you know how high the demand for Cammalleri products were on Saturday? The guy had been in town 24 hours and people were clamoring for his Jerseys and T-shirts. All that info and bottom line revenue gets packaged up and delivered to ownership and the book-keepers and advisors tell them that all is well...just look at the numbers, don't change a thing and you'll continue to make money.

And some of the people on here wonder why I get riled by player statistics and reports. Because the digits on the paper don't always reflect the true story. The owners don't talk to the average fan, and the pencil pushers who they do interact with don't really know the difference between a puck and a cow patty. You think King will tell them the truth? That could put his job in jeopardy. The season ticket waiting list is hundreds of names long, the seats are all spoken and paid for, TV and radio deals are sealed, the money is coming in...it's all good. Why tell them any different from what their spreadsheets say?

Good thing I'm not on radio. How Pat doesn't go into 15 minute tirades everyday or on overtime is beyond me!

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#4 icedawg_42
January 18 2012, 11:30AM
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hahaha...nice finish. I dont think you're alone in your thoughts. I find myself a little conflicted: jazzed that Cammi is here, because it was such a sad day to see him go, but not so jazzed at his cap hit and that bringing him aboard means at least 2 more years of being stuck in the middle. Even if the Flames made the playoffs im not a huge fan of first round exits...that doesnt mean much.

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#5 kittensandcookies
January 18 2012, 11:40AM
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It's all about the money. So long as Calgarians pack the Saddledome and keep season ticket sales high, then whatever drivel Feaster and King spew out will be enough.

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#6 Justin Azevedo
January 18 2012, 11:50AM
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tbh, I've just accepted the reality that what the owners want is different then what 99% of us want. since we're not writing the cheques, might as well evaluate things based on the thoughts of the guys that do.

if that makes me "part of the problem", so be it. I think it's realistic.

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#7 otto
January 18 2012, 12:33PM
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I fail to see why some people find the Cammalleri trade so upsetting.It doesn't change our playoff chances or draft position all that much and we get a guy who seems to give a rats ass.The indifference displayed by Bourque was spreading like cancer and he had to go before he infected the young guys.We can still sell at the deadline if we are out of it.

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#8 Rain Dogs
January 18 2012, 12:37PM
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#2 is right on.

It's about "Intellectual honesty"

We're where we were last year (ok fine, 2 pts ahead). Sports clubs stats gives us a 6% chance of making the playoffs (although today it's down for protest)

Playoff status.com gives us an 8% chance of being 8th and a 78% chance of missing completely.

We're 7 pts behind 7th (even games) We're 3pts behind 8th (they have a game in hand)

We're in 12th and we have to be better than 4 other teams! And they've got a head start.

Where is the intellectual honesty?

One more year melts away. How old is Iggy next year? 35? Kipper 36?

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#9 lionlager
January 18 2012, 12:39PM
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Well that was depressing. I'd still say we got the better player in the aftermath of this latest drama. Just drink the Feaster cool-aid and go for the ride. It's much more fun than trying to somehow will Ken King and friends into changing their business model... ain't gonna happen. I've resigned myself to buckling in and bracing for the 9th place finish. Last year's 2nd half push was exciting, albeit heartbreaking, and besides, the 2012/13 team will likely look quite different.

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#10 Justin Azevedo
January 18 2012, 12:45PM
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@Rain Dogs

to be fair, those other 4 teams suck just as much as the flames do. nashville is also very bad.

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#11 the-wolf
January 18 2012, 01:04PM
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@Kevin R- as a 1 for 1 deal I don't think you'd have one critic of the Cammi trade. For me, I don't think giving up any prospects or picks at this stage of the game is wise for Calgary.

And people love to bring up that 15% stat for 2nd rounders, but the Cammi trade isn't a one-off thing. How many 2nd rounders has the team traded in the past and we don't have one this year or next.

When you start moving that many 2nd rnd picks, the cumulative effect takes a toll.

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#12 Domebeers.com
January 18 2012, 01:05PM
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Lambert doesn't live in Calgary so I dont know if he heard it, but Jarome, in interviews with Dave Rowe at the least (probably more) said (paraphrase) "I'm playing till I am 40, with Calgary. I haven't been told we are rebuilding, but that could change things."

It didn't get a ton of press I dont think, but it struck me as, at the time, Iginla giving the team an out if they wanted to trade him. I guess I was wrong, as the team then went out and started to improve (marginally or otherwise) the roster.

I honestly wouldnt be shocked if they tried to make more moves. I dont know if it is wise, but I wouldnt be shocked.

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#13 the-wolf
January 18 2012, 01:07PM
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@lionlager - "It's much more fun than trying to somehow will Ken King and friends into changing their business model... ain't gonna happen."

HAR! Yeah, I've been down that road for awhile now. I think maybe you've got the right idea

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#14 the-wolf
January 18 2012, 01:10PM
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Domebeers.com wrote:

Lambert doesn't live in Calgary so I dont know if he heard it, but Jarome, in interviews with Dave Rowe at the least (probably more) said (paraphrase) "I'm playing till I am 40, with Calgary. I haven't been told we are rebuilding, but that could change things."

It didn't get a ton of press I dont think, but it struck me as, at the time, Iginla giving the team an out if they wanted to trade him. I guess I was wrong, as the team then went out and started to improve (marginally or otherwise) the roster.

I honestly wouldnt be shocked if they tried to make more moves. I dont know if it is wise, but I wouldnt be shocked.

....ugh......this team could drop their next 12 in a row and not change. This season will be blame don injuries, just wait. Despite other teams going through the same or worse andCalgary going the last several years realtively injury free that'll be the excuse. "If only we were healthy and had Cammi all year."

Until the fans start to leave ntohing will change.

But appathy is setting in and that's the 1st step.

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#15 Monaertchi
January 18 2012, 01:16PM
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lionlager wrote:

Well that was depressing. I'd still say we got the better player in the aftermath of this latest drama. Just drink the Feaster cool-aid and go for the ride. It's much more fun than trying to somehow will Ken King and friends into changing their business model... ain't gonna happen. I've resigned myself to buckling in and bracing for the 9th place finish. Last year's 2nd half push was exciting, albeit heartbreaking, and besides, the 2012/13 team will likely look quite different.

Drinking the "cool-aid" is a reference to the mass suicide at Jonestown, where many people chose to drink poisoned cool-aid in order to release their souls to be picked up by aliens, or some such nonsense. Many confused/stupid people died, along with some of their children, whom they forced to also drink the cool-aid. It was a bad scene, man.

Drinking the cool-aid is bad. Don't do it.

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#16 Parallex
January 18 2012, 01:31PM
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Justin Azevedo wrote:

tbh, I've just accepted the reality that what the owners want is different then what 99% of us want. since we're not writing the cheques, might as well evaluate things based on the thoughts of the guys that do.

if that makes me "part of the problem", so be it. I think it's realistic.

I'm pretty sure the owner want exactly what 100% of us want... namely the Stanley Cup. They just have a different opinion about what the best way to go about that is.

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#17 Tach
January 18 2012, 02:41PM
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@Lambert

"But let me say that my position has never been, "Well an attempted rebuild will definitely work." But I think it's something that should be tried, because obviously, sticking with a core of guys who are north of 30 isn't getting the job done. If you're not going to make the playoffs, would you rather finish 10th in the West and like 20th in the league or between 13th and 15th/26th and 30th?

I know why I would pick the latter. I'm legitimately interested to see why some people would choose the former."

My answer is simple. I watch hockey to be entertained. Early in the season, we all have hope, rebuilding is irrelevant to my entertainment. Late in the season, it is more entertaining watching the last 20-30 games of a team battling to get in, or playing 1 round, than watching hoping your team loses and knowing you have no hope of making the playoffs.

Outside of those who really get a kick out of watching prospect development, hockey is basically more fun if the team you cheer for is winning.

Supporting a rebuild is basically a time shifting argument. Some are willing to forego some entertainment from hockey now (by having less winnning hockey), in the hope that a team will play way more winning hockey later. I just think the risks of rebuilding make it a bad bet, entertainment wise. Watching a crappy hockey team lose really sucks and the odds are that it won't pay off in the end. If someone handed me a time machine and I could go forward in the future to see that finishing 28th this season would guarantee a Stanley Cup 3 or 4 years from now - sign me up.

I just don't want to bet my current entertainment of watching the Flames at least battle for a playoff spot today against the slim odds they will be dominant later.

I can see how some would place more emphasis on the entertainment value of winning a championship over general competitiveness. Some people like rap music, some country. Continuing to debate the point ad nauseum becomes pointless.

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#18 shutout
January 18 2012, 02:49PM
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The Harold Ballard Competative Model of Owning a Sports Franchice:

"They sneak into the seven or eight seed, make a million bucks or so a night on the small handful of home dates they receive as they get trampled..."

I remember during the Fletcher years how the ownership had only one real goal. And that was to win a Stanley Cup. Now maybe it is due to the different economic times, or maybe it is due to Murray Edwards having control of the franchise but right now the direction of the team is to be a playoff team. Dont tear down and start over in hopes of getting to the top, just jerry-rig some extra supports to the current structure and hope to keep the same level we are at.

If you are a playoff team the only hope you can sell to fans is the Stanley Cup, and if you cant achieve it then the fanbase tends to become less emotionally attached to the team because it takes the playoff appearances for granted. The Stanley Cup may never be harder to predict or to win than the current NHL model.

However, if you are selling hope to the fans, and that hope is the playoffs you have a much better chance of selling that hope every year. Flames fans now dont take the playoffs for granted, and so if they make it this year, or miss again the hope and focus will still be on making the playoffs next year. From an operations point of view it is easier because you are competing with other mediocer teams for 2-3 spots every year while the cup means going up against the elite and having one chance.

The current Flames model is the cowards way to running a sports franchise and is going to lead the team eventually into a long dark rebuilding phase that could be avoided with a couple of moves to the current core.

Two or three core moves would allow the basis of the team to remain intact which would allow for better integration of new pieces (young players and prospects) and a jump start to their growth as hockey players. The reason that Edmonton has struggled in its rebuilding situation is that all they have done is draft high end young talent. They have not done anything else to supplement their team. They have failed to address their defense and their goaltending. High draft picks are only one phase of a rebuilding project, but done in a vacuum dont lead to success.

Iginla will do his best to play till he is 40 and until he has 600 goals. While I do not doubt his competative fire I would suggest that his competative nature would find reaching 600 goals and playing past the age of 40 with only one franchise to be a greater challenge than going to another team with the hop of winning a Stanley Cup. Iginla could pick a different team every year over the next five years and still never make it back to the Stanley Cup finals. Parity, hot goaltending, and injuries make picking a winner to hard to determine. However, 600 goals in one uniform is something that few else have accomplished and would be a challenge much more within his control.

As long as the team has Iginla they will attempt to get younger, faster, and more skilled through trades, waivers, drafting, and free agency. Every summer they will target a high end free agent to help with PR for the fanbase. They will hope that their draft picks like Reinhart, Ferland, Granland, and Bartschi actually have the talent to make it to the NHL so that they have a second line of young talented players ready to enter their prime when Iginla eventually retires.

Somewhere I read the expression "Feaster is like a dog chasing his tail". I cannot think of a better metaphor for what the Flames organization is working to achieve.

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#19 John Deere Green
January 18 2012, 02:59PM
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Some (maybe many?) posters are making the point of the Flames make-up (players, cap, ect) being totally different next season. Do we know this as fact? I realize that there are alot of contracts coming off the books after this season, but what makes us think that King and Feaster will whip a 180 and not sign these guys again for short term contracts? If they think they are a playoff team now, will ownership make the management re-sign the UFA's to new contracts at this seasons end? What happens at the beginning at free agency and not many NHL quality players are willing to sign with the Flames? Does Feaster go back to the un-signed Flames and give them a new deal?

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#20 kittensandcookies
January 18 2012, 04:25PM
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@Bob in the Abbey

The two cherubs say what ownership commands them to say. I realize that. You don't want to hear Edwards talk anyways. He thinks he's Jesus.

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#21 Kevin R
January 18 2012, 05:27PM
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the-wolf wrote:

@Kevin R- as a 1 for 1 deal I don't think you'd have one critic of the Cammi trade. For me, I don't think giving up any prospects or picks at this stage of the game is wise for Calgary.

And people love to bring up that 15% stat for 2nd rounders, but the Cammi trade isn't a one-off thing. How many 2nd rounders has the team traded in the past and we don't have one this year or next.

When you start moving that many 2nd rnd picks, the cumulative effect takes a toll.

Dont get me wrong, when I heard of the trade, I wondered WTF are we doing giving up Holland & 2nd rounder. But in this particular trade, I really am not sure what kind of pick or prospect could have been scored for Bourque with 4 years left on his contract. I guess that's the hidden variable. But I think perhaps Cammi's value was way undervalued & therefore we got good value on a trade. Thats the key, whatever the trade is, if we are all feeling pretty darn good about what we got in a trade, who cares if its for a pick or prospect or a current top 6 forward. Thats my point. Mooral of the story "Lets be happy anytime Feaster does well on a trade"

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#22 RexLibris
January 18 2012, 09:01PM
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Okay, I've said this before, but I'll bring it up again. A while ago I had a discussion here with another commenter about parsing the "rebuild" that the Edmonton Oilers have undergone into two, distinct, categories. The first era of many people's perceived "rebuild" was a team in complete denial of how shallow their depth was and how poor their development had been. That's not a rebuild, folks, that's just called bad management. The second era of this "rebuild" was when that management was forced to the brutal realization of just what they were. And they had, to their credit, the courage to admit it and find opportunity in a string of bad luck and the outcome of a decade of poor decisions.

The Oilers drafted poorly, developed talent with an eye to cost-saving at the expense of many young careers, and was always trying to attract some high-end UFA to keep the fanbase interested and continue feeding off of the emotional connection with the city. In 2009-10 they hit the wall and bad things had to happen. Not unlike the lengths the provincial government in Alberta went to in the early 90s because to carry on status quo was simply untenable. We had to tear it down, make painful decisions, suck up our pride and start over. So, when a pundit, or critic, or analyst (or GM) says that the Oilers have been rebuilding for a decade, they are wrong. Rebuilding teams (the ones that really tear it all down) don't let UFAs walk away, they don't trade away draft picks, and they don't make FA offer sheets. Case in point - the Oilers only had 2 picks in the first 4 rounds in the '08 draft. That is not a rebuilding franchise.

If anyone wants to say that the Oilers were very poorly run, with short-sighted management, up until the middle of the '09-10 season, you won't get any argument from me. The Penner signing was stupid, the Souray signing was a pipe-dream, the failed Heatley trade was the act of a man in denial. But if you want to talk about the Oilers rebuilding, and have a rational, logical discussion as to whether it works, give it some time. The Blackhawks and Penguins both ended up winning a Stanley Cup almost seven years after they started to "rebuild". The Oilers are two and half years in.

I'm not saying every rebuild works. Columbus chose that strategy when they entered the league and they are worse now than they have been at nearly any other time in their brief history. But if you are going to have the discussion, at least frame it around facts. Otherwise it's just opinion and hyperbole, and that can go downhill very quickly.

I understand the reticence amongst Flames fans to follow this plan. I have spoken about it often here. The Flames have sent away more talent than 70% of the teams in the league have seen in Gilmour, Phaneuf, Giguere, St. Louis, Hull, Nieuwendyk and so many others. Their draft record ranks, historically, amongst the worst in the league. And you still have players in key positions that can make a difference. Like I said, I get it. But the discussion surrounding a rebuild in Calgary should centre around Calgary. Not "look at how bad it's going in Edmonton". That is a false, and circular, argument. It states that you can't trust a rebuild because you have to suck to do it and teams that rebuild suck and therefore most rebuilds fail.

I agree with Ryan Lambert, but that doesn't matter. I'm not a Flames fan, so who gives a steaming meadow-muffin what I think. But I would suggest that any discussion exploring the pros and cons of any restructuring of the Flames should follow the lines put forth by Tach, the-wolf, and shutout.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. I just want to clarify the details about the Oilers' rebuild so that they don't stand in the way of a proper discussion about the future of the Flames.

KevinR's "Rebuilding is like a snowflake, there just isnt 2 alike." is bang on.

I hope VF reads this. I like making epic-long posts for his enjoyment!

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