Assigning Blame

Most of Wednesday’s reaction to Calgary’s trade of Tim Erixon to New York was emotional and, well, negative.  Understandably at that.  The Flames lost their best prospect and a guy that could have given them some important roster flexibility heading into the coming season, which sucks, plain and simple.  I come away from the day frustrated at the situation, but unable to paint the organization with a fail coloured brush…which may be the most annoying thing of all.

In the days leading up to Wednesday’s deadline, the thought process seemed to be "if the Flames don’t get this done, it’s another failure of the organization."  That sentiment only intensified when the trade was finalized around 2 pm; why did the Flames let it get this far?  Why didn’t they have contingency plans in place?  Why didn’t they do all they possibly could to keep this player around?  All fair questions, yes.  But also questions I answered with "I believe they did" at the time; then we heard from Jay Feaster, and it became even more clear.

After hearing from Jay, where he lays it all out in black and white, how can we be pointing fingers or assigning blame to the Calgary Flames?  Well, let’s go back and answer those three questions above.  Why did the Flames let it get this far?  Well, it’s not like they weren’t going to sign the kid.  Erixon was their top prospect, seemingly NHL ready, and a player fans were excited about.  For Calgary not to do their due dilligence in this respect would be foolish and a disservice to the team; and they did.

But at some point the team had to realize there wasn’t as much interest on the other side, and they did.  Feaster pointed to a number of reasons why Erixon’s camp was hesitant about signing the entry level deal; they weren’t convinced he’d be playing NHL minutes; he didn’t want to play in the American Hockey League; the Flames recent track record of giving time to young players isn’t great.  While all were true, they were things out of Calgary’s control…so question two: why didn’t they have contingency plans in place?  Once again, they did.  A week out, the team realized this might not be a realistic possibility, and they started fleshing out their other options and deciding which would be best.  The prevailing though was the Rangers deal came out of the blue on Wednesday afternoon, when in reality, it had been discussed for at least 24 hours prior.  So the sentiment the Flames didn’t have a backup just isn’t factual.

And the final question: why didn’t they do everything they possibly could do sign Erixon?  Yep…they did.  Feaster revealed the team came forward with two seperate offers, both pushing right to the limit of what they could offer the player.  Remember, Calgary’s hands were tied, the same way every other team has their hands tied with the NHL rookie max.  The Flames offered him the standard three year entry level deal at the max rookie salary, with lucrative bonus packages involved.  Because there’s only so much they can do, does that not qualify as doing everything they possibly could have done?

The bottom line is, the player didn’t want to play with Calgary.  It’s very hard to combat that when Erixon held all the cards, which he did in this scenario.  A highly touted prospect who had no qualms about re-entering the draft has the ability to control his own destiny; the Rangers were identified and the trade was made.  It’s a damn shame because the player is a very good one and he will be a huge boost to the New York blueline, but I just can’t sit here and condemn the Flames for how they handled this situation.

I’ve been plenty critical of the Flames and how they’ve gone about their business over the past 18 months, so the "you’re just protecting the team because you’re the rightsholder" argument is BS.  However, I’m also not going to just look for reasons to criticize the organization, and in this instance, they don’t deserve any.  Feaster and the Flames maximized their return on a difficult, less-than-ideal situation.  They weren’t signing the player despite their best efforts…what else could they have done?

  • icedawg_42

    wish they could have dealed the guy back at the deadline, but then we all would have yelled even harder.

    if there is a positive, it is that was one hell of a complete explanation from Feaster. every step in the process was explained.

    never would have got that from Sutter.

  • MC Hockey

    Kent,

    I disagree completly, Erixon was drafted by Calgary, not the Rangers who had the chance. He isn’t an all world prospect as you suggest, he isn’t even in the top 50 prospects in the HF futures, nor has he proven anything in the NHL, they shouldn’t be able to dictate like he has. How are teams ever supposed to be competitive if their top prospects wont sign there. You don’t get the real good ones unless you suck, and it’s not usually all rosy during those times. His concerns about how the Flames handle their prospects has holes in it. The ones they have, AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH. That isn’t their fault but the drafting team of scouts. How would Edmonton have any hope if Hall, Eberle, and their next #1 pulled this stunt. They would never get better, it’s cyclical and allowing this to happen will only keep the down teams down. The rich get richer, and poor get poorer.

    I read your comments and articles about the Flames and wonder why your always so negative about the Flames, it reminds me of Eric Francis. Maybe this would be a more desirable place to play if the media wasn’t so critical, and actually backed the home team instead of critize and be negative about EVERYTHING that happens. This goes for a lot of fans too. This snowballs and creates a very negative atmosphere and I have no doubt this spreads further than one would think.

    As fans of this team, maybe we should get behind the people making these hard decisions, and create a better atmosphere, you never know, players may see blogs and read how we shit all over our own team, and if the fans and media hate the team and what they do, why would they want to come here?

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Tim Erixon will pay lower income taxes in NY. If anybody doesn`t know, in US mortgage interest rate is tax deductable too!!! He can have bigger house there. So aren`t Democrats better than Conservatives? Waiting CAlgary hospital for 8 hours for hockey player can cost his career. In NY they have high end private hospitals. That`s why Calgary is “no fly zone”.

  • CitizenFlame

    Here’s what bugs me:

    – It’s another example of mismanagement. Which person to blame or all of them, is moot to me. They just lost their best prospect and received lesser value in return.

    – Feaster is a lawyer. I deal with lawyers on a daily basis. They’re professional liars and I refuse to drink the kool-aid on this. Just becuase Feaster states something, doesn’t make it true. It’s his spin.

    – A guy who was their best prospect for the last 2 years. You need fly all the way to NY for this? Put it together already. To me the whole things smacks of desperation and disorganization. They should’ve had a better book on him.

    – Why NYR? No one else was intereested? Why? How did 29 other teams know he was only interested in NYR? But the team that drafted him and owned his rights didn’t? They should’ve been able to trade him elsewhere.

    – Just like he threw Modin under the bus,Feaster did the same to Darryl yesterday. Not that Darry doesn’t deserve it, but Feaster has the been the guy in charge since Christmas. Performance, not excuses.

  • CitizenFlame

    Here’s what bugs me:

    – It’s another example of mismanagement. Which person to blame or all of them, is moot to me. They just lost their best prospect and received lesser value in return.

    – Feaster is a lawyer. I deal with lawyers on a daily basis. They’re professional liars and I refuse to drink the kool-aid on this. Just becuase Feaster states something, doesn’t make it true. It’s his spin.

    – A guy who was their best prospect for the last 2 years. You need fly all the way to NY for this? Put it together already. To me the whole things smacks of desperation and disorganization. They should’ve had a better book on him.

    – Why NYR? No one else was intereested? Why? How did 29 other teams know he was only interested in NYR? But the team that drafted him and owned his rights didn’t? They should’ve been able to trade him elsewhere.

    – Just like he threw Modin under the bus,Feaster did the same to Darryl yesterday. Not that Darry doesn’t deserve it, but Feaster has the been the guy in charge since Christmas. Performance, not excuses.

  • T&A4Flames

    With all that said, I am glad that Feaster was able to get something out of this situation. It sounds like Horak is happy to be coming here and it could be much worse than having Ryan Howse’s set up man come with him. I wouldn’t argue Calgary trading both 2nd’s for another mid-range 1st, either. And hey, we got draft picks and a prospect instead of ‘character vet”.

  • T&A4Flames

    Was the Erixon camp willing to go back in the draft to any other team, or were they bluffing.
    Any other team would have wanted to have a deal in place before a trade within 48 hours of the deadline, so it would be easy enough for the agent to tell other teams that he was not interested in going there. Leaving just the Rangers as the only option.

    Either the Rangers deal was the best deal from a number of teams or the Rangers deal was the only deal because that is the only place where Erixon wanted to go. If he went back into the draft the other teams just have to be told he is not going there and he would have fallen to the Rangers.

    Reality the trade is:
    Rangers – Erixon, 5th round pick, 1st round pick
    Flames – Horak, two 2nd round picks

    Or else it would be:
    Rangers – Erixon
    Flames – 2nd round pick

    Not sure which is better for Calgary, but I definitely see that the Rangers screwed us over.
    Did the Rangers get inside information from the player, family, or agent? That would be tampering.

    Did Erixon decide to string the Flames along so that the Rangers would not have to give up the #15 pick? Possible and good strategy if you want to go to a team that has lots of good assets.

    Somebody with the Flames needed to be looking at all the options, talking to any and all sources, and making some hard decisions.

    As it stands, the Flames were either incompetent in finding out information, ignorant in ignoring the information, or the equivalent of the A&W Root Bear who is just out bouncing around looking for hugs and love and they were to naive to consider they were being screwed with. Either way it is brutal mismanagement of a top asset for the organization.

    This is how Feaster manages a hockey team, through mistakes and apologies.

    • MC Hockey

      Sorry you show “Reality the trade is: Rangers – Erixon, 5th round pick, 1st round pick Flames – Horak, two 2nd round picks”….. but that’s wrong. In reality…

      Rangers get Erixon and 5th round pick not another 1st rounder (that 1st round WAS Erixon)…so your argument, while good, is skewing the facts.

  • Pat,

    I am ok with giving Feaster a bit of a pass on this one, but this is not a good situation for the Flames and it seems to me it falls to Darryl Sutter and Ken King.

    1) The concerns expressed by the Erixon camp are almost exclusively a situation created under Darryl Sutter’s management. I don’t think you can blame Feaster for any of the conditions that Erixon’s agent cited as problematic.

    2) Erixon should have been under contract last summer. All he did over the past year was increase his leverage by playing better. He knew it. Given Feaster’s comments, in particular that it was Feaster who had to put in an European Assignment clause, I am under the impression that previous management did not agree to that clause. Given what we know about Sutter’s style, I don’t think it is an unreasonable conclusion that Erixon asked for such an assignment clause last year, got rebuffed, and then got to spend this year upping his value and potential draft position on going back into the draft.

    3) Perhaps it was a gamble that Erixon was not as good as Erixon thought he was. In which case, once it became clear that Erixon was not going to sign last year, the Flames should have used his rights as a kind of carrot to either pick up more picks earlier or shed salary space. Waiting until this late in the game gives it away to the other teams that you are having problems signing him, reducing your negotiating position. Trying to kind of throw him in on a deal last summer or last season lets you extract more value on an asset that you know holds little value (because he won’t sign with you).

    4) Ken King let Darryl do this, refused to name a permanent GM until late into this process and generally set Feaster up for this failure. I imagine the concerns expressed by Erixon last summer were known to King and probably played some role in the turfing of Darryl last Christmas. That was too late. If anyone has to go out of this, it is him.

    As for Erixon, I get the impression there was some stringing along on his side in that there was never a “No matter what you offer we won’t take it” kind of statement. Nonetheless, his concerns were made clear rather early on from what Feaster explains. He knew where his leverage was and stuck to his guns. We don’t like it but I can’t blame him. He will only have leverage so many times in his career and he used one of his opportunities to his advantage.

    The only part I will hang on Feaster is that rather than providing the agent with pleading explanations, Feaster should probably have realized earlier that the concerns the agent had were not going to be rectified by June 1, 2011 and turned to asset maximization at that point. I don’t know that he could have improved the return in a terribly material amount nor do I know when he would have had the authority to fix it.

  • Resident Oddball

    A few notes for Pat who is happy to dissolve the Flames Organization of any or most of responsibility for losing one of their top prospects.

    Erixon didn’t want to play in Calgary. That’s a fact. To Erixon Calgary wasn’t a particularly attractive place to play.

    Why?

    1) Cap Issues

    2) Preferred to play in NYC

    3) The team doesn’t have a ton of flexibility on the back end (ie 3 NMC/NTC on the blueline). Feaster had suggested that the organization wanted him to start in Abbotsford.

    4) Other. Who knows

    I would suggest that the Flames (not necessarily Feaster) are responsible for most of the above.

    1) It’s the Flames’ fault they’re Cap in mangled (Hello Stajan contract, ect.) No non-playoff team has less cap room. ouch.

    2) Why wouldn’t you talk to a kid in pre-draft meetings about his willingness to play in markets other than his father’s favorite stop in the NHL. That would be an obvious question to ask a son of a former NHLer. This is part of scouting/drafting.

    3) Tough to see how a 10th place team can’t find room for a legit prospect. Shietty Cap/Roster management has to turn off a D-prospect.

    4) The bottom line is that Calgary isn’t an attractive destination for the kid. Why would it be. The Flames have zero playoff series wins in seven years, and a single home ice appearance in the playoffs in the last 15 years.

    This is not an elite franchise. (read that again please)

    The bill of goods that the Flames have been selling to their fans is bogus. This has been an average to below average team over the past decade and a half, NOT A PERENNIAL CONTENDER!

    Detroit is a hole, and the Wings don’t lose 1st rounders back to the draft… BECAUSE THEIR A GOOD TEAM!!!! What a concept!

    I don’t blame Jay Feaster for the Flames being a below average team with a horrid cap situation, but his bosses are entirely responsible for the mess the team is in, which now sees one less prospect in the system.

    Here’s to hoping the Flames can make some draft magic with their 3 picks in the top two rounds… they might see the dividends in a few years, while Erixon will be skating on broadway this October.

    • The main crux of this article is not so much trying to dissolve the Flames organization of guilt as it is to say, with the current group making the hockey decisions, they did all they could.

      Can Jay Feaster or Craig Conroy help any of the above things? Not so much. Same with Michele Goulet.

      Some of the missteps of Darryl Sutter have lead to this situation, absolutely. But what’s the point of blaming him? Jay and company did all they could with the situation, so I’m not blaming them.

  • 2 things I STILL don’t get:

    – If Erixon was willing to go back into the draft than he would have been willing to sign with other teams.

    So why did we give him to NYR? Screw them. Was it really the best deal?

    – Maybe you can’t talk contract, but reservations about coming here? Just being dealt with now? No idea before now? Your best prospect for 2 years and this is all a complete surprise? Seems odd.

    Facts are facts. We lost our top prospect and Feaster has been GM for over 5 months. Maybe coming out publicly and saying there was no way you’d trade REgehr didn’t help matters.

    • I suspect that NYR were the only team offering up anything because they were the only team that felt they could get him under contract by the deadline. If you didn’t have a guarantee to get him under contract, why would you trade for him?

      As to how NYR knew that they would be able to get him under contract…

  • MC Hockey

    the blame falls on dutter 1.0, dutter 2.0,king, and feaster. firstly if erixon didnt want to be a flame why did you draft him. secondly, why did you wait until the clock struck 12. and lastly why play the fans as fools. feaster is a lawyer, which translates into spin doctor. ken king is running this ship of fools, time for a fan mutiny.

  • MC Hockey

    Tim Erixon has been boasting in swedish newspapers about how great this is, how it is a dream come true and how it was the best thing that could ever happen. He is a little punk, his agent is a punk too, and the forces who pulled him towards the rangers…well, the whole thing just reeks of tampering. I for one am glad to be rid of that little asshat, no matter how good a player he could have been. Hopefully he will fail immensely in New York and get sent to the AHL, while Roman Horak continues to shine with Howse in the Heat and turns into a solid NHL player. Who knows, right?

    • everton fc

      @ Crapshoot.

      When we play the Rangers next season… a guy like Jackman… Kostopolous… Regehr… Iggy… Should send a real strong message to Tim Erixon. Not a Bertuzzi/Moore thing… But play him hard. Hit him fair, but hard.

      Send this message the rest of his career.

      (Does anyone think Darryl could have signed Erixon? Or got more for Erixon, sooner, like at the trade deadline?? I think he could have. Not saying Darryl’s better than Feaster, or vice versa… Just sayin’, with this particular player…)

  • everton fc

    How did the organization not know Erixon didn’t want to be here? Why didn’t they have knowledge of this around the trade deadline?? Perhaps he could have been pakcaged with someone for a real asset?

    Doesn’t sit well with me. No one wants a pplayer who doesn’t want to be here. But how is it we didn’t know – no one knew??

    Perhaps, if we knew… We could have packaged him with, say, Stajan… Or as bait to move Hagman?? Sather might have taken that bait…

    Am I missing something (I haven’t read through all the posts)

    • Dude, what if the damn agent and the player told them at the time that, yes, absolutely we’ll get a deal done???

      Like, what else should the Flames have done? Read his damn mind?

      If the Erixon camp says, yes, signing here is an offseason priority…why wouldn’t the Flames take that at face value??

      • everton fc

        I get all that… But it seems you’d have to know something…

        What’s done is done. Erixon and his agent certainly leave a lot to be desired… If your a Flames fan, that is!

  • thymebalm

    I need to object to the argument that things happening at the 11th hour shows disarray or failure on the part of the flames organization. Waiting actually probably made Erixon sweat. He would have to re-enter the draft as a top-10 pick. The Rangers might not be able to draft him before someone else scoops him up, then he’s stuck with a bottom feeder again and wastes another year of his career (similar: Nabokov).

    What if the Rangers think, well, he’s only going to sign with us anyway, and they opt to wait until the second round to draft him, and he gets scooped back up by a club other than the Rangers in the late 1st round or early 2nd.

    Both situations were possible and did not favor Erixon. Feaster offers him the best possible deal he can, and then lets time pressure Erixon. Does he just take the sweet contract, and avoid the draft, or not?

    Meanwhile Feaster goes to the Rangers and says “look, if I let this kid go back to the draft, your 2nd round pick won’t be good enough to punch his ticket, so that’s where the negotiations start, now what else do you have to offer?”

    He winds up with another pick and prospect on top of that, and leaves with one (arguably two) more assets than he started with.

    Bravo, Feaster.

    Blame the history of the franchise since Darryl decided he didn’t want to witness any growing pains on his NHL roster. Blame the scouts who drafted a player they weren’t able to sign. Blame their record since the lockout.

    This whole ordeal is colored by the mediocre history of the Flames post-lockout, something which Feaster should really be absolved from, lest he become a part of it in 2011-12.