Random Thoughts – The Irving Compromise



I spent a lot of time in airports and on airplanes during my jaunt to and from the East Coast over the past two weeks, so I have had a lot of time on my hands to ruminate on a few things. I took an Ipad on the trip which is why my comments cropped up from time to time here – it’s a great omnitool for traveling, but is somewhat limiting when it comes to writing anything longer than a few sentences.

Irving’s Last Chance

– Which is perhaps why my glib comment about the Irving contract feeling like a uneasy compromise by both parties rubbed at least one reader the wrong way. I’ll never be swayed by facile appeals to authority when it comes to criticisms of my analysis, but to be fair, the comment was thin on supporting details.

To clarify: that the two parties took a couple of months to negotiate what ended up being a very cheap, very brief contract is indicative that at least one of them is uneasy about the relationship. Nine times out of ten, one year, two-way deals are agreed upon swiftly because usually both the organization and player understand his relatively low standing on the organizational depth chart.

A mismatch in perception of the player’s importance is likely the bone of contention here. A $688,000, two-way, one year contract is the sort deal you hand out to a perpetual tweener – a replacement level farmhand you may need if injury strikes. It’s certainly not a contract you give to the presumptive future number one goalie, so clearly the organization is still suspicious about Irving’s big league abilities.

In contrast, after six years in the Flames system and four years as a pro, there’s little doubt Irving’s camp was looking for a stronger commitment from the team than what they received, so I can only imagine they gave in because other options dried up. Recall that Irving was often connected with the Swiss team who recently signed Alex Auld – so it’s possible the kid’s plan B tired of waiting for him and shored up the position in his absence. Leaving Irving and Winter in a take-it-or-leave it dead-end with the Flames offer.

From the outside, the negotiations and deal are reminiscent of a couple from Calgary’s past: first, when Mark Giordano held out for a one-way contract and bolted to the KHL in response to Sutter digging in his heels. More recently, the cheap, one-year (albeit one way) contract Dustin Boyd signed before his final season as a Flame. Darryl was uncharacteristically candid when he discussed the Boyd signing that summer, explaining that the kid would have to prove something – take a real step forward – in order for him to have a future with the club. He didn’t and the Flames shipped him out for a magic bean (a 4th rounder) at the trade deadline.

Similarly, I imagine this season will determine Irving’s fate in the Calgary organization. He’ll have to take a very real step forward to convince the powers-that-be he’s more than an AHL goaltender. The regime who chose Irving in the first round back in 2006 is gone and Feaster has had no issues shedding the franchise of "Sutter" picks and players. If Leland can’t dominate the AHL and become a capable NHL back-up who can consistently spell-off Kipper this season, expect his time here to end. 

Other Stuff

– Interesting to see Clay wilson bolt for the KHL, despite his contract being a one-way deal this year. Clearly he saw the depth chart filling up on the parent club with the addition of Wideman and retention of Sarich and Derek Smith and so decided to seek greener pastures elsewhere. It’s not a huge blow to the Flames depth, but he was a nice asset for the Heat and as a potential injury call-up.

Oh well. Good luck in your new digs Clay.

– Upcoming: we have a deeper look at the Clay situation and an analysis of the Flames faceoff performance last eayr (spoiler: they stunk). As August moves on, we will look at reasonable expectations for Flames players this coming season, starting with Sven Baertschi this week. Cervenka, Wideman and Hudler will also get full articles.

– Finally, I think it’s time for another photoshop contest. I’m open to suggestions, but I think the topic should be the trio of Sven Baertschi, Mark Jankowski and John Gaudreau. OilersNation recently completed a Yakupov contest and the submissions were excellent.

If that sounds interesting I will make an official announcement for the contest this week and give everyone the rest of August to submit their designs. Prizes will, of course, be gift certificates to Hudson’s Tap House here in Calgary…as well as the applause and adulation of the commentariat here, of course.

  • Austin L

    The way I see the Wilson situation is that the Flames more than likely tried to trade him, however there was no takers for an AHL vet with minimal NHL experience that could probably be had on waivers by the start of the year. Wilson saw how far he was down on the depth chart and with the AHL rules about dressing Vets, he saw that his future was extremely limited in Calgary. Calgary and Wilson both probably thought this would be best for him, Calgary loses a contract off the 50 man limit that although the player is a good option, we pretty well have that type of player covered and Wilson can continue his career in a professional league.

    IMO, I think would have preferred a Wilson over a Sarich, however I guess the Flames saw need to overpay for an old guy with ‘grit’.

  • MC Hockey

    The Clay Wilson loss is actually very good for Flames, he is 29 years old and unlikely there is room on either NHL or AHL clubs…so great! I would rather see Brodie or others get his potential Flames ice time when injuries or bad Sarich play happens. Losing another guy off 50-man reserve list is great!

    For goalies, I would like to see Ramo get here too (per comment 4) but unlikely for 1 year due to testy NHL-KHL relationship when it comes to top players at least. And it works well as Flames get to test out Irving and/or Karlsson for another year with Irving presumably the front-runner to play 10+ games behind Kipper with Karl maybe getting a few also.

    • RKD

      “I would rather see Brodie or others get his potential Flames ice time when injuries or bad Sarich play happens.”

      There was virtually no chance of Brodie losing ice time to Wilson. He was always ahead of Wilson on the depth chart… and arguably Sarich and Smith too.

      I think Wilson was pretty much 9th, sandwiched between Babchuk and Carson.

  • everton fc

    @MC Hockey

    Spot-on. Wilson frees up a contract. He’s not an NHL defenceman. And I’m still wary of Smith next seasob.

    I am also not as high on Ramo as everyone else here, but I hope I’m wrong. I really hope Irving proves most people wrong, and becomes an NHL-caliber, starting goalie here in Calgary.

    Karlsson’s needs to follow Wilson to the KHL. I think Taylor in Abby’s a better keeper. And I’m being serious….

  • MC Hockey

    I supported Irving ,even though his stats were not up to league standards.I did that because i remembered being dissapointed when the club gave up on Gigeurre at the beginning of his carreer.The current situation with Irving is most likely best for both parties,as long as he is given a couple of small strecthes to prove himself ,rather than one game every two weeks.

  • RKD

    Let’s call a spade a spade. The Flames organization has been piss poor in handling the development of goalies. How many years did a guy like Brent Krahn spent in the organization only to fizzle out? Is Irving destined for the same fate? I sure hope not.

  • SydScout

    This contract further confirms the view that the flames can’t manage their goalies. What happens if, heaven forbid, Kipper is injured for twenty games? We’re stuck with a backup that noone trusts in Karlsson and a goalie the flames beat the confidence out of every time he appears to be showing a decent run of form (Irving).

    Very much of a strong view that the flames need to give Irving a defined schedule over the first thirty odd games, so he knows exactly where and when he’ll be playing and manage his preparation (including how much he’ll be played in Abbotsford) accordingly. if he doesn’t step up, that’s it. Both parties move forward and stop being half pregnant.

    @everton fc – agreed, Ramo is a considerable unknown. Not high on him either…. Yet. But hopeful (possibly just the Liverpool supporter in me)

  • Franko J

    @ RKD

    Goalies are not the only players who have been poorly developed. I can’t remember the last time Calgary had developed a draft pick through the minors to be an impact player on this team. I seemed to remember for at least a season or two Calgary didn’t have a AHL affiliate. I believe last season was a first for Calgary Flames by having a goalie coach specifically for the farm team.

    When a player who is drafted in the first round like Irving was there will be higher expectations. With those expectations the fans and media alike want to see results. In Irving’s case it is truly very hard to supplant a good # 1 goalie like Kiprusoff. For Irving starting in training camp under Hartley he has to prove that he wants to play more than 10 games in a season.

    • Flames have had affiliates for AT LEAST the last 10-15 years. Starting in… the 90s (I presume) they were the Utica Devils, St John Flames, Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, Quad City Flames, and Abbotsford Heat.

      All from memory too! Haha. Some of those teams were really just awful… try playing as the goalie in Be a Pro on NHL 2008/9 – they can’t score a goal or play defense to save their lives.

      As far as Irving, I too am surprised it took this long to get a contract like this. I agree with Kent that one side (probably the Flames) is wary of the other side’s abilities and doesn’t want to commit large dollars for a long time.

      My question is this: if Irving/Winter think that Irving deserved better, will he really want to sign on for long term if he proves himself? The Flames and Irving obviously have a different view of where he is at right now. Irving is probably being fed poison by his agent about the Flames (can’t blame him at times) and my guess is that he will move on, even if he does well.

  • RexLibris

    I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over the Flames perceived lack of ability to develop NHL goaltenders. Very few teams can do it on a regular basis and often times when they do it is like a scream in a crowded room, everyone stops and turns to look at what is happening.

    The Flames may or may not develop Irving into an NHL starter. But they haven’t done him any disservice that the Oilers didn’t do to Dubnyk and Deslauriers. In the end it might just come down to the voodoo science of goaltender development: he might not be good enough.

    Fewer and fewer goaltenders are being taken in the first fifteen picks of the draft anymore because it would seem that most scouts and GMs have figured out that unless the guy is spectacular at every level nearly all the time it just isn’t worth the risk. They all figure they are better off taking a flyer with a 3rd, 5th, or even 7th round pick in the hopes that he can turn into the next Pekka Rinne.

    As for Irving’s contract, I think Kent is right here in that both sides are keeping a safe distance until they get a better handle on the situation. It doesn’t mean that Irving is permanently disenchanted with the Flames. If he plays well enough that they offer him a four-year $4 million contract and move to trade Kiprusoff I’m pretty sure all would be forgiven.

    I think Irving’s side believes he is worth more and the Flames aren’t certain that he isn’t. A bit like Backlund. Once more (season) with feeling and we’ll see how things look on the other side.

    Sam Gagner is getting similar treatment from the Oilers and by most metrics he is a pretty solid 2nd line center. Neither side seems to want to commit for too much or too long at this point.

    As for Wilson, did Feaster ask Hnat Dominichelli to place a call and sell him on playing in Europe?

  • Franko J

    @ FireOnIce

    Good memory. After doing some research, the Flames actually shared an affiliation with the Carolina Hurricanes from 2003-2005. The Lowell Lock Monsters / Devils. Where the Flames were granted 7 slots on the roster.
    Yes and all of the AHL affiliations under Sutter until Abbostford were terrible.

    One of the reasons why the Flames non-playoff status for the past three seasons is the direct result of the incompetent drafting and the mismanagement by Sutter with no regard of having a strong AHL (farm) system.
    Drafting is no easy task. For the most part it is a crapshoot. Even drafting 1st overall. IMO it is having coaches within an organization who are good at developing players and players who want be better and get better.

    Case in point: 2003 draft- Phaneuf chosen 9th and Weber chosen 49th. Who now is the better of the two?

  • On another note, the Flyers Andrej Meszaros apparently has a hyper extended Achilles tendon and will be out for a long period of time. The Flyers were willing to back up the truck for Weber even before the Meszaros injury, so they will likely be very aggressive in seeking out a top-4 type defender to fill out their roster.

    If the Flames really want to trade Bouwmeester (who knows if they do or not at this point) then they could have a dance partner in Philly.

  • I would also be okay with taking Simmonds if he was available. Flames need to replenish the RW.

    Some have said we need a D-man back for JBo. I think if we trade him, Hartley should just manage the D pairings better and spread the responsibility across each player. There’s one team that is a good recent example of this and I think it’s Buffalo (pre-Regehr).

    Gio, Brodie, Smith, Babchuk, Sarich, Butler. Call up Carson if you have to. Sign someone like Coliacavo, Hunwick, or Rozsival as a stop-gap measure if need be. Offer sheet someone like Jonas Holos from Colorado, Dmitri Kulikov from Florida, or John Carlson from Washington.

  • Reidja

    Re Bouw to Philly: I’m really bad at proposing trade scenarios that get used by GMs in reality, so I don’t know what we’ll get back for Bouw from Philly. However, if we do trade him, here’s my panacea: Gio takes the reins as our number one defender, Wideman and Brodie play significant minutes on our much more offensive blue-line, Baertche plays top 6 minutes, Cervenka plays centre, Irving plays +20 games, we draft MacKinnon in the 2013 entry draft. Thoughts?

  • Calgary could conceivably get a decent return for JBo from either Detroit or Phiily, but as I’ve noted before, I think the hole he leaves on the back end will be a lot larger than most people want to admit. Certainly, he’s the best D we have.

    Of course, if he was moved as part of an overall plan to replace all of the 30-somethings with futures, I’d be all over it.

    And since that won’t happen, I don’t think JBo will be moved either, especially with only 2 years left on his deal.

    After all, when the Flames falter they can always try to move him at a later date, like at the trade deadline in 2014.