1. Feaster speaks
Just ahead of today’s kickoff of the annual (except for last year because, you know, greed) Penticton tournament, Jay Feaster had his first bit of major media availability in a while and, well, it didn’t disappoint. That is, if you like Jay Feaster saying hilarious and dumb things. Which I happen to like rather a lot. First, Feaster said it was important that the Flames’ rookies win their games at the tournament, which is a reasonable enough thing to say.
"We’re not telling these kids, ‘Don’t worry about the final result,’" he said. "This isn’t youth sports where we say, ‘Oh, don’t keep score,’ or, ‘Once you get a four-goal lead, we’ll just stop counting.’ This isn’t my kids playing. This is for real."
That’s a perfectly sane thing. You want kids to try to win instead of try to impress in tournaments like this because all the dipsy-doo dekeing and, worse, fighting, that so often pervades these kinds of showcase events is frustrating to watch and doesn’t, in real life, tell you very much. If a kid goes through his legs and around a defender at a tournament like this, that’s a nice display of skill, but it’s not very applicable to the NHL or even AHL level most of the time.
The same is true of fighting, because guys who do that at rookie camps tend not to get very far in the pros, due to the fact that their mere presence at such tournaments as fighters (and fighters only) tells you everything you need to know about the quality their actual hockey-related games present. Which is to say none. Even Paul Bissonnette once broke 10 goals and 40 points in an ECHL season, and he’s an awful NHL player.
2. You can give it a rest now
But I’m getting off-topic. The real money quote from Feaster during that little pow-wow with the media was this:
"Winning matters, Bottom line is winning. That’s the objective, the standard, the criteria, from an organizational standpoint. We will not use youth or inexperience … as reasons to say, ‘It’s OK if you don’t win.’ It’s not OK not to win."
We get it, man. This is a club committed to Winning. And that’s why it’s in the position it’s in now, hoping like hell the thing it has so Committed To in the past several years almost never happens ever. It’s not OK to not-win this season? On what planet could that possibly be true? All actions the team has taken since trading Jarome Iginla run more or less counter to that ideal, and that’s a good thing, for its betterment going forward, and for the sanity of observers, both partisan and neutral alike.
But really, what this quote, and those like it, amount to at day’s end is simple dedication to the act, I suppose. I saw "The Prestige" so I understand. Feaster can’t go out there and say, "Yes, we really want this team to bomb it hard for 82 straight games this season and we want to go out and do the same thing next season as well. And maybe the year after that, too, just to be safe."
But there is a distinct difference, I think, between the idea of saying "We’re hoping we go 0-164 the next two years," and "Winning is the standard." As much as you like to say how important it is for kids to develop in a winning environment, the fact of the matter is that there will not be one in Calgary for some time, and thus you can’t, at the same time, go around saying, "You kids gotta win."
This is not a roster equipped to win, nor should it be. No one outside the Flames’ front office thinks otherwise. So why continue to say stuff like this instead of not saying anything about the importance of winning and losing at all?
3. That Sabres jersey
I am not particularly enamored of the Flames’ current jerseys for a lot of reasons, but for the most part I think they’re fine. The current thirds, meanwhile, are some of the nicest unis in the league. Why they’re not just the home and road shirts, I’m not sure I’ll ever know. The one good thing you can say about them is that, unlike many other teams in the league, they’re pretty devoted to the current look and that’s just great; you’d rather them have mediocre jerseys than try to experiment.
Experimentation, though, is what gets you the monstrosity unveiled recently in Buffalo, though I’m still waiting for the revelation that this was a terrible April Fools joke that came about eight months too early. This might be the worst thing I’ve ever seen in the NHL, and I’ve seen every NHL jersey from the late 1990s.
I have a little bit of a design background so here’s what amazing to me about these eyesores: One or more actual people who are paid a living wage to think exclusively about design for their job thought this was a good idea. They then showed it to at least one superior, who likewise thought it was a good idea. They then took that to the Sabres organization, where at least one person also said, "These are good for our players to wear."
The infamous Blues jerseys with the trumpets and the Cool Cat and so forth were notably shot down by Mike Keenan, who even in the mid-90s was wise enough to see what a disgrace they were. No one had a similar thought here? Not one person with enough power and smarts to pull someone aside and say, "I think Gilbert Perreault died specifically so he could spin in his grave over this jersey."
I mean, good lord.
4. Something Kent mentioned
One thing that caught my eye this week, buried way down deep in Kent’s Random Thoughts column, was the idea that both Bob Hartley and Jay Feaster might be on the outs with the Flames before the rebuild is over.
I don’t see how there’s any "might" about it, quite frankly. Hartley always struck me as a Feaster hire first and foremost, moreso than his ever having been the right man for the job or anything so silly as that. So the two likely go hand-in-hand out the door the second this team looks even remotely capable of winning again. It happened in Edmonton (for good reason) and it will happen in Calgary as well. For equally good reason.
(Written prior to the official Burke hiring, which probably makes this even more likely)
5. The Kadri-and-the-Media situation
The past few weeks have gotten a little tense in Toronto with Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson both going unsigned and training camp something like a week away at this point.
This has led to a lot of speculation about who’s asking for what and why, but most of the focus has been on Kadri given his production last season and status as one of the best Maple Leafs prospects in years. The problem with that, it seems, is that Toronto seems to be running something of a smear campaign against him, putting out there that he is making outrageous contract demands following one lockout-shortened, 48-game season in which he was admittedly superb. "Kadri wants a John Tavares-type contract," has been a standard refrain from the media in the last week or so.
It was again echoed by no less than Bob McKenzie this week, who, unlike his TSN cohort and Dave Nonis’ second cousin Darren Dreger, isn’t just some stooge who will say nearly anything to curry favor (remember when he said Ian White should apologize for calling Gary Bettman an idiot?). McKenzie reporting something that concretely means someone very high up gave him that info, and that he has little reason to disbelieve it.
However, Kadri refuted that report on Twitter, to McKenzie, calling him Bobo. This is the second time he’s said that the things being reported about his contract demands were off-base.
What’s interesting to me about all this is not that he’s doing it on Twitter, but rather that he’s doing it at all. I wonder if it will in any way start a trend about the ways in which players deal with reports about their ongoing negotiations. While Kadri, and players like him, haven’t often had the summer platforms teams might have, that’s certainly changing nowadays and where, before, guys could get run out of town, or have their fans turned against them without perceived outlandish demands, Kadri’s handling is interesting. While it would be nice to see him say, "Here’s what we’re really asking for," that’s not going to happen because it’s considered negotiating in public and people generally don’t like that.
Could Kadri be lying? Sure, but I doubt he’d do it this emphatically. He has no real reason to lie in this situation other than to save face, but if he wanted to do it that badly he’d just take an offer he felt (probably rightly, given Toronto’s cap situation) was beneath him.
I’m always interested to see how the sausage is made, so to speak, in these types of negotiations, so any kind of peek inside is fascinating. Yes, even when it’s as childish as this stuff has become.