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.
– 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.