Brave New World



It only took about five years of faltering results, increasing budgets and doddering superstars, but the Flames flipped the page on the Iginla era when they finally traded Jarome last week. The quality of the return as well as the integrity of the process can be debated forever, but there’s no question it’s something that had to be done.

Not merely because Iginla isn’t elite anymore or because he may have walked away for nothing in the summer. Moving the captain wasa  recognition by the powers that be that the recursive act of "building around Iginla" over and over, seemingly in a compulsive, ritualistic manner, was a fruitless strategy. I’ve noted here more than once recently that the Flames don’t necessarily need to tear the team to it’s foundation to start again: the renewal is more about changing how they do business in a fundamental way. Instead of erecting golden idols of former stars based on past glories, the team needs to search for new stars.


Let’s first establish that trying to leverage Iginla and Kipper’s star power wasn’t always a senseless strategy built on sentiment and habit. In Sutter’s early years as the organization’s GM he did an admirable job of adding complimentary pieces to the team in effort to contend. Langkow, Huselius, Glencross, Bourque, Hamrlik, Tanguay, Cammalleri, etc. were all acquired in an effort to get over the hump.

Unfortunately for Darryl and the rest of the franchise, the team more or less peaked in 2008-09, at least in terms of the depth and balance of the skaters. Iginla and Kipper had already begun the slow downward slide by that time (in fact, before this season, that year stood as Kipper’s worst in Flames colors), but the rest of the roster was as good as it had ever been, post-2003. It was goaltending and injuries (plus awful cap management – *cough Jokinen trade *cough*) that sunk the Flames ship that season.

Calgary never really recovered. Sutter and the front office became more frantic in their efforts to compete for the cup in the wake of that failure, which ultimately led to Sutter’s downfall and set the team on the path they currently tread. 

It took a handful of terrible trades, some needlessly expensive rosters, four straight playoff-less years, at least two coach firings and a GM dismissal for the franchise to realize it had wandered too far into the woods to turn back. The hope now is the club doesn’t have to grope around in the dark for too long to find its way again.

I think a relatively quick turn around can be accomplished with prudent management and some luck. Even now while languishing at 14th place in the Western Conference, the team isn’t wholly devoid of good players and decent assets which can either be built around or leveraged to improve things moving forward. Examples:

– Trade off marginal assets as much as possible. This is something I wish the Flames would have done more often in the past. I’m looking at Sarich, Babchuk, Butler, Comeau, Cervenka, etc.

– Shop guys like Cammalleri and Bouwmeester who are unlikely to stick around past next season, but realize there is no impetus to move them immediately. Trade them sooner rather than later only if the return is worthy of the rush.

– Commit to improving the team incrementally (through a series of smaller good bets) rather than simply swinging for the fences all the time. The organization needs new stars to take the next step, but that doesn’t mean it should stop looking for good value in other places as well.

There are decent players and quality assets here and the Flames could have a decent nucleus, add to their stable of futures and move forward with lots of cap space if they play things right. On the other hand, as we’ve seen up north, rebuilds can become indefinite death marches of suck if done improperly. 


So of course this can all go terrible wrong as well. I’m hoping Feaster can avoid a few common "rebuild" errors. Most notably:

– Ignoring players who aren’t considered THE SOLUTION.

This is the antipode to improving incrementally: lousy clubs in the first throes of a rebuild will often go whale hunting in free agency or lottery ticket hunting in the draft, to the exclusion of all else. As a result, they miss chances to acquire or re-sign decent middle-tier options who, if/when they hit a sort of critical mass, can help lift the club out of the dirt. The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t win the Stanley Cup simply because of Kane and Toews – they also had Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and John Madden for example. When Edmonton was shamelessly pursuing guys like Hossa and Heatley one summer, they let Curtis Glencross walk for nothing. Etc.

Although the frame and focus may be on competing in the more distant future, the club should nevertheless always attempt to make as many good bets as possible, even if a sinlge acquisition is unlikely to be the one that turns the whole thing around.

– Doing something for the sake of it.

It’s easy for fans and GM’s alike to be caught up in the frenzy of trading players for futures or to be so utterly disillusioned with the current roster that they rush to hold a fire sale. Disgust with failure or excitement about prospects can blind decision makers to probabilities or undermine their evaluation of current assets. Not everything the Flames have now is irredeemable refuse and only a small percentage of draft picks ever turn out to be worth a damn. Feaster and company should write that sentence on a chalkboard somewhere and refer to it whenever one of their vulture brethren swoops in looking to pick at the carcass.


It has all gone wrong for the Flames on the ice this year, but the lousy record is something of an opportunity if viewed from the right angle. The terrible record has forced the Flames front office to reconsider it’s basic assumptions and strategies, perhaps leading to a long required renewal. In fact, the lousy goaltending, which is a major factor in the Flames lack of success this season, would be a curse in almost any other circumstance.

Instead, it has tarnished the franchise’s idols just enough to convince management to move on and will likely deliver the club a lottery pick in what is considered to be one of the strongest drafts in recent memory – even though the collection of skaters probably isn’t "lottery bad". The Flames true talent level likely would have emerged over a full season, of course, but the lock-out shortened year may be another blessing in disguise.

With some savvy, opportunistic management and a bit of luck, the Flames could avoid the perpetual rebuild and rebound sooner rather than later.

Reminder – Tilted Kilt for Battle of Alberta Tonight!

Friendly reminder to join us at TK tonight to take in the Battle of Alberta. Originally we set this up because it was likely to be Iginla’s last game, but that train has left the station.

Instead, come by because the Flames are sitting in a win-win scenario: a loss means they are one step closer to drafting MacKinnon, Barkov, Drouin or Jones while a victory means they cripple the Oilers chances at making the post-season.

Either way, good times will be had. Also: there’s a jersey give-away, puck contests and beer specials. Come by even if you’re a traitorous Oiler fan living in Calgary…

    • BurningSensation

      That’s gold! Hahaha…here’s to the oilers giving the flames a better chance at a new superstar via the draft…just curious, as I am an oilers fan, but if the flames could draft just one of the top guys this draft (and I know there is hope that feaster will get a 2nd) – which guy would YOU want the flames to take to make this the quickest rebuild possible?

  • Michael

    Another blessing, a legit shot at the lottery, or at the very least, a solid top 10 first round pick in a good draft. For once, I’m hoping the Flames don’t go on a late season winning streak.

  • Big Ell

    Good Post.

    When discussing the Hawks it wasn’t just the Versteeg, Hossa, Ladd etc. that helped the high picks; Kane, Toews, Seabrook, Keith etc.

    I think the successful drafting of low picks like 9th rounders Burish, 8th rounder Byfuglien, 7th rounder Brouwer, 4th rounder Hjalmarsson and even guys like 5th rounder Wisniewski who was later traded for Pahlsson.

    I believe that finding gems late in the draft is equally as important as ignoring the players who aren’t part of the solution as Kent put it.

    One reason why the Oilers rebuild has been so slow as they rarely find anyone late in the draft. With the possible exception of Hartikainen the Oilers only late night steals with any real value since 2000 would be Brodziak and old Matthew Lombardi who didn’t sign and reentered the draft.

  • BurningSensation

    Gonna sting today when broken down, zero goal, penalty machine Clowe fetches more than Iggy.

    Why does seemingly every team want him? I don’t get it.

  • BurningSensation


    My top end hope-fors;

    1. MacKinnon
    2. Barkov
    3. Drouin
    4. Jones
    5. Lindholm

    I have a man-crush on Barkov and would do cartwheels if we can draft him. He’s got all the check marks; prototype size, speed, ridiculous skill, playmaking and shot – and he’s a pure pivot the likes of which we haven’t had since Joe-Who was traded.

    • Victoria Flames Fan

      I have to agree that getting a top notch centre triumphs most other positions, as they are so hard to acquire elsewhere…one of the toughest things the flames have been able to provide was the top notch centre for iggy, whereas a top centre doesn’t necessarily need a top winger. That being said, it’ll be tough to get that top notch dman as well, something the oilers are looking for still.

      Barkov has got my interest in a big way as well, as his size makes him a bit more formidable, although I like you list with mackinnon #1 as his talent is top notch, and he can lay a big hit too (ie: he plays bigger than his 185 lbs frame).

      So i guess I’ll agree and say that If the flames are truly rebuilding, getting that top C is likely to get you to elite status quicker…although jones might get you to be a playoff team quicker (but in a Weber/ Nashville type of way).

    • Victoria Flames Fan

      That list made me smile.

      For the record, I’ve had a feeling about Drouin since october or something. Had the same feeling about Huberdeau->Florida, so… you know. Weird.

      Anyway, I’d also prefer MacKinnon or Barkov, almost exclusively because they’re centers. Flames need one. Sooo bad.

      • BurningSensation

        Drouin’s skill is off the charts, but I worry about whether he is more Kessel than Toews, i.e. a guy better suited to be on the wing.

        Barkov looks like he’ll be a beast.

        The other guy I really like is Lindholm, not as big as the other guys but oozes pure skill and has outstanding grit and vision. A dirty Niklas Backstrom.

  • First Name Unidentified

    I agree entirely. This lays out philosophy, strategy and tactics. It mentions the importance of the draft and adding new stars while addressing the importance of the lesser lights if you will and how Calgary can acquire both without going to the bottom for 5 years.

    That said, the turn around will still take longer than I think some realize/hope.

  • Victoria Flames Fan

    One more point Kent. I think we need to seriously evaluate our player development. Too often our outstanding goalie and other prospects end up NHL busts. While all kinds of factors complicate making sense of why young stars don’t turn into top NHLers, it happens too often in Calgary for there not to be justification for a thorough assessment.

    • Yeah there’s important details in the mix we can only guess at. Good player evaluation, market understanding, cap management etc. will be key (as for any good team) to getting things going the right direction again.

      I honestly don’t know where this management team is in those various regards. The 2011 draft looks to be a winner, but their pro acquisitions and signings have been hit or miss at best.

  • BurningSensation

    @ Kent Wilson

    Loved the article, but in particular agree that while Cammalleri, Tanguay etc are expendable, vets like them are important to keep around during our rebuild.

    Watching the Oilers it’s clear that a lack of veteran talent (especially in net and on D) has slowed their rebuild to a crawl.

  • RKD

    Despite having a great record in 2005-2006, I believe Darryl Sutter kept trying to build the team for the playoffs. He would tell us the Flames were one player away from being an elite team. Far from it, one year later he steps down, in comes Jim Playfair to lead the Flames to 30 home wins and one of the worst road records in the NHL.

    I believe a guy like Jokinen was brought in one year too late. Sutter kept his team the same when the entire league changed from clutch and grab to full speed ahead. The new rules complemented players who were strong skaters, and talented skill wise. The Flames got enough wins the next few years to make the playoffs but would play poorly in March and then succumb to a first round exit four straight times.

    Cammy and Tanguay also represent a big philosophical problem, bringing back recycled veterans in the hopes they could regain their form. I’m sorry but I’m not sure if I see Cammy ever scoring 39 goals again. The attitude went from winning the NW division titles to let’s make the playoffs and hope Jarome and Kipper can pull off another run. I really hoped we could follow an Ottawa style retool, but the big difference there is that Alfie always had Spezza as the next one to carry that torch. The Flames failed to get a guy who would take over for Jarome. Iginla becomes the scapegoat and out he goes.

    Hope someone can confirm this, but read Hanowski is a UFA which could mean the Flames traded Iggy for Agonstino and a 1st.

  • Sharks trade Handzus to the Blackhawks. That’s two giant liabilities they’ve been able to convert into assets at the deadline now. Nice work by Wilson, but I wish Feaster was out there getting something for the Flames flotsam as well.

    • Michael

      My initial thought was that Feaster is dithering around as usual. My more charitable side hopes that he using the time wisely, and giving some thought to team direction and identity, before making any moves.
      Then again, flotsam is flotsam and we have plenty to move (Sarich, Babchuk, Comeau, Cervenka and on). Lets hope Feaster realizes that it is flotsam….

      • BurningSensation

        Am I the only person who doesn’t include Cervenka inthe category of ‘flotsam’?

        He’s the right age, plays multiple positions, and has good chemistry with Hudler, why is everyone in a big rush to give him away?

        • My assumption is he won’t re-sign in CGY given how little regard the coach seems to have for him. If the team isn’t confident Cervenka will re-sign (for cheap) on Wednesday, they should move him. My first call would be to Dallas.

          Keep him as a bargain if you can, but move him if you can’t. Don’t dither and watch him flee back to Europe in the summer for nothing.

          • BurningSensation

            I think his early injuries/struggles/issues with coach mean we can re-sign him on the cheap.

            I’d be surprised if he isn’t back given he’s been playing better of late.

  • RKD

    I heard Darren Dreger on TSN radio this morning saying that while no one knows if Kipper will play or not next season Kipper is intrigued by the possibility of playing for Leafs. That small sliver may just be enough to blow the door wide open for a trade. Also, the Flames brass were speaking to Kipper’s agent on the weekend. Who knows, maybe at the end of the game Feaster will hold a presser. Probably not, unless Kipper is scratched.

  • I’d still trade Tanguay at this point. The Stemps/Stajan/Glencross line is now the top line. Keep Cammy around if he’ll stay. But I’d still look at trading Bou for good draft picks this year.

    Only untouchable guys on this roster for me are: Backlund, Stempniak, Glencross, Hudler, Gio, Wideman, Brodie.

    Hopefully next year Baertschi will be NHL rdy, Gourdreau will be playing for the HEAT and Wortherspoon could take a crack at 5-6 d man. Plus maybe a good pick this year could = Druean!

    • supra steve

      I doubt that Tanguay gets you a whole lot in trade. 33yr old and signed for 3 more seasons at $3.5mil cap hit. Add to that his relatively poor seasons playing anywhere other then beside Iggy in Calgary in the past several years.

      I am sure he is available and I am not opposed to moving him, but what do you think he might fetch?

      • Scary Gary

        I agree the centerman experiment did not work out for Tanguay as this is his worst plus/minus season of his career, but I wouldn’t write him off yet. He had 69 pts in 79 games two years ago and 49 pts in 64 games last year.

  • Subversive

    I saw on Dreger’s twitter that CBJ is willing to move one of their 1sts for scoring help up front. Would Cammi for a first be a good deal, and one they might go for?

  • BurningSensation

    Hey Kent, how did the death march look tonight! Into the 3rd year of rebuild & fighting for a playoff spot! Keep telling yourself there is a better way, drink the Feaster koolaid!