THE MIRAGE OF CONTENTION

Unwilling to wander in the desert the way his neighbors to the north have these past six seasons, Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster is sticking to his guns when it comes to shaping his hockey team.

Feaster, who just parted ways with head coach Brent Sutter, has insisted since taking over the GM’s chair in Cowtown he isn’t going to follow the Edmonton Oilers lead and undertake a full-scale rebuild with the Flames despite growing sentiment he should tear the Calgary bandwagon down to bare metal and start over.

Feaster, whose Flames finished a lot closer to the playoffs this season than the Oilers did – closer must count for something, right? – but likely won’t repeat that feat in 2012-13, hasn’t come off his position. That seems unlikely to change, even with high-profile people like former Calgary captain Lanny McDonald throwing his two cents worth into the mix.

Start over? Like the Oilers, who’ll make their third straight first overall selection at the Entry Draft and use it to take Nail Yakupov (Feaster will add the 14th overall pick to his bursting list of prospects)? Hell no. Trade Jarome Iginla or Miikka Kiprusoff? Not a chance. Wander the desert in 13th or 14th place instead of 10th or 11th? Fans wouldn’t stand for it, would they?

In an interview with 960 The Fan in Calgary today, McDonald made his thoughts known, saying Feaster had already missed the boat in moving assets like Iginla and Kiprusoff and re-stocking the Flames because he’s been pre-occupied with selling playoff contention.

NO SAND BETWEEN JAY’S TOES

"I don’t think you have any choice but to explore them all," McDonald said in an item that just ran on Sportsnet, when asked about the possibility of trading Iginla or Kiprusoff. "I thought they should have made those moves either last year at the trade deadline or even this year at the trade deadline.

"If you go back to the trade deadline, and yes it’s a lot easier to just say it than it is to do it, but you have to make a commitment: ‘OK, we need to change this, this is not working, this is not good enough.’

"I think they were unfortunately kidding themselves when they thought, ‘Oh my God, we’re close. We’ve got to stick with this group all over again.’ You could predict that it was going to be, ‘Oh my God, we just barely missed. We’re in ninth place.’ But are you really close? No, especially when you see that level of play that is happening in the playoffs right now."

The link to the entire article at Sportsnet is here.

Feaster is convinced that between the roster he’s got, prospects in the system and making some noise in the free agent market — thanks to some salary coming off the books — Flames fans will be better served by a tweak or two rather than by admitting this is a team headed in the wrong direction, and fast.

Sounds like the approach the Oilers took all those years when they’d sneak into the post-season in eighth-place, only to have Dallas beat them for fun. Short-term pain for long-term gain? He’ll pass. And if Feaster can pull off a run like the Oilers did in 2006? Sounds like a plan. A bad plan, but a plan.

CONTENDERS OR PRETENDERS?

While the Oilers are a team on the ascent with a core that includes Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle (and will soon include the talented Mr. Yakupov) thanks to six straight years out of the playoffs, the last three as a lottery team, Feaster will have none of it.

At least not yet. My guess, and it’s only a guess because I’m not tight with anybody in Calgary ownership, is Feaster is running out of time until he either loses his job or sees that a stroll through the sand dunes is the way to go. Heaven knows, it took Edmonton’s management long enough to figure out faking it as playoff contenders wasn’t going to wash in the long run.

Oilers fans have seen that movie, and while it’s been a dud B-flick in terms of results since Chris and Lauren Pronger blew town, there is real reason for optimism, despite the misgivings and beads of cold sweat one experiences with Steve Tambellini at the controls. Better times are ahead.

Not so, I’m convinced, for Feaster and the Flames, who will remain in denial for as long as he’s calling the shots. Like I said, I’m guessing that won’t be for much longer — unless his cut and paste rebuild somehow works. Once that hits the wall, the real rebuild begins. As Oilers fans will attest, that’ll only take five or six years. Tops.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • O.C.

    It’s no fun when both Alberta teams suck. Each would like the other to get better along with their own team (with their own team having the upper hand of course).

    Watching LAME management decisions come out of Calgary is Deja Vu for Edmonton. The Oil played that movie for 15 (arguably more) years.

    Building a team that is “good enough to compete” in the playoffs (maybe) is fine but it HAS TO GET INTO THE PLAYOFFS.

    You don’t have to suck and pick from the top after “winning” the first pick. It is one method that works if done correctly.

    Boston and Philly and the Rangers were models that Calgary tried to follow. Trouble was, Calgary didn’t pay attention; they had to lose their stars to get fresh talent.

    They didn’t. Feaster should be made to pay.

  • “Thats like saying Justin Trudeau is the best boxer in the Trudeau family. Brent isn’t an upgrade on Renney.”

    Actually, as it relates to Renney, it’s not like saying that at all. Not even close.

    CAREER PTS % reg season

    Brent Sutter .584 (410 games)

    Darryl Sutter .556 (909 games)

    Brian Sutter .517 (1,028 games)

    Tom Renney .504 (592 games)

  • O.C.

    Madjam’s Magic Eraser – Tams becomes the fall guy this time . Sutter may be our next coach , but Renney will be promoted maybe even to GM . Feaster doing the right thing with Flames . No need for Flames to follow the Oiler example of a rebuild , which still has disasterous results 3 years later and a multitude of holes to fill still . We draft Yakupov so as we do not look a gift horse in the mouth . The rebuild starts when Tams is out, and not before that .

    Tams will most likely use Renney as his scapegoat if he remains as GM , another bad move by a questionable capable GM .

  • A-Mc

    Is it possible that this renney plan thing is all for show? It looks like its being done to portray a certain image to the media/fans. Like others have said, if this was genuine wouldnt it be done behind closed doors?

  • kdunbar

    I see the tandom of Lowe and Tambi as Lowe is the no-nonsense person quick decissions, while Tambi is the voice of reason and lets not be too rash. This is a good combination.

    Not sure if it is a right hockey people, but I would much rather this than what Iron Mike was like as a GM.

  • kdunbar

    @Lexi stated:

    “I don’t think you get into the playoffs running any combination of Belanger, Jones, Petrell, Horcoff, Eager, Paajarvi, or Lander up front, that’s an incredibly soft line up. Petrell gets a pass on the soft…”

    Further to Oiler forwards, I’d cut Lander some time too. Considering softness, one has to add Gagner and Hemsky to the list (sandpaper, no).

    On next season, does Smyth fit, even if the Oilers and Smyth agree on a contract? Hordichuk steals a slot. It is apparent Omark doesn’t fit (at least with Renney) and won’t be back. Is Hartikainen Vandevelde or any other forwards with the Barons NHL-ready? As for Renney, is he is the coach for the job of preparing this roster to play with the big boys?

    It is one thing for the Oilers to make the playoffs, another to compete in the show. Looking at the present roster, the Oilers are still far away from competing in the playoffs.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    You know what I love, when we draft Yak we should have enough scoring depth to put him on the 3rd line 🙂

    Concerning Defence is Klefbom a viable option to play next year? or is another year of Sweden best.

    Oh BTW how much would Matt Greene cost? I miss him.

  • Gitagrip

    Attracting Elite UFA’s to WPG, CGY, EDM is a tough sell. Just look outside today. Ask Hossa or that snot Heatley. We didn’t make the Nash top 5. Ya they want to maximize winning opportunities but also lifestlye. Losing night after night with all that travel. Hmmm. By trade or by draft is the answer. We’re not the RainJars. Elite UFA’s want to see a contender status, not pretender. Well that and “show me the money”. If you build it they will come. Having experienced the decay first hand I do not wish that on our friends in southern Alberta….OK maybe a little bit. ALL HAIL NAIL!

  • Gitagrip

    So Tamby wants to hear about Renny’s plan before extending his contract?

    How about “, practicing what you preach”? Let’s hear your plan first Tamby? Yea that’s right, winning a lottery is not a plan IMHO! This poor excuse of a GM should have to do the same thing that he is asking Renny to do.

    What a loser Tamby is, let’s trade him back to Vanouver where all the other losers live.

  • RKD

    I would hate to trade Iggy or Kipper but it might have to be done. They’ve brought in new coaches every few years with lackluster results. They’ve changed the GM, albeit Feaster’s tenure has been short. They’ve traded Regeher and Langkow.

    This season they had more youth in their lineup than ever before. With an identical roster, this team is destined for another 9-10th place finish. Out of the playoffs, but not bad enough to have a top 10 pick.

    The only thing that hasn’t been tried is a rebuild, even if it fails at least they can show us that they tried another direction.

    There really are no other alternatives. If you let Hannan, Sarich, Moss, Jokinen, and a bevy of other you still have to replace them. I would definitely tried to sign another top 4 d-man. Stop looking for a #1 center, try to develop your own.

    • RexLibris

      If you replace every Flames reference in this comment with a reference to the Oilers from 2008-2009 you’d be spot on.

      “The only thing that hasn’t been tried is a rebuild” was more or less what I have said on FN these past two years in defending the Oilers’ decision to pursue that route from those who have argued that the rebuilding process is no guarantee of a championship.

      Here’s a news flash – there are no guarantees. Way back when Colorado brought in Selanne and Kariya for a year everybody thought the Avs were going to become the next high-octane offense and basically handed them the Cup that year. They didn’t win. Then the Predators tried to spend to the limit and added Forsberg and Kariya (interesting coincidence there?) and they won the President’s Trophy. They didn’t win either. The Blue Jackets decided to build through the draft and get top-end talent that way. *crickets chirping* The list goes on, but if the Flames have tried to bring in free agents, trade for positional players, change coaches, change GMs, and still they end up in the same spot, well, Einstein’s satirical definition of insanity and repetitive action would seem to apply here.

      The Oilers, as I have stated here before and Robin has so succinctly commented on in his article, were left with almost no choice. However, at least the organization, and specifically the owner, had the courage to say that they needed to tear it down and start over.

      As Mel Brooks sang: “We’ve flattened their fingers, we branded their buns! Nothing is working. Send in the nuns!”

  • Oilers89

    These playoffs are a real eye opener to how far the Oilers really are. The only games I watch during the regular season are Oilers ones so had no real idea what other teams in the league were like against each other.

    It’s almost like a completely different game out there. Other than brief flashes of intensity, I don’t think the mighty Oil are even close next year. Look at any team in the playoffs and compare their intensity to ours- unreal.

    Maybe it’s just the games I’ve chosen to follow- Pitts-Philly, LAK-Van,
    It’s actually great entertainment regardless of who you’re cheering for.

    Is it sadistic to watch a series just to watch a team lose?
    The Oilers have a lot of work to do and I’m not sure who is capable of doing it.

  • Mr. Brownlee,

    I know that this article rings of the truth when I, as an Oiler fan, find myself genuinely pitying Flames fans. I sympathize, as I have seen their (Calgary’s) situation before. Years wandering aimlessly, wading through stinking pools of mediocrity with no end in sight. It sucks. It hurts. So much so that I wouldn’t want any other fan have to go through it – not even a bastardly Flames fan.

  • Mr. Brownlee,

    I know that this article rings of the truth when I, as an Oiler fan, find myself genuinely pitying Flames fans. I sympathize, as I have seen their (Calgary’s) situation before. Years wandering aimlessly, wading through stinking pools of mediocrity with no end in sight. It sucks. It hurts. It rips your heart right out. So much so that I wouldn’t want any other fan have to go through it – not even a bastardly Flames fan.

    Canucks fans on the other hand can go to hell!

    Now that’s the truth!

  • paul wodehouse

    Since the lock out the Oil finishes and drafts have been

    2006 – 16th, no 1st rounder
    2007 – ~24 th, Gagner, Nash, Plante
    2008 – ~20th – Eberle (draft choice from Ducks as part of Pronger Trade about the 20th pick)
    2009 ~ 20 th, MPS
    2010 – 30th, Hall (1st rebuild year)
    2011 – 30th, RNH
    2012 – 29th, Yakupov (?)

    The “rebuild” started about January 2010 so we have just fiished year 2. 2010 was the “blow it up” year.

    From 2006 to 2009 the Oil were close to where the Shames are now, marginal playoff team getting middling drafts with limited propects in the organization. One might predict a hard fall is coming, almost assuredly if Iggy were to sustain a significant injury.

  • smiliegirl15

    Unfortunately for the Flames, their fans aren’t as understanding as Oilers fans or maybe, aren’t as faithful. Their bandwagon will be empty in a heartbeat as soon as the word rebuild is said.

  • smiliegirl15

    Great Article Robin,
    You’re absolutely right. Feaster is in denial – and it is sad to see a good franchise – yes even the Flames – flap in the wind aimlessly because of one painful characteristic that is defining this man’s legacy: HUBRIS! It held down our great organization as well as we all know for years before ownnership and management finally admitted that a rebuild was not beneath them. I really feel for a good Edmonton boy like iginla who won’t ask for a trade and will probabley wallow in mediocrity for the rest of his days in Cowtown.