News and Notes from Wednesday’s Presser


The Calgary Flames held a media availability on Wednesday at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Here is what was discussed in no particular order:

– Roman Cervenka (pronounced “Sher-venka”) was introduced to the media formally in what may have been his first visit to Calgary. He’ll wear #10 and Blake Comeau will be finding a new number for next season. Through a translator, Cervenka explained that he was born on the tenth (December 10), he wore #10 growing up and his father wore the same number when he played. According to Feaster, Cervenka requested the jersey number.

– In terms of leaving the KHL and coming to North America, Cervenka (via translator) explained that it was always his dream to play in the NHL. He praised the skill level of the KHL (saying it was a “very, very good league”) but that it’s not at the level of the NHL. He also praised Calgary as a strong hockey town and noted that the Flames were the best organization for him to arrive with in the NHL.

– Feaster noted that the club is making “progress” with their final remaining restricted free agent, goaltender Leland Irving. He also noted that Karri Ramo is expected to be staying in the Kontinental Hockey League for the final season on his contract with Avangard Omsk.

– The Flames are at 48 NHL contracts, including Irving, which Feaster admits somewhat ties their hands in regards to roster moves. The club was previously waiting for the trade market to open up as expected following the July 1 free agent frenzy. While that hasn’t happened, they appear to still be hoping to make some deals to free up contracts.

Feaster mentioned that the organization has identified some players that they don’t really have in their plans going forward, so they may be looking to make some moves. He cited “45 or 46” as the number of contracts he’d feel comfortable having on the books headed into the season.

– It was also noted that the Flames’ atrocious face-off record last season (dead-last in the NHL) was one of the factors that led to the club pursuing Cervenka so aggressively. Feaster also explained that improving face-offs was also an influence on the hiring of the new coaching staff and is a major focus for next season.

  • That last comment is strange, given the fact that Cervenka player wing last year. According to an interview with him and Jagr, that’s the position he prefers as well:

    “Here in Russia centers are supposed to skate back and help their defensemen. We don’t do this in Czech Republic. I didn’t play defense over there. I like it better here because I play on the left wing and there’s no problem.”

    Maybe Roman was a faceoff wiz previously?

    Also, is there any evidence that a coaching staff has a marked effect on a team’s faceoff ability?

  • The odd(er) thing is that both Feaster and the Flames site identify Cervenka as a centre.

    Over the last couple years in the KHL, he’s taking face-offs at about a 50% winning percentage. If he keeps that up, he’s automatically the Flames’ best face-off guy.

  • jakeryley

    “Feaster mentioned that the organization has identified some players that they don’t really have in their plans going forward, so they may be looking to make some moves. He cited “45 or 46” as the number of contracts he’d feel comfortable having on the books headed into the season.”

    The players identified that they don’t want to move forward with undoubtedly include Babchuk and Stajan – and the point remains, just how does/did Feaster expect there to be any sort of interest in players that are coming off such atrocious seasons. An 8th d-man, making 2.5m and what looked like a borderline NHL/AHL center carrying a 3.5m cap-hit (and 2.5m salary) for the next two seasons? I can’t imagine ANY market developing that would see those players as movable assets. They’ll be waiver wire material come October.

  • “…identified some players that they don’t really have in their plans…”

    What do you do with stuff you don’t really have plans for anymore. It gets lost in the garage until a nice Saturday morning comes along and you try to sell it. Stajan and Babchuk 2 for 1 sale.

    I am still dumbfounded that we signed Sarich to anything. Watching him for one more game, let alone 2 more years, is going to reflect badly on Feaster. He made us a laughing stock with that one.

  • I have to be honest, I kind of assumed they were done. A few too many 1ways, sure, (and almost 50 contracts, but what else is new?) but all for competition in camp/going for it (however ill-advised that may be).

    Stajan and Babchuk are the obvious choices to be “not in the plans” but who else? Even with Stajan gone, there’s only 1 forward position open, and it’s probably going to Sven, which causes Comeau to line up on the 4th line (weird I know, but how else does it work?) Does this mean that they’re looking to move Tanguay or Cammalleri? Or Glencross (bad idea)?

  • MC Hockey

    Thanks for covering it Ryan, nice job.

    I agree it’s odd Cervenka is being promoted as a centre and a faceoff man when he played mostly LW lately. However, top-2 line centres are what the Flames need and I propose this signing is Feaster’s “we’re smarter than you” move to show the rest of NHL he can get great players from odd places. Feaster is expecting (of course) that “Shervenka” will “tear it up” in 2012-13….thus all of this background noise serves to further justify the signing.

    As for the 45-46 players signed comment, yes, that could refer to moving out Babchuk and Stajan should the new CBA allow some salary-cap-penalty-free moves. Or, it could me JayBo plus 2-3 more players are going to be traded for just 1-2 players.

    The move to re-sign Sarich and some other moves were simply the Flames saying that for this role “this guy is the best default option out there without making a trade, so let’s sign him before someone else does”. That may theory may apply to Comeau “he’s a nice little 3rd-liner with speed, grit, and scoring potential” and possibly others.

  • jakeryley

    We bundled some cd packages the other day and put them on a buy and sell site. We didn’t know if anyone wanted cd’s anymore, especially some of what we were offering. Bidding started at $1 for each bundle. All were sold for more and the Abba bundle went for $9. The point is that perhaps some team will see some sort of value in our discards. Heck, a few years ago someone took on 4 very fringe players for an all-star defenseman, another young defenseman and a penalty killing fast forward so who knows? I also agree that Feaster would look at moving more contracts for less. Here’s hoping.

  • Colin.S

    Stajan will find a new home, there were enough losers in Free Agency someone is going to take a flyer on a 2.5 million Matt Stajan, In reality, thats what a lot of almst 3rd line guys are making these days.

    • Stockley

      I don’t hate Stajan. Like so many others he just makes too much money and he carries an undeserved no-trade clause. It’s not Matt’s fault that Darryl gave all of that to him. He’s shown flashes of being an effective player when given the right linemates and icetime. He’s still a defensive liability at times, but since the Flames are stuck with him they should at least try to make use of his skill set. He’s ill-suited to the role of a 4th line grinder/roleplayer. He’s a playmaking center and far too soft for a grinding role.

      Same goes for Babchuk. Feaster gave him too much and a dreaded NTC. I think both players need to have good camps or be forced to make an uncomfortable decision. A) Ride out the season in the pressbox. B) Accept a demotion to the AHL for playing time and teach the youngsters how to be good pros. C) Accept a trade to ANY team that wants them, be it the NHL or a European reassignment.

  • RexLibris

    Were I a Flames fan some of these comments would make me very nervous.

    I’m not inherently a risk-taker, but Feaster’s claims that Cervenka can open the season, and his rookie debut, as the first line center, with very little depth at that position to back him up, seems a little irresponsible.

    As for getting the Flames down to 45 or 46 contracts, what might help there is if Feaster were to stop doling out clauses on them. It couldn’t hurt.

    Kent, I have heard some anecdotal (your favourite, I know) evidence from players saying that a particular coach here or there made a marked improvement in their faceoff ability.

    As a caveat to that, though, Cervenka’s obvious language barrier might hamper his ability to take away instructions from the coaching staff, to some extent. I also wonder if it impact his ability to play the center position as an orchestrator for that line’s offensive positioning and such. Then again, I may be out to lunch.

    • Stockley

      Since Cervenka and Hudler are friends off the ice it makes sense to play them together and see if that off-ice chemistry can translate. They speak the same language, Hudler’s presence is going to help his friend assimilate. I’m sure it’s not going to be a seamless transition and there will be bumps in the road; but if the stars all align there is some potential there. If Horak has a good showing at camp he might steal someone’s job and we’ll have an all-Czech forward unit. All three Czechs have played wing and center during their careers, which brings a much-wanted versatility factor.

    • Stockley

      “I’m not inherently a risk-taker, but Feaster’s claims that Cervenka can open the season, and his rookie debut, as the first line center, with very little depth at that position to back him up, seems a little irresponsible.”

      indeed, but there’s actually more “back ups” for that plan than for Nugent-Hopkins being the Oilers’ top center last year (of course, that ended up working out). If Cervenka flops, that spot could be taken by Cammalleri, Backlund, or even Stajan (if he sticks around). All three of those players have spent time as Iginla’s center (yes, even Cammalleri).

      • Stockley

        Given his decent faceoff percentages in his limited time in the circle it’s a shame Iginla himself isn’t comfortable in the position. Instead of trying to find him a center we’d just have to find him some wingers.

        Have to point out that Stajan manages to get himself north of the 50% cutoff line as often as not. A rarity in Calgary, I’m all for giving the poor man one last shot as top line center. Let him stay there a little while this time, develop some chemistry.

    • Cervenka is technically an NHL rookie, but I wouldn’t call him one in general. He’s 26/27 and has been playing in the 2nd best league for a couple years now – he’s a rookie only in a technical sense. Two months of skating on North American ice, training camp, and pre-season should get him acclimatized.

      That, and English lessons.

  • Colin.S

    Thanks for the summary.

    I think the contracts Feaster is referring to are likely AHL players like Wahl and Walter.

    With the addition of Street and the junior players entering the ranks they need to unload some bodies.

    I think Feaster knows that unloading Stajan and Babchuk isn’t going to be easy.

  • Colin.S

    Like a couple of others, I made note of the comment about reducing the number of contracts to 45, 46.

    I did attend the development camp and thought that the absence of two guys were conspicuous. Mitch Wahl and Bryan Cameron, both have had injury issues and have struggled mightily in their pro careers. Wahl with his concussion then the (requested?) move to Hamilton and subsequently to the ECHL last season. Cameron, I understand, also had injuries but then ended up in the ECHL.

    Might it be that these are two on the bubble, as evidenced by their not being present at camp. Are they no longer being considered “prospects” by the club?

    • Stockley

      I don’t think Wahl won much support within the organization with his request to play for another team’s AHL affiliate. They tried to warn him that most teams are going to look out for their own prospects first when it comes to playing time. He might have been better off just soldiering on in the ECHL and trying to have a great season there, then crossing his fingers that something would open up in the AHL in the future. No one is outright saying it but I think he burned his bridges.

  • RexLibris

    @ Douglas

    Mercy, I can breathe easy again. 😉


    The Oilers spent a few seasons trying the Czech linemate angle with Hemsky and a parade of countrymen. If it works, it works.

    Horak, Hudler and Cervenka could be an interesting tryout, but Horak has to earn that spot.


    Nugent-Hopkins was paired with Smyth to start the season so that Smyth could take the faceoffs. The Oilers had better depth, by my reasoning, at the start of the season with Gagner, Horcoff, Belanger and Lander all at center behind him. Gagner or Horcoff could move to 1st line center if things went haywire. It wasn’t a backup of a true 1st line center, but how many teams have a spare one of those lying around.

    While neither team can boast a spectacular lineup down the middle (yet), I would rank the Oilers center depth chart at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season higher than the Flames center depth chart for either last season or this. Sorry.

    • Stockley

      I’d like to think everyone not named Jarome or Miika have to earn their spots.

      I really hope some of these kids come in and put some fear into the veterans. Complacency and what seems to be almost entitlement has plagued this team for too long. During the brightest stretches of last season there were kids in the lineup sharing their enthusiasm, passion and hunger with the vet. I hope (there’s that word again) Hartley goes with the best guys for the job rather than just handing out roster spots based one experience and salary. If someone like Horak, Aliu or even a wild card like Howse have a killer camp I want them on the team. If that drives someone to the press box or the AHL, so be it.

      I’m not really one to rally for change for the sake of change; but when the status quo keeps on failing it’s time to try something different.

  • Stockley

    Anyone feel like a bit of butt kissing is going on? His name is Chervenka, not Cervenka. We are giving him Comeau’s number. Speak directly to Cervenka, not the interpreter. Signing his friend. Agent interpreting for him. Etc.

    I am probably just paranoid. Maybe their shoe is just untied. But they seem to be bent over in the middle of the room for some reason.

    • Stockley

      If you’re right, then is there really any harm in making the organization look like the value their players and acquisitions? Given how the last three seasons have ended, Calgary is not exactly a prime landing spot for high-end free agents.

      They want this guy to feel comfortable and fit in, they want this to be a success and not a failed experiment.

      There is an outside chance Comeau wasn’t all that attached to the number 10 to begin with. I have no idea what he wore in junior, but I do know that Blake wore the numbers 24 and 57 while playing for the Islanders. 57 was taken by Bouma when he arrived. Not sure off the top of my head if there was any reason he wouldn’t or couldn’t take 24.

    • Stockley

      “Speak directly to Cervenka, not the interpreter.”

      … this has nothing to do with anything. That’s common practice. You address the person you’re communicating with, not his interpreter. That’s the way it’s always been, and the way it always will be. It has nothing to do with “butt kissing.” It’s nothing more than telling someone not to talk with their mouth full.

  • I don’t understand why these foreign players don’t learn English. Alex Semin is a good example, he speaks mostly in Russian, and refuses to speak English. Be a team player – a good portion of your teammates speak English or French. Try to blend in instead of being an outsider.

    Same for Cervenka. His days should consist of working out and crash coursing himself in English. He has almost 2 months to figure out the basics and then Hudler can guide him through the rest.

    • in the actual interview, he explicitly states that he’s learning english.

      his lack of knowlege in the language should be forgivable, considering this is the first time he’s ever been in NA ever (except perhaps for some stints with the Czech national team, where English speaking wouldn’t be necessary)

    • Perhaps you should brush up on your sentence structure skills. Your English could use some work as well so you don’t include run on sentences.

      Give the guy a break! Have you tried learning a second language?

    • RexLibris

      I’m not trying to pile on here, but I just thought I’d bring up a point. I don’t know if you have a second language or not. I have studied a few (and speak none, so I’m not bragging here) and it has taken a lot of time and study to get to the point of comprehension, let alone to be able to speak it informally.

      As well, hockey players aren’t exactly famous for their erudition. If Cervenka was happy playing over in Europe he probably spent his time learning Russian and maybe a little Swedish or French.

      Semin might not be very good at languages. Malkin hasn’t exactly put his best vocabulary foot forward, but his performance disguises that shortcoming.

      I imagine once he signed the Flames contract his agent had him hitting the Pimsleur English and TOEFL/IELTS courses pretty hard. Getting into the dressing room will help.

      And if you want language barriers, you should have heard interviews with Esa Tikkanen or Henry “Gizmo” Williams. And those guys were speaking English!

  • Thanks for the info Baalzamon.

    I guess what I said sounded a bit harsh. I’m certainly not under the impression that Cervenka should come into Calgary having a PhD in the English language. It just seems like there’s a rising number of players who are refusing to speak the language, out of fear it will change them or just plain laziness / not giving a hoot.

    Perhaps it’s a bit of xenophobia rising up in me when I see these guys unable to speak a lick of English and having to hope and pray that they actually attempt to pick some of it up.

    Look at Semin, he’s a total outsider, and nobody wants him. Part of his character issues involve the refusal to speak English and only hanging out with Russians (remember Semin, Varlamov, and Ovechkin got in trouble for laughing with Kovalchuk after a loss?).

  • Regarding the coaching staff having an influence on face-offs. Wouldn’t it make sense for the Flames to hire Joel Otto as a special assignment coach to work with the forwards on face-offs? You would think he would be able to help the forwards improve their face-off techniques and strategies.

    • yes.

      on a semi-related note (regarding the language discussion), I always found it interesting that Swedish players seem able to learn English flawlessly for some reason. Look at guys like Alfredsson and Markus Naslund. They don’t even have accents (well, they have Canadian accents).

      • SmellOfVictory

        If I recall, the Nordic countries just have insanely good education systems, including their English language education. The benefits of living in socialist-leaning countries (that also happen to think learning English is important). It really says something when many people from these countries who speak English as a second language can speak it better than the majority of North Americans who have it as their primary (and often only) language.

    • Now the question is will the Preds match? He’s the best D-man in the world, and losing him for nothing would be catastrophic for the franchise. Since they were said to have already been looking for a trade, it seems likely that they’ll match and then trade him.

      • From Jonothan Willis’ article

        “The Predators need to be able to match that first year because they aren’t able to trade Weber in Year One; the current collective bargaining agreement stipulates that in any situation where a team matches the offer sheet to one of their restricted free agents, they must retain his services for the next season.”

        Oops, kinda puts the kibosh on my suggestion. Well then, this seems like an excellent oppurtunity for the Preds to lock up their captain by matching if they can, but I would think if the Preds do match on Weber and he can’t be traded this upcoming season then he’ll just demand a trade next july 1. That would put David Poile in a very difficult situation

  • CitizenFlame

    They can afford him now that they aren’t paying Suter too. I can’t see how the Preds don’t match? Fold the franchise if they don’t match an offer sheet for their captain and arguably the best defenceman in the league/planet.

  • CitizenFlame


    to be fair, it’s an offer sheet, so they would hardly lose him for nothing. Unless you consider 4 late 1st round picks nothing (they’d likely be in the 20’s, since Philly with Weber is scary).

    Absolutely they should still match it if they can.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    come on down to jay feasters used cars where we ask you what you want to hear. i am beginning to believe this act belongs in a second rate vegas casino. all smoke and mirrors.

  • RexLibris

    I may be alone here, but I don’t think Poile should match. Those four 1st round picks aren’t going to compensate Nashville for the loss of Weber, but frankly it is more than he might get through a trade. Look at how much Luongo and Nash are going for right now. Would Weber be any more affordable for a team?

    Regier matched the Vanek sheet and if he hadn’t he would have still had the pick that was used to take Tyler Myers, as well as the other pick in that year which was used to take Jake Gardiner but could just as easily have been used for Jordan Eberle, as well as Magnus Paajarvi and Taylor Hall, all things being equal. He let his ego cloud his long-term objectivity.

    Let Weber walk, recognize that fate is telling you something, bring along the next wave of defensemen and start to rebuild the team.

    Those four first round picks will have value for the Predators in the next few years. For the next four consecutive draft years Nashville could package their own pick and the Philadelphia pick (probably somewhere after #20) and move up in the draft order. Or they could simply rebuild a core by drafting twice in the first round, getting eight first-round players in four years.

    Matching would only tie the team to a ridiculously high contract and keep the team grounded in their past. It sucks to lose Weber, and the offer sheet adds insult to injury. There is no fair value for a player of his calibre. However, fate is dropping hints like bricks and trying to ignore it might only cost the franchise more in the long run.