Five things: Playing out the string

1. What does MacTavish mean for Calgary?

As I was watching the Oilers press conference the other day I had two things kicking around my head. One, obviously, was that Kevin Lowe seems almost unimaginably dumb, tone-deaf and destined to fail in all things. Two, though, was that we’re going to be seeing this in more or less 52 weeks a couple hours farther south.

Is this not a wonderful preview of exactly how the organization seems poised to turf Jay Feaster once this team doesn’t live up to Murray Edwards’ mandate of making the playoffs next season? You can just tell this will be the exact format too: The guy who has overseen a disastrous attempt at continuing to compete long past the team’s sell-by date (Ken King) sitting up there bulletproof while the stooge he brought in to clean up his mess (Feaster) is packing up his office, and the new guy (whomever) sits there parroting how important it is not to focus on the rather ugly past and instead focus on what may or may not be a better future.

Of course, with the Oilers, there’s at least that promise given their talent up front, whereas despite all the efforts of the Flames front office to restock the farm everyone seems at least a few years off — Arnold, Gaudreau, Gillies, Sieloff, etc. all probably a ways away from being in any way helpful to the NHL roster.

Not that I’m opposed to firing Feaster insofar as he should never have been hired in the first place, and not that I think the Flames will lean on the kind of ’80’s Oiler cronyism typified by the MacTavish hire, but you wonder exactly how much will be allowed to change as long as King and Edwards are running things. Both teams have the same goal in mind: getting back to the playoffs and being competitive. The Oilers are obviously miles ahead of Calgary in this regard, if only because they have a collection of future stars on their hands. And yet, you get the feeling that these goals are somehow unachievable until the lunkheads running the show are given their walking papers.

2. The goaltending situation going forward

Saw something in the Herald the other day about how Joey MacDonald has earned another contract from the Flames and while I’m not sure I’d go quite that far under normal circumstances, I will say that given the current ones, I’m also not inclined to disagree.

MacDonald has been fine enough by 2013 Calgary goaltending standards, which is obviously the faintest praise one can dole out, and I’m not sure there are too many goaltenders hitting free agency this summer that you’d actually want to sign. Most UFA goalies seem underwhelming in general and those that might entice — your Anton Khudobins, perhaps — would also require a sizable financial and temporal commitment that I’m not sure the Flames should be making given how much they seem to love Karri Ramo’s work in the KHL.

An insurance policy, sure, I get that. You can’t enter next season with a Ramo/Irving battery, obviously (unless you want to go 0-80-2, which I guess is something you should want if you think this rebuild is all going sideways). But at the same time, how much better is MacDonald, or any Flames option, than a replacement-level goaltender?

Is he appreciably better than Jose Theodore? Would he come cheaper Mathieu Garon? Does any of it end up mattering? The answer to all three is probably no. So I don’t know that MacDonald has earned anything, and if he didn’t just happen to be the guy standing behind the guy when everything went south. Not a bad spot to be in, obviously, but the same could be said for the Flames as a whole.

3. Cervenka and so forth

As Kent noted yesterday, that little experiment is winding down and hey what do you know it didn’t work out at all.

Just as Kent got to say "Told you so" earlier this week about Mikael Backlund being really good, I feel as though now is an appropriate time to point out that I was totally right about how totally ineffective this guy would be at the NHL level. Remember when he was being propped up by some as a potential No. 1 center for Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay? Wow does that seem naïve and short-sighted and appallingly optimistic.

First of all, let’s not forget that he wasn’t ever a natural center, and so trying him there in the best league in the world seemed rather a bad idea in the first place. But the facts speak for themselves. He had 14 points in 35 games headed into last night, having spent part of the year as a regular healthy scratch, and oh man if you ever wanted ammo in the anti-Cervenka vein, just go have a look at Behind the Net. Negative corsi relative against negative quality of competition. That’s incredible, isn’t it? The only other forwards to get more than 12 games and have negative corsi relatives against subaverage competition were Brian McGrattan and Blair Jones.

I will say once again that I didn’t think it was a bad gamble, and obviously it didn’t pay off in any way. He’s been flat-out bad this season, but even in a best-case scenario he was only ever going to be okay. Anyone who expected him to be more than that was deluding themselves, but I guess there’s a lot of that swirling around this team the last few years.

4. So they have three first-round picks

With St. Louis now looking very definitively in the playoffs, it looks like all those first-rounders will be Calgary’s this year. So let’s all say it together here: "Best player available."

I hope to god Feaster doesn’t try to get cute again this year like he did last year. The Jankowski pick obviously still needs a lot of time to be judged but it’s already not looking too good, and it was because he decided to try to outfox everyone. Saying Jankowski will be the best player from this draft in a decade was hilariously optimistic at best — and more likely an outright lie — but I swear I can absolutely envision a situation in which he starts trading these picks for two second-rounders and four thirds and a first next year because well heck they got the guy they wanted with their own pick and that was good enough for them.

I don’t know if it says more about me or them that I don’t trust them to screw up what is essentially a free lunch at this apparently very-deep draft, but I’m actually going to be shocked if they get good value for everything. Like, really shocked about it.

5. Well I guess that’s it for Kipper

He had a good run, but it was time. Adios, bud.

Around the Nation

  • beloch

    Mentioning the Oilers here three times is similar to saying “Beetlejuice” three times, with the notable difference that the problem will remain even if you say Oilers three more times.

  • Mike Vernon's ghost

    Re: The goaltending situation. It actually really bugs me that Irving hasnt really been given a fair shot. He has succeeded at every level he has played at. He was told to win the job going into camp he did that. Then he was dumped for having a bad period. The guy has played less than 20 NHL games. I mean come on what the hell do you expect? Instead of chasing rainbows(Ramo and Berra) why dont they give Irving a chance. I think this kid has been sort of screwed over by the Flames. I’d be really pissed if he turned into another St Louis, Giguere or worse. The Flames have a long history dumping guys and giving up on them too early……..

      • beloch

        Over 195 WHL games Irving posted a 0.919 Sv%, which was promising. That didn’t translate into the AHL unfortunately. Over 193 AHL games his Sv% was 0.899, which is probably below league average (I’m not sure what the AHL league average is actually…)

        Irving’s AHL Sv% did translate into the NHL unfortunately. Over 13 NHL games (a small sample admittedly) his Sv% was 0.891.

        For comparison, when MacBackup was 26 (similar to Irving’s 25), had played 164 AHL games to Irvings 193 and was starting to get light duty with the Red Wings, his AHL Sv% was 0.915.

        In short, Irving is on a similar career path as MacBackup, only his AHL numbers are worse. He was given ample opportunity, but just isn’t good enough to be a NHL starter at present. It’s always possible he could figure things out late (some goalies do this), take a big step forward and become a great goalie but, with the other goalie prospects the Flames have, is there really room for Irving and such hopes?

        Irving was given a fair shot and he blew it. He might not be done yet, but it makes no sense to waste tears on a guy who hasn’t lived up to his draft position since he left the WHL. Honestly, the best thing Feaster can do for Irving might be to let him walk. Abbotsford may well have no use for him, but maybe he can resurrect his career elsewhere.

        On the other hand, Irving is a marginally better tanking-for-picks option than MacDonald, and the Flames honestly can’t expect to do anything else if they do actually play MacBackup, so it makes more sense to keep Irving around than MacBackup. Irving will probably work for cheaper, be willing to mop out the locker-room after games, and there’s a tiny glimmer of upside there, unlike MacBackup who is well into decline.

    • loudogYYC

      You sound like Irving’s agent. The guy was drafted in 2006 and has yet to make an impact in the pros. He’s had good games completely ruined by his lack of focus and when he’s bad, he’s terrible. Don’t see a reason to keep him when there are 4 goalies in the system who deserve a chance to prove themselves just like Irving had.

  • Scary Gary

    As fans we can only speculate about who makes the decisions and at what level.I agree with Smell of Victory, that Weisbrod and the scouts are responsible for recent picks,and Feaster has delegated that responsibility.Also no-one has ever mentioned what influence Conroy may have.He is a successful US player and we do seem to be chasing a lot of American players.

    Edward’s and King are all business,and should stay out of hockey decisions.I doubt that’s the case.Ego’s won’t allow it.

    Edmonton is run from owner to GM by EGO.

  • stretch14

    You idiots do realize that once u finally manage to acquire some semblance of primary talent by toiling around the basement for the next 3-5 years all of your complimentary pieces will be gone.

    Glencross, Camillerea, Stempniak, Tanguay, Stajan, Giordiano…whoever else you think is decent will either have declined “post apex” or moved on to greener pastures by the time you get any sort of a legit nucleus to build around.

    Have fun flamers, time to get more “intellectually honest” with yourselves

      • beloch

        Well, the Oilers did go into their rebuild without a lot in the way of assets, so it’s not too surprising the current team is rookies and not much else. although that represents a pretty big failure on the part of Tambo.

        The Flames could find themselves in a similar situation if the Flames’ management completely cocks up and rides every last current asset into the ground instead of trading them when they have value. This too would represent a huge failure. Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen!

    • SmellOfVictory

      Oh no, the complimentary players might have declined? Do you mean to say that management might have to acquire more at some point in the next 3-5 years?

      I realize you’re unfamiliar with the concept of acquisition of useful UFA veterans as an Oilers fan, but it is a task that the GMs of most teams perform on a regular basis, the Flames included.

      P.S. How’s that playoff run going? LOLOL

      • Willi P


        The bitter Oiler fan most likely doesn’t understand the concept of signing useful UFA veterans because any useful UFA veteran they targeted wouldn’t sign to go to Edmonton. After watching KLowe’s presser, I can understand why. Maybe next year they can get out of the Coilet.

    • Captain Ron

      Nice of you to drop in and let US know what our problems will be with complimentary talent moving forward. Your speaking from experience and all with the lamest of management in all of hockey, not to mention the least desirable place next to maybe Long Island (that might soon pass you) for free agents to land. I thought I should mention the Islanders to you since they are currently in a playoff position

      Seems to me we have not had any problems bringing in complementary players here in Flames land. Our high end talent is questionable but mostly because we haven’t sucked as badly as the Oilers had to in order to bring in any kind of talent whatsoever. Nick (six pack) Khabibulin being an exception of course.

      Like it or not Calgary is a more desirable destination for free agent players. We were also recently rated as the NO. 1 city in the country to live in. Thats right NO. 1 in the COUNTRY!

  • Mike Vernon's ghost


    I suppose I was generalizing. What I meant to say was at every level Irving has had success. He was a good Junior Goalie. In the AHL (his first full year in the AHL) in 2010-11 he led the league in Shutouts. Now he is down in Abbotsford he isnt even being given a chance. I find all this crap about intellectual honesty really frustrating. Irving simply put is a better goalie than MacDonald and is still young enough to be a potential starter. MacDonald is a known quantity and the question has to be asked if he will even be on the team next year.