Five things: The funniest thing I ever heard

Ryan Lambert
April 25 2012 08:55AM

1. Thank you Mike Gillis for my biggest laugh of the season

As some of you may or may not know, I wrote the Canucks eulogy for Puck Daddy this week, and that rat Mike Gillis waited until about an hour before it was posted to drop a quote that would have changed the whole thing.

"I really felt the game in Boston for some reason was such an emotional and challenging game, it was almost like playing a Stanley Cup final game in the middle of the season and from that point on I don't think our team ever really collectively got their emotions together," Gillis told reporters at the Canucks' getaway/garbage bag day.

Oh hell. Would that this quote existed a mere two days ago; it would have changed the whole tenor of the eulogy. I mean, I never in my life thought for a second that I would see the general manager of a team that won the Presidents' Trophy two seasons in a row blame his team's first-round, five-game crashout on a regular season WIN from four months prior.

And yet, now that it's happened, I don't know how to handle my joy. It's all too much to handle. Sure, possession statistics show that the Canucks were a noticably worse team after that point, but it really speaks to the team's reputation for being mentally soft that everyone just accepted that a win in January could have caused a reigning Western Conference champion and winner of 105 of its previous 164 regular-season games to become not-very-good.

Getting that emotionally invested in a regular season game against a non-conference opponent that, pretty much by definition, means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, is at least somewhat understandable given that it was billed as the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals Game 8. But in beating your old foes, you're not supposed to be so emotionally drained for another 40 games that you just can't bring yourself to be competitive in a playoff series in which you're playing a team that barely snuck in.

But like I said, that everyone just nodded in assent and agreed that "yeah that makes total sense if you think about it," tells you everything you've ever needed to know about the Canucks as they're currently constituted.

2. Here's something I find truly remarkable

Since the whole Brent Sutter kerfuffle a few weeks ago now, we've heard almost nothing at all from anyone in the team or front office, assumedly because everyone's huddled up, watching the Heat in the AHL playoffs, and putting together a strategy for the summer.

But on the Flames' website there was a lengthy chat with assistant GM John Weisbrod posted late last week that was a fascinating bit of retconning by the organization. You see, from the beginning of the season to the end, this wasn't about making the playoffs with an old-as-hell that wasn't good enough. You've got it all wrong. It was a chance to look at the team's youth and see what it had.

"Obviously," Weisbrod said without the slightest bit of irony and, apparently, understanding of what the word 'obvious' means, "everything we were focused on since the start of the season was developing toward the future."

This is, of course, hilariously untrue. If that were the case, the roster would have been handled differently, and certainly no easily-mocked proclamations about Going For It would have been issued. Just a wonderful piece of spin. Would that they handled the team so adeptly.

3. On the other hand

Weisbrod did note, however, that the organization got a particularly good chance to take a look at some of its more promising young players as a result of the team's roughly one trillion man games lost to injury.

Now, I don't know what they think they saw in the various callups they made over the course of the season for younger players, but if the end result is that the team does in fact think it has some kids who can at least play and not embarrass themselves at the NHL, then I guess in the end I will accept this bit of alarmingly-revisionist history. It was fairly plain to neutral and even many partisan observers that Calgary wasn't a team capable of competing in the NHL today, and if it took a combination of injuries and decent performances from the kids to convince them a serious retooling (at the very least) was a feasible idea, then I'm all for it. 

4. Raffi Torres and 25 games

I haven't really voiced my opinion on the Raffi Torres hit because I don't know that I care enough about Raffi Torres and what happens to him that to have an opinion that isn't simply, "Yeah, okay then."

Raffi Torres is at once two things, in much the same way Matt Cooke was: A menace and a useful enough player simultaneously. It's not like if John Scott or some equally useless five-minutes-a-night player was out there running around trying to put people in the morgue. He serves a purpose outside skating around and looking dangerous.

But at the same time, boy does he ever try to hurt people. And thus, getting him out of there for 25 games is good for his opponents and bad for his wallet (though every game Phoenix wins from here on out makes it increasingly less-bad). Maybe he even learns his lesson. But probably not.

So okay, 25 games. That's my opinion. I can't get more impassioned about it than that. Sorry everyone.

5. Something I would like Calgary to do...

We begin and end with a note on Mike Gillis and continue with the earlier theme of proper roster management and how to handle young players:

Gillis showed once again why he's one of the best GMs in the sport yesterday. He simply came out and admitted that after taking a close look at the team's relationship with Cody Hodgson and decided it would be better for both parties to move on, that he mandated Alain Vigneault not start Cody Hodgson in the defensive zone pretty much ever.

Yes, he artificially inflated Hodgson's value to ensure he got a max return for him. Now, you can argue that Kassian was not a great return but was it the best they could have gotten for the kid? Yeah, probably. Look at that, though. A team very practically and demonstrably using advanced statistics to its advantage instead of doing what Calgary normally does: Sell low.

Imagine if Feaster were as smart as Gillis. Gee whiz.

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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 Gange
April 25 2012, 10:35AM
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I'm not sure why all the vitriol around Feaster and Wiesbrod. The changes in the organization have been positive. Perhaps not enough for some but positive none the less.

Getting angry because Stajan wasn't played top 6, seriously?? That's ridiculous. Judging Wiesbrod for trading Tracy McGrady??? Really?? Trying to think of a team that "T-Mac" actually made a difference on. He also drafted Dwight Howard and traded for Jameer Nelson, don't forget to mention that, right?

If you're just angry in general that's one thing. However I just don't get the anger directed at those two.

Of course Wiesbrod lied. That's what people in professional sports do rather than saying "We just flat out sucked". It's called positive spin and lots of time it's there to make the masses feel good. It's not there to be a 100% honest assessment of things.

Take a deep breath, wait until we have a large enough data set to really draw some conclusions from.

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#2 Graham
April 25 2012, 09:38AM
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John Weisbrod comments reinforce my view that the best way to solve the teams problems is to 'blow' up not the team, but the front office.

The Flames problems are organizational in nature, blow up the front office, clean out the decaying rot, hire quality hockey people and let them get to work 'fixing' what needs to be fixed.

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#3 Graham
April 25 2012, 11:29AM
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@Graham

What specifically did he say that makes you think this way?

I think it is a combination of factors; I get the sense that they talk the talk, but when push comes to shove, they don't execute the 'talk'. They are simply to comfortable witk Ken Kings status quo.

I still don't get the feeling that they understand the depth of the 'cultural' problems in the organization, that the team is missing a winning culture, an identity, that they don't have a dream, a vision. Having a dream of 'just making it' into the playoff's is fine for the 30th overall team, not for the salary cap maxed Flames.

Yes,you have to put the 'spin' aside, but do they really accept that this team is simply poorly constructed, aging, and not good enough talent wise to finish anything other than middle of the pack? I don't think they do, Sutter seemed to infer that they didn't want to make major changes, just the 'playing' around the edges that we have seen in previous years. I seriously expect them to resign a bunch of the UFA's, add another aging / declining 'star' (like some of Feasters attempted moves last year), and try and ride Iggy and Kipper for one more season.

I think Feaster is better qualified to be team president than GM... Bump Feaster to President, hire a high quality hockey GM, and begin the tranistion of the hockey culture from the top down.

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#4 Colin
April 25 2012, 09:09AM
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On your #5, you note that Gillis said to not play Hodgson in the defensive zone ever. At the time of the trade Hodgsons 5v5 Ozone starts was at 52%, and only 4 points in 15 games prior to the trade deadline. That hardly seems like Gillis only starting Hodgson in the Ozone to maximize his trade value. That seems like a typical third line player to me.

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#5 Kent Wilson
April 25 2012, 09:35AM
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@Colin

Hogdson's o-zone start % was 83.3% in January, higher even than the Sedins. Malhotra in the same month had a ZS ratio of 0.01%.

Thom Drance looked at all this stuff at the time:

http://vansunsportsblogs.com/2012/02/03/drance-numbers-investigating-cody-hodgsons-monster-january/

When this was happening, a lot of MSM in and around VAN said that Hodgson had taken Malhotra's job. Hahahahaha.

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#6 Colin
April 25 2012, 09:59AM
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Wouldn't it then have made the most sense to trade him in January. Why wait until the trade deadline as you assest losses value? (The counting numbers that everyone looks at to start).

Just looking at Hodgsons Ozone starts from the article you linked, it appears that the Canucks had no idea what to do with the kid. He gets average third line Zone starts in October and then drops off a cliff in NOV/DEC, and then they take a U-turn in January. And it's not like giving Hodgson those monster zone starts in January negatively affected the team(7-2-2), so if Gillis true intentions were to trade Hodgson as a "Sell High", why not keep giving the kid weak comp and high Ozone starts?

Where can I find his zone starts on a month by month basis, I can only find the yearly total on BehindTheNet. Because now I'm really curious as to what his zone starts were in February.

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#7 Domebeers.com
April 25 2012, 10:12AM
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They waited until after the tdeadline to play Stajan with guys who dont suck. Feaster, King, et al, are retards man. Like sean penn in that movie but if that character had eaten paint chips his whole life retarded.

And did the guy who traded T-Mac (because he wasn't a 'winner') for Steve Francis actually say this season was about building to the future? These people lie right to your face. It's sick.

And there is a large section of the fanbase who think Queen Fatster Wiesbrodiot et al are going to lead us to the promise land. They must put stupid in the air of the Dome or something.

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#8 Colin
April 25 2012, 10:20AM
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@DomeBeers

The only reason Stajan ever moved up the depth Chart is because of injuries. There is No One on Calgarys Roster that could have been buried the was Malhotra was in order for us to ever use Stajan the way Hodgson was for the month of January. And even giving Stajan those same circumstances there is no way to garuantee the same results.

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#9 everton fc
April 25 2012, 10:26AM
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@ Graham:

Bingo. The Feaster and Weisbrod do not make a championship combination.

We will see more of the same... Until we grab someone like Fenton, or Botterill... As GM...

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#10 everton fc
April 25 2012, 10:27AM
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I wonder how Stajan would do in Phoenix... In Tippett's system.

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#11 Kent Wilson
April 25 2012, 10:30AM
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@Colin

There's a tool to look at chunks of games, but it's really hard to use.

As for the Canucks in Jan, they were actually terrible in terms of possession and outshooting...Luongo happened to have a big month and they won a bunch of one-goal games because he stood on his head.

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#12 Kent Wilson
April 25 2012, 10:30AM
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@Graham

What specifically did he say that makes you think this way?

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#13 Derzie
April 25 2012, 12:05PM
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Graham called it. Give Feaster the President job and hire some hockey people. A mix of young and hungry and experienced/successful. Will never happen but it helps to dream a little. I fear the 'major changes' will amount to a new jersey variation, higher concession prices and a few new faces from Abbotsford.

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#14 loudogYYC
April 25 2012, 12:17PM
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@Graham

I agree with you that the issues haunting the Flames are culture related, but I just can't see that other part you're saying. When your problems are so deep like the Flames' problems, talking is sometimes all you can do because this fix is gonna take a long time.

Last summer Feaster did an AHL cleanse followed by a signing spree and he was being criticized for it on this site and others. I was actually really happy about it cuz he was addressing a few needs at once. First of all he gave Troy Ward a good mix of players to compete with, and I think most importantly he helped create a positive, winning atmosphere in our farm team. That to me sounds like addressing the culture issue.

If you're a 20 year old prospect entering your first pro season, you'll probably feel, adapt, develop and play better in a team that's winning and moving upward. That's crucial to the development of a kid that needs to work on areas of his game.

The culture change is moving in the right direction IMO, they're changing from the ground up and not vice-versa, it'll take time.

The lip service pisses me off too, but I'll give them this summer to make the bold changes needed to speed up the process (Trade Iginla and Kiprusoff).

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#15 Kevin R
April 25 2012, 12:20PM
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@Graham: Graham, I wouldnt put too much stock in what B Sutter said on the way out. There are definite opinions of how to even conduct a rebuild. Sutter is a pretty stubborn guy & maybe this was Feasters way to move on from him without getting nasty. As for culture & lack of winning in the organization, that comes from the players as much as it comes from management. The players are moving on & a new era is coming. Even if Feaster rides the Iggy/Kipper horse for one more year, that's it. Iggy is a UFA after next year & he can go anywhere. Kipper has 2 years & I think Kipper oozes a winner. JBO is just neutral, not a loser even though he hasnt won anything but not a winner in any respect either. It's just a waste of 6.69Mill on a player that should be a leader, game changer & identity of the team. He hasnt lived up to that pay cheque he gets. He'll blend in to the new era of team coming. The question is, can Calgary extract a good value from the Kipper & Iggy's to help forge a fresh young winning culture you so desire. Give the man a chance. This is a huge year coming up for the Flames & there is no more hiding behind the BS we have seen the last 3-4 years.

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#16 CA Flames Fan
April 25 2012, 12:55PM
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As much as I have zero sorrow for the Cannots getting bounced by the Kings.....I do have some new found professional respect for Luongo. To come out, see the writing on the wall and publicly state that he has / will waive his NTC for the good of that group, his teammates and the organization, very professional. Wonder if Iginla heard about this comment from Luongo as he was cleaning his Calloways.....

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#17 RKD
April 25 2012, 01:44PM
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I think Mike Gillis makes some ridiculous comments. A first round loss blamed on a Boston victory, c'mon. He should take the fall for not having enough depth in the wake of D. Sedin's injury.

Kesler and Burrows didn't step up and we find out Kesler was injured again.

Getting rid of Hodgson was a mistake, simply because he was high maintenance and wanted more playing time.

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#18 Tach
April 25 2012, 02:06PM
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@Lambert

"Calgary wasn't a team capable of competing in the NHL today"

This is unfair. Calgary was the best team out of the playoffs (basically a crazy lucky Dallas startin 2010-11 short of) three years running. 14 of 30 teams do not make the playoffs. To say the Flames are incapable of "competing" in the NHL is simply unfair. Not all teams can be elite every year, otherwise no team is elite. The Flames are an average NHL club.

Re: Hodgson

Easy enough for the best team in the league to put them in a position to lose games in order to pump the tires on a guy. A little more difficult for the Flames when they were battling to make the playoffs. Although I concede it is extraordinarily unlikely that such a thought would even enter their thinking.

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#19 RexLibris
April 25 2012, 02:24PM
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@ Tach

I think Lambert was also implying that, had the Flames made the playoffs, it is hard to imagine them having the kind of success that L.A. had in the first round. The goaltending may have been there, but L.A. has much more talent through their forward lines than Calgary.

I'm just assuming in this case. But one could also argue that the Kings, Coyotes and even the Stars to a lesser extent tried to win their way into the playoffs. The Flames sputtered and tripped their way through the end of the season, losing to teams that they ought not have.

As Lambert states, at the beginning of the season there were many outside obervers (non-partisan) who predicted a 10th place finish for them in the West. So I don't think he is off here in his statements.

As for Hodgson, I agree that the Flames didn't have enough rope to afford any similar opportunities to a player they would have liked to move, had Sutter even been open to the idea.

What Vancouver allegedly did with Hodgson's starts and such is exactly what Oiler fans wanted to see happen with Omark. Arguably the Oilers had as much leeway with Omark as the Canucks did with Hodgson, albeit on the other end of the spectrum. Yet instead...

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#20 Graham
April 25 2012, 03:23PM
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@ Kevin R

I've seen management do a lot of talking, but little action to back it up. If Feaster can break the Ken King mold, and is given the freedom to make changes he deserves a chance.

My biggest fear, he wants to make changes, but does not have the support from upper management. This is why I would repalce King with Feaster (who is much more the business leader than GM) and change the culture starting at the top.

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#21 Sworkhard
April 25 2012, 03:49PM
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I find it remarkable that Lambert, and many people posting here, find that Wiesbrod's comments about last season being about development somehow mutually exclusive to trying to make the playoffs with largely the same team. How you can extrapolate what Weisbrod said about the focus this season being about developing for the future to being somehow opposed to the goal of making the playoffs is beyond me. Feaster and Weisbrod were talking about getting younger, putting in place the infrastructure to more successfully develop young players, etc, for well over a year now.

Yes, their goal for their on ice product was to make the play-offs. However, most of the work they did, and the focus of the work they did, was building towards the future. Weisbrod is 100% correct in saying that their focus was building towards the future, and this is in no way revisionist history. If anything, I'd argue Lambert is being revisionist, not Weisbrod.

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#22 Monaertchi
April 26 2012, 08:41AM
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@Lambert: The way I hear Wiesbrod when he says "everything WE were focused on was the future" (paraphrasing) is that he meant "I" or "me and my team" instead of "we". I don't think he was including Keaster in that statement. I could be wrong though.

@Graham & @Derzie: If the Flames are able to get rid of KKing, leaving the Pesidents job open, why in the hell would they even keep Feaster let alone promote him? That is the perfect opportunity to bring in a completely new regime. #Lanny2012

@Tach: I think that consistently being not good enough to make the playoffs is a fairly sufficient indicator that the Flames were not good enough to compete in the NHL. The entire point of the regular season is to make the post season. They failed 2 years in a row, didn't change the roster to start the season, and can anyone then realistically expect them to compete for a playoff spot? I certainly didn't.

@Colin: Hodgson started the season getting third line minutes. When it became clear that the was a malcontent his minutes were reduced. After 2 months of trying to work with him, the GM decided it wasn't going to work and told his coach to play the kid into a decent trade.

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