At the wheel of a rudderless ship

 

With Daymond Langkow traded, Jay Feaster has to figure out what the hell it is he thinks he’s doing. And fast.

The problem I have — as any observer of the Calgary Flames, partial or impartial,  with a brain should — with the Daymond Langkow trade is that it quite literally doesn’t make any sense from any angle.

Now, I understand that Feaster claims this was a move made to improve the team but unless I’m missing something, Lee Stempniak is in no way better for this or any hockey team than Daymond Langkow. It’s very, very possible that he knows something we don’t about Langkow’s neck, of course, but that would obviously out in that whole "pending a physical" part of the deal, nullifying the trade and wasting everyone’s time.

So, what is this trade? It is, in theory, a swap for a younger guy with a smaller salary and a contract free of a no-movement clause, which Langkow had to waive to make this happen. But that younger, cheaper, more moveable guy is appreciably worse than Langkow. Don Maloney said he thought Stemniak would get 20 goals "in a bad year." He had 19 last year. So much for buying low.

But what it also accomplishes, apart from freeing up money and making the team worse, is to highlight that Jay Feaster is, once again, torn between blowing the whole thing up and trying (and probably failing) to make the playoffs.

Again, he says he wants to play in the postseason (presumably so the team can get pummeled by Vancouver or San Jose or Detroit or Chicago). I’ll take him at his word on that. But between the Regehr trade and this downgrade in forward talent, that’s not exactly evident. Calgary was a bubble team last year that got off to a terrible start but probably deserved to miss the playoffs. But if Miikka Kiprusoff improved and the offense stayed the same, the Flames could have easily snuck in this coming season. Hell, it probably would have happened with a healthy Langkow rather than a replacement-level center getting more minutes. The nothing-to-play-for Flames went 3-0-1 with Langkow in the lineup last year and looked markedly more organized than they did without him.

But saying you want to make the playoffs is quite a different thing from taking action to reflect those desires. To this point, they are, obviously, opposite things. What this looks like, in reality, is the Flames dealing from a position of not-much-strength (center) to acquire an iffy player who will be asked to play second-line minutes and presumably fill David Moss’s spot on the right wing, which, given his defensive abilities, is, y’know, not desirable for a team that wants to improve defensively. It’s essentially moving David Moss to center so that he can be replaced with a player the organization hopes can be as effective in his all-around game as David Moss.

Between this and the Regehr trade, this is starting to look like a selloff of movable pieces, but a rather passive one. You can’t say you want to get better as a team, then address the team’s painfully glaring weakness (defense) by trading the No. 3 defenseman for relative peanuts and a quality two-way center for a right wing who, yes, scores about 19 goals a year, but also doesn’t drive possession.

So no, this team hasn’t really gotten better overall in the offseason, excepting the addition of Scott Hannan, who may or may not be able to replicate Robyn Regehr’s success, such as it was. And if Feaster thinks it has, he’s nuts. But the problem is it also hasn’t gotten worse to the point that a true, if unpleasant, selloff of players other teams may want for picks and prospects (so the team can return to an acceptable quality down the road) is a feasible option either. If anyone of note from the team were traded now, they’d be outside the Saddledome with pitchforks. Especially because Feaster keeps talking loudly to anyone that cares to listen about making the playoffs in 2012.

And so the Flames will continue to be what they have been: mediocre, and probably just not-good-enough to make the playoffs at all. But more importantly, they will continue to be what they have been since Feaster started: directionless.

  • Subversive

    I firmly agree with this article (since I just blasted Steinberg for his, I thought I should speak up and support yours). There’s just no reasonable defense for this trade.

  • Vintage Flame

    As much as I am discouraged that Langkow is leaving, I can’t say I’m surprised. Many people were convinced that it was going to be Langkow centering the Iginla line, and that very well may have ended up being the case.

    I’m personally discouraged by the trade because of the effect Langks had when playing with Bourque or any underwhelming winger for that matter. Part of the speculation was that if Bourque was to have a bounce back year it would largely have been because of #22.

    However, there is no guarantee that Langks was coming back as the same player he was 18 months ago. I believe he could do it, but it was by no means a guarantee. Sure the Flames were 3-0-1 in Langkow’s return last year, but that easily could have been the euphoria of having Daymond back and also the hot streak they were already on.

    All-in-all, I’m not that broken up with the deal, much to the same reasoning as the Regehr deal. Langkow doesn’t fit in with the direction the Flames are going. As a UFA, he would have been pretty hard to deal at any point this season. I think Feaster made a pretty decent move when Phx came calling.

  • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

    what is it with these blow-hards already proclaiming Feaster has ‘no idea’what he’s doing? What nonsense.

    Take a good long look around. This year isn’t about ‘getting better’ it’s simply about putting themselves in the position to get better in 2012. This deal is a wash. The Flames end up trading an (at this point in time) unkown asset for a player who can play top-9 mins.Stempniak is cheaper, younger, and only has one year left on his deal with no NMC/NTC which would be much easier to move down the line should the flames want to. Furthur more, this probably ensures Backlund will see some quality mins this season, something I think most Flames fans have wanted to see.

    Some have brought up the suggestion the Flames could’ve heald on to Langkow till the deadline, and yeah maybe they could’ve. But then again Langkow could’ve told the flames ‘forget it, I’m not going anywhere’. Afterall he does have a NTC and as a result has a bit of control in regards to where he’s going, and when he’s going. Feaster probably had a window and a few teams Langkow would go to and he acted on it.I’m not sure what you would expect the Flames to get for Daymond Langkow at this point in his career.

    I don’t really see how this trade warrants the “Feaster has no idea’ response. It is way too early to start this BS. A year from now, you could probably make that claim, but lets be honest here. Feaster and the flames are still trying to clean up Sutter’s mess. If you expect them to turn Chicken Sh*t into Chicken salad in less than a year, you’re delussional.

  • Vintage Flame

    Not sure I understand the argument thant ther’e no guarantte re: Langkow’s play. Is there one re: Stempniaks? Or is there a guarantee Langkow won’t be his usual effective self?

    And as far as being ready to do a rebuild at any time, that just lends credence to the cross-purposes of all these moves as RL stated. You’re going to do a rebuild, but have failed to maximize (in a pure hockey sense) the values of Regehr or Langkow (who would’ve been worth a decent deal at the deadline).

    To me, you keep your team from last year, plus Langkow, and go for it based on the “great second half theory” and then, if it fails, trade everyone for max value at the deadline.

    But this, I don’t see how you accomplish either goal.

  • icedawg_42

    I think you are being too harsh on this deal. It’s ONE year either way. At least this way if a “bigger fish” swims by, they can cast in and try to hook it instead of watching it swim by. Is the on-ice team better today? of course not. I dont like the glut of “2A/2B line” guys that this team has had for the better part of 2 seasons now, any more than you do – but change is painful. 1.9 million is not a kick in the nuts to look at a guy for a season. If he doesnt pan out, then add another name to the mix of contracts that are off the books at the end of the season. Langkow has long been a “core” piece of this team, and rightly so, but you aren’t going to make ANY dent in this mess by moving like for like – aka moving Hagman to bring in another Hagman. This probably is another 9-11 finish in the making, but it was going to be anyway. Maybe Feaster/Sutter have designs on taking a run at Suter or something to that effect. Bottom line is that you can’t make any significant changes, without making…significant changes. Not every trade is going to immediately improve the on ice product

    And as far as maximizing trade value for these players, we have no idea what the market for Reggie or Langks was at all – we all know that Reggie was actively shopped..which means presumably the Flames got the best deal they could. No GM is going to take a bath on a trade just to help the Flames make the playoffs

    Geez – I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with Joey-Joe Joe before – mark your calendars everyone lol!

  • Scott

    How can anyone say this is good for the long term goals of the team? Langkow was a UFA at the end of the year and so is Stempniak. So looking long term, at the end of the season whether we traded Langkow or kept him, we are the exact same team. Therefore no long term improvement, and everyone knows that this trade did not improve the team these year as well. So no short term gain, no long term gain. To me that sounds like a bad trade.

  • It’s a good trade if it gets Ken King and Feaster out of the Saddledome by the end of the year.

    I just want to reflect on the fact that we have traded 3 players fromt he mythical core that Darryl assembled, Dion, Langkow, and Reggie, and what have we gotten back? Stajan, Butler, Byron, Stempniak, and Badsuck, sorta. Thats the type of return that will set a franchise back 5 years or more.

    Everyone involved in those moves should lose their jobs, and to date, only Darryl has.

  • Tonelli's Stache

    People need to decide what they want here:

    October-April “This team is too old, too slow, too expensive. Blow up the core, rebuild/retool!”

    In the meantime: Feaster and company ship 12 million cap dollars out of town. All of which were north of 31 years old, have battled injuries in recent years, and were – to some degree – willing to part ways with the Flames. 2 of these players were considered part of the core, and in exchange, the Flames have gotten younger, qucker and less expensive.

    August: “WTF is Feaster doing? He’s trading away our serviceable veterans for younger alternatives??? Our team isn’t as good without Langkow & Regehr.”

    … You don’t say. I get that everyone wants to trade Stajan & Hagman for draft picks but this isn’t a video game. I’m a big fan of Langkow, but frankly: I don’t know how there was any interest in the market because of all the uncertainty with his injury, age, and high cap hit. There was interest, so you deal him – get younger/faster, and save 2.6mill of cap space in the process. You’re almost never going to get promising young prospects or top-line centers in return for your aging veterans on a non-playoff team. You’re likely going to give up the best player in the deal. This is what a rebuild/retool/re-whatever feels like. You were begging for exactly this, and it’s happening – so get used to it.

  • icedawg_42

    IMO it sucks to see Lanks go but him getting reinjured, or worse, and him being half the player he was before the injury were concerns that the org and fans had. I hope that he has a good year and that he can retire healthy and happy in Phoenix after this season.

    I also hope that we make the playoffs but not making the playoffs this year and getting a higher pick is fine with me as well, it is a deep draft and we need more prospects. Then we re-tool in the off season through FA and trades and get back in the playoffs next season with a hopefully better team that can make a run and not just get punted in the first round. My point being, I don’t really think this trade makes us that much worse or that much better but having the flexibility for trade deadline, waivers or unforseen sell offs is great for us and isn’t something we are used to having. Who knows maybe Stajan and Stempniak or Stempniak and Bourque have chemistry and make each other better. We could have a Maple Flame Line of Hagman-Stajan-Stempniak if the chemistry shows.

    In my mind line combos are now as follows:
    Tangs-Backlund-Iggy
    Stempniak-Pumpkin Head-Bourque
    Glencross-Moss-Jackman
    Hags-Stajan-Kostopolous
    Extras PL3, Bouma

    Gio-Bouwmeester
    Hannan-Butler
    Babs-Sarich
    Extra Carson

    Defense may be switched around a bit.

    Who knows maybe someone goes on a tear in the preseason and moves some of these guys around (think Howse, Niemez, Brodie, Bouma etc).

    Sorry for the long post.

  • Tonelli's Stache

    This article seems extremely reactionary and this trade doesn’t provide the justification of the theme of the article. It’s obvious the trade frees up money but we have no clue whether this make the Flames worse or more competitive.

    One of the statements was a little surprising: “The problem I have — as any observer of the Calgary Flames, partial or impartial, with a brain should — with the Daymond Langkow trade is that it quite literally doesn’t make any sense from any angle.”

    I think that the trade does make sense from several angles and fits the strategy of getting younger and providing cap flexibility which may or may not work out but is certainly something I am looking forward to experiencing.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I could not DISAGREE with this article more. Quite simply the Flames direction has needed the kind of changes Feaster is making since 2005.
    Feaster is unwinding the terrible contracts that have bogged this team down for years and have left them in the non playoff wilderness for the past two seasons.
    Even aesthetically the Flames have been playing an unappealing brand of hockey favoured by Darryl Sutter that was only tolerable because they managed to have some success on the ice.
    To put it simply, in the past the Flames have been a team built heavily on grit and defensive play with a little bit of skill sprinkled in. Now they want to have more skill entered into the equation. It is a fine balance and I think Feaster has done well to shape the team into one that will be successful in post lockout NHL.
    Feaster knows that offensive hockey (creativity, scoring off the rush) is the style that the league is trying to favour (rule changes since 05 and the things they are looking to tweak now ie making nets shallower to create more space behind the nets for offensive chances etc). If that is the case then you need offensive skill players. They are the hardest commodity to find and therefore the most expensive to own. You can NOT tie up money like $4.05M and $4.5M on players like Regher and Langkow who only bring defensive value to a team when you can get players of similar value ie Hannan and Stempniak for 1/4 the price.
    If you look at NHL rosters including the Flames how many players came through the Flame’s system (drafted and developed)? Not many. The Flames previous indentity or philosophy has not been well recieved by the market otherwise you would see these types of players around the league let alone the Flames own roster. So with this in mind Feaster decided to draft for skill this year.
    Rudderless ship? No freaking way. There is not just one way to reshape an organization ie sell off everything and start accruing prospects and short term loses in order to get high draft order. Edmonton chose that path mostly because they were way off from making the playoffs and they couldn’t get free agents to go there. Calgary is close as witnessed by their point totals in their last two years. What Feaster is doing is chipping away at the bad contracts and opening cap space for players that can put up numbers.
    Look at Tanguay: for what he can do for Iginla and the Flames offense (lead the powerplay) Feaster got him for $3.5M. Stellar!
    Regher and Langkow turn into Hannan and Morrison plus the kids we got in return and at the salaries for the latter two. Stellar! You clearly overvalue Regher and Langkow (and other defensive players like them) and the current market does as well.
    Feaster is just bringing the Flames up to speed with the current philosophy and market of the NHL. Some say that is young and cheap but really it’s offensive and at a premium. Eventually the young offensive players get paid well.
    You can get the value Langkow et al bring to the table for dirt cheap (Really that just means experinced older players that will do any role to stay in the league).
    I would love it if he could do the same for the contracts of: Bouwmeester, Stajan, Hagman, Sarich and possibly Bourque (what kind of production will he be putting up at the end of his deal?.
    If he could turn those contracts into offensive assets (while getting cheap replacements) that would be amazing for this franchise.

  • Tonelli's Stache

    Amen to Domebeers! Both King and Feaster need to be given walking papers after this season. King is a newspaper guy who somehow landed a job with the flames, and there’s a reason Feaster didnt land a GM job after leaving Tampa. God help us if Feaster is ever allowed to move Iggy!

    • Tonelli's Stache

      If he does, it’ll be to free up cap space and for a marginal player in return. It’d be fun to see how lauded he is then.

      I’ll state it again. People don’t generally have a problem with who Feaster moved, they have a problem with the returns. 2 different things.

      • CitizenFlame

        How are you rating the returns without letting them playout? What’s the basis of your time frame? It may take Butler 2-3 years, but what if he turns into the shut down #2-3 d-man? He’ll be what 27 and entering the prime of his career? Or Stempniak is what he is, but the $2.6 mil saved in the trade allows the Flames to bring in a more expensive trade option in mid season? It’s too early to call these failures.

        A rebuild doesn’t have to be entirely through the draft. It usually consists of drafting & developing well, while including shrewd FA signings and trades; which can’t be judged in August.