(We’re drawing to the end of the contributor search. Next week, we will review the entries and decide on the finalists)
By: Taylor Rocca**
Tim Erixon’s departure from the Calgary Flames organization was unceremonious to say the least. For those who don’t remember, the Flames were forced to trade the young, blue-chip defenseman to the New York Rangers back on June 1st when it became apparent that Erixon would not sign an entry-level contract with the club.
After the move was made, Flames fans everywhere were enraged, and they had every right to be. After all, Erixon was supposed to be the first legitimate high-end prospect the organization had seen since…Dion Phaneuf? Ok, so maybe the measuring stick here in Calgary isn’t terribly high but regardless, Erixon was without a doubt the best prospect to enter Calgary’s system (albeit temporarily) in quite some time. Heck, I know I was rattled upon hearing that Mr. Feaster had dealt our prized prospect to the New York Rangers, of all teams. And that is when things started to come together for me.
As the days and weeks passed following the trade, speculation and rumours began to emerge about what led to Erixon singing that ever so popular Chantal Kreviazuk song…that was once sung by John Denver. Yes, Erixon did leave on a jet plane, but here is what most people didn’t (and still don’t know) – his bags were packed, and he was ready to go long before this summer. Erixon never planned on playing for the Calgary Flames, not even for a split second after pulling the “Flaming C” over his head in June of 2009. Jay Feaster was forced to trade the young blueliner because the Swedish stalwart simply refused to sign. The Flames organization offered Erixon the maximum contract allowed for a rookie, and still he wouldn’t put pen to paper. Why? The answer is simple – Erixon never wanted to play in Calgary in the first place, he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and suit up for the New York Rangers. Tim’s father Jan Erixon suited up for the New York Rangers for ten seasons from 1983-1993, posting 216 points in 556 games. The story was great to begin with; a young aspiring hockey player following in his father’s footsteps towards an NHL career. But little Tim Twist wasn’t happy; “please sir, may I have some more?” In our story, “more” can easily be translated to “I want to play for the same team that my daddy played for.” Only in this story, Tim Erixon wasn’t an impoverished orphan like poor Oliver Twist, in fact he was quite the opposite.
Not About the Benjamins
It wasn’t about money, and it most certainly wasn’t about opportunity despite what Erixon’s camp might tell you. In fact, the argument that came from Erixon’s side stated simply that the Calgary Flames simply did not provide the opportunity for Tim to break into the NHL in 2011/12 because their blueline had too much depth. Umm…excuse me, Mr. Erixon…but have you looked at the Flames blueline even once since you were drafted?
For all of you who have been following Flames Nation this summer, it should be pretty clear that many fans out there don’t have much comfort with the blueline once you look beyond the names “Bouwmeester” and “Giordano”. At times even Bouwmeester, the poster-boy for underachievement since joining Calgary, leaves a little to be desired. Still, none of the names that follow give anyone strong reason to believe that this defensive crew will be able to get the job done, whether that be 5-on-5 or on the penalty kill. Sure, Robyn Regehr was still kicking around back when whiny Mr. Erixon was shipped out east, but the writing was on the wall there and rest assured that Jay Feaster shared his intent to move Regehr with the Erixon camp. With Bouwmeester and Giordano locked into two of the top four spots on Calgary’s blueline, this would have left “Tepid Tim” to compete with the following:
• Chris Butler – a so-called mobile-defender with a realistic ceiling as a 4-5 defender.
• Cory Sarich – an aging, slowing 4-5 defender who is quickly on his way to being the next Steve Staios.
• Anton Babchuk – or as I like to call him, The Russian Pilon. Beyond being a powerplay specialist, this guy isn’t going to be playing top four minutes for any NHL team any time soon…or at least shouldn’t.
• Brett Carson – defenseman who has yet to top 54 games in an NHL season and will likely never be anything more than a bottom pairing defenseman.
• Brendan Mikkelson – one of the younger competitors here, Mikkelson is not projected to be much more than a bottom pairing defenseman in this league.
• TJ Brodie – perhaps would have been Erixon’s biggest competition outside of Bouwmeester and Giordano. Still, Brodie’s track record of defensive short-comings would have left ample room for Erixon to stake a firm grip above him on the depth chart.
So after taking a look at those names, it seems quite easy to conclude that there really wasn’t anyone who would have stood in the way of Erixon earning himself a spot in Calgary’s top four. In fact, the door should have been wide open for Erixon to jump in and take the reins, especially with Robyn Regehr’s boxes already having been labelled with “SHIP TO: “ by management. In fact, I bet that Jay Feaster would have opened the door, and Brent Sutter would have rushed out to lay down the red carpet for Tim Erixon. Jarome Iginla probably would have been waiting on the other side to shower the young stud with freshly minted one-hundred dollar bills too. The Flames were (and still are) in desperate need of someone to step in and help competently eat up some of the tough minutes that the rugged, Roughrider-loving Robyn Regehr left behind. Certainly Erixon would have been the first man called to step up.
The Good News
On the flip side, you take a look at the New York Rangers depth chart and you can pretty much seal the deal on this story here. With the likes of Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer, and Michael Del Zotto already in the Rangers organization, Erixon isn’t exactly heading out for a walk in the park when it comes to making that Rangers squad. All of the aforementioned have shown (at one point or another) a significant ability to contribute at the NHL level. Moral of the story – Erixon won’t be handed a roster spot in New York, while he likely would have been handed one (on a silver platter) here in Calgary.
Unfortunately, what we are looking at is not a young kid who was trying to look out for his hockey-playing future. No, we are simply looking at a spoiled little brat who demanded to be traded and to one organization only. Tim Erixon is to the Calgary Flames as Eric Lindros was to the Quebec Nordiques once upon a time.
Now despite all the doom-and-gloom, here is why I think that the Erixon trade actually benefits the Calgary Flames in the long-run. First off, it can safely be said that a body in the dressing room that has no interest in being there will quickly become a cancer. Tim Erixon reeked of this. Had he been forced to sign in Calgary, he would have shown up to camp with zero enthusiasm and no motivation. When it became apparent that Erixon did not want to be here, the organization and its fans alike should have wanted nothing other than to see Erixon booted out the door. This organization has enough issues as it stands, the last thing it needs in the dressing room is a “me-first” type of player. Secondly, another obvious area of concern for the Flames lies in their prospect stocks (or lack thereof).
In moving Erixon, arguably an unproven top-tier prospect, the Flames were able to bring in three “very good” prospects. As of now none of Roman Horak, Markus Granlund, or Tyler Wotherspoon are projected to one day have the same individual impact that Erixon is projected for, but regardless of this they are quality prospects that the Flames have added to a cupboard that was virtually bare. In the end, no team is going to win the Stanley Cup on the shoulders of one single player. By adding three quality prospects that should all get a shot at NHL time in the coming future, the Flames have provided themselves with a little more depth within the system, and that is something that can go a long way towards helping this team succeed. While it is yet to be seen, the combined contributions of all three of these prospects could one day outweigh the single contribution that Erixon would have provided to the team.
In closing, I am of firm belief that the Calgary Flames improved their team in the long run by trading Tim Erixon. They rid themselves of a future cancer, and brought in three players who have the potential to contribute in the future. I know that many of you will likely disagree, so let me reassure you that I am likely just as mad as you are that not even the hockey gods could help put Tim Erixon in a Calgary Flames sweater. However, when you add up all the “pros” and subtract all the “cons” from the Tim Erixon debacle, I am quite convinced that Jay Feaster made the best of a bad situation, and did what will be most beneficial for this organization moving forward. As for Tim Erixon, when he finally lands in New York and subsequently gets shipped to the American Hockey League, I certainly hope that he finds himself “so lonesome (he) could die.” Oh Chantal Kreviazuk, what would we do without you?
**Having recently completed his BA in Recreation, Sports & Tourism from the University of Alberta, Taylor is now moving on to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. He has also spent time working in the junior hockey industry as the Special Projects Coordinator with the Western Hockey League. Passionate about the game of hockey, there is nothing that Taylor enjoys better than some Saturday night puck, a plate of pasta, and a nice cold beer.