(Author’s note: If you are one of those people who thinks I am too negative about the way the Flames are run, I advise you skip this column for reasons which the headline should make obvious. There’s nothing here for you.)
1. Let’s get the good thing out of the way
It has not under any circumstances been a good week for Jay Feaster, and while I guess, "Jay Feaster screwed up again," can’t technically qualify as news in July 2013, it’s at least important to note that he isn’t totally terrible at his job.
Early this week he successfully acquired winger TJ Galiardi from the San Jose Sharks for the low, low price of a fourth-round pick two drafts from now. This is good business, as is signing him to a one-year deal for next to nothing. Getting even a warm body to fill out the NHL roster for almost no cost at all, in terms of assets or money, is a very good thing.
There are concerns there, of course. That Galiardi won’t even come close to replicating what he did in his rookie year, which was no especially great shakes itself, is obviously front and center, because he couldn’t even succeed in terms of production when he was inexplicably slotted onto San Jose’s top line.
But again, it’s a low-cost deal with no risk beyond this season if it doesn’t work out, and you’d rather they give that kind of deal to a 25-year-old than a 34-year-old just for the sake of getting Experience In The Room or whatever nonsense they could cook up. That’s because, if he succeeds, you don’t have to have any qualms about giving him another three years without expecting everything to flatline at some point during the deal.
Now, with that praise having been doled out, it’s time to get into the far larger number of things Feaster screwed up since last we spoke. You’ve been warned. Twice.
2. The first bad thing
Not long after 5T was published last week came news that the Flames had traded Alex Tanguay and Cory Sarich for David Jones and Shane O’Brien, which is a trade I don’t really understand at all.
On the surface, it’s the team moving its famous "post-apex" players for those that are decidedly "pre-apex," though taking on an addition $500,000 in salary to do so. That’s an extremely negligible amount of money, but it grows to an additional $2.5 million against the cap in 2014-15 because O’Brien is signed for an additional year beyond what Sarich was.
So what’s the problem with this trade: It’s what it represents. The words people used in talking about this deal are the ones Feaster has been parrotting needlessly since everyone in the front office realized how bad the team was late last season. "Bigger," "harder to play against," the ideals of an era long gone. O’Brien is an obvious upgrade over Sarich, because just about anybody would be (Sarich really only succeeded by even meager terms because his competition was garbage, though it should be noted O’Brien’s better performance in terms of corsi relative was also against relatively low-quality opponents).
Jones, meanwhile, may be younger than Tanguay but he’s also appreciably worse, signed for the same amount of time, and for more money. He was good a few years ago, and the theory is that the Change of Scenery will do him good, but I’d really like to see it before I start believing it.
This was a deal made with a good idea in mind, so credit there, but the execution was certainly lacking.
3. Another mistake
That, I suppose, brings us to the two other obvious screw-ups, both of which were made at the draft. I’m not hugely in favor of taking Sean Monahan over Valeri Nichushkin (Monahan being the one guy in the consensus top-6 I wasn’t totally sold on, based on the information available to me), but it’s probably the safer pick, so I can’t really begrudge it.
However, when it comes to Emile Poirier, though, I thought that pick was outrageous. Not specifically because I don’t think the player can turn into an NHLer, per se — though I’m always dubious of a highlight reel that’s nothing but him blowing the doors off some poor-skating CHL defenseman to the outside, and of first-round QMJHL wingers in general — but because few had him going at No. 22. Judging by his reaction when his name was called, that included Poirier himself. This was made more troubling by the fact that Hunter Shinkaruk was just sitting there, waiting to be chosen several picks after everyone assumed he’d be taken.
Of course, Feaster assures everyone that Poirier was safely inside Calgary’s top 10 draft-eligible prospects, which seems odd for a guy for whom the buzz was that he "might" go in the first round. Kent called it a "no brainer" when Shinkaruk was there at 22, and yet here we are with that player as Canucks property and Poirier already talking about making the team. Woof.
This goes back to Calgary’s supreme confidence in its scouting, because even a decent pick at No. 28 like Morgan Klimchuk, whom they swear they had at No. 13, shows that if they have a plan, they don’t deviate. Meaning that a team which hasn’t drafted particularly well in forever is putting all its faith in internal scouting, and not deviating from its plans no matter what.
Is Poirier going to be a better NHLer than Shinkaruk? I don’t know. But I know that every other hockey person on earth didn’t think so on Sunday afternoon. I can’t go around putting a lot of faith in the thinking that led to an off-the-board-of-picks-that-were-off-the-board pick like Mark Jankowski. As it was put to me at the conclusion of the first round: The fact that we’re using "It could have been worse" as praise for the team’s drafting at this point tells you everything you need to know. Especially when you’re talking about The Most Important Draft In The History Of The Calgary Flames.
The other guy who they shouldn’t have drafted is Keegan Kanzig, who objectively sucks at hockey, and was selected when a number of more enticing prospects including Jordan Subban were still available.
You just really can’t trust the Flames to not screw things up at draft time. That’s the lesson here.
4. Comments on Lecavalier
And you can say the same thing about the lip service paid to the rebuild. The second an over-30 player in which the Flames had any interest came on the market (Vinny Lecavalier), all pretense of pursuing only "pre-apex" players went directly out the window.
Jay Feaster practically performed an interpretive dance routine in talking about how badly he would like Lecavalier in Calgary, all but screaming that when it comes to players of his ilk (assumedly, this means 33-year-old second-line centers who had just been bought out and whom Feaster had previously managed) "transcend post-apex." That, for those scoring at home, is shorthand for "All that stuff I’ve been saying is BS." This is the guy being trusted to rebuild the Flames. It’s insanity.
The only reason that we’re not talking about Lecavalier being on the team as a result of the team having been so thoroughly mismanaged to this point that it’s no longer a prime free agent destination, if it ever was one, which is debatable. Thankfully, the Flyers, too, are in the business of giving out questionable free agent contracts, and they at least present the illusion of success.
5. Brodie’s fixing to be offer-sheeted
Just prior to my writing this, it was revealed that Jay Feaster has yet to even open negotiations with TJ Brodie about a new contract, since he is about to become a restricted free agent starting tomorrow.
We’ve been told that this is fairly common practice: GMs and player agents alike are fairly happy to wait around, let UFAs set the market, and then negotiate a deal toward the end of summer. Okay, fine.
But there’s a problem for Feaster specifically, and something that should give people pause overall. Feaster is the most recent general manager to do the worst thing a person in his job can do: He offer sheeted another team’s player. This makes him and the Flames’ RFAs, of which there are several, targets. And of those targets, only a small number would actually be worth the trouble. At the very tipppy-top of that list is Brodie, who teams in the market for defensemen — say, I don’t know, Colorado — would likely do very well to add.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see someone pay Brodie a little more than market value on an offer sheet just to twist the knife with the Flames’ rebuild plans. And maybe that GM will actually have the benefit of understanding how NHL waivers work.
6. B-B-B-BONUS-S-S-S-S THING
There is, of course, a way for Feaster to redeem himself. Yesterday, for seemingly no good reasons, the Wild and Sabres bought out two players that Calgary should be targeting hard. Tom Gilbert, a 30-year-old former Oiler though he is, could provide help in the near-term and maybe create some flexibility to trade someone with actual value (Giordano) while they still have it.
Gerbe, meanwhile, is just 25 and was completely misused by Lindy Ruff in each of the last two seasons — largely in a checking role — and is certainly worth a shot with another club that, say, has plenty of minutes to go around in its top six and needs warm bodies. He’s being bought out, by the way, on a deal that pays him just $1.45 million against the cap for next season only. Someone would be wise to at least give him another chance, because he’s just two seasons removed from scoring 16 goals in 64 games.
Get either one of these guys, and that’s a step back in the right direction.