Feaster Thoughts and Network News



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.

Nation News

– Im glad to announce we’llbe adding two more writers to the site this month: Ryan Pike of the Hockey Writers and Arik James of Matchsticks and Gasoline.

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!

Recently on the Nation Network 

  • So did you ever find out who started that rumor that Hartley was hired as head coach? Cause I never heard anything and then I heard a random denial from SN Spector, which came completely out of the blue.

  • RexLibris

    I can’t wait to read some more from Arik and Ryan.

    As for Burke challenging the newshounds, he would only do it on the condition that the camera stay on him while he dramatically loosens his tie and removes the cufflinks before rolling up his sleeves. For someone who pretends to hate the camera, he certainly seems to perform well in front of it.

    Regarding a leader’s perceived strengths and Gardner’s book, I remember several exit questionnaires after the 2004 US presidential election quoting voters as saying that Bush junior “just looked more like someone I could have a beer with”. If decisions as important as an election can be decided in the human conciousness by something as simple as a candidate’s stance or body language, should we be surprised that a similar effect doesn’t happen among sports fans?

    I didn’t listen to Feaster’s or Weisbrod’s interviews. I did listen to Tambellini’s, though I really didn’t care one wit about the past. I wanted to listen to his answers to serious questions about the future and short-term plan for the Oilers. I don’t expect a manager to start going into details of targeted players or specific strategies, but I do expect some information and clarification of certain decisions as they relate to an immediate direction.

    Experts, of which there are now more than ever, so often fail to correctly predict future situations often because they fail to take into account the occasional unheralded event. Francis Fukuyama made his statements about the end of history only to be ridiculed afterwards on account of the US terrorist response and the erosion of their international financial influence.

    I have written about something similar when trying to predict the future of the Oilers. One never knows what could happen. Might one of Hall, Eberle, or Nugent-Hopkins suffer serious injury or worse? Might ownership change? A single poor decision by a management figure or even a player in the wrong spot at the wrong time could alter what most have mapped out as the most likely course of action. Our prognostications are best left to the short-term and with generous caveats.

    Anyway, sorry if I got off-topic there.

    Now, back to the headless chickens…

    • The future is hard to predict. Really hard. Which is why people like GM’s are left to over-promise but under-deliver all the time.

      How they stay in positions of power is to nevertheless sound very sure of themselves in front of the cameras.

  • Graham

    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,

    Couldn’t agree more, with success being measured as reaching the second round of the playoffs, not a quick exit in round one.

  • RexLibris

    @Kent Wilson

    “How they stay in positions of power is to nevertheless sound very sure of themselves in front of the cameras.”

    I’m sorry, are we talking GMs here, or political/business leaders in the age of mass media?

    Presenting an air of confidence and appearing to have a keen grasp of a situation is the key element any time someone is in a leadership position.

    Thanks for the reminder of Gardner’s book. It has now been added to my list.

  • Greg

    I think it’s be premature to chase Feaster out of town with a 4th straight unsuccessful year. It takes more than a couple seasons to remake a team. I’m not that concerned with next years results, in fact I fully expect this team to be somewhere in the middle yet again. The dollars coming off the cap, combined with the aging core, poor free agent market, and muddy CBA waters, means he can’t fix all ailments, but he can send a stronger indication of the direction he’ll be taking the club. I would base my assessment of his performance at the end of next season on the arrow indicators again, just like this season. He was hamstrung from the get go, made a questionable signing in babchuck, a really good signing in Glencross, won his two biggest trades (cammy and regher), and did really well at the draft. I’m pretty satisfied with te work he did this year in light of that. If at the end of next season the future looks brighter, regardless of how bad next season goes (and it could be brutal), then I’ll be happy again.

    • My point wasn’t that Feaster was in trouble if the team didn’t win. It was the Feaster is in trouble if the team doesn’t win AND he hasn’t made real changes to the direction of the club. If Calgary enters the next season with Iginla, Kipper and most of their UFA’s re-signed and the club places 10-15 again, it’ll get real ugly for him.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Speaking of prognostications, Iginla and Kipprusoff will be Calgary Flames at the beginning of next season ‘book it’!

    I personally would like them both dealt to set up the future, but I expect the strategy for the Flames is to put together a workmen crew, plus Iginla and Kipprusoff going forward. So, welcome to the Flames circa 2004, or the Yotes in 2012. This scenario is the least risky for Feaster, since he can work at improving the team over time. It’s also good for the Flames (the business), since the they will not have to sell off their most important business assets for what will inevitably seen as spare parts by the fan base.

    I will be hanging off every word spoken by Feaster, but more importantly I’ll personally continue to judge his actions. Talk after all is cheap. I can’t wait to find out who Calgary’s version of Barry Trots or Dave Tippet is.

  • Arik

    Thanks for the warm welcome everyone! I’m definitely looking forward to being able to focus on writing and making you hate me for living on an island paradise.

  • The biggest challenge for Jay Feaster seemed to be, in Year One, that he promised the moon and delivered, well, not a whole lot.

    The biggest change to the club was the youth movement, which was pushed almost entirely by injury troubles. If the Flames don’t lose 400 man-games, you don’t get Irving, Smith, Brodie, Horak or Baertschi. You probably just get Letourneau-Leblond and Ivanans as stop-gaps.

    But it’s not like he can say “Hey look, we used the kids!” and claim it was any kind of plan. He just sort-of fell into it and some of it worked. Now he has to turn a seeming mess of circumstances into a coherent plan for…something.

  • loudogYYC

    Any GM in a Canadian market is basically a part-time politician. They have to fluff up their talk cuz they have to appease media and fans somehow. Most of us here at FN are the more demanding kind of fan, so we don’t tend to take fluff with a grain of salt. Instead we just dismiss it and want to see the guy pushed out of the way for another GM that has cojones like Holmgren or Holland. Problem is a lot of things have to fall in place all at once, even for those 2 that are viewed as geniuses. We still have a big mess to clean up here in Calgary.

    That said, I’m actually a fan of what Feaster is doing here, considering what he has to work with and the state of the franchise when he inherited it from Dinosaur Sutter.

    I don’t know if he’s the guy that makes the Flames a contender in 4-5 years, but for what is needed right now, he seems to be a fit. It’s still entirely possible that he’ll f**k up the future of the team this summer, but that would also be true for any GM facing the trading of a franchises best forward and best goalie to ever wear the jersey. Both within 3 months nonetheless.

  • Arik

    I should note that while I wasn’t a fan of the hiring process for Feaster, I’m somewhat of a fan of his. I think he’s managed to do a pretty decent job in a pretty bad situation.

    Those who read me at M&G will recall my frequent arguments with Jafi over Feaster.

  • Arik

    I still fear Joker being re-signed and Iginla extened to match Tanguay’s contract. Disaster.

    Listening to Joker talk about wanting a long term deal and how the Flames would have lots of money this summer just about made me puke. What an arrogant, useless ass. While at one time I was on board for re-signing him as long as it was for no more than 2 years and 3mil/, those comments made me realize how much of a part of the culture problem he is. No wonder it took Weiss so long to develop with a guy like that mentoring him.

    This team needs an enima.

    If Kipper and Iginla are moved (and I’m feeling far, far less confident of that since Brent was let go), does that start a chain reaction of players wanting out? Would Cammi and or Tanguay want to be here without those 2, espcially Iginla? Their beloved country club atmosphere and best buddy to play with would be gone after all. And if they leave, maybe GlenX asks to go too.

    Iginla, of course, once again turned down the WC. What a tool. This team is doomed.

  • Arik

    I think there is a big big flag with a question on it waving in the Dome parking lot. People on here talk like keeping Kipper & Iggy going forward while we rebuild is an option. Now with Kipper, in 2 years when his contract is over, I actually could see him signing a 2 year extension with the Flames & taking a mentor role, but right now he is so good, we dont want to take 2 years for him to start mentoring. He is also worth more trading him than the mentoring factor at the start of a rebuild. Now the biggest question is Iginla. Way higher profile than Kipper & he has come out and said he really isnt into being around for a rebuild. So this time next year, why do fans think he is going to just sign a reasonable cap hit contract to play his last 3-4 years out in a rebuilding losing environment? How much $$$ will the ownership have to throw him to endure that & the fan/media abuse when we lose again & we blame him for floating? Why do people assume he will resign here? Does this not put a little urgency in finding out “exactly” where his head is at at at the end of next year & maybe we have no choice but to extract whatever value we can. If I were Flames Ownership/King & Feaster, I would have a weekend retreat with Iggy & his wife, get to the bottom of this & trade him before word is out he has no intention of resigning here. Once that happens, we will only be able to get a 3rd round/2nd rounder bidding war for his negotiation rights & thats if he doesnt pull a Brad Richards & block that trade as well!!!

    For those set against trading our 2 biggest business assets & look at middling around them, that is only for 1 more year. The fall is coming, I guess this summer will determine how hard we hit.

  • Arik

    @Kevin R – and yet, if Iginla were to leave after his contract was up, how many fans and MSM would be talking about how he gave it his all here and has nothing left to give and he’s ‘earned’ the right to move on.

  • Arik

    @wolf: Yeah & everyone else will be gleefully laughing at us how we are like the Leafs & got boned in Sundin/Richards fashion & we are going to suck for as long as the Leafs have.

    I have no doubt that this Iginla scenario will & can get awful ugly scary if not addressed this summer in full public. So we either in a teary emotional press conference trade him at the draft to seek a cup or we resign him to like a 4 year 4-4.5 cap hit extension with the same teary kiss kiss Flame forever spin & put this thing to bed once & for all. If it isnt, the next trade deadline will be a gong show & we will not hold the cards.