On Rebuilding, Part 8: The Florida Panthers

Frequent commenter and guest contributor RexLibris’ series on rebuilds continues with the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers have recently been held up as proof that a team doesn’t need to be terrible for long periods in order to become good. Many fans have commented that they would prefer to see their team take the approach of Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers over that of the Edmonton Oilers, and that a team can be rebuilt on the fly, with as much chance of success as a “nuclear-style” rebuild.

Our task in this case is to find the truth in this matter. The Panthers have obviously rebuilt under Dale Tallon, that much is clear. The question becomes was this rebuild done in such a fashion that it can reasonably be applied to other situations and franchises where a team can be remade over a summer and go from a perennial bottom-place team to a playoff contender? In order to ask, and eventually answer, that question one needs to look at the talents that were acquired between the period of poor performance and resurgence, the existing conditions that facilitated this remodeling (in case the term rebuild is becoming repetitive), and what assets were acquired as a result of the Panthers being so bad, and drafting so high, under earlier management as well as their true impact on the recent improvement of the team.

FairyDale Beginning?

Let’s begin by looking at the change of ownership that occurred just before the Dale Tallon hiring. The Panthers were purchased by Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel from Alan Cohen on November 16th, 2009. Viner made it clear in media interviews following the hiring of Tallon that he was going to build the team through the draft, but that the resources would be there in other areas of the franchise.

Dale Tallon was hired on May 17th 2010 and immediately he began to prioritize the draft. He brought in six new members to the Panthers scouting staff and today that department of the organization numbers thirteen members, from European scouts to pro scouts and so on.

His first draft with the Panthers in 2010 saw him acquire two 1st round picks (one of which he traded to L.A. in order to trade down from 15th to 19th and acquire an extra 2nd round pick) in addition to his own which was a 3rd overall. He traded Dennis Seidenberg to Boston for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and a 2nd round pick that was used to select the promising defenseman Alex Petrovic. Tallon next sent Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton to Boston for Dennis Wideman, a 1st round pick (the 15th overall alluded to and which would eventually result in the selection of Nick Bjugstad) and a 2nd round pick later traded to Minnesota for a 3rd and a 4th round pick. After that, Tallon sent Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich to Vancouver for Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner and a 1st round pick (25th overall – Quinton Howden). By the end of the draft in 2010 Tallon had acquired Eric Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden, Alex Petrovic along with nine other prospects through the draft. He would also go on to waive Michael Grabner while Steve Bernier would find free agency after Tallon chose not to retain his RFA rights, thus whittling the Ballard/Oreskovich trade return down to just Quinton Howden.

Tallon’s moves showed a great deal of faith in his newly assembled scouting staff in acquiring all of those picks. As we have already seen, in 2004 Bob Pulford put everything he had into the draft and his scouts rewarded him with few NHL players of note. It is too early to pass judgment on Florida’s 2010 draft other than to say that there are some intriguing prospects in Gudbranson, Petrovic, Howden and Bjugstad.

Following the draft, Tallon then stocked up on NHL talent of questionable quality. He traded for players such as Darcy Hordichuk, Sean Zimmerman, Hugh Jessiman, Jack Skille, Ryan Carter, Niclas Bergfors, Sergei Samsonov and Alex Sulzer. If one could be accused of deliberately acquiring a collection of underperforming players, Tallon would qualify. Many of the players brought in were either journeyman or in the reclamation phase of their careers.

During this period and up to the 2011 trade deadline, Tallon added only two additional draft picks, bringing the total to ten for the 2011 draft. At the draft Tallon would select Jonathan Huberdeau, Rocco Grimaldi, Rasmus Bengtsson, and Logan Shaw amongst others.

If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire…

With the franchise already having amassed the talented prospects necessary to slowly rebuild a franchise either before or immediately after he arrived, Tallon was free to take the Panthers in a direction the club had never previously gone. Receiving both approval and funding from ownership, he began aggressively pursuing free agents and trading for players that were a financial liability on other teams but could still be productive players on the ice. The Panthers were going to buy and barter for an NHL squad.

In an interview with the Palm Beach Post shortly after purchasing the team, Viner states that he and Tallon agreed that the team would be rebuilt through the draft, rather than free agency. And yet, because of the salary cap floor, they ended up doing both.

It is important to note that Tallon wasn’t just working within the salary cap limit. He actually had to make up nearly $20 million in player salary between draft day and the beginning of the pre-season just to reach the salary floor. Where other teams were desperate to shave four or five million dollars off of their player roster, Tallon had approximately $40 million dollars to work with. This gave him an enormous tactical advantage when negotiating trades and acquiring talent.

Tallon was able to use both the lifestyle advantages of playing in Florida as well as significant, though short-term, contract offers to upgrade many areas of the roster, often with players that were familiar to him from his other NHL jobs. Through free agency Tallon also added Ed Jovanovski, Tomas Fleischmann, Marcel Goc, Jose Theodore, Matt Bradley, Sean Bergenheim and Scottie Upshall.

By trade he was able to add Brian Campbell from the Blackhawks for Rostislaz Olesz. He then acquired Niclas Bergfors and Patrick Rismiller for Radek Dvorak and a 5th round draft pick, Tomas Kopecky was brought in for a conditional 2012/2013 7th round draft pick, Kris Versteeg came from the Flyers for a conditional 2012 3rd round pick or 2013 2nd round pick (at the Panthers discretion). Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson were both acquired from the Canucks for Steven Reinprecht, David Booth and a 2013 3rd round draft pick.

Tallon also made several trades to bolster his AHL team in an attempt to improve the internal development system for the Panthers, subscribing to the philosophy that prospects thrive when they must compete for ice time.

In exchange for short-term contracts Tallon could afford to overpay some free agents. Perhaps with an eye to preventing the team from being tied to a declining player when their young prospects eventually began to vie for NHL jobs. The longest contract on the Panthers’ books right now is that of Brian Campbell which has four years remaining, a contract that Tallon himself signed Campbell to while in Chicago. Fleischmann, Upshall, Jovanovski, Kopecky and Bergenheim all have three years remaining while the remainder of the roster is either entering free agency this summer or has only one year remaining on their current contract.

Tallon’s situation is one that provides a great deal of flexibility for the team over the next few years as it begins to graduate some of the young prospects to the NHL. However, this flexibility, if managed incorrectly, can turn into instability and we will have to wait and see what he does over the next few years in Florida before declaring his experiment a success.

Soldiers of Fortune

The turnaround that Florida experienced this past season (and it deserves mention that many in the media had expected a bottom five conference team) was the result primarily of the players that Tallon pursued in this period of free agency and trade. Tomas Fleischmann, John Madden, Mikael Samuelsson, Marco Sturm, Kris Versteeg, Scottie Upshall, Ed Jovanovski, and Brian Campbell; by gathering together this list of expendable and castoff players Tallon was able to cobble together a roster that could compete in a weak division.

Of the players drafted while Tallon was GM, only Erik Gudbranson has had any time playing at the NHL level (72 games played, 8pts, 78 penalty minutes). This eliminates the draft boon that the Panthers experienced while at the bottom of the standings as having had any impact on their overall performance in the 2011-2012 season.

Rather than simply elevate their young players to the NHL regardless of their readiness (something previous regimes had chosen to do, to the detriment of the players) Tallon approached the issue from a more patient perspective. He would keep many of the prospects in their development leagues until they were truly ready to compete for an NHL job even though it would create a void in the roster.

This gap gave the Panthers an opportunity to take a very different approach in handling the rebuild.

Putting the “T” in Teamwork

These mercenary tactics worked and Tallon put together, and held together through approximately 300 man-games lost to injury, a roster that earned a playoff berth and challenged the eventual Stanley Cup contending New Jersey Devils in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.

Dale Tallon hasn’t rebuilt the Florida Panthers in a traditional sense. In fact, if one were to discount the prospects that the team has in its system and which were predominantly drafted prior to his hiring, Tallon’s moves all bear the mark of what is generally referred to as a re-tooling. At best Tallon could be said to have executed a hybridized version of both approaches, one specifically tailored to the situation that exists in Florida where a poor team needed to plan for the future but also needed to ice a lineup that would create some local interest. Tallon traded away many of the underperforming and ill-fitting players for draft picks, then filled the available roster spaces with better players during a deep free-agency period. He capitalized on his team’s enormous cap space, and its need to reach the cap floor, to acquire good players signed to bad contracts and to overpay for free agents. He never needed to take the team to the bottom of the standings, that had already been accomplished by the mismanagement of previous GMs Jacques Martin (2006 – 2009) and Randy Sexton (2009 – 2010) under then-owner Alan Cohen. In short, Tallon preserved the integrity of the Panthers’ farm system and prospect depth while improving the team immediately through the mercenary ranks of free agency.

As in some of the other cases of franchise rebuilds, it is often a moment of change that leads a team to undertake the dramatic process of a rebuild. For the Florida Panthers it is the day that the ownership of the Panthers changed from Alan Cohen to Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel. Less than a year after the change of ownership Dale Tallon was hired to run the team.

Credit belongs to Viner in recognizing that the draft was currently the best method of acquiring high-end talent and for instructing his GM to value that process. Credit also belongs to Tallon in so far as he was shrewd enough to notice the window of opportunity available to him under very specific NHL market conditions and capitalize on them.

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together…

In summary, Dale Tallon didn’t exactly tear the Panthers down and stockpile all of the draft picks that have put the Panthers at or near the top of most prospect rankings. That was done prior to his arrival and is primarily the result of the poor management of the team under Mike Keenan, Jacques Martin, Randy Sexton and the previous owner Alan Cohen. Tallon deserves credit for flushing out the weaker elements of the old roster and replacing them, creatively and opportunistically, with better veteran options while still retaining many of his prospects and draft picks.

Before advocating this path as a viable alternative to a rebuild for one’s team, a fan needs to look at many variables. One of those being, is there a quantity and quality of free agent players available at the necessary positions to be had? Tomas Fleischmann became a 1st to 2nd line center in Florida and was only available as a free agent because of repeated health concerns over blood clots. On average, players at his position and of his caliber are not readily available on July 1st.

That being said, Tallon took a team that had finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference the year before and turned them into a team that won a majority of its games in one of the weakest divisions in hockey. They were also beaten in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Tallon has provided an example of how a team might be reshaped in a single off-season, but his model should not be held up as a viable option of bypassing the draft and creating a cup-challenging team overnight.

Tallon and Viner purchased a modestly competitive team; if that is one’s goal then it certainly is achievable.

The 2012 season for the Florida Panthers could just as easily have gone down in the record books as another failed campaign finishing outside of the playoffs.

Tallon had been tasked with growing the team and the game. Florida is a non-traditional market for the NHL and has to fight for fan attention. At the same time the team has had 19 years to develop both and it is unlikely that ownership can afford to spend another extended period at the bottom of the standings in order to add more prospects. While the goal of seemingly every NHL organization is to win a Stanley Cup, pragmatic concerns must also be considered, and thus far Tallon has seemed to serve these two masters relatively well.

Tallon’s retooling in Florida is no more or less of a guarantee (as that appears to be what so many fans want today) of a successful franchise than the radical rebuilding methods pursued by George McPhee in Washington.



  • RexLibris

    One other thing to consider is that the Panthers had one of the worst GD of a playoff team in the last 20 years.

    They finished -24 this year, the next worse team was -8 (Washington, who just happens to play in the Panthers division).

    A further thing to consider, is that the Panthers played 25 OT/SO games last year. Getting 20+ OT/SO games happens to a few teams every year, but I couldn’t find a team who managed to do it twice in a row. A typical team winds up with about 15 OT/SO games over a season and that can make a big difference.

    The Panthers remind me a lot of the 07-08 Oilers… a team who benefitted from a lot of OT games to inflate their standings.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    The panthers have better management that’s why.
    KLowe tried for 12 seasons to make us a winner and only made the playoffs
    3 times. Why doesn’t Katz grow some balls and bring in people
    Like what the Panthers have done. Why are we always on
    The outside looking in every year.

    • supra steve

      What happened to all the dudes named Justin, Jordan, Jayden, Braeden, Matthew, Dave, Bob, and Jeff. Gotta be half a dozen Steve’s posting on the nation sites. I’m getting confused. Maybe I need to change my handle to Suba-Dooba-Doo.

        • supra steve

          Sad to learn some guys named Steve are pompous…, I’ll leave it at that.

          But I will quote Alfie Zappacosta (who I’m told resides in Edmonton). Alfie’s song: “It’s all been done before”. So as original as you think you are, you are just copying the name of a toy you saw in a movie. And as original as I thought my handle was, I was copying the same toy from the same movie and the name thus bears some resemblance to one on another nation site (though mine is at least slightly modified from the one in the movie). None of which excuses that you are a pompous…

          Have a nice long weekend.

  • John Chambers

    Overall I’m supportive of the idea to compliment a roster of young players with journeymen and veterans of questionable health and contract value … within reason.

    If the Tallon experiment proves anything it’s that depth is an oft-underrated element of a successful team, and can be acquired flexibly and cost-effectively.

  • RexLibris

    Basically this article was just an excuse to post pictures of George Peppard.

    Before this rebuilding series I was a big fan of Tallon. I still am to some degree, but the shine is beginning to come off.

    He didn’t go all in for the rebuild in Chicago, that was his predecessor, Bob Pulford. And the resulting draft picks were mostly a futile exercise with the exception of Jonathan Toews.

    Then looking into what Tallon has done in Florida, basically he took the owner’s credit card and went shopping. He did it well, I’ll grant you, but to suggest that this was an option sitting on the table for anyone to use at any time is, in my opinion, misinformed.

    I expect the team will regress this season and they will be a little bit better than what we have all come to expect from the Panthers, which is to say “slightly better than awful”.

    • BurningSensation

      Excellent series Rex, I agree with both your analysis and your conclusions.

      I do have a quibble though, what exactly is a ‘rebuild’? Florida moved out and in a bunch if guys, but left their ‘core’ (Weiss, and…?) more or less intact.

      I ask because there are a vocal contingent of Flames ‘fans’ here screaming for a ‘rebuild’, but who ignore or deride any roster changes under Feaster as being part of a rebuild because he hasn’t moved either Iggy or Kipper.

      I’d argue that the rebuild is well underway – and that it may proceed in full with Iginla and Kipper staying in the fold (Iggy more likely than Kipper IMO).

      I’m curious to read your thoughts on how Ottawa has handled the transition from a core of Spezza/Phillips/Heatley/Alfie to Spezza/Karlsson/Turris/(Player to be named later, probably Zibanejad) with Alfie now in the role of aging icon/mentor.

      • RexLibris

        Thanks, agreement is so much more agreeable!

        I actually struggled a little with the definition because it is thrown around by management groups that have an obvious bias when messaging.

        For instance, if the fan base in Calgary suddenly got on the “rebuild it now” bandwagon, Feaster would start throwing that word around as liberally as he has other terms. It might not actually change his behaviour or the direction given to him by Mr. Edwards, but to be seen using it is to be perceived as pursuing it.

        To my mind, a rebuild is the deliberate stepping back from competing in order to assess the core and culture of a team, acquire young talent, turn away from attempts to fix problems on the roster through high-cost free agent contracts which serve the short-term needs of the team, and to actively prioritize drafting and developing talent internally.

        The Oilers, Penguins, Blackhawks, Kings, and now Blue Jackets have all done this. The Leafs have not. The Panthers are betwixt and between and are trying to drive two wagons at the same time. The Flames, well, that is a story for another day.

        As for the Sens, I left them off this list because I figured ten teams was probably enough, and their direction was still largely up in the air. I would say that they have retooled to some extent, but a rebuild wouldn’t be out of the question. They have kept their most precious asset, Spezza, because replacing him would be nearly impossible except through a very high draft pick (top two) in a good year.

        I’m not a fan of Bryan Murray’s management style (I think he made a massive error in leaking the Healtey package on offer from the Oilers) but to date he has done a decent job. We shall see if he can move it on from where it now sits.

      • supra steve

        @BS – that’s because in Calgary’s case those 2 players are the pillars of the team. It’s who they tried to build around in order to win the Cup. Keeping them signifies no rebuild by definition.

        Bringing in new players each season is not a rebuild, it’s unavoidable and very few of them are of the variety one would think of when imagining a rebuild; ie. young and talented.

        None of the players brought in are the types to build around themselves either, which is part of why Iggy and Kipper are still here. Moving Iggy and Kipper for pplayers, prospects and/or picks that you hope can be new pillars is a rebuild.

        Band-aids are not rebuilds, especially band-aids wrapped around two 35 year olds.

        • BurningSensation

          And it’s here that we see things differently. There have been large roster changes for the Flames, as well as the accumulation of picks and prospects, and a much improved farm team – that to me = rebuild.

          Iginla will likely be re-signed at a lower cap hit befitting his age, and transition from the teams best player to it’s elder statesman/mentor. Kipper will most likely IMO be moved at the trade deadline of his last contract (my bet is Rammo becomes the new #1).

          All of which is in keeping with a ‘rebuild’. The ‘trade Iggy for bag of magic beans or it’s not a ‘rebuild” position simply isn’t tenable.

          • supra steve

            Shane Doan has an offer of what, $7.5 million per year over 4 years as a RFA. Problem is, unless Iggy signs a cap friendly extension soon, you are likely to have to pay him this kind of $$ or else lose him for no return (other then cap space) next summer.

            You were saying something about a position being untenable?

            As for the “magic beans” argument. It’s true, sometimes young prospects fail to turn out. Look at a list of Flames first rounders over the past 25 years and you will find more then a few.

            But when the alternatives are to:

            A. lose Iggy for no return

            B.overpay him in his retirement deal

            C.grow a pair/trade him, and take your chances on some young top end prospects.

            I would choose C and hope for the best. Trading an established star for picks/prospects is how we got Regehr, Iginla, Nieuwendyk, and what we should have demanded in return for Phaneuf. No “guarnatee” it works that well, but I don’t see any guarantee that keeping Iggy works out for the best either.

          • BurningSensation

            I (and management) would choose option ‘B’.

            Overpaying is in the eye of the beholder, and if Iggy and mgt can make a deal that keeps him a Flame for life at a salary in the $5m range, I’m ok with that.

          • supra steve

            They may choose option B, but they don’t have it done yet. In the end, what would you choose if Iggy says, “I can get $6.5-7.5 as a UFA, pay me or I walk.”? He may also come out and say he wants a Cup, so leaves as a UFA for that more then for $$. Iggy choosing to stay is not a guarantee.

            Also, I will concede that there are worse options then resigning Iggy at $5mil/season for a 2 year deal (but don’t plan the Cup parade just yet), but what if he wants 4 or 5 years at that rate?

          • BurningSensation

            I would expect that because Iggy and mgt have been mutual fans;

            – Iggy gives us a heads up on whether he would like to stay or go.

            – His salary for the last years of a multi year (2+) declines so as to create greater cap space as we move forward.

            – Signs an extension that includes a NTC, but works with mgt to get a good return in the event he wants to take a shot at the title elsewhere.

          • RexLibris

            The Flames aren’t in a rebuild simply because Feaster says that they aren’t. 😉

            Seriously though, I wouldn’t classify them in that category.

            They have not made youth a priority. They have gotten younger, but adding a 30-year old Cammalleri and getting younger speaks more to their average age prior to the move than to a philosophical shift. They have added Comeau and Jones, but that youth is in the lower half of the roster. The core of the team remains in Iginla, Kiprusoff, Bouwmeester, Giordano, Cammalleri and Tanguay.

            I know it looks good on paper, but when one looks into it you begin to see that Iginla is no longer what he once was. Cammalleri is a great complementary player but is not enough to turn the tide. The same rings true with Tanguay with the added caveat that his age is quickly becoming a factor. Kiprusoff is perhaps only a season from retirement. He has his money and is, by all accounts, reticent to leave Calgary for anywhere other than Finland. That taking in combination with a contract that will only pay him $1.5 M in 2013-2014. Giordano is an excellent second pairing defenceman, but I don’t know that he and Bouwmeester are enough to carry the defensive weight of that team.

            As for Iginla re-signing, why would he sign for less than $5 million? His point tallies would give his camp an easy argument that he is deserving of it and ownership’s loyalties being what they appear to be, it is hard to imagine that they wouldn’t agree. It will probably be less than $7 million but I wouldn’t put it lower than $5 million, and we can assume that there would be a request for franchise loyalty in the form of a NMC. That, in my opinion, would be an overpayment.

            Iginla, at the same time, can only transition from key player to elder statesmen if there is someone with whom to exchange places. There isn’t and does not appear to be any time soon outside of an accelerated development curve from Baertschi.

            In reviewing the past few years of the Flames in prepping for their “rebuild” series article what I saw was that there has been a continuous shuffling of bodies both under Darryl Sutter and on through Jay Feaster. Feaster has different targets, but the net effect is largely the same. Like taking different medications to treat the symptoms without ever seeking a remedy for the underlying cause (I apologize for the analogy, I don’t mean to imply that the Flames core is a ailment. Don’t take it literally, but it was better than simply coughing up the tired “shuffling deck chairs” analogy.)

            Feaster has done the same tired search for a 1st line center, only looking in different places. He has traded away as many, more if on a time-spent ratio, draft picks as Sutter. And he has handed out curious contracts with clauses as readily as we saw under the previous regime.

            This is not a rebuild. Calling it a retooling would be more appropriate, though even that seems to imply a level of foresight and planning that, frankly, I cannot discern.

            A rebuild is coming, of that I have no doubt. If there is a lockout of any extended length then I would almost guarantee that fate will kick the Flames into a more traditional rebuild. If not, time and fading chances will eventually force the issue.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    somewhere deep in the bowels of cyber space DSF is trying to compose himself upon seeing a Dale Tallon/Florida Panthers rebuild blog……

    in before the DSF spin machine fires up and takes over!

  • Wax Man Riley

    Rex Libris Wrote:

    The Florida Panthers have recently been held up as proof that a team doesn’t need to be terrible for long periods in order to become good. Many fans have commented that they would prefer to see their team take the approach of Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers over that of the Edmonton Oilers, and that a team can be rebuilt on the fly, with as much chance of success as a “nuclear-style” rebuild.

    This is such a great series, Rex, thank you for putting the time in for us.

    I find this line funny, since in 18 seasons, they made the playoffs 3 times, capped with a decade-long stint out of the 2nd season…

    They were terrible for a long time, essentially stockpiling draft picks.

  • justDOit

    Tallon seems difficult to pin down. He’s being heralded as the saviour gm of the Panthers with some prudent moves, but he’s also bungled more than a few deals as well.

    He signed Campbell to that ridiculous contract – and Huet too. He bungled those qualifying offers, turning his RFAs into UFAs and forced himself to pay big now to avoid losing them – just to save a courier fee. Didn’t he also select Cam Barker at about 5th overall?

    I guess they’re all just human, after all, but I think there’s another side to a gm’s work that goes unsaid: pressure from ownership under certain circumstances.

    Say what you want about KLowe’s time in the big chair, but he was forced by the first ownership group to pinch pennies all along the way. That can’t be easy for a gm who’s trying to ice a competitive team.

    Then when Katz took over, it was the ‘spend like a druken sailor’ initiative to try and make a mark on the NHL, and declare that the Oilers would no longer be a feeder team for the big markets. As we saw from the contracts of that period, not a wise approach either.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Great article Rex ….. this just in ….. Eberle signs contract $36mil / 6 years. Cue the Wanye “Ebs mancrush” article that has been “in the chamber” since Hallsy signed.

    EDIT: Possible titles Wanye will use for his obligatory article:

    “Heir Jordan”

    “EBSceptional Signing”

    “The $6 million Dollar Man-child”

    or my favorite, “Six Million Degrees of Ebs-salvation”

    • supra steve

      Congrats, Oiler future is looking bright. Now if we can just get Feaster to pull the trigger on a Flame rebuild, we may see a renewed BOA in the not too distant future.

      Can we interest you in a slightly used JBo?

      • justDOit

        Only for next year’s 2nd round pick…

        Despite what some may say about Feaster’s moves since the trade deadline last year, I still hold some cautious optimism for that team. Maybe the new coach can turn things around this time? Who’d they hire again? Hartley?

  • I think you forgot to mention one very important name to the list of additions. Kevin Dineen. A good coach with a solid track record in the AHL. I think he made the collection of bits and pieces Tallon assembled work as a team more than any of the individual pieces on their own.

  • RexLibris

    Wow, thanks everyone. This series was late to OilersNation (it took some doing to get that box of contraband Cuban cigars to Jonathan!) so if you are interested please check out the earlier articles (warning, I tend to go on. So bring coffee).

    • justDOit

      It’s too bad the Eberle contract announcement stole some of your spotlight, but I’m sure all the interested hockey fans here will eventually get around to reading it. Again, nice job on the entire series, and don’t worry about being efficient – don’t writers get paid by the word, or by the page?

      • RexLibris

        Yeah, darn that wunderkind from the Land of the Living Skies! lol

        You say that now, but the Oilers and Flames articles are longer than any I think I’ve done so far. I’m very interested to hear from fans on both of those.

        Thanks again, though!

  • RexLibris

    On DSF, he and I had some dialogue in the last article and I said that the Florida one was next. I look forward to his comments, but I have to add a disclaimer: these articles aren’t comprehensive. There are so very many circumstances that go into every single move and counter-move by a team that it would be nearly impossible to cover them all while still maintaining an end product that anyone would even want to read online.

    @VMR – I don’t really go into coaches in the rebuild series. A little bit with the Oilers one (next, I believe) and the Flames (last), but for the most part it is a factor that is outside the scope of the series.

    @JustDOIt – Tallon might have been “encouraged” to sign those Huet and Campbell contracts by ownership the same way Katz went whale hunting in his first go around.

    From what I have read, I believe that Tallon took all of the blame, though only part of the responsibility, for the RFA fiasco. If I remember correctly, the responsibility had actually been under the watch of his second in command, Stan Bowman. Who is now the GM. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m waiting to see more from the younger Bowman before saying that he is any better or worse than his predecessor.

    @suba steve – Feaster won’t rebuild. But I think fate will do it for him. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time he’d “built” a team to finish first…in the draft. The longer this CBA goes on, and the more details emerge about what the landscape might be coming out of it, the worse it looks for that franchise. The smart GM will be the one that can convince Feaster to depart with a few more draft picks for 2013 or 2014. In my opinion those could become very valuable.

    • The Soup Fascist

      A cynic might say that Tallon’s biggest challenge last year seemed to be spending to the floor. It could further be argued that Tallon out kicked his coverage with the Campbells, Fleishmans, Versteegs, et al all having close to career years. This could be considered extremely fortunate and difficult to repeat.

      But I am not that cynical. I actually think Tallon got the dirty end of the stick in Chicago and is very capable. I just think not even he believed how well the stars aligned. Time will tell.

      • DSF

        Tallon, like any smart GM, made a bunch of bets.

        He won them all. (Perhaps excepting Jovanovski).

        Now, that means he is either very lucky or very smart.

        Considering his success in Chicago, I’d put my money on the latter.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Kudos on a very well-written and well-informed article, Rex. At what point are the many highly rated draftees that Tallon has been patient with, deemed busts if they don’t play a key role with the club right away?

    Edmonton is allegedly a “better informed” fan base / media than Florida yet we have plenty of folks who have been running Gagner out of town since he turned the “big 2-0”. And Paajarvi is destined to be a bust in many Oilers fans eyes.

    Do you have sense if Florida fans / media are more patient? Or is it apathy?

    Thanks again for the huge commitment you have made.

  • BurningSensation

    Rex Libris:”This is not a rebuild. Calling it a retooling would be more appropriate, though even that seems to imply a level of foresight and planning that, frankly, I cannot discern.”

    I disagree;

    – They have in fact gotten younger, the Cammo for Bourque deal (which is looking very lopsided in Cgy’s favour right now) made us younger and more talented (and reversed a Sutter error).

    – Would anyone trade Butler for Regehr straight up? I wouldn’t. Regehr was part of the ‘core’ Feaster has begun to change out.

    – The older part if our ‘core’ need not be traded away if they can be replaced from within. Baertschi doesn’t need to be fast tracked in his development (though if he earns it that works for me), to be Iggy’s replacement in the ‘core’.

    – Iggy at $5M is a much better deal for an aging winger. That said, what matters is not the $ figure he makes, but the % of cap that he takes up. So long as the cap rises with revenues, his % of the cap will decline as he ages making his deal better as it goes (i.e., if Iggy makes $7M a year under a $39m cap he had better be among the very elite, but at $5M a year in a $70m cap world his deal is very reasonable).

    – A key feature of any ‘rebuild’ is addressing the influx of young talent. In this regard Feaster has been excellent. Wisebrod’s effect on the scouting department is obvious as the three best offensive prospects we have had in almost two decades are from Feaster’s two year tenure (Baertschi, Gaudreau, and Jankowski).

    – Feaster has already made more 2nd rnd selections than Sutter’s entire tenure.

    – He added a 26 year old skill pivot for the cost of an entry level contract.

    – Just as Iggy’s heir apparent has already been drafted, Kipper’s eventual replacement in the ‘core’ likely has as well (Rammo, Ortio, Irving).

    Moving Iggy and or Kipper out for prospects/picks may be one way of doing a ‘rebuild’, but I prefer how Feaster has gone about it. Fix the talent pipeline, trade bad contracts for good, keep the valuable vets to drive the team until they can be replaced, win more games, and don’t suck like the Oilers.

    • RexLibris

      You feel that Baertschi will be Iginla’s replacement after he has played all of 5 NHL games? I admire your optimism and excitement. Heaven knows I have been guilty of that many times.

      I would like to see a few seasons worth of consistent play and development before anointing him the heir apparent.

      Speaking of re-signing Iginla, I recognize that it is based on percentage, and if the cap were going to go up to $70 million then it would be at least a slight overpay (we’re talking opinion there, so we’ll probably just have to agree to disagree). But in all likelihood the cap will be coming down. The lowest estimate I have seen is $63 million, a figure that they are already over. Re-signing him for $5 million of that would be equivalent, approximately, to an extension at his current rate of pay.

      I can see how you would argue that the Flames are rebuilding. From my point of view though, the threshold for that term is a little higher than what Feaster is doing right now.

      As I have said, the Flames have more exciting prospects now than any in recent memory. However, I would wait a little longer before declaring them NHL players. And as to the influx of youth, this is where things might get a little impolite, but what the Flames have done these past few years in terms of drafting, is what most teams do on a yearly basis. They have managed to get to the league average.

  • BurningSensation

    Rex Libris:”I can see how you would argue that the Flames are rebuilding. From my point of view though, the threshold for that term is a little higher than what Feaster is doing right now.

    As I have said, the Flames have more exciting prospects now than any in recent memory. However, I would wait a little longer before declaring them NHL players. And as to the influx of youth, this is where things might get a little impolite, but what the Flames have done these past few years in terms of drafting, is what most teams do on a yearly basis. They have managed to get to the league average.”

    This brings me back to my question about ‘what is a rebuild’? You say the threshold hasn’t been reached yet, but what is the threshold?

    As for Iggy’s salary and the cap, the league wants to roll back the cap and salaries by the same amount – so if the cap drops 10% so likely would Iggy’s $ hit.

    And I don’t think you are being impolite about our last two drafts, I think you are simply wrong. Calgary has more legit NHL prospects from the last two drafts than we had from the previous five combined. Corey Pronman o er at Hockey Writers (IIRC) had Calgary’s latest draft as one of the best three (and it might even be the best) of all teams in the league (Edmonton and Montreal were the others who did very well).

    The Flames literally went from horrendous to excellent at the draft table with the change of regimes (and we really need a good nickname for Wisebrod ala Stu ‘Magnificent Bastard’ MacGregor).

    If Baertschi is in the Calder race at the end of the year (a good bet I think), then you can simply move the Swiss kid into ‘core’ and slide Iggy o er to ‘mentor’. He doesn’t need to score 30 as a rook to take Iggy’s spot, just prove that one day he might.

    • RexLibris

      In the league’s first proposal they had asked for a salary rollback, but that demand has, I believe, been subsequently dropped from negotiations.

      I read Corey Pronman’s draft review. I would rank the Canadiens and Penguins draft as the best, in my opinion (yeah, I know, Pronman is just slightly more qualified to speak on that). I wasn’t really impressed by the Flames draft. It was better than many other teams, but I think there are at least five or six other teams who had equally good drafts. For the record, I wasn’t terribly impressed by the Oilers’ draft. It was good, and some of the players could become intriguing pieces in the future (Khaira and Gustafsson specifically), so I’m not being biased here.

      I would say that the Flames went from being horrendous to being, at best, above average, at worst, average.

      I took a look at Weisbrod and Button in the Flames article. You can read it when it comes up, obviously, but suffice to say, I’m not bullish on either.

      I’m not going to bet against Baertschi being in the Calder race (I’m not certain how many quality rookies are going to be in the NHL this season). But then again, I don’t put as much stock into the Calder as a predictor as some.

      Baertschi will become part of the core of the Flames over the next few years, of that I have no doubt. My question is whether he will become a principal player, or will he become a supplementary talent. I’m not ready to suggest, though, that he is a replacement for Iginla. I think it puts too much pressure on Baertschi and simplifies what Iginla has accomplished in his time with the Flames.

      • BurningSensation


        The NHL’s proposal was modified from a direct rollback to an ‘escrow’ proposal that effectively does the same thing. My understanding is that the NHL brass want immediate ‘salary relief’ and that this is the current roadblock in negotiations.

        I’m still curious what your benchmark for a ‘rebuild’ vs ‘retool’ is?

        I confess to having been seriously impressed by how Feaster and Wisebrod have rebuilt the talent acquisition side of the Flames (and while I remain skeptical that Button is very good as a scout, I suspect that interference from the previous GM was to blame for the lack of talent selected at the draft under his watch).

        Yes there are serious roster holes that still need to be addressed. Yes, Iggy and Kipper are both likely to decline.

        But these holes have been relatively obvious for, well since Joe Nieuwendyk was traded.

        And Feaster’s solution on how to fill them strikes me as the correct one; improve the scouting, add more+better prospects, use advance stats to identify bargains others overlooked (Cervenka), make smart deals referencing youth and skill. Build from within. Don’t suck.

        • RexLibris

          Defining a rebuild today includes three factors:

          The recognition of a need for rejuvenation or rehabilitation of a core group of players. This can extend to mean that a core group must be entirely replaced or removed from a roster.

          A commitment to acquiring elite talent that will form this new core. This can be by many means: trade if available (rare), draft if necessary (more common). Free agency is almost never a solution in this area.

          Focus on objectively identifying which assets best fit the terms laid out by the first two and the leveraging of any remaining assets such that the goal of building a new core group of players is most effectively achieved.

          Your description of what Feaster has done – improving the scouting, acquiring and improving prospects, adopting advanced statistics, and dealing for youth, with the addition of building a talent base internally – are all the things that nearly every team strives for. I can honestly say that I don’t think Sutter would have said he wasn’t trying to accomplish any of the above. So to that end, has Feaster accomplished these things? To some extent (I have serious reservations about the advanced stats based on the Wideman and Hudler signings). But that just means he has raised the team to the average, something I have already argued.

          Read the Flames prospect review on Hockey’s Future, for example. Then go and read the prospect reviews for the Blackhawks, Ducks, Stars, Capitals and Hurricanes. Five teams picked entirely at random, and compare the prospect outlook. Now try and determine if the Flames prospects are any more likely to have as rosy a future as what has been predicted for all those other young players? I had to start doing this years ago after repeatedly being told by Mr. Prendergast that every prospect was a diamond in the rough and so on.

          The Flames appear to have become a healthier organization in some areas (emphasis on that last point) than they were three years ago, save their roster. Their drafting seems to have improved (let’s wait five years before deciding if Seiloff is Regehr 2.0 or Jankowski is the second-coming of Nieuwendyk), and Troy Ward appears to be on the right track in Abbotsford. But these are early returns and need to be tempered with patience and some room for skepticism.

          In my opinion, and I’m not saying this as a Flames-hater or Oilers’ fan, but as someone who has spent an awful lot of time looking around the league and digging into all the teams, the Flames organization had best get their drafting ducks in a row, because I feel that they will soon be in a position to capitalize on a very favourable selection or two.

  • BurningSensation

    RexLibris:”Defining a rebuild today includes three factors:

    The recognition of a need for rejuvenation or rehabilitation of a core group of players. This can extend to mean that a core group must be entirely replaced or removed from a roster.

    A commitment to acquiring elite talent that will form this new core. This can be by many means: trade if available (rare), draft if necessary (more common). Free agency is almost never a solution in this area.

    Focus on objectively identifying which assets best fit the terms laid out by the first two and the leveraging of any remaining assets such that the goal of building a new core group of players is most effectively achieved.”

    So to summarize, a rebuild is when;

    – The team recognizes a need to change the core

    – They commit to finding players to join the core

    – They commit current assets to reshaping the team to fit the new core.

    Using your own definition;

    – Feaster identified that Regehr (and likely others) no longer fit the core, and moved him out for younger pieces (Butler, Byron) and cap relief.

    – Signed a young skill center in his prime, traded an older winger who is breaking down for younger pieces (including Rammo, a possible starter at a ther perfect age), made several moves to acquire extra picks (Erixon trade, Jankowski slide), etc.

    – Rebuilt the teams scouting and talent procurement system, in particular he steered them away from ‘size, farmboy, can fight’ as prime criteria, and put the emphasis on skill and hockey sense. Spent large number of picks on prospect forwards (where the cupboard was almost totally bare), and goaltenders (Ortio, Rammo).

    So yeah, I’d say that using your criteria we are in a rebuild.

    • RexLibris

      So the Flames are rebuilding. But Feaster has explicitly said that he isn’t rebuilding.

      The skilled center is a massive risk, given the Flames lack of depth at center. I’m not sure who the aging winger was, but if it was Bourque then Feaster acquired an older, though more effective, winger/center in Cammalleri. The Erixon trade was forced on him and to his credit he turned it around to something fairly effective and the Jankowski trade down was due in part to his inability to move up at the draft and the need to recoup a 2nd round pick that he had earlier traded away.

      I’d still disagree that the Flames are rebuilding, but I doubt we’ll find common ground at this point. 😉

      I’ll be very curious to get your feedback on the Flames article.

      • BurningSensation

        I think Feaster uses ‘rebuild’ in the sense of ‘deliberately sucking for a high pick’, and I think he is right to avoid that context of ‘rebuild’. Not coincidentally the ‘sucking for a high pick rebuild’ is what most commenters here think ‘rebuild’ means, and why any and all efforts to keep the team competitive (i.e. not riding Iggy and Kipper out on a rail for draft picks) drives them collectively bananas.

        IIRC Cammalleri is actually younger than Bourque…, but I admit I could be wrong on this.

        The Erixon trade may have been forced upon him, but Feaster nevertheless is responsible for how he maximized the return (2 2nd rnd picks and Horak). He could have tried for a different return (like a vet winger or D man).

        I agree that Feaster likely tried to move up in the draft ( Grigerenko being the likely prize of interest), but who is to say that the price to do so wouldn’t have been ruinous? We can’t judge the deals he didn’t make, but we can judge the ones he did. He correctly determined the guy he wanted would be around later, and he had Buffalo pay him a 2nd rnd pick (Sielof – who looks like a decent prospect right now) so they could swap spots.

        The whole ‘he only needed to do this because he dealt a 2nd away earlier’ is a red herring. He extracted a profit for his decision to move down, and while it might have been to replace the pick he previously dealt, it also might have been because he wanted more bullets fir the Button/Wisebrod gun at the draft. motivation isn’t discernible from his actions, but the results (Jankowski/Sielof vs just Girgensons) is.

        Lastly there is zero risk with the Cervenka signing, precisely because the team is weak at pivot. He cost nothing but a rookie contract offer, is the right age, right skill set, and right (more or less) position to fill a need for the team. It is the exact opposite of ‘risky’.

        I do look forward to reading your Flames profile (having read all the others), as I’ve tended to agree with your analysis on the whole.

        My quibble remains that ‘rebuild’ needs a better/fixed definition – one that has a more empirical bent to it (ie., a % change in roster or ‘core players’), otherwise you are only going to talk past your critics (who so far seem to number judt myself) in the same way Feaster does with his.

        • RexLibris

          You are right that Cammalleri is younger than Bourque, by about six months. Cammalleri is an upgrade in terms of skill and effort. The contract length is more amenable, though the pricetag is far too high.

          I still maintain that there is risk in the Cervenka signing because of Feaster’s stated goals for the team: remaining competitive and trying for the playoffs. That being said, given that his options at the time were to sign Cervenka or Jokinen, Cervenka was probably the bet with the greater payoff. Had he traded for Carter this might all have been moot.

          Thanks for reading through them all. I appreciate the time taken.

          I don’t know that rebuild can be defined any more than that most people, like art, can only say that they know it when they see it. I realize this leaves the whole conversation open to debate, but let’s try and crystallize some terms to find common ground before we proceed to the last two articles.

          We can agree that a rebuild involves major changes to the key members of a core. In some cases this could be the acquisition of an entirely new core group, or the retention of one or two minor pieces while adding several more core players. Either way, I think we can agree that a rebuilding core is marked by the dramatic changeover in a roster.

          At this point your contention is, and I apologize if I get this wrong, that Feaster has affected a rebuild by his many roster moves, adding players such as Baertschi and Cervenka to the core of the team.

          My contention is that Baertschi and Cervenka cannot be considered core members yet and that many of his changes appear to have been on the periphery.

          We can wait until after the Flames article to debate that further.

          Another point on a rebuild is the deliberate prioritization of drafting and the acquisition of elite level talent.

          I cannot find where Feaster has been able to implement this outside of the drafting of Baertschi (who still has to establish himself as an NHL player). The cost for acquiring these players is usually steep, and cannot be simply waived off, so Feaster may have attempted multiple deals that have not come to fruition.

          Again, I think we can put this aside until the Flames article where we can look over all of Feaster’s moves.

          I would also include that a rebuild needs a public admission from management that it needs to be undertaken.

          They could do one thing privately and another in public, but the media coverage for all sports teams today is such that this subterfuge would not last long and would only serve to undermine their reputation in the long run.

          By saying that he absolutely refuses to rebuild the team (he does not specify method, just the overall approach) it would appear that Feaster, at the behest of ownership, has decided on a more mercenary approach, though not entirely at the cost of drafting.

          Finally, the objective assessment of the relative value of assets for the short and long-term. In my opinion there is no way that any critical audit of the Flames roster could defend keeping players such as Iginla, Cammalleri, and Tanguay (not to mention additional long-term free agent signings) while maintaining that they are in a rebuild.

          Those players all have value, but the value they have would work against the franchise if the team’s goals were to add quality young players and prioritize the draft. As you have said, “being bad and sucking” as a part of a rebuild isn’t usually the initial goal, but it is an understood consequence of the action.

          If a team can figure out how to draft high and not suck, they take it. It just rarely ever happens.

          I think I (or the rebuild process? not sure which here) have many more critics than just yourself. I imagine that you speak for many others on this forum who simply don’t have the time to write out their arguments. For every one person that speaks out there are usually four or five that agree in silence.

          Thanks for reading all the series thus far. The Oilers article is next with the Flames one last. I have tried to make the Flames article the most thorough and balanced of the series, so I welcome your, and everyone else’s, opinions on it.

  • RexLibris

    I think the test of his re-build will be determined next season.

    The east was incredibly weak last yr, Carolina, Tampa, Buffalo and Habs have all improved over the summer. Where Florida on paper got worse, they lost some key pieces (Samuelsson, Garrison).
    The question is, will they be able to stay out of the bottom of the basement next yr while their conference got stronger.

    • RexLibris

      Agreed. Just as last year I had said that I would wait to laud Yzerman as a GM until a few seasons had rolled past, Tallon’s tenure in Florida needs some more time for his work to be accurately evaluated. This article was meant more as a look at his work thus far and an effort to strip away the common misconceptions about the season.

  • BurningSensation


    Here’s the thing, I think Feaster has been charged with two, nit mutually exclusive tasks;

    – keep the team competitive
    – rebuild the core group of players

    Complicating matters is that mgt, and Iginla aren’t interested in trading him for picks, preferring that he remain a Flame till he retires.

    Which means that Iggy will leave the ‘core’ by being replaced by a better player, or with his exit into retirement, but not (likely) by trade.

    Here’s why I say we are in the midst of a rebuild;

    – Regehr (core player) traded
    – bad contracts (Kotalik, Bourque) jettisoned (with Babchuk and Stajan likely to follow)
    – rebuilt scouting department and talent aquisition methodology
    – reemphasis on acquiring draft picks to stock the talent pool (Feaster has drafted more times in the 2nd than Sutter did in his entire tenure)
    – Exploration of non-traditional options for talent (Cervenka, Rammo, etc)

    Is Baertschi ready to bump Iggy from the core? Maybe no this season, but I think it’s a fair bet he will eventually. Will Cervenkabe good enough to join the core? Don’t know yet, but it’s worth a shot. Is their a marked Improvement in the talent coming down the pipe? Definitely. Guys like Baertschi, Gaudreau, Jankowski, Sielof, Rammo and Brossoit will be core players moving forward.

    Is the rebuild on? Definitely. Will it appease the ‘bottom out’ crowd? Unlikely.

    • supra steve

      Except, what you are calling a rebuild, some of us are just calling management 101. They are now trying to do some of the things they should have been doing all along, but were not.

      1. Put more resources into scouting and drafting and developing players. Hopefully the last 2-3 years will bear some fruit. The reason Detroit could hold on to and retire Yzerman/Lidstrom is because they had Datsyuk/Zetterberg to help replace them and continue the winning tradition.

      2. Search the earth for potential players (Cervenka, Rammo, Sarich-haha). Never mind the reason that they got Cervenka is that the team is in serious need of skill, AKA they suck. They basically offered him a guaranteed spot in the top 6.

      I will agree with you that these are welcome changes, but I will not classify it as a rebuild. Just basic preventive maintenance that had been neglected for quite some time.

      Bottom line is by not tearing down the existing structure, the rebuild will take more years and more money to complete. I will still be here cheering either way, but I will never be able to agree that it is the correct way to do it.

      • BurningSensation

        Yes, it may be management 101, and that it was long overdue, but the fact is Feaster has started this very necessary process and he deserves credit for doing so.

        I also totally agree with your point #1, having a productive talent pipeline is essential for success.

        As for your point #2, Feaster didn’t create the hole at center (the Nieuwendyk trade did that), but you have to give him credit for being creative in trying to fill it.

        As for your ‘bottom line’, what structure exactly is it that needs to be torn down? We have a large influx of new players, including rookies, we have an elite goalie with a NMC, and a declining legend with a NMC.

        If tearing down means dealing Kipper when the NMC comes off/trade deadline (to maximize value in return), I’d probably agree.

        But if you are betting/hoping they move Iggy, I think you haven’t understood the reality of his situation.

        • supra steve

          Yes, I have high hopes that the Flames drafting/development team is on the right track now, fingers crossed. I also am cautiously optimistic on Feaster, time will tell.

          Criticising the Nieuwendyk deal that brought Iggy to Calgary? Interesting argument, you seem like an Iggy supporter so I didn’t see that one coming. Wow, but they may have been better off not making that trade. There has certainly been no championships under Iggy’s rule. Of course there have been ample opportunities in the years since to draft another impact C, all squandered.

          Kipper’s NMC expired this summer (on July 1, I think), yes, I would trade him before the season starts if possible.

          Regehr’s was in full effect when he was asked to be and accepted a trade to Buffalo. I like to think Iggy would agree to a trade (to the right team, under the right circumstances).

          As for who is not understanding the reality of the Flame’s current situation, let’s agree to disagree.

          Have a great week.

          • supra steve

            My thoughts as well on the Nieuwendyk statement. The deal brought Iggy, the deal got Dallas a Cup & Calgary a future core player. Its the cycle of life man, its time to do that very same thing with Iggy & I do think we can get a future core player & a 1st rounder for him.

            Rex: I dont think trading Iggy & Kipper would really be construed as a rebuild, changing of the old guard maybe. Yes they are core players but they are also 35+. But if Iggy & Kipper, coupled with JBO & Tanguay & Cammi get moved for picks & high end prospects as well, then I think that is a bonafide full fledged burn it down Alberta style rebuild.

            Burning Sensation: I dont think what Feaster has done is rebuild, but it is certainly setting the foundation for one. No point in trading important players for high end picks & prospects before your scouting & drafting staff are in place & had a test run. Your farm system is in place for proper development & you are comfortable with getting that return. I think Feaster is kind of walking both sides of the fence, he’s trying to be competitive but is preparing for the inevitable.

          • BurningSensation

            I wasn’t criticizing the Nieuwendyk trade at all – merely pointing out that we havn’t had #1 pivot since he departed.

            I agree with pretty much everything else. The rebuild is already underway, not yet complete, and will include an attempt to not lose ground in the standings as it progresses.