Calgary: The New Edmonton

 

 

Remember all those fun times you had? Making fun of the Oilers has been really and truly great since their Cup run ended hilariously in a Game 7 loss to Carolina.

Flames fans shouldn’t be laughing any more, because their beloved team is the one to avoid like the plague.

I read Steinberg’s piece on assigning blame yesterday with a mixture of bemusement and disbelief. I had seen the spinmeisters try to couch the failure to sign Tim Erixon as the only thing that could be done, but from Pat, whose opinion seems more worthy of consideration than most others in the Calgary Media Pompom Club put together? It was surprising to say the least.

The crux of his argument boiled down to his answers to three questions:

1) Why did the Flames let it get this far? 

2) Why didn’t they have contingency plans in place?

3) Why didn’t they do all they possibly could to keep this player around?

These were all explained away as the organization doing the very very best it could to make a very bad situation at least palatable. And personally I find the implication of such to be offensive.

I’m not an idiot, for one thing. Those that would have you believe the Flames did the very best they could are very putting lipstick on pig. One which has been lying in a puddle of slop, dead, for a week. But let’s answer the questions in order.

First, why did the Flames let it get this far? They had to very much believe that a deal could be worked out. That’s fair enough. Bargaining in good faith with your top prospect is, I assume, a fairly important thing for a team to do. But at some point, it had to become apparent that Erixon’s wants or needs as a player — and again, he seems to be NHL-ready — were not going to be something the Flames could meet and stay safely under the salary cap. After all, there are an awful lot of bad contracts already on the books (Daaaaaaaaarryl! Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaryl!) and nearly as many clauses that prevent the team from doing anything with them. This was of course not helped by that baffling Glencross no-movement clause, which Feaster certainly had a lot to do with.

Second, as the deadline wore near, the apologists assume, Feaster had his ducks very much in a row. They’d trade him to the New York Rangers, where his dad played, for two half-decent second-round picks and a third-decent NHL prospect in Roman Horak, whom no one in the league has ever heard or thought of as anything beyond a somewhat viable third-rate prospect at best. Because that made sense. 

Any sign of collusion — Erixon being signed by his new suitors almost the second he was traded, for example — has been largely ignored by both the team and media. Was it really mere happenstance that he was traded to and immediately came to terms on a deal with the team whose arena he was born within 20 miles of? Surely there had to be one team from the other 28 possible that could have cobbled together an even slightly better package than what the Rangers offered, right? Let’s not forget, the kid was a first-round pick two years ago and has been playing against men ever since. I find it remarkably difficult to believe two seconds and a throw-in prospect was the prettiest girl at the cotillion. 

Third, the answer to why Feaster didn’t do all in his power to keep Erixon around is very much tied to point No. 1.

"The kid just didn’t want to play here," everyone shrugs, as if that somehow should alleviate concerns. We’ll likely not find out any time soon exactly why Erixon didn’t want to come to Calgary, but one supposes it wouldn’t have been for the lack of opportunity to get decent minutes right away.

I’ll be optimistic first: More likely it was tied to one of two things which are, again, related: they couldn’t squeeze his bonus demands in under the cap in accordance with their other plans (which I’m assuming include a long-term, big-money extension for a Mr. A. Tanguay), and/or there simply wasn’t a guaranteed NHL roster spot for him.

If the latter is true, then Feaster is worse at his job than most of us thought (and most of us think he’s really quite bad at it). If the former is true, then Feaster is worse at his job than most of us thought (and most of us think he’s really quite bad at it).

Neither would be indicative of a GM who knows what he’s doing.

Should your long-term plans, or hell, even short-term plans, involve denying what is apparently an NHL-ready 20-year-old bruising defenseman a legitimate chance or even the outright promise of claiming a roster spot, because you really like what known quantities such as Adam Pardy, Anton Babchuk or (god forbid) Steve Staios bring to the table, then you are a complete and utter moron.

Similarly, if you’re not prepared to shuffle some chairs around this particular deck of the Titanic to squeeze such a player in, then you are entering your job as steward of a team that needs a total rebuild with the entirely wrong mindset. 

Now let’s be pessimistic, and say that Erixon really didn’t want to play in Calgary.

Uh oh.

That would be a very, very bad thing indeed. Most kids would fairly jump at the chance to play for any NHL team that they were lucky enough to be drafted by, right? Erixon’s got the bloodlines and grew up cheering on the team he was traded to, but Taylor Hall’s from Calgary, and you can bet he’s just pleased as punch to be pulling on an Oilers jersey every night. So if players are now actively avoiding Calgary for the simple fact that it’s Calgary, then the Flames have a major problem on their hands.

The entire league used to giggle up its sleeve every time a half-decent player did all in their power to stop playing for Edmonton. Mike Comrie and Chris Pronger asked out of town, Dany Heatley blocked a trade there and instead headed to San Jose, a few guys whose names I forget agreed to contracts in Edmonton and then went elsewhere anyway. Haw haw haw. Funny stuff all around.

That might now be what Calgary is. Maybe it already is. We didn’t think about it at the time, I guess, but the "major" acquisitions of last summer weren’t exactly the kind of earth-shattering blockbusters the Jay Bouwmeester deal was. Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay, picked up off the discard pile and called "progress." It almost doesn’t matter that Jokinen was serviceable and Tanguay was excellent this past season, because they could have just as easily not been. But the message is clear: we’re long past the days of Calgary being a major free agent — or now, apparently, draftee — destination.

Maybe that’s a function of the topheavy quality of the team’s current cap structure, which, by the way, isn’t changing soon. But maybe players also see what’s perceived to have happened to Bouwmeester — he was great now he sucks, so the legend goes — and they say they don’t want a part of it. Maybe they see that the team’s primed for a rebuild and don’t want to be around when it’s is losing 50 games a year. 

Who can blame them, any more than they could blame Pronger and Comrie and Heatley and Nylander (was that one of them?) for not wanting to go to Edmonton? Not me. Shouldn’t be you either.

None of the above questions have answers that qualify as "good" or "comfortable." And anyone trying to tell you this is anything but a massive disappointment and black eye for Feaster and this organization has their head so far up the team’s ass they’ve set up a base camp in its small intestine.




  • robbhope

    Wow.

    I’m honestly shocked that this is even being talked about. You ramble off about 5 different occasions where players didn’t want to play for the Oilers (and yes, I did laugh at each one) and then the ONE TIME where a player refuses to play for Calgary, we get compared to the bottom feeders of the NHL? Are you joking? “Taylor Hall as happy as punch?” REALLY? I know Taylor Hall, as difficult as that may be for you to believe, he was desperately hoping that Edmonton wouldn’t be his destination, but he’s a nice guy and never said anything bad about it. We’ve watched Flames games together for many years – he loved the Flames.

    Anyways, don’t you think this whole ErixonGate joke is more a player wanting to play for NYR than NOT wanting to play for Calgary?

    And seriously, bottom line to all of this – if he doesn’t want to play for us then good riddance. Period.

    Besides, if everything you bashers are saying is true, then our organization IS going to suck for many years……and then we will become this NEW OILERS TEAM that we’ve all heard is so amazing. Lots of terrible, terrible years, only to soon find the promised land….right?

  • Karasu89

    you guys are basing this “no one wants to play in calgary” bs on what one news paper guy said once on the radio (dowbigin ..i could be wrong) that some agent told him that players do not want to play here.

    so great read, good input but we are not the new edmonton. soo just because some kid from sweden doesn’t want to come to calgary adn wants to go play where daddy played then so be it. good thing they traded him

  • “I’ll be optimistic first: More likely it was tied to one of two things which are, again, related: they couldn’t squeeze his bonus demands in under the cap in accordance with their other plans (which I’m assuming include a long-term, big-money extension for a Mr. A. Tanguay), ”

    Well Feaster said he offered him the rookie max. I guess he could be lying, but that would be obviously falsifiable by the agent and he hasn’t denied it.

  • Michael

    “First, why did the Flames let it get this far?”

    I think one of the big things you glossed over or didn’t even mention was that the Flames were NOT allowed to even negotiate with him since the start of the SEL season, through the playoffs and once Erixon made the WC team, even through that tournament.

    Feaster should be the last person to get the blame, King and Sutter should shoulder most of it for not signing him last summer, and if they couldn’t get it down last summer the building blocks for a proper trade should have been laid.

    The Fact is, at some point this kid, his dad and agent made the decision he was only gonna play for Daddies team, I mean you don’t have to believe Feaster, but if he wasn’t gonna play here he wasn’t gonna play here, bad cap management or not.

    • Michael

      Not allowed to negotiate with and not talk to are 2 different things. This was your top prospect for the lsat 2 years. You should have a better book on him, be in almost constant contact with him. All of the “issues” could’ve been addressed without negotiating term/salary. He’s still the teams’s property.

      No, Feaster is not to blame alone, but he does share in it. Him and Conroy (sigh) were naive and let it go too long.

      On the other hand, if Erixon refused to negotiate with nay other teams then those teams wouldn’t deal for him leaving NYR as the only team.

      Howerver, at the end of the day this has been Feaster’s team for over 5 months and it’s a massive blow to the organization. You just lost your best prospect who was ready to step right in for a 2nd round pick.

    • Michael

      I don’t blame Feaster for not being able to sign
      Erixson, but clearly he shoulders the blame for misreading the situation and failing to maximize the return. Feaster gambled and took this thing down to the wire, gave NY all the leverage, and had to settle for sixty cents on the dollar…

      • Karasu89

        Feaster had since May 15th to June 1st to negotiate a contract, at that point in time every other team knew his situation and the best thing he got was the extra second rounder from the rangers(we were gonna get an extra second and swapped 5th rounders). Every other team knew his situation and no one else from all accounts made an offer, pretty much everyone knew what was gonna happen and no one wanted to waste thier picks or prospects trading for someone who wasn’t gonna play.

        If we were gonna get value we should have traded him last summer, if he didn’t sign last year he should have been traded then, Sutter didn’t do his diligance then and its failing us now. To say Feaster didn’t get full value is doing him a diservice, what else was he gonna do in Two weeks.

        He flew out to NY and met with his agent, everything that his agent said was a problem with Calgary was recitified by Feaster, max contract, group A+B bonuses, NHL roster spot(most likely 4 to start), and a clause to send him back to Europe if he didn’t want to play in the AHL. The fact is he didn’t want to play here, plain and simple he listened to Daddy and wanted to play with the Rangers and it makes me hope he does poorly.

  • MC Hockey

    I think you are all mostly delusional! The player with the agent with a reputation for shenanigans fooled Feaster so he had to make the trade as that’s where Timmy wanted to go.

    So yes, Feaster gets some blame, but the agent was obviously dealing in bad faith. Feaster’s predecessors caused the situation with bad contract signings (too tight to salary cap to keep Timmy on roster).

    So all this “we are the next Edmonton” is all B.S. – we have simply NOT had a bunch of players avoid Calgary or ask to be traded out…all the players who could leave like Tanguay, Karlsson, Glencross, Morrison WANT to stay. You’re delusional for sure Ryan. Write a better article next time!

    • Willi P

      Great post mchockey,

      This topic has been TOTALLY overblown. Now, nobody wants to play in Calgary because some snot nosed kid wants to play for the NYR’s.

      Why don’t we worry about getting Tanguay signed and developing our existing/future talent.

      Oh yeah, because then we wouldn’t have anything else to rant about.

      Move on ppl, there is bigger things to think/worry about than Erixon who was never going to play here anyway.

    • MC Hockey

      Who’s the Delusional one here… Truth Hurts to read don’t it? Don’t worry it’s gonna hurt alot more in about 2 years when the Truth is staring you in the mirror. Flames are in MAJOR…MAJOR TROUBLE. Nobody wants to sign with a below average, and slowly getting older/worse team….not to mention a crap shoot of talent coming up the pipe line. With not one exciting prospect…..NOT A ONE.

        • MC Hockey

          NOBODY outside of Calgary knows who these prospects are…and not too many IN Calgary know either, not the honest ones…thats the problem, even if 1 or 2 turn out…it just won’t be enough. I’d rather be an Edmontonian-doughhead, then a delusional Flames fan, trying to hope/wish his team is’nt gonna suck for the next 5-8 years. I know what the future holds in Edmonton. Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle,Paajarvii,Omark,Petry,Peckham,Hamilton, Teubert, Martindale, Dubnyk, Bunz, 3 picks in the top 31 this year(probably Nugent-Hopkins at center…been a good while since flames had a true #1 Center, NO?)….to Calgary’s 1 Pick in the top 100 Picks… Joey Leach, that Kronwall kid , TJBrodie,Reinhart,Ryan Howse…Leland Irving will be a decent goalie maybe…for a crap team in the middle of a rebuild. Yeah…nice prospect list.Try again Bologna Boobs.

    • DieHard

      Tanguay is what 31 or 32 and has no where else to go. Calgary offered and he accepted.

      Karlsson is backup goal tender – so what.

      Glencross is 29/30 is really a 3rd liner (what 3rd loiner gets NMC).

      Morrison is what 60 or 61. Where is he going?

      Calgary is the new Edmonton because of cap issues, team age and basically going no where. There is no prospect depth, no future excitement and with Calgary staying the course will get mid-round picks for the next few years and go no where. Free agents will avoid. When you become a powerhouse, free agents will come even to Edmonton. Calgary has to rebuild (ala Edmonton) and the sooner the better.

  • wattree

    The other side may be that with all the immovable contracts Jay is the designated scape goat for the next 4 years. Why bring in someone talented or with great promise (Stevie Y) when they are gona spend the next 4 years getting their butts handed to them in the media because they can’t fix this team. Let Jay take in on the chin since he seems the type of guy to be able to take it.

    If they’re lucky Jay figures something out and pulls a rabbit outa his butt and they build a winner.

    If not then they spend a couple years evaluating what their scouting department can do. A true re-build as everyone was asking for before xmas needs to start with your hockey ops and go from there. Why accumulate draft picks if you can’t tell the difference between Daigle and Crosby? Once they have guys in place that can spot those winners and late rounders that blossum, and have played out the bad contracts, then you bring in the rock star. Then you can build a winner based on the “new NHL”. The team as assembled would have been just fine in the clutch and grab era, but Darryl couldn’t adjust to the new normal.

  • Michael

    Great but disturbing piece..

    I really believe the Flames ownership missed an opportunity to clean house this season. They left King in charge, and he hired Feaster a middling status quo GM. The team is a lower middle of the pack club with no vision, no prospect’s and boat loads of over priced unmoveable contracts.
    Feasters appointment and tenure to date suggests that this isn’t going to change for the better.

    • I agree. I was sure King’s boat was tied to Sutter’s and that he’d go down with Darryl should he ever get fired. Apparently not.

      The owners really missed their chance last off-season, not this one. They could have cleaned out the upper offices, hired a guy like Yzerman and really started fresh.

      • I like Yzerman but let’s be honest, he had a hell of a lot more to work with in Tampa Bay than he would have had here. Nobody would be calling him the executive of the year if he was in Calgary because, with all of the bad contracts and NM/NTCs he would have inherited, there probably wouldn’t have been a whole lot he could have done.

        His biggest move? Trading for Roloson–a low risk high reward gamble.

        • My opinion of Yzerman was high long before the playoff run. He made a lot of good gambles in the off-season that I was on-board with. I’ve liked pretty much everything he’s done so far in TBL so far, although granted the body of work is small.

          Stuff he’s said to the media has impressed me as well. He’s one of the first GM’s I’ve heard come out and say explicitly that he doesn’t need a goon.

          • I’m not saying I don’t like Yzerman. I think it shows smarts to not mess with a good thing by making a bunch of moves simply to put his “brand” on things. I just find the amount of credit given to him by the media for a relatively small body of work (which I’d agree has been pretty well done) is a bit over the top.

            The success of Tampa this year was more a product of what was already in place but it seems like Yzerman gets credit for it.

      • Robert Cleave

        They won’t fire King until the STHs and sponsors start to yelp. Much like up in Stinktown, there’s a powerful bias to continuing the status quo management style until serious money begins to be lost.

  • I don’t disagree necessarily – this is a massive black-eye to the team and organization as a whole. I just don’t know if we can really assign the failing to Feaster personally. The issues are more diffuse and the roots go back to all the things that have caused the club’s downfall: poor cap management, reputation of shunting younger players aside, etc.

    James Mirtle asked me what I thought the real issue with Erixon was. My very brief explanation: the kid took a look at the cluster**** the Flames have been over the last two years and said “no thanks”. Which is basically what you’re saying here I think.

    • MC Hockey

      Personally, I disagree with you, and I agree with Steinberg. After having a day to think about it rationally, there’s no chance that the Flames did’nt do their absolute best to sign Erixon. Your “Feaster not trying his best to keep Erixon around” is junk, since Feaster offered him the rookie salary max, and other bonuses.

      “Why did the Flames let it get this far’? Cuz they couldnt negotiate during the SEL season and playoffs, and the World Championships.

      And all this BS about players not wanting to play for Calgary. Like REALLY? One freakin prospect says no to playing here, and thats ONLY cuz he wanted to play in New York, and you and Eric Francis are screaming “THE FLAMES ARE THE NEW OILERS, NO ONE WANTS TO PLAY IN CALGARY ANYMORE!”

      And your saying the Flames’ moves last summer were quiet cause nobody wanted to come there?

      “But the message is clear: we’re long past the days of Calgary being a major free agent destination.” The Flames have never been a team that tries to sign big names to big money contracts on July 1, thats not the way the organization does business. The only time the Flames ever attracted a big name during free agency was Jay Bouwmeester, and thats cuz they had his rights before. Just because the Flames don’t go out trying to sign big name players doesnt mean that nobody wants to play here.

      Yes, the Flames lost a pretty darn good prospect who didnt want to play here, but I’m sure there are plenty of players who would like to play in Calgary.