Random Thoughts – May 5th



Time to take a break from the scoring chance posts for now I think. Some people love graphs and charts and pocket protectors and such, but even their eyes will start to glaze over if I do nothing but talk about advanced stats every day (and I would). So here’s another round of random thoughts ’bout the Flames and other stuff.

– Robert Cleave and myself appeared on Matchsticks and Microphones recently (an M&G podcast). The episode hasn’t been uploaded to the site yet, but one of the topics that came up was, again, the fate of Jay Feaster.

I’m going to play spoiler here and reveal some of what we shared on the matter: despite a lot of noise around town about Feaster being "the guy", we here at FlamesNation still think the fact Jay is still walking around with the "acting" tag suggests the owners and management are still waiting to suss out other options before making everything official. The organization has made some changes around the edges when it comes to periphery coaching staff this off-season, but those moves were a.) minor b.) likely directed by Brent Sutter and therefore c.) probably inevitable no matter who was sitting in the big chair.

I’ll be convinced Feaster is the guy either when the team comes out and makes it official OR they actually start making real, impactful decisions with him at the helm. For example, if they head into the draft or July 1st with Jay as "acting" GM, then I’ll begin to assume it’s his job for sure. Until then, my theory that the franchise has it’s eye on another guy for GM and Jay is bound for another role in the upper offices remains unshaken.

– The second round has been a bit of a dud, but probably the most interesting issue cropping up right now is the fate of Bruce Boudreau. The Capitals failed to meet expectations in the post-season again, but one has to wonder how much weight that should be given over their regular season results.

Why? Because the playoffs are short. Really short. And making decisions based on small sample sizes (even though they are perceived as very important samples in our minds) can lead you astray very easily. The Caps have been an excellent-to-dominant team under Boudreau during the regular season which is a vastly larger chunk of information relative to their couple of playoff choke jobs. That suggests to me he’s probably a pretty capable coach.

– Here’s a simple question for Flames fans that we’ll get into more in depth later in the off-season. If you had the choice, would you designate the upcoming season as more "developmental" in terms of goals, meaning more weight given to procuring draft picks, prospects and developing high-end youngsters at the pro level in the org? Or would you prefer to see the club try to wring at least one more competitive year out of Iginla and the core, meaning less focus on development and futures procurement and more to signing veteran free agents, maxing out the cap, buying at the deadline and finishing as high as possible.

This is a toned-down version of the "rebuild" argument I think. The choice to focus on procurement and development could occur while retaining Iginla, Regehr and company I think (meaning no full-on rebuild), but it would have to be an action item on their "to-do" list for it to happen at all. The second choice is basically the status quo – go with what you have, try to fill spaces with free agents and veterans as much as possible. The risk in the first is to reduce the Flames chances of truly battling for a playoff spot/cup. The risk in the second is to further stagnate the organization should the push to "succeed now" fail again.

– I recently got an Empire Avenue account. Im not too certain why, but I said the same thing when I signed up for twitter a couple of years ago…

– Watching the Canucks in the post-season has me more convinced that Ryan Kesler is the best forward on the team and by far more deserving of any "MVP" honors. He plays tougher circumstances and is just flat out better all over the ice. The Sedins have had problems fighting through a couple of capable checking units now (Bolland and Legwand), despite AV still feeding them favorable zone starts and such. There’s not question the twins are a couple of key pieces to the Canucks machine, but Kesler is definitely the engine.

– Every year, the hockey gods decide to touch a team or two in the post-season. This year, it’s the Lightning. They got their heads beat in by the Pens in the first round by just about every measure except for score. Kinda like MTL and WAS last season. Roloson stood on his head and saved their bacon. The second round versus the Caps was much closer, but in no way was it a true "sweep" in terms of actual differential in play or talent. Not sure how long they will be sprinkled with pixie dust, but it’s going to be interesting to watch.

– Stay tuned for Pat’s look at ex-Flames remaining in the post-season today or tomorrow as well as another round of Lambert’s "Contrarian Corner" this week. I’ll also continue to pump out chance/possession/graphing/nerd articles as we plunge further into the off-season.

  • I will take a run at bullet point 3.

    First, I don’t necessarily accept that icing the best possible team necessarily precludes developing talent, nor do I think that icing a stinky team full of young players is the best route to developing those same players. In that sense I think you have drawn a false dichotomy, but will try and answer anyway.

    Second, I am assuming that whatever happens with the CBA stays relatively stable including the current salary averaging cap hits and a similar style of salary cap.

    With that in mind, when I look at the Flames’ roster situation this is going to be a cap team to near cap team for the next two years. They have 8 UFAs coming off the books this year, with a combined cap hit of ~$9 million. Most of these guys are bit players (see Modin, Freddy) or ridiculous bargains last year (see Tanguay, Alex). Only the Steady One could be described as a material contract that we can improve significant value on. Even if they were all replaced with our rookies on ELCs or minimum wagers, the Flames will need to use up $4 to $5 million in cap space.

    After 2011-2012 though, the Flames have 9 UFAs coming off the books, but this time the combined current cap hit of those players is ~$20 million and includes current boat anchors, or near boat anchors, of Kotalik, Hagman, Sarich and Ivanans all come off the books. Additionally, Kiprusoffs actual salary paid figures after next season are $5 million and $1 million, which opens him up as a possible trade to non-cap teams looking for a credible goaltending option.

    That, to me, is when we start the true reload. For next year I think the mission has to be to not take on too many big deals, evaluate which parts of our young group are going to come with us to the next level, which of the aging vets we may have to jettison and get the structure of the team ready for the next iteration of the Flames. While I think this can be achieved while still icing a competitive team (hence my rejection of your premise) I am not in favour of loading up the big contracts or moving draft picks at this time to go for it in 2011-2012.

    That being said – if you can move some of those boat anchors early to free up space for truly credible value free agents, go to it.

    • Probably true it’s false dichotomy. I guess I was couching the question in terms of how the Flames have run things for awhile, where “win now” has almost always trumped any other concern. As you say, balancing both is possible.

  • Bob Cobb

    I’d rather a mix this upcoming year between developmental and status quo, I think if we retain Tangauy, Iggy can put up some really good numbers, which if this upcoming season goes south should hopefully get us some really good draft picks. However we should be giving guys like Nemisz, Backlund, Bouma, Brodie and Erixon more oppurtunity, I think each of them could easily be given a spot on this team, be a heck of a lot better than giving a spot to hagman or kotalik.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I couldn’t agree more regarding Feaster.

    Continuing to try to squeak into the playoffs year after year while not trying to add picks and prospects will eventually leave the Flames without the Old Guns, and with pea shooters to take their place. They’ll end up being bottom feeders.

    Some may say that if they do get into the playoffs in the next year or two, they might just have a run like 2004, or like the Oilers run a couple of years ago. I say those were flukes and that things always regress towards the mean (to paraphrase Kent). The chances of that happening to the Flames again must be so small as to not be worth considering.

  • Have to agree on the feaster angle. I mean, really? Really?! After 6 months with the organization you still don’t know? For real? Makes no sense, unless it’s some anal-retentive Ken King policy of doing everything in precise order and refusing to deviate from the ‘plan’ just for the sake of not deviating.
    Of course, it’s all guess work because no one knows what’s going on behind closed doors.

    As far as development goes, the Flames may as well go status quo. The best thing for their youngsters right now is time in the minors to develop at their own pace. Rushing them into the NHL won’t help the Flames or their youth. The exception is Backlund who I feared would go down the same paths as Boyd, Lombardi, etc. Fortunately, he seems like he might have survived his mishandling, but I still contend that a full season playing 20+ minutes/night as the #1 center and being on the 1st PP and PK units would’ve helped him more. Jury is still out, but now that he’s there and at least cemented his status as NHL-capable he needs to be given more ice time, some PP and more opportunities with better linemates. Just hope they don’t go too far down that road and annoint him the new #1 center and expect 40 goals out of him.

    As for the Caps, I’d keep Boudreau 1 more season, go after Regehr and trade Semin. I’d also focus on a bit of a hybrid system between last year and this year. And keep Arnott. Go

  • Disagree to a certain extent. I think both is only possible when you have a good base to build on. Without that initial foundation a team will always be caught between not enough picks, not high enough picks or rushing in picks. It’s why middling teams stay middling. You don’t become Detroit overnight, you have to start from ground zero.

  • I’d prefer a heavy weighting on a developmental focus. If someone offers anything of remote value for Kipprusoff, it should be taken (not that it’ll happen, but it would be nice). Any swapping of older/overpaid individuals (with the exception of Iginla) for younger forwards should be seriously considered and encouraged.

    I may be in the minority, but I don’t think Iginla is going to fall off a cliff any further for a little while, and the only way the team is going to have a chance of making good use of him is to take a flyer on guys who are not necessarily proven (or try to trade for younger/mid-aged guys who are underrated by their team). They don’t have the assets to trade for more proven guys, unfortunately.

  • Good stuff as usual.

    Bang on with Kesler. If he’s not scoring at least every other game, they won’t win the cup. When he’s scoring, they’re winning.

    As for Feaster, I have to agree again. The management team is not done assessing things yet… Why does it take them so long every year I’ll never know… But, Eric Francis needlessly ruffled the feathers of many fans by saying they haven’t talked to anyone yet… well, they’re not done evaluating their own selves yet AND several teams with people of interest are still in the hunt and probably not ready to be spoken with yet. That said, it still wouldn’t surprise me if they eventually lift the “acting” tag without talking to anyone else… seems like a King thing to do.

    And, with the Flames. It’s possible to make the playoffs while still developing for the future. In fact, trimming the fat would likely make this team more successful. I don’t think Regehr needs to go, but I think he needs to go. He’s getting up there in age, his knees are one terrible hit away from snapping like twigs and he’s not dominant like he once was. Trade Reggie and bring back a nice prospect and pick. I don’t want to trade Kipper, but certainly wouldn’t say no to a nice haul, either. The Kings have an influx of young prospects and, to me, are the ones the Flames should target.

  • To quote McPhee on the Bruce Boudreau situation:

    “Someone said he’s not a good playoff coach,” McPhee said. “There’s no difference between a playoff coach and regular-season coach. Either you’re a good coach or you’re not. He’s a good coach.”

  • Emir

    When I look at the league and teams who are doing well, there is always a rookie or sophomore who is making a difference. That makes me think that keeping the status quo with a few changes but keeping most of our big guys is the way to go. Its always a mix of old and young to win, I don’t think that it is strictly one pr the other

  • Michael

    The tricky question for maangement is which Flames team is the real one; the one before Christmas, the one after Christmas, or one somewhere in the middle? Which team management select as their starting point for 2011-2012 is going to drive everything…

    I’m in the ‘somewhere in the middle’ camp, which means we are back in the middle of the pack, looking at an uphill battle to make the playoffs.
    Even if we can resign Glencross, Tanquay, Babchuk et all, we are no further ahead next year, just a year older. If we can’t sign them or find bargin replacements (that play as well) we could be a year older and not as good.

    As for Feaster, you just have to think they are looking elsewhere, at a team still in the playoffs. Wonder if they are thinking experience, or potential up and coming talent (which was how Craig Button was sold…yuck)

    • “Somewhere in the middle” is probably accurate. The Flames will need to spend money to run in place this summer (re-sign/replace Tanguay, Glencross, Babchuk, Morrison) meaning the best they can probably hope for is battling for a playoff spot again. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but the question is – is that enough form a planning and organizational perspective?

  • First Name Unidentified

    I do not believe that Feaster is “the guy”. He has not proven anything, is not a hockey professional, won a cup (that never was theirs in the first place) with a team that was already built by someone else (Rick Dudley), and drove the Bolts into the ground before he was chased away. We also need to get rid of the burly, sheepishly cunning politician named Ken King. I wonder when the owners will wake up!

    I watch playoff hockey and wish some of those guys were playing in Calgary. Instead, we have Stajan, Hagman, Kotalik, Sarich, Bourque, Bouwmeester – 23.5 million tied up in dead weight players that will never win anything in their lives. I say start the house cleaning at the top. And do it now!

    -A very frustrated fan!

    • I’m not sold on Feaster myself. I think the question of whether he’s “the right guy” or “the guy the Flames management have picked” are different ones though. If he is finally named the GM one and for all, we’ll probably go over his credentials a bit.

      As for King, I thought his wagon was tied to Sutter’s and he’d get the axe this summer as well. Doesn’t seem to be the case, however, which mildly surprises me.

      • Thing is, the owners love King because he sells jerseys. He makes them money, pure and simple. It’s why I’d retain him to run business ops, but the man has no place in hockey ops, even if it’s just rubber-stamping stuff. Feaster would be better at that and I don’t even want to see him in that position. Like I said before, this team is run by a lawyer and a newspaperman. What could possibly go wrong?

        They need a true hockey guy in there. Feaster can surround himself with ‘hockey guys’ all he wants, but then what the point of him even being there?

        At the end of the day, a smart hockey man is needed to put the final ‘OK’ on everything the team does.

        P.S. – If George Johnson of the Herald is right and Yzerman’s first choice was the Flames, but he got tired of waiting, how stupid do our owners look now?

  • P.S. – If George Johnson of the Herald is right and Yzerman’s first choice was the Flames, but he got tired of waiting, how stupid do our owners look now?

    I really hope that isn’t true. Yzerman’s first season in TBay was excellent.

  • First Name Unidentified

    It’s a twisted doldrum that the Flames are in right now. Do you wait for a couple more years until all the major contracts come off the books and then think about bringing in new skilled guys? What about your core getting older by another 2 years? We all know that Jarome wants to win and he wants to win here. Why not do everything that we can to help him now. I’m not saying get rid of prospects and drafts. But, if the ownership can buy out the dead weights I named in my previous post (and take the hit), we can bring in quality players to support our existing group of “good” players, like Jarome, Giordano, Backlund, Jackman, Moss, Tanguay, Carson. I threw in Carson’s name there becasue I really think he is a great defender and has great potential from what I saw of him in the last few games.

    Look at top teams around the league, they have a good group of players surrounding their superstars. Sharks, Penguins, Bolts, Caps, Canucks, ‘Hawks, Bruins, etc. I’m just speechless at the state of my hockey club and get increasingly annoyed when I look at teams around the league that are built for success.

    How long can the owners and this franchise continue to ride the high horse of 2004? With “Doc” gone (RIP) and Hotchkiss not in the scene anymore, I think we are in trouble.

    • There’s the rub, though. That’s been the gameplan since 2004 and the Flames just haven’t been able to do it. Now they face the dual job of dumping a bunch of errors as well as trying to supplement what quality pieces they do have.

      We’ll see what happens. I’ll give Darryl this: it was almost never boring in the summer under his reign.

  • stevie y should have been a no brainer. what he brings to the gm chair is the insight acquired by being a player in the game. not neccessarily being a star, but knowing the components that champion clubs require. the third fourth liners, the situational players, that knowledge. feaster may have gm on his resume but i would argue that he realy doesnt have the feel for the game.i realy am impressed with steve downie, he had his fair share of troubles, however the kid is a warrior and a winner. a former trainer for the canada junior program told me several years ago, he is the best team guy he had seen, going as far as volunteering to do laundry for the club.

  • marty

    i have nothing but my gut feeling on this (and i have heard a few other mention it) i think something is brewing with jay feast becoming el presidente and a new guy coming in or going old school and brent becoming both gm and coach. i could be very wrong but i think it’s a possibility. “those are my thoughts and not yours” to quote good old joe. peace out

  • shep

    not sure really, he started out on a line with tedenby and silfverberg and they looked pretty good.
    then krüger gets that spot and runs with it. then backlund gets 4th line and pk duty with veterans wallin and jimmie ericsson (jonathan ericssons brother, plays for skellefteå), much like his role with the flames this year and he’s been good.
    scoring some nice goals and being solid on the pk. probably good for his confindence