It’s been a long, frustrating road leading to this low point. Some saw the iceberg ahead, miles out, and hollered warnings with increasingly hoarse voices. To no avail.
In some ways, the franchise’s determination to stay competitive and relevant indefinitely was a noble one, but the execution lacked the same clarity and conviction of the objective. While the Flames haven’t been shy about spending money or furiously shuffling various pieces around each season and off-season, they consistently shied away from making the difficult decisions until time and circumstance forced their hands.
So the rebuild is here. It should have begun earlier, much earlier, and unfolded more gradually, but instead the ship is felled and we have been thrust into icey, dark waters. Be ready for some long nights, cold nights Flames fans.
– Obviously my fearless prediction that the Flames would finish above the Oilers isn’t going to come to pass. My guiding assumption was that Calgary’s terrible goaltending up to that point would improve before the end of the season, but it has actually somehow gotten worse in the interim (with no help from the skaters of course). I also underestimated at the time the degree to which management would commit to the rebuild and, also, how utterly Miikka Kiprusoff would throw in the towel on the season.
– Pragmatically speaking, that’s all a good thing of course. Most of the time, below replacement level puck-stopping is a disaster, but the Flames are in such a position that it can only hope to improve their future chances of success. All that’s left for the team right now is to pile up the losses and then decide on who amongst the top-5 they are going to draft in June. The last thing they need to close out the season is for someone in net to go on a hot streak.
– My anger at the conclusion of the Kipper saga yesterday was genuine, although it wasn’t directed at the player. There have been indications for going on five years now that Kipper was no longer the elite goalie of yore and that trading him and his declining abilities/giant cap hit was the right move to make.
But, because of the way the team was managed and the way asset was perceived, there was literally no other way for his time in Calgary to end but the way it has. For years the Flames seemed utterly determined to run Kiprusoff into the ground. Well, they have. And yet another formerly elite, previous cornerstone player is rendered worthless.
The management team had one last, best chance to move Kiprusoff this past summer. His NTC was gone, he was coming off an a-typically good season he wasn’t likely to replicate and his contract was nearing its end.
In fact, they didn’t even bother to acquire a meaningful insurance policy should their 36 year old goalie fall off a cliff. It was a gross oversight from whatever angle you look at it and furthermore it was predictable.
It sucks that Kipper’s time in Calgary has to end in such a fashion. As I suggested, though, it seems the management of the team was determined to hand onto Kiprusoff until he either broke or retired.
– I would grade the Flames activities this past week or so rather poorly. There’s a sort of resigned relief that the management group didn’t do something outrageously stupid like trade Backlund for magic beans or acquire "veteran leadership to push this group over the edge" or some such nonsense, but the returns on what they did move were completely underwhelming.
Particularly in light of some of the other swaps made yesterday. Minnesota and Washington both traded significant prospects for players like Jason Pominville and Martin Erat (!). In fact, the Pominville package alone (Matt Hackett, Johan Larsson, a first round pick in 2013 and a second round pick in 2014) almost completely outclasses what Feaster garnered for both Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester combined. It’s also baffling to me that a prospect of Filip Forsberg’s caliber was available and moved for middling scorer like Erat amidst the Flames taking bids on just about every guy on the roster, including former core skaters.
– Another area where Feaster came up short was pruning some of the dead wood. In this he suffers by comparison as well, this time to the Sharks Doug Wilson. Somehow the San Jose GM converted lackluster assets like Doug Murray (slow, third pairing defender), Michal Handzus (barely replacement level 4th line center) and Ryane Clowe (declining top-6 winger without a single goal this season until last night) into a bevvy of futures: four second round picks (two conditional), a third round pick and a fourth round pick. The Flames, with a number of similar guys on the books, moved Comeau for a 5th. That’s it.
One has to admire Wilson’s efforts. The Sharks are battling for a playoff spot and are committed to competing, but he cut against convention and sold off marginal depth players anyways, rather that desperately running around trying to add them down the stretch (when, in fact, their impact is going to be minimal at best). When I noted in my intro that the Flames have lacked the clarity to effectively follow through on their professed goal of staying competitive over the last few years, it’s this type of management and decision making I’m referring to – how many trade deadlines have come and gone where Calgary has needlessly hung onto (or needlessly acquired) bit pieces because they were "going for it"?
– On a more general note, it was a fascinating deadline to watch unfold. We often talk about "the trade market" as it was a single cohesive (and open) exchange of information and bartering, but clearly it can actually fragment into a series of individual negotiations in various virtual antechambers across the league. It seems these then develop into temporary "micro-markets", like maelstroms in the ocean, that really don’t bear much resemblance to the prevailing winds.
High-end prospects weren’t available in general – until they were. Big contracts with remaining years were hard to move because of the dropping cap, until they weren’t. Jay Bouwmeester wasn’t even worth a firm first round pick in 2013. Jason Pomminville scored two picks, including a firm first rounder, and two quality prospects to boot.
Obviously factors were are blind to exerted some degree of influence on the resultant deals yesterday (pro scouting of each team, their weighting of future value, risks, the to-and-fro of talks, etc.) but it goes to show that trying to pinpoint and determine "the market" for a given player heading into time and pressure compressed events like the deadline can be a fools errand.