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.

  • Really Lambert? Now that Vintage is here is there any chance that you can be cut?

    Yes if Langkow circa 2006 was being traded this looks like another bad deal. But I think we all know that is not the case. If you don’t believe me, go watch Langks ’08 playoff performance. He was about as effective as a lambskin condom, and a lot more expensive (yes, I know he didn’t actually get paid for playoff games so save your witty reparte).

    As far as Stempniak goes, this is EXACTLY the type of guy we want to bring. Multi-use, and limited risk. Yes we have even worse depth at centre, but I will take this trade all day, every day. If Moss/Backlund/Jokinen don’t respond well to the added icetime this year, I’m ok with that. It was time to fish or cut bait with our centre corps regardless, and we will have a much better idea of where we stand going forward.

    Before you write another article, maybe ask Kent to do it for you.

  • Section205

    Overreaction. Feaster got decent value for Langkow. And he is directionless. He is clearly looking for the big fish to go between Tanguay and Iginla and is maintaining cap flexibility to do it. He tried to get Richards. I don’t know if he goes after Lecavlier, Spezza, Stasney, or someone else but I think he will give it a shot.

    If you are going to clear cap space there are worse ways then unloading aging players with bloated contracts. Even if they are effective aging players with bloated contracts. The return has been fair, especially for the Langkow deal.

    That all said I agree we are worse following this team then we were before it. I would also like to hear Feaster come out and say “we were looking to move X player”. This “we really didn’t think about moving X player, but a team came along with an offer and we went … aha, didn’t think about that one.” It doesn’t inspire confidence.

  • Section205

    Ryan, this article is a bit over the top, as is your style, but you are right that this trade on its own does not improve our team on the ice. We lost a rare, two-dimensional forward capable of playing tough minutes.

    Stempniak is a decent player and is cheap. Now we have room to make 1 or 2 more deals.

    Feaster needs to use the space to improve the forward group (defensively, in particular), but what causes you to doubt that Feaster is headed that direction?

    I would be unpleasantly surprised if this is the lineup for game 1 of the regular season. Wouldn’t it be great if everything could get done at once via 3-way-trades?

  • Ryan, I think there is more of a plan than you think, it just hasnt been advertised yet. There seems to be a common denominator:
    -Hannan 1 year term
    -Morrison 1 year term
    -Butler 2 year term
    -Babchuk 2 year term
    -Glencross 3year term (1 year longer because of the discount)
    -Stempniak has 1 year left
    Tanguay was the only anomole & that was he needed that top line player with Iggy but also needed a decent cap hit & at 3.5mill per Tanguay will not hurt us.
    This looks like a team that can go rebuild/reboot in a New York minute. If we struggle come January & even the Oilers are ahead of us in the standings, Feaster can really shift gears awful quick. Pieces we need to be Cup competitive cannot fit until more contracts fall off after this year. This team short of Regehr, is the same that had that run last year. If they horribly underachieve, I would say the fan base will be ready for a rebuild/reboot & no one would be untouchable. Feaster is smart, when in doubt, let the team performance direct the hard decisions to come. 3 years of no playoffs screams change all over it & no one can blame Feaster with that reality staring at us. My evaluation of Feaster starts at the end of February.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Well put. I’m not happy about this trade, but I like your theory on short- term contacts giving the Flames the flexibility they need to make changes.

  • Langkow is 34 years old and has played 4 games in the last 18 months and is set to make $4.5M on a contract that is up at the end of the year. The guy has very little value as far as I’m concerned. The odds of him getting back to his old level of play are minimal, and he is one hit away from retirement (or paralysis).

    I really didn’t see Langkow having a major role this year. At least I certainly wasn’t banking on it.

  • Graham

    Given the return, the only way this team is better without Langkow and Regehr is in the financial world, not in the hockey world.

    With the death of Harley, you have to wonder if the other owners are pushing for a reduced payroll. Feaster has pulled another Regehr type move, replace a key part with a cheaper, but less effective option…

  • Graham

    The organization is at a crossroads they dont want to be. They desperately want to make the playoffs and as such they are determined that they are not going to move their most tradeable commodity in Iginla. If you are afraid to trade Iginla because of fan response than you are not looking at rebuilding but are instead trying to make the playoffs. The problem is that logic looks at the current team, and current core, and says that this is a group that is not good enough to make the playoffs and is therefore a team in need of change.

    So all of the moves that they make are always at cross purposes. Ryan could not have said it any better that they are a team that is in need of a solid direction.

    Maybe Feaster smells a deal coming into training camp or when the cap has to be met and is making sure he has the available space to take advantage of the situation to make another deal.

  • Langkow is a great player with a high cap hit. I wasn’t sold on this trade at first, but i can see where they’re (Management) coming from. At 1.9 for Stempniak you’re essentially adding him to the team at no cost (considering Langkow only played 4 games last year). He’s young, he can score, and it’s a one year term. These are all things that the flames need at this point, and will help them in the long run if the plan is to re-build or re-tool for the future. Loved Lanks, he was one of my faves, but we all knew things would be changing.

  • I agree with many points in this article in regards to Jay Feaster.

    Although, technically, the addition of Lee Stempniak DOES make the Flames better than last season. Maybe not better than a Flames team with a healthy and productive Lanks, tho.

    But, bottom line, Feaster lost this trade when the Coyotes came calling. And that’s unacceptable (but par for the Feaster course).