No one likes to see their team or its GM pull the trigger on a move that is out of desperation or panic. Moves are supposed to be made to better the team and strengthen it when it’s ready to take that next step… Or they are made with an effort to realize that they are moving in the wrong direction and they need a significant move to change the course of a sinking ship. Which category do the Flames belong in right now?
Unfortunately it’s neither, and that’s exactly what has fans frustrated and irate. The Flames have a laundry list of problems right now, including injuries, apathetic play from leaders and just an all out brutal power play. Top that off with two wins in seven games (only one of which was a legitimate 60 min effort) and this team seems to be stuck in limbo with management apparently not really interested in doing something about it.
Many of us have been of the opinion that it was going to be one of those seasons where you don’t really know how the Flames were going to fare; it was going to be an up-and-down season, with probably more downs than ups. The beginning of this campaign though hasn’t been disappointing in the terms of wins and losses; the frustration has come from how they lost. Saturday afternoon was a prime example of that, and frankly it has been a turning point in my thinking about what it is this team is trying to do.
We all realized that this year was one of transition and that the main changes to this organization were going to come in the background before they could begin to re-shape the on ice product. However, despite all my defence of this team, I sit here completely dumbfounded by what I watched on Saturday. My main role here at FlamesNation was to be the "Voice" of the people, to speak for the fans and be that optimistic backbone in this contentious season. Though lately I feel I haven’t been that voice, rather instead of speaking for the fans, I have been defending this team to the fans.
I have been a Flames fan since October 9th, 1980. I was at the game, a 5-5 tie with the Quebec Nordiques. After the game, I was standing at ice level, wishing I could be on the other side of the glass, even for just a moment. I remember distinctly my father saying, "Should we go?" I looked at him and replied, "Just a little longer Dad." It was in the moment that he looked up with a smile on his face, knowing that his son was hooked on the game he loved so much, that the referee glanced over his shoulder and saw me standing there. Without disrupting his conversation with the linesmen, he reached up and back, and flipped the game puck over the glass, landing right in my hands. I quickly stashed it in my coat pocket and said, "Okay Dad, we can go now."
On the walk back to the car, I couldn’t contain my excitement. When my dad asked me what had me all jumpy, I pulled the puck from my pocket and showed it to him. "Where did you get that?" I explained to him what had happened; he hadn’t noticed because he was having his own proud moment at the same time. I still have that puck. I hope to have it proudly displayed in my son’s room someday.
By now you are probably saying, "Nice story VF, but what’s your point?" My point is, for as long as I have been a fan of this team, I have had a sense as to the direction they were going and what they wanted to accomplish in any given season. I don’t have that sense right now, and so I turn back to the people!
"There is a 100% disconnect between ALL levels of management, Feaster and Sutter obviously have a worse relationship that Sutter and Sutter do. How else do you explain the cluster mess that is Anton Babchuk? There is no one on the same page." – Colin
Is there a disconnect amongst management? On the surface, given what information has been spoon fed to us all summer, it doesn’t seem like there is. Feaster told us that regardless of the contract, if a player wasn’t performing, he would sit in favour of those that do. Babchuk hasn’t looked all that impressive, but he hasn’t played that much either. i could understand if the rest of the Flames D-men were playing well, and they didn’t need the services of his $2.5 Mil contract. However, if this theory holds true then why do we see Cory Sarich and his whopping $3.3 mil contract with a $3.6 Cap hit every night?
Now this is where the first sign of disconnect may lie. Babchuk may be a defensive liability, but Sarich has been that and more lately. He has taken stupid penalties, one after another. He has been caught out of position, which has usually led to a penalty or a goal, and has just looked old and tired out there; basically going through the motions. He has laid out a few nice hits, but at this point, I don’t want to see him hit a guy against the boards that has just dished the puck to someone putting it in the back of the net. At least Babchuk has the cannon shot that could maybe be utilized on what is nothing short of a pathetic power play.
Ahh yes, the power play. Or more accurately, oh no, the power play! The Flames have pretty much defined the season thus far, with how they play on the PP. The team has really struggled in the faceoff circle which can be a PP killer; even when they did win the odd one, they showed a very lethargic breakout from their own zone. If they did manage to break out successfully, they demonstrated an uncoordinated or sloppy entrance into the offensive zone. We have seen what happens once they do enter the zone. Sloppy passing, where players are getting the puck in the mid-section, or having to try and glove it to their stick. This is with the man advantage. I can’t understand how this happens. It’s not like back during the Keenan reign of terror, where they didn’t even practice the PP. These are basic mistakes that has fans in the live chat begging for the Flames to "decline" the penalty. Babchuk is no more of a liability than Sarich right now; my gawd Brent, Jay, whoever, put Anton back in a give it a try.
"I would be okay with this team is playing, if I knew which direction this team is heading. Are they rebuilding? Are they playing out the season until next year when all these contracts come off the books? Are they seriously considering going on a run for the playoffs this year? Feaster’s rant about the Oilers at the fan forum this fall could turn out to be the biggest fauxpoo of the year. i look at the other supposedly brutal teams in the league and see young, speedy players fighting for jobs and actually having success (Col., Tor., ect.)." – John Deere Green
This is my sentiment as well. I look once again to the Nashville game and am only left to wonder: again the Flames sat Babchuk, but this time joining him in the press box was Nik Hagman. Why? I’m not criticizing the decision to dress Roman Horak. On the contrary, I like Horak’s game and I think Calgary should be dressing him on a nightly basis, if their plan is to go through this season without a significant roster move. But why sit Hagman over someone like Stajan? Nik has shown effort and determination to improve upon his, wait for it…less than "mediocre" play from last year. There, I used the "M" word for the first time.
As we got to speculating in the chat room, many thought that maybe Hagman was being sat because the Flames were or had negotiated a trade. that would make sense, and it started to create more talk about where he might be going or who might be coming back this way.
Of course this was all on the back of rumours of Rene Bourque possibly being traded, as Darren Dreger had reported teams were interested. As the day went on, long after the game had ended, there was still no word on Hagman or any trade. At least not until the news broke about the Canucks acquiring David Booth from the Florida Panthers. I for one was flabbergasted at that point. As a fan, I was dismayed as to how the Canucks could offload some undesirables and pick up a player of Booth’s quality, yet the Flames seemed more than content to leave $5.5 M in the press box and just go about their day?
Now of course, there is a flip side to all of this right? Right? Are the fans so afraid of what happened last year that we are hitting the panic button way to soon? After all, San Jose is sitting in 13th place in the West and the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins, are 12th in the East.
"I’m sorry, but we’re 7 games into the season. Seven! There’s still 75 games left in the season. If this play continues after 30-40 games, fine, then you can blow it up. But any major trade right now would be extremely reactionary and in my opinion, stupid. So would firing Brent and/or Feaster. Give them a chance. it’s not like we’re 0-7. The Flames are a bounce away from being 3-3-1. Relax guys" – schevvy ‘do you wanna?’
Right you are schevv! And yeah, there are dominant teams that have struggled out of the gate. The only difference is that these are much better teams and we all know that eventually…no, sooner rather than later, they are going to start filling the net.
Kent has stated, many times, that the Flames aren’t as bad as they appear, and I agree with that whole heartedly. The problem I have is that while their skill level isn’t as bad as it appears, their work ethic and complacency is. P-Stein said in one of his post game articles that the Flames have to keep pace with the rest of the Western Conference. They can’t afford to fall too far back of the pack because they will not be as fortunate as last year and go on some magnificent run where they tear up the league. While I think it is still possible, it’s definitely not probable.
Feaster needs to look hard and long at what this season’s objective really is. If he is playing out this season to shed contracts and cap space next year, then he should be doing everything possible to let kids like Horak play as much as possible. If he is truly concerned about sitting contracts, then guys like Sarich and Stajan can sit, and guys like Babchuk and Horak should be in, so they have significant playing time under their belts come next year, for when the next wave of kids come up through the ranks.
If he is serious about making the playoffs this year, then he has to identify what changes need to be addressed immediately. If you are going to sit Hagman for no reason, then you had better have a trade in the works; your David Booth is out there somewhere. if you are getting calls about Rene Bourque, you better be listening at least. You may not like the offers coming in and that’s fine, then you stick to what you have – but you should be exploring all options from all markets.
"…if this team isn’t 5 games above .500 by Dec 1, visions of playoffs going in your head will be drug induced. everyone knows this team will be getting younger next year (ir)regardless if minor trades happen. If Feaster & King don’t start getting the word out that they are willing to listen to significant offers on major assets at that point, then we truly do have the wrong people driving the ship. I truly do feel Feaster is making the players determine the decisions of how this is going to go, and him, Sutter & King have given a date of which the players need to prove they are truly that playoff calibre team they said they were in the exit interviews last April. Explains Sutters determination to play Karlsson more, we have to know what we have & that will only happen by seeing him play games. any major trading now will be fool hardy. many fans don’t realize these are win, win times for us, if we do well, then I’ll be thrilled for the players & the franchise will be winning & its exciting. if we suck, then this team has huge changes coming & that’s a little scary but also exciting" – Kevin R
Bingo! It appears that Jay is content to let players determine their own fates, but in the meantime, the players are putting Feaster into a talent famine that is going to make it more difficult to receive these "significant offers". With 12 contracts coming off the books at the end of the year, I’m worried about the season long famine driving the Flames into a free agent feeding frenzy of the same old, same old… well mediocrity (Dammit, twice I’ve used that word now).
Better the Flames take a more progressive approach. Move pieces here and there. build the base for the new foundation that is undoubtedly coming. Feaster doesn’t need to jump head first into the pool, but I’d like to know that he at lest knows the depth and temperature of the water. The Flames have struggled with their ‘identity’ for years now. you can’t stand at the crossroads and try to peak down each path to see which is the better route. Pick a direction Jay, and you will find your identity once again.