Jay Feaster’s Competing Incentives



Tyler Dellow discusses some of the perverse incentives that exist for NHL GM’s at the bottom of the ladder to lose hockey games in this recent post. With high draft picks the reward for failure in the NHL, it’s conceivable that a couple of general managers will inevtiably find ways to grease the wheels of failure every year and improve their draft position.

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This is an issue that will gain prominence here in town as the trade deadline looms. The Calgary Flames are currently 14th in the Western Conference, seven points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. The club would need to accrue about 55 points in it’s final 40 games, or a points percentage of 68.75% in order to realistically press for eighth. That’s marginally less than the rate Detroit put up through the first half of the season. Not impossible, but highly improbable. Sports Club Stats puts the Flames chances of reaching the dance at about 5%.

Feaster is a man who stands at a cross-roads. I suspect his actions in the second half of the season will depend heavily on how he thinks his performance is being evaluated by the Flames owners. Is the mandate to keep the team competitive and pressing for a playoff spot? If so, Feaster may be hesistant to pull the trigger on the players-for-futures type deals we see in speculative posts like the roundtable below. Forgetting the issue of dealing core players like Iginla and Regehr, relatively fringe guys such as Niklas Hagman and Anton Babchuk take on important depth roles when a club is still pressing for a playoff spot. Unless the Flames are in the very same position come the end of February, the impetus to move guys for prospects and draft picks may be resisted.

On the other hand, Feaster could conceivably hasten the slide with a few deals sooner rather than later. Move Hagmen et al for futures. Find a taker for one or two big tickets, recall some kids and move some guys up the depth chart. Voila…the club is more likely to pick inside the top 10 come June. The risks for Feaster in this strategy are numerous, however: instituing a dive as well as dealing emotionally-charged, big ticket players (Iginla, Kipper, Regehr) are difficult enough assignments for executives with long-term contracts. Torpedoing the club and trading favorites is especially dicey for a guy who has "temporary" stamped across his business cards, however.

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Of course, if Feaster instead charges full bore for the post-season and the Flames end up in 10th place with the same decaying, over-burdened roster that they began the season with, he may be equally as culpable in the eyes of the public and owneship. So unless another 9-game losing streak pops up and eliminates all doubt, it could be a bit of tight-rope walk for Feaster from now till March.

  • Graham

    Realistically, what are we looking at to rebuild this team? A combination of top prospects / top draft picks… three to four potential top six forwards, a potential #1 goalie and a potential top pair offensive d man?

    Even if you could get back some top prospects / picks for the like of Iggy, Kipper, allowing for the odd draft failiure, we are looking at two to three + years of picking in the top 10. Add in development time, 5 – 6 years? Would the fan base / owners sit still for five more seasons like this one?

    I expect we will see the same pressure on Feaster to compete now, and to retool gradually over an extended period. A change in focus rather than a change in roster…

    • the-wolf

      Great points

      I do see the argument or the point in trying to do a mini rebuild, however with salary cap implications as well as the inability to move certain contracts and players- i.e. no movement clauses, bad contracts with the overall age the team is at now (Iginla- Regehr-Kipper)
      I think to do a mini rebuild would still be in the 2 year range, so you just lost another two years of development and total rebuild, another point is just like development of players from the draft this mini rebuild caries no guarantee that it will also work.

      Case in point the Edmonton Oilers; after Pronger decided to leave the team, management should have blown up the team then, instead they tried desperately to trade for players, ascertain players via UFA and RFA to stay competitive and remain a just barely playoff team.

      In 2 to 3 years the Oilers will be way ahead of the curve we are now. I think it’s time to act for the future now IMO.

      However as mentioned above, how tied are Feasters hands? Maybe that’s why he went on record as saying the “core” group is hands off, he doesn’t have the ability to trade them at this point.

      • the-wolf

        Sorry, but I just no longer see the point in this no rebuild vs. rebuild argument. I could in the summer, though I strongly advocated rebuidling even back then (last 2+ years, actually), but what’s the alternative? Yes, there will be pain in a rebuild. Yes, it will take some time. No, there are no guarantess it will work. But, frankly, there is no alternative and I mean that literally. Four GMs, 6 coaches and 21 years and we’ve gone past the first round once. ONCE! TIME FOR A NEW FRICKIN’ STRATEGY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        The only argument should be how big of a rebuild? Well, this core has proven conclusively that it’s incapable of doing anything, we’re just getting older, we’re capped out and no one is going to give us skilled players who are 22-27 years old. Scorched earth is the one and only hope the Flames have. LIGHT THE MATCH BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • BobB

    Hmm.. lose hockey games eh?

    Boomer, made pretty light of Kipper’s absolute suck-fest vs Detroit, saying, you rarely ever see Kipper off, but that tongue-in-cheek it could be best for the team.

    It made for an exciting game, kept the fans entertained, looked like the guys were going, but they still lost, thus increasing their chances of a high pick, by decreasing their place in the standings.

    Maybe you’re right Kent, even in the rare instances that Kipper is a hands down sieve, he somehow can’t do any wrong.

    New team strategy?

  • Yeah I can’t see how anyone in their right mind would believe that this team has any chance of making the playoffs.

    This team would 1) all of a sudden need to be the reincarnate of the ’89 team AND 2)give a damn. The first is not going to happen obviously but the more you watch these guys the more you see that the second is not likely either.

    The only thing left to decide is who goes not IF some should go.

  • the-wolf

    @ negrilcowboy

    Funny thought though, I’m thinking that the only 2 players not trading are Gio and Jbo, quality D-man are very hard to find, I think Jbo has under achieved and still has upside, unless a trade is there that knocks the socks off I say keep those 2 and like the-wolf said light a match let MFer burn

    • Well you can’t get rid of everybody, Gio and Jbo would be a good pair to start forming a d group with. Gives you half of two units right off the bat. As for the original core, shop them around starting now. See what the offers are once everyone knows they are in the mix. The deadwood flattires are going to be hard to rid yourself of. Gotta include something attractive. Isn’t that how ugly girls got married long ago, daddy had to throw in the prized calf.

  • RCN

    If u can get at least a thirdrounder for stajan or hagman, u gotta take it. If u can trade sarich for a sixth or seventh rounder, even while taking some salary back, that’s another deal that needs to be done. If there are any takers for jokinen, deal him, no matter what; he shouldn’t be here in the first place. Morrison might get u 6th rounder, seeing as he’s a ufa at Years end. Give bourque the rest of the year to get his act together.

    Now for the big boys. Iggy for a first rounder, a top six forward and a top end prosect. Iggy may not be elite anymore,but I believe teams looking for a

  • RCN

    If u can get at least a thirdrounder for stajan or hagman, u gotta take it. If u can trade sarich for a sixth or seventh rounder, even while taking some salary back, that’s another deal that needs to be done. If there are any takers for jokinen, deal him, no matter what; he shouldn’t be here in the first place. Morrison might get u 6th rounder, seeing as he’s a ufa at Years end. Give bourque the rest of the year to get his act together.

    Now for the big boys. Iggy for a first rounder, a top six forward and a top end prosect. Iggy may not be elite anymore,but I believe teams looking for a proven scorer would pay the price. As for Kipper, because of the lack of a goalie market, I expect their wouldnt be too many teams after his services. Still, when you can add a world class goalie(yeah he is still is, even though hes been shaky this year)your gonna try to do it. I expect Kipper to come back for a real good prospect and a 2nd and 3rd round draft pick. As for Regehr, if you can get a 2nd rounder and a roster player, I say mission accomplished.

    Oh yeah, Staios and Kotalik can go to Abbotsford and spend the rest of their contracts there. Flames can call up Brodie or Seabrook on the blueline, and call up Greg Nemisz or John Armstrong and give them an audition for a roster spot at the start of training camp next year.

    • Oyo

      i love how everyone thinks that drafting is now the saviour of every franchise… yes top 10 drafting may result in a very good player but offloading talent for POSSIBLE returns can be risky.

      i mean florida has sucked for years and has never gotten much better through drafting. i would much rather be trading for proven propects and a few picks rather then other way around.

      i would have loved to pry Schenn from LA for example. dont be so quick to deal for picks as they can lead to nothing far more sudden then they can lead to greatness.

      BUT do try to get some if possible lol

  • everton fc

    Question… off topic…

    Staois and Mikkleson are on this road trip. 8 defencemen. Does this mean Pardy moves to the fourth line? Or could there be a trade (Sarich?) on the horizon?? (Or does it mean nada?!)

    • Robert Cleave

      Might not mean anything immediately, but something has to give at some point soon. With Kostopoulos away, the Flames had an open roster spot for the next couple of weeks. 13 healthy (and unsuspended) F, 8 D and 2 G would make up a 23 player roster. Once Kostopoulos returns, someone has to go. Of course, they could just send Backlund down again, but I do suspect that an actual trade is coming in the next few weeks.

  • GoShamesGo

    One huge problem is that sucking enough to make the draft lottery (bottom 5 in the league) is almost as hard as making the playoffs. Everyone forgets that not only do you have to be worse than Edmonton but you need to out suck Jersey, NYI, Ottawa, Florida and any other team who wants to join the race for last. I have a feeling we’re going to miss the playoffs and miss a good draft spot.

    On the bright side at least Darryl is gone so we wont trade away our middle of the pack first round pick for an over-paid talentless old “locker room guy”.

    • GoShamesGo

      I thought so, too, but I think the flames have enough suck in them to get themselves into one of the 4 worst spots.

      They consistently find ways to lose, even when you think they couldn’t out-suck the other team (i.e. NY Islanders and New Jersey)

      Also, we’re in the tough Western conference. Our only real competitor is Edmonton, and I think both teams can realistically finish in the worst 3 spots.

  • Such is the life of having temporary as a part of your title. I really dont understand what the end game is for the organization. If they were really committed to Feaster wouldn’t they just give him the job? I just think the organization wants to navigate this thing through the Heritage Classic. Im pretty sure the NHL would not let them blow this up before the HC either. The league has an incentive to have some name players on the ice for that game. from a marketing standpoint, it is better to have guys like Iginla and Regehr on the ice for that game than some throwaways and some minor league prospects. As much as we all like Backlund, he doesn’t fill seats right now. After that February game, it is open season on the roster imo.

  • Things need to be blown up. I think you leave guys like Brodie & Nemisz in the AHL the rest of the year but yeah, bring up C grade prospects like Seabrook & Armstrong, maybe with a shot they develop into a half decent player.

    As much as people complain about sucking for another 2 years if we start any type of rebuild or retool, HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT FROM NOW? And how could that be any different if we “Stay the course?”

    Something needs to be done, I’d rather watch some exciting prospects who aren’t gonna win a whole lot of games work their asses off playing an exciting brand of hockey as opposed to a bunch of old dudes with no speed & energy.

    Even if we suck next year, there’s promise. Right now we suck & we have nothing to look forward to. (Minus the possibility of a high draft pick)

    • PrairieStew

      With you here 100% dotfras.

      When I was advocating a dismantling last summer I said why do we need to struggle through another year only to squeak into the playoffs with a tired Kiprusoff and Iggy as the only offensive weapon that is easily neutralized. I didn’t want to settle for that, with no hope for the future. Now even that looks remote, and next year looks alot worse.

      Consolation is that return on trades is probably highest at trade deadline time, so while Iggy, Kipper and Regehr are almost a year older than they were last summer ( and potentially worth less) they might actually get more return in February than they would in June.

  • icedawg_42

    One thing that scares me about Feaster is that though he wants to build around a “core” group – that core group is too all-inclusive…they’re all the same core players Sutter tried to build around for the last 5 years – and more. At least SOME of them have to move. All of the fringe players (the rest of the roster) have ugly/overpriced contracts, and let’s face it you are going to move them only to get “the same guy” back. Honestly the best thing that could happen to the flames right now is a top 5 pick..at least at that point there’s a glimmer of hope for the fanbase. I dont see how there can be much movement in a forward/positive direction until some of these messy contracts/NTC’s expire. Outside of expiry, they aren’t going anywhere!

  • Oyo

    as much as i think scoring is an issue which of course it is…mission #1 has to be finding langkows replacement. the player who is going to take on the toughs and hold his own night in night out. in my opinion

  • everton fc


    I think they’ll simply send Mikkelson back to the farm.

    Backlund is here for the duration, I think. We have a glut of centres.. forwards… A trade of Hagman, Stajan… both, as a package… makes the most sense to me.

  • The only reason to keep any of these guys is to reach the cap floor. Otherwise I’d trade Stajan for a new toaster (or used, doesn’t really matter).

    Don’t get Feaster’s statements about the core either. At least when Darryl got here Iggy was 25, Kipper 27 and Regehr 23. At 34, 35 and 32 next year, it’s like, what the hell are you smoking? You don’t build a team around guys in their mid-30’s. It’s over already, so get over it already.

  • Thoughts for a new GM….

    Hakan Loob anyone? Only Swedish 50 goal scorer, won a cup with the Flames (as well as Olympic gold and a World Championship), and is now the president of hockey operations for Farjestads BK in the Swedish Elitserien. He also holds goals+points records in the SEL

    Could probably light a fire under our Swedish players’ asses, and trade off the Finns…

  • What’s the big deal about making the playoffs anyway? In fact they could be giving up on options for trades that might not be available after the season is over.

    If they make the playoffs in the 8th spot, all this will mean is that Vancouver will sweep them in 4 games. After that, they’ll still have the same old decaying over-burdened roster that they began the season with, and will have not traded for any draft picks.

    For that matter, what’s the big deal with draft picks when their scouting sucks.

    Man, it’s going to take some time (years) to fix this mess.

  • San Jose is looking for an experienced D man. They have about 2M to play with.

    The Flames could trade Regher & cheap roster player (Morrison comes to mind) for a 1st or 2nd, Setoguchi & (Huskins to even the cap).