Five things: Jay Feaster’s just screwing with me at this point

1. Let’s start at the very beginning

A secret of the trade: I usually write this column, for Wednesday mornings, on Tuesday afternoons or nights (and, full disclosure, I’m writing this on Monday night because I’ve got my own stuff going on). I therefore did not know about Jay Feaster’s plans to trade for the rights to Dennis Wideman, and then sign the defenseman to a contract before he hit the open market.

On a perfectly sensible level, I honestly feel as though Dennis Wideman takes a lot of undue crap and is a perfectly fine defenseman. Perfectly fine. With that having been said, you do not give a perfectly fine defenseman — undeserving All-Star nod not withstanding — $5.25 million a year through 2017. It’s a legitimately bad contract, even if it’s for a position of significant need for this team (right-shot defensemen).

Without vitriol, it’s a completely puzzling signing. Doesn’t $5.25 million a season strike anyone in the Flames organization as being too much money, especially when the only person you’re bidding against is yourself? There was not a feeding frenzy of interest in Wideman because the CBA didn’t allow there to be one. You might look at a $5.25 million cap hit for a defenseman coming off what was almost a career year — note: almost — because he was largely a power play specialist and didn’t play especially tough minutes. He was also a third-pairing defenseman on the Capitals in the playoffs. You know, when they played ultra-defensive anti-hockey. So that’s an issue.

Those who would laud the deal point out that the Flames power play last year was painfully average, and boy are they ever right about that. But apart from holding his stick in a way that most defensemen do not, I don’t see where Wideman improves your power play to the tune of earning that deal. Unless he magically makes it jump to about 25 percent. So to summarize: Decent second-pairing defenseman earning better-than-decent first-pairing defenseman money.

Oh, and he has a no-movement clause. Welcome to Calgary.

2. Shall we move on to another bad deal?

Cory Sarich. He is back. Where Wideman is more or less one-dimensional in that he is not a particularly good defender, Sarich is zero-dimensional. He’s slow, he provides no offense whatsoever, he doesn’t defend well against even mediocre competition. He was a often healthy scratch last season. And he’s going to be 34 years old in August.

So why wouldn’t you give him a two-year deal?

There are reasons that a person could reasonably defend extending Dennis Wideman a contract — maybe not THAT contract, but certainly a contract. Could someone please defend this Sarich contract? Jay Feaster, expert that he is, determined that Calgary needed sand paper on its blue line, and apparently Sarich fits that bill better than any other options available.

I don’t see it. And that’s period. One year, two years, doesn’t matter. It’s a bad contract to a player I was shocked to learn was only 34. He looks significantly slower than that. One can’t begin to imagine how bad this deal is going to look when Sarich is 35.

I just don’t get it apart from the whole "We have to be hard to play against" angle. Know what’s hard to play against? Defensemen who can actually do their job.

3. And then there’s Hudler

Frankly, I’m not even mad about the contract Jay Feaster gave Jiri Hudler on Monday. I’m really not. I just don’t get it any more.

The defense is, I think, pretty obvious. He’s a two-time 50-point guy who scored 25 goals last season. That is, on paper, the very definition of a second-line forward, which Feaster has repeatedly stated as a desired target. So, ostensibly, he got that, and with a contract that carries reasonable term for a 28-year-old and — wait for it — a standard deal that allows for movement of the player.

But the bad news is this: There’s no indication that Jiri Hudler can produce on his own, and perhaps the Flames didn’t get the player they thought they were getting. The team release called Hudler a center, which he is decidedly not. Scott Cruickshank pointed out on Twitter that Hudler took a whopping SEVEN draws this year. He lost five of them.

More to the point, though, I’m not sure Jiri Hudler is going to be relied upon to score 25 goals this coming season, or even 20. The reason is that his shooting percentage — in a contract year, mind — was 19.7 percent. Just about one in every five of his 127 shots found the back of the net. Among players who played more than 30 games, that number was fifth in the league, and higher than his career average of 13.6 by nearly half. In a year of typical shooting, Hudler would have had just 16 goals, and Jay Feaster just gave him $4 million a season for the next four years.

This isn’t advanced stat geek stuff. This is "listed in the NHL’s front-page stats line" stuff. It doesn’t even take an understanding of advanced statistics. It takes, in the simplest terms, elite goalscorers to maintain shooting percentages of north of 15 percent over the course of a career. A guy who just set a career high of 25 goals is decidedly not that.

And did I mention Hudler did that playing with Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula? He did. I just took a look at a random sampling of the goals he scored, thanks to NHL.com, which, if you’re looking to find goal highlights, is the first place you should go every time. First goal up was, you guessed it, a tap-in on a Zetterberg centering pass. The second was a shot on a wide-open net on a dish from Filppula on the power play. The third was a quick rebound on a Brad Stuart point shot. The fourth was the exact same play on a Zetterberg shot from the slot. The fifth was on a quick rebound on his own shot thanks to a nice dish from behind the net by Filppula.

This is, of course, by no means scientific and indeed, the Flames could probably use a guy with a little bit of jam around the net. Ryan Smyth and Tomas Holmstrom made their entire moderately-noteworthy careers doing exactly that. But who on this roster fits a Zetterberg or Filppula role? Alex Tanguay, who likely won’t get much time with him, maybe?

It’s a deal that I don’t fully get for a guy who Red Wings fans were glad to see leave and at some point, you have to wonder what, exactly, this team’s plan is.

4. So an someone explain any of this?

Feaster is, I’ve been told, building this team for two or three years down the line, or at least so that its potential core players — in order of increasingly speculative: Sven Baertschi, Mikael Backlund?, Chris Butler??, TJ Brodie???, Max Reinhart???? — are coming into their primes.

But that does little to explain why Feaster is giving out long-term contracts to guys who seem fit to make minimal impacts for maximum payouts. I’ve heard it said that the Flames are better today than they were on July 4 last year, and that’s probably true. Whether it’s good enough to make the playoffs, which is the team’s ridiculous goal right now, seems less certain. Unless Roman Cervenka and Jiri Hudler perform at high levels, and Mike Cammalleri starts playing like the Mike Cammalleri that Flames fans remember, I don’t know where the goals come from next season. I certainly don’t know who prevents them from going past Miikka Kiprusoff, particularly if Jay Bouwmeester is dealt for scrap, which it seems as though he almost certainly will be.

The Calgary Flames now have the second-highest payroll against the cap in the National Hockey League, and we’re sitting here wondering if maybe they squeak into the playoffs. In what universe is that acceptable for a team that hasn’t appeared in the postseason for three years?

5. Here’s Iggy

  • Captain Ron

    As I was reading this the more it went on I kept thinking to myself if it doesn’t get a little more positive soon I’m gonna need an Iggy pony – Feaster sun picture before its over and then wham!! There it was…….Thanks for saving me again Lambert. Funny how you just knew some of us were going to need a little help with this one.

    Further to the positive stuff I guess I won’t have to give away my Wild tickets this year. Maybe Brodie and Parise will keep the rivalry going that started last year.

  • Colin.S

    @Everton

    So who would you have liked us to target in this offseason then?

    Trying to find guys with size/speed/skill/grit like you said is incredibly difficult at the best of times. Unless you draft them, trying to sign them in the offseason if they are even availble is going to cost big money, As well trying to trade for them, the LA kings sent out a bunch of prospects and NHL players to acquire those types of guys. How would you go about acquiring those guys?

    I would rather get a slightly smaller guy with great skating and skill then focusing solely on what the size of the player is.

      • flamesburn89

        Exactly. The Flames drafted for years under D.Sutter looking to land players with size, grit, and leadership. Although those characteristics are important, skill, talent, and skating are critical. If you draft somebody like Anze Kopitar, who has all of those things, then that’s awesome for you.

  • RexLibris

    I don’t think evertonfc was being flippant when he said that the Flames needed to add skill and size. I just think that for the sake of brevity he wasn’t going to get into specifics.

    Every team wants to get bigger and better. And that is pretty much every team in any North American sport (except perhaps horseracing). Just like almost every team looks at a big player in junior and says to themselves “gee, if he could learn to skate a little better and maybe score a bit more he could be our Milan Lucic”.

    This gets back to the question I have posed above. Who makes up the Flames core? If those players are your core then presumably you would be reluctant to trade them. Now, assuming that you are left to trade the remainder of the roster, what is there value and marketability? Once you have determined the reality of these two situations you can begin to plot a path forward by whatever means are left open. To paraphrase Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whatever is left must be the answer.

    Presumably one cannot rely on some magical trade wherein a collection of has-beens and underperformers are exchanged for bona fide players and top-drawer NHL-ready prospects. That would be akin to using the 649 as a retirement plan.

    What is left then? And in which direction has the franchise gone? Are the two mutually exclusive or is there a middle ground that is being effectively explored by the current management group?

  • Parallex

    So… Carle get’s 5.5M per for 6 years (on top of Suter getting 7.5M AAV per for infinity years 12M per at the front end). Wideman really doesn’t look like a bad deal considering the going market rate for d-men (I mean geez Aaron Rome is getting 1.5M).

  • Franko J

    DRAFTING & DEVELOPING.

    The Flames were just terrible under Sutter. When EVERTON FC mentioned all those players he would have liked on this team, if you look at the history of the draft from 2003 to 2009, a number of them could have been drafted by Calgary. Instead we had a GM who had tunnel vision and little conceptuality to his drafting methods. Selecting 1st round busts and trading away the 2nd pick for the quick fix caught up with this team prior to last. Signing retreaded free agents really never helped this team develop younger talent.
    Why are the Flames struggling with little depth at center, aging core, lack of skill and talent? — It is the mere fact Calgary doesn’t properly draft and up until last few seasons have had total disregard for developing players to play and perform at a NHL level. Until they do there will be forever conversations such as this.
    The reason there is free agency is for the sole purpose of GM’s to try and fix their past mistakes of drafting and developing players within there own teams.
    Why do they trade? Same thing — the always covet other players who think will make there team better and the GM can keep his job by providing a winner for ownership.

  • everton fc

    You can’t have all the players you want. Obviously, unless you’re the Minnesota Wild! But I think we could manage a few.

    Someone had mentioned a JBo for Lucic scenario. I’d do that, but not straight up. But that’s me. (Look at the minutes and the defencemen the Devils had this season. Perhaps we could make some things work w/o Bouwmeester, if we could secure another top-4 d-man once he’s gone?)

    I didn’t say Statsny was gritty. He’s not soft like Stajan. That was my point.

    I would have taken Girgensons over Jankowski. I’m comfortable with that opinion. And I never said he wouldn’t become a tough player. Scouts say he wasn’t. I hope Jankowski works out. My favourite team just drafted him! The GM will most likely be moved on when this kid finds his stride. If he finds his stride.

    I still think we need to move towards bigger, skilled players. And we do have a few in the system, as mentioned above. If others like the small/skilled approach, I hope it works out for us. I have my doubts.

    To close, I agree w/Ryan’s original article above. But I respect all opinions.

  • everton fc

    @Everton

    You said we need to bigger skilled guys, but 3 of the guys you had on the list don’t scream skilled to me, Gaustad, Ott and Dorsett, they are big and bottom six, thats all.

    Statsny would have cost us this years 1st and more. Simmonds wasn’t just some throw in for Richards either.

    As for Trading JayBo for these guys, how do you replace JayBo? With hard hitting tough guy Cory Sarich??? Calgary simply doesn’t have the assests to acquire guys like Richards or Carter, even using JayBo thats a pipe dream

    I don’t get why you want to move Backlund as well, oh right, he’s not some big 100+ pim per season guy.

    The best teams of late have employed more skill than “toughness”, the two time presidents trophy winner is a good example, the only time toughness is a factor is sometimes during the playoffs when the refs decide that they don’t need to make the calls they should be making.

  • everton fc

    @everton fc

    “I didn’t say Statsny was gritty. He’s not soft like Stajan. That was my point. ”

    a difficult claim to make, considering that Matt Stajan actually out-hit Stastny last season.

    some other players you regard as “soft” who out-hit (or averaged more hits per game) than Stastny: Mikael Backlund. Lee Stempniak. Chris Butler. Jay Bouwmeester. Jiri Hudler. Blake Comeau (by a wide margine. I don’t remember if you yourself claimed Comeau was soft, but I know other people have). Seems to me you should be pretty happy with the current roster.

    btw, still waiting on that definition of soft.

  • everton fc

    @everton fc

    “If others like the small/skilled approach”

    Sigh… nobody likes a “small” approach, it’s the skill that matters. If you could get the same skill in a bigger body at the same price then of course you go out and get it but the fact is that guys with both size and skill are highly coveted and thus cost an arm and a leg to get and keep.

    So given that you often have to pick between big or skilled… I’ll take skilled everyday and twice on Sundays.

  • everton fc

    @Baalzamon:

    I never claimed any of the following were “soft”:

    Lee Stempniak. Chris Butler. Jay Bouwmeester. Jiri Hudler. Blake Comeau.

    Not in this discussion.

    Many think JBo’s “soft”.

    Hudler’s known as a bit of a grinder. And I’ve defended Comeau as this type of player.

    My point was we seem to be going for smallish skilled players. I’d prefer bigger skilled players.

    We agree on Sieloff. And a lot else. My definition of “soft” might be a guy like Stajan, no matter how many hits he has.

    And I actually don’t mind Stajan as much as many others here, though I wish we could move his salary today.

    I agree with JF – you take skill over size anyday, if the “size” can’t produce points. Logical. Would love to see us draft/trade/develop players more in the Lucic mold. Ferland and Reinhart have a bit of this. As may Seiloff. Perhaps this is the direction we are pursuing, though it doesn’t appear to be such, on the surface…

    As an aside… I agree with most of your posts here. I respect you, as a fellow fan of this frustrating team. And I am not happy with the current roster at all. Haven’t been for a while.

    I would have kept Moss, though. And Jokinen may score more for the Jets than Hudler will here. Both, to me, are third line options on a good team.

    We shall see…

  • everton fc

    @everton fc

    that’s fine, no offense intended, and no hard feelings bro. It just bothers me a little that a lot of people (not necessarily you) seem to use “soft” as a word to describe any player they don’t like. Personally, I don’t believe Backlund (for example) is soft at all. Injury-prone, yes, but not soft.

  • everton fc

    Backlund’s a good kid. I like him. Seems to be an upbeat kid. Like Horak – like him, too. Hope both can make it here, somehow.

    Time seems to be running out on Backlund, though. I’m not convinced he’ll be more than a 3rd line centre. But he could be a really good 3rd lien centre. Which is why we should give him at least one full season in that role.

    Horak’s not soft, either. Not in my opinion. People think the Swedes/Finns are soft. Not me.

    I can’t stand guys like Ott. But they produce.

    No hard feelings. You have good views and opinions. And we agree on Sieloff!