The Flames have been extremely quiet since announcing the parting of ways with Brent Sutter, so there hasn’t been too much to new stuff talk about lately. I have a few things bouncing around in my head, though, plus some Nation News to share.
Press Conference Theater
This is a bit late, but I have found fans reactions to year-end press conferences fascinating this year. In part, because what coaches and GM’s usually say at these things isn’t actually all that interesting. What you typically get is vague statements about disappointment or trying to improve moving forward mixed with various levels of dissembling, question dodging and obfuscation.
What’s funny is we all know this, but fans eagerly huddle around the radio or TV to take in the the decision-makers politicking anyways.
Perhaps what it really comes down to is a sort of theater where people want to be reassured by the leader’s posture and confidence rather than any particular vision or plan. Dan Gardner pointed out in Future Babble that folks value strident, persistent confidence in pundits and figureheads, even when certainty is impossible or their confidence has never proven to be predictive or accurate.
This is probably why you often see fans making excuses or completely excusing previous examples of irrational confidence on the part of a coach or GM. For example:
I think you’re placing far too much emphasis on what Tambellini HAS to say for PR purposes as opposed to what he likely has as reasonable expectations internally. No pre-season analysis I saw predicted this team had the horses to contend for a playoff spot this season. That is the reality and I’m sure Tambo was aware of it, but the GM can’t say that. Every hockey exec sells the ‘we’re good enough to make the playoffs’ line even when he knows his team isn’t because that’s what the fans and his boss expect and it sets the expectation bar for the players and coaches where it should be. This isn’t a courtroom. Tambellini’s comments will be intentionally misleading at times and to expect otherwise is exceedingly naive. People cover their ass. Survival is instinct. By all means, judge him on his actual actions and results, but don’t waste your time parsing PR as evidence of incompetence.
That’s a comment under Tyler Dellow’s parsing of Tambellini’s year-ender. Similar sentiments were expressed by many fans about Jay Feaster and his earlier "guarantee" that the Flames would make the playoffs (and be a high seed!). I wouldn’t call this excusing of false or silly statements to be either cynicism or apologia necessarily – just that everyone understands confidence and bluster are not only expected but required to do the job.
So decision makers can lie – even lie wildly – as long as they lie right*.
*(In the future, perhaps GM’s would be as well served to show up to PC’s shirtless and then proceed to bite off the head of a live chicken and stare menacingly at the crowd of reporters before leaving. In fact, Im guessing Darryl Sutter contemplated doing just that during his tenure here. I think one day I fully Brian Burke will challenge half the assembled ink-stained wretches to a bare knuckle boxing match. And to be praised for it later. I mean, hell, now that’s confidence.)
How Soon is Now?
As per the FN poll on the right, I’d say this summer is perhaps Jay Feaster’s best opportunity to make true changes to the direction of the team. The fan base is hungry for a new path and the spectre of Darryl Sutter’s reign will begin to dissipate with the ouster of his brother and so much money coming off the cap.
After this summer, this truly becomes "Feaster’s team" in the eyes of the faithful, rather than a stagnant club burdened with the mistakes of managers past. If the organization stays the course and runs aground for a 4th straight season, there won’t be enough pitchforks and effigy material to passify the increasingly frustrated and disillusioned fans in town. What’s more, Feaster et al. wo no longer be able to point to Darryl Sutter’s madness as a reason for the failure. Ownership and the executives will bear the brunt of the backlash.
A very real change in personnel and philosophy and the franchise can effectively market the team even if they miss the dance. Only success will justify the status quo, however – even though fans and such leave a lot of room for pretty lies during PC’s, consistently losing in the face of expectations can only be excused for so long.
Ryan has been a frequent commenter herefor awhile and has a deep knowledge about all things Flames – including many of their prospects. He’s willing to run down press conferences and interviews and tends to have a bit more optimism about the team and it’s future than myself.
Arik is the managing editor of M&G and tends to be on the more critical side. He’s fully conversant when it comes to advanced stats and isn’t afraid to call BS on just about anyone.
Together Ryan and Arik will add some new takes and voices to the site going forward. Expect some stuff from them to appear here shortly.
– Finally, OilersNation’s own Jonathan Willis was recently tapped by Grantland to offer his analysis during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Congrats Jon!