Five things: I’ve got the cure


1. Organizational disease

Something that I thought was terribly interesting this week was the Flames’ performance in the Penticton tournament, and the way in which Jay Feaster reacted to it.

From Thursday to Saturday, the Flames’ rookie tournament attendees had performed very well indeed, beating the absolute hell out of the Oilers’ and Canucks’ prospects by a combined score of 9-3. These games were not even remotely close score wise and all that stuff I said a little while back about how strong the roster the Flames were bringing to that tournament, with its numerous players who had at least some NHL experience, seemed to be coming more or less true.

Then came Sunday night, and a loss to the Sharks’ rookies. It was 3-2, so not exactly a beat down. That, combined with the two convincing wins earlier in the weekend looked like a pretty good reason for Jay "Winning Matters" Feaster to look back wistfully on a tournament in which they took four of six points and lost by a narrow margin to a team that historically drafts pretty damn well.

But no, that didn’t happen, because to Jay "This Is For Real" Feaster, any loss in this tournament — which you’ll also note as being not in any way meaningful — led him to unload the most invective-laced rant I’ve seen from him, for reasons that don’t seem even remotely clear. 

"Obviously, a difficult way to end," he said. That’s a fair opener. The thing he said immediately after, though, is guano-level crazy. 

"I asked (coach Troy Ward), ‘Is it an organizational disease? What is it?’" he actually said about a meaningless September rookie tournament game the Flames lost by a single goal. "We have to find a way to eliminate it. This has been the M.O. since I’ve been in Calgary — win a couple of games and then we decide we can just throw the sweaters out (on the ice)."

So now we get to look at this loss as being an indictment of the entire Flames organization. Just to carry out the disease analogy to its logical end: This is a team in the late stages of a terminal illness and emergency, dangerous steps (see Thing No. 2) are now being taken to bring it back to health, so let’s go ahead and think about this question logically.

"Is it an organizational disease" that makes the Flames be content with minor success and then think it will all come easy to them after that? It’s funny you ask. Let’s go back to 2003-04, when the Flames were a not-very-good team that happened to advance all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final and in doing so made an entire city — and, more important, organization — believe that this was a team capable of competing for the championship every year.

They improved considerably following the lockout and that too sealed the belief that this was a team that could, to borrow Feaster’s own favorite expression, Go For It. And so they did. For years. With no follow-up to the success they enjoyed that fateful and frankly strange spring. All of which has led to four straight years with no playoff appearances whatsoever and has in turn prompted the team to simply start rebuilding.

"Is it an organizational disease?"

Yes, and Jay Feaster and the owners and management types who had no business calling the shots of a hockey team to whom he routinely kowtowed are carcinogens. In his cute little rant, a wonderful little bit of playacting at best and misplaced anger at worst, he noted he’s been with the organization for almost four seasons at this point, and making the biggest decisions for three of them. He, almost as much as anyone else save for Darryl Sutter, is responsible for the sorry state of the team right now; he’s complicit in chasing phantom playoff hopes toward mediocrity and sub-mediocrity, but never to the depths the team needed to truly get better. 

"Is it an organizational disease" that led to the general manager of a National Hockey League team torching a bunch of kids who just played their asses off all weekend over one game out of three in a rookie tournament? Yes, it sure is. Because it is an hilarious way for Feaster to underscore what’s wrong with this organization: There are misplaced priorities everywhere.

2. So where’s Burke fit in?

Which I guess brings me to a point about Brian Burke’s hiring, which broke after I wrote 5T last week.

While I am a little dubious of the fact that he too still has to kick big decisions upstairs to Ken King, who by the way doesn’t know enough about hockey to make personnel decisions and is the worst kind of ownership stooge when it comes to successfully running sports franchises, I think Burke will in theory at least be a help to the organization.

He is what Feaster is not: A hockey guy first and foremost and also last. You may have issues with the way he conducted business in Toronto but it’s impossible to say he didn’t restock a dead-in-the-water organization with some young talent. I don’t think his job was done with the Leafs when they fired him, and I think Dave Nonis has done an abysmal job (Nazem Kadri contract aside) in his wake.

With that having been said, Burke will be better at what Jay Feaster is doing than Jay Feaster, and whether you like the organizational philosophy of building through youth but also investing in being Hard To Play Against, Burke certainly subscribes to that. He mentioned size almost the second he started talking a week ago, and that’s been the organization’s modus operandi, for the most part, since the lockout. So be it.

In a best-case scenario he is both an idea-swatter — insofar as Feaster will have to run every decision through him and Burke can veto most or hopefully all of the dumber ones — and also a parachute when Feaster crashes and burns, which I guess you’d have to say is inevitable at this point. Just like Feaster was the insurance policy when Sutter made one bad decision too many, Burke too is going to be that, at least until such time as he can find his own replacement.

I’m not sure that’s in the best interest of the organization in the long run, given that he’s openly opposed to statistical analysis in the same way his hand-picked crack staff now running Toronto is, but you have to think his higher-ups are too. Given the crowd from which Burke comes, he’s likely the best of that bunch, so if it had to be someone of that ilk, at least it was him.

3. Kiprusoff’s retirement

Obviously it’s kind of bittersweet to see Miikka Kiprusoff call it a career, officially and once and for all. But at the same time, I’ve kind of come to view him as the symbol of everything that was ever wrong with the Flames these last several years, so there’s that to consider as well.

The Flames thought they were competitive as long as they could have any reasonable expectation of a decent performance out of Kiprusoff, and he kept tricking them into following him down the rabbit hole. The Flames of 2007 through 2009 got into the playoffs despite his posting save percentages of .906 and .903, and everyone just assumed these were weird quirks or, worse, took the Pavelecian tack of explaining away his poorness with a wave of the hand. "Well he’s just not getting enough help," we’d say. It was around this time, too, that we began to hear the first arguments that he was simply getting too much work, and needed to play fewer games the next season.

Then he rebounded with that .920 season in 2009-10 and everyone said, "SEE!?" That, you’ll recall, was also the season in which the Flames failed to make the playoffs for the first of what would end up being at least four consecutive years.

Then he slumped back again, to .906, and people — not the organization, of course — started to really wonder about if this team was any good. Two years without the playoffs? What was this, the late ’90s? So Kiprusoff went out the next season and did himself one better, going .921/2.35 for the season, winning 35 of his 70 starts (though that’s worse than 37 of 71 the previous year) and having almost everyone — again, not the organization — say that it was indeed time to blow it up.

And in his final season in Calgary, in which he posted a putrid .882 save percentage and was so bad as to even drive the Flames’ management to the decision that a rebuild was a necessity, he refused a trade to a team that actually wanted to take him aboard, because he was stubborn and didn’t give a rat’s ass about the organization.

I don’t wanna say good riddance, but on a symbolic level…

4. Speaking of goaltending…

This is starting to run extraordinarily long, so I’ll just scrap the planned chit-chat and say I was terribly glad to see some speculation that the Flames might take a run at Tim Thomas get torched by Bob McKenzie, because that sould have been a flip-your-desk-over moment for most rational Calgary fans.

5. You guys earned this

  • beloch

    One of the things I don’t like about “Fool me five times” Feaster, is that he’s convinced that winning comes from inside the dressing room in a Disney movie kind of way.. Sorry for the reality check, but when Matt Stajan is your number one Center the team is only going to over achieve so much.. We are in this position now because all the years of changing the “system” or the “Coach” instead of making trades..

    Flames fans want hard-working players, but legit talent is what tops the list.

    Maybe Jay could send another offer sheet to Cody Franson?

  • RedMan

    #4 would most definitely been a “flip your desk” moment for me….

    and maybe i am just a little too uptight these days because i have become sensitive to the stupid rumors linking various players to Calgary…

    deep breath! ahhh feeling almost better… seasons actually starting

    you bring up a good point regarding the “disease” comment by Feaster. I will confess at first i was glad to hear it – i was unimpressed with the effort of the first two periods of game three as well.. and lie everyone else have been frustrated watching our key guys float around the parameter and cherry pick.

    your take is valid tough, and worth chewing on.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Your first point is comical. Suggesting Feaster over reacted to a loss. If there is any over reaction it’s you to Feaster’s comments. They had a chance to finish 3-0 but they played like crap for the first two periods. Listen to Ramage comments on Flames website. While you’re at it you can listen to the rest of Feaster’s 11 minute clip where he praise’s individuals and you will also note he doesn’t throw any particular player under the bus for the loss. He’s actually really positive and in no way ‘torches’ anyone. Your comments/opinion are actually BS on this point.

    The 9-3 combined score you wrote about were largely the result of Feaster’s draft philosophy. But how can that be with a guy who is complicit with the demise of the franchise? You should rename your column :Lambert’s Top 5 Logical Fallacies.
    1.Feaster as straw man. 2-5 other dumb stuff.

    • McRib

      The headline didn’t tell the full Feaster story. And Jay now has a new tough boss so sounding tough is good for him. However you have to wonder if part of Jay’s message was to the rest of the vets coming in to town. That is, FLAMES aren’t going to be complacent.
      Nothing wrong with that message!!

  • Derzie

    You speak the truth. Being aware of problems is the only way they get fixed. I can’t see Ken King believing he has a single flaw. The airiest bag of them all. I look to Burke to rattle his cage. That alone is worth it.

  • Demetric


    I almost feel like you are trolling with your articles. They are fun to read because in many ways they just seem so “silly.” Man in tryouts you can’t take a shift off let alone a game. Think how hard you would bust your ass for a chance at the big time and big time paycheque. For so many guys to have taken the night off is unfathomable and I have no problem with a boss calling them on it. Imagine going into a job interview for your dream job and answering two thirds of the questions with effort and then just mailing it in for the rest. (though this article is a little bit that way with the start compared to the finish.) Just seems odd to me that this is the take, but then I imagine the article will generate traffic and comments and in many ways perhaps that is a job well done…

    • beloch

      Another way to look at this is that Feaster just gave all the kids patting themselves on the back something to prove at camp this week. It’s not a bad strategy to light a fire under their collective butts at the start of a week that could have a huge impact on their careers.

      Lambert, on the other hand, seems to be trying out for a job with the Sun.

    • the forgotten man

      Any indigestion post “hat-meal”? 🙂

      Seriously, though, regarding the 5 Takes, as with all things in life one looks at a “body of work” that influences how one interprets those around them aka ‘credibility’. Feaster has launched so many zingers in his tenure here to date, that I take whatever he says with a bag of salt.

  • the forgotten man


    Reading your articles somehow reminds me of Canadian politics. You have seamlessly filled the role of “Official Opposition/Critic” to Feaster and the Flames brass; anything he/they say or do you find a way to negatively spin it. It’s like each week you look hard and focus on how you can wring something negative out of seemingly nothing. It’s a talent, really. So kudos go out to you.

    I did enjoy your take on Kipper and a look back at his yo-yo last few seasons. Its particularly strange how they ironically seemed to have less of an impact on how the team did (the team making the playoffs in a season he played sub-par in ’09, and him bouncing back the next year when the team failed to make the playoffs). Then again, from ’07 to ’10 the Flames were quite mediocre.


  • Demetric

    Good on Feaster for saying what he said. by ‘Organizational Disease” he is referring to the Edmonton Oilers, who’s media and press is treating this like a walk in the park.

    Feaster is a wierdo but he’s done some of the things that Edmonton still hasn’t done. Jetsoned the vets to make room for a new attitude in the dressing room, hired help that actually has experience in the position, he hasn’t said anything like it’s OK to lose because it a rebuild and most of all he’s been accountable for his mistakes, which is the exact opposite of a Mr. Kevin Lowe.

    As a recently FORMER edmonton fan, and alberta resident, watching this rebuild by the Flames, makes me want to believe that they have a better chance of winning a cup in the future then Edmonton has. The Hiring of Burke is the tipping point.

    • Demetric

      Haha… As an current Oiler fan good luck! We have more talent on the third line than your entire team combined. And I don’t particularly think we are cup bound…

      It’s going to take a lot more than a truculent hack GM like Burkie to turn your squad of nobodies into a contender anytime soon.

      Honesty, would Sven Baertchi even crackle oilers lineup?? Maybe cause he is cheap, but otherwise I think he’d be sent to the farm… And we still suck. That just shows how really bad your road ahead is. Enjoy the next 5 years of pain.

      • McRib

        I see where you are coming from but you have to admit that since 2011 Flames drafting is killing Oilers drafting. Look at the prospect pool Feaster has built up in such a short time. Edmonton has been rebuilding for years and their prospect pool is nowhere near as good.

        It might not take the Flames as long as you think to overtake the oil in the standings again.

  • redricardo

    I like the weekly 5 things articles. Next to Elliot Friedman’s “30 things” it’s probably the one that I most say “Oh good” when it shows up in my feed.

    Do I like it because I agree with everything Lambert says, and he helps affirm that my point of view is the correct one?

    Absolutely not. Although I do agree with lots of what he says. I like this article because he has a great writing style, isn’t afraid to poke the bear, and uses those two qualities to point out a different, out of market way of thinking about my team. Agree or disagree, if you can enjoy his points and use that to fuel some thought on a different point of view, that’s a big win.

  • redricardo

    Here’s a another thought.
    According to NHL14, the Flames will probably/maybe have a new third jersey in the pipe.
    Given the circumstance, think we can expect a new age Young Guns Black?

    God I hope not.

    • McRib

      Why haven’t the Flames gone the way of the Edmonton Oilers and made our vintages full times again…. Outside of the first black “C” Jersey, there is no other jersey that even comes close to our originals. Not to mention, I absolutely hate our current full times… The hem stripe, vertical side striping, piping, the shoulder flag patches… UGGGHHH. They just speak Reebok Edge template corporate crap!!! I don’t care about bringing in a new alternative (although it may suck like Buffalos). But why do we need black in our Jerseys… Ottawa is red, black… No one else is Red, Yellow they are so sharp. Let the owners be happy with a new third to sell for a profit to us “idiot” fans, but give us our history back in the mean time!! In an era of the Nikes and Reeboks of the world ruining (football, hockey) jerseys, the most original thing we could do is go back to something old.

  • schevvy

    I am totally in favor of bring back the HORSEHEAD. That jersey was the best. Ideally I’d have the retros as the home/away jerseys and the HORSEHEAD as the 15 games a year alternate

  • McRib

    How is the Hockey World so oblivious to the Flames goaltending situation… Karri Ramo, Reto Berra, Joni Ortio, Laurent Borssoit, John MacDonald…. One of them has to be good enough to tend the pipes for one of the worst teams in the league on paper heading into the season….

  • PrairieStew

    He is angry because those are pretty much all of his guys out there. He could always just blame the previous regime but now those roiled are all his. Significant progress required amongst that group to ensure his continued employment.

  • PrairieStew

    All-in-all, great article, though I don’t agree with all of it, but can we PLEASE burn that stupid Iginla phtoshop already? He’s gone, good riddance, find something new.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Feaster talks a lot of BS.

    I didn’t watch any of the games, but maybe they didn’t play well in the 3rd game was because it was the 3rd game in 3 days and they were tired?

    Seems like spouting a sound bite like “organizational disease” is mostly about looking tough and seeming to be on top of this probably imaginary problem.