A New Era of Intellectual Honesty?



By: Sapp MacIntosh

Caveat: I follow the Flames pretty closely but emotionally I’m a little distanced after the ’04 Cup run. I promise not to write about the Flames too much, despite this being Flames Nation, and despite being a pretty hard-core Flames fan all my life.  But I hate endlessly banging my head against a wall.

The reason I am hesitant to espouse upon the Flames is summed up in two words: Intellectual honesty. This is the phrase Jay Feaster used when asked to assess his sudden change of course, trading away Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester.  In trading these two players, Feaster set the Flames on a course to ‘rebuild.’  This act signified an acknowledgement from management that the Flames’ horses couldn’t and wouldn’t be winning the Kentucky Derby.

Recognizing the Flames’ would be going nowhere was an important step. As Dr. Phil says, ‘you can’t solve a problem you don’t acknowledge exists.’ (I swear I will keep the daytime tv references to a bare minimum!!).  This tells us about Feaster’s thinking up until this point, and I think one of several things must have been happening:

1.    Feaster did know the team wasn’t good enough but lied to himself
2.    Feaster did know the team wasn’t good enough but decided to rely on getting lucky and stumbling into the playoffs
3.    Feaster did know the team wasn’t good enough but had incentives to keep the dog and pony show going
4.    Feaster did not know the team wasn’t good enough and conducted himself accordingly

Now, if I’m being intellectually honest with myself, those are some pretty ugly possible states of mind for an NHL GM. Do any of these options give anyone a sense of comfort as to who is steering the good ship Calgary Flames? Do you want a man in charge who is incapable of being honest about the cold hard truth? Do you want someone in charge who doesn’t acknowledges luck plays a large part of success, but instead relies on it for success? Neither of these possibilities suggest ‘competent manager’ to me.

I think there is a pretty good argument number 3 is the true state of reality. The Flames are basically an annuity for the owners in Calgary. Ever since about 02-03, the Saddledome has been packed with people who have forgotten there was a 7 year playoff drought for the team (‘Young Guns’). The NHL is a business, and in Calgary, business is pretty good. The city is large enough to pack in 20k or so fans per night, and if you keep the team in the playoff race until the All-Star break or so, those fans have plenty of opportunity to be a little intellectually dishonest (or delusional) with themselves about the Flames true playoff chances. I think arguing that there is a financial incentive to keep fans in the stands is a pretty easy: keep your bosses happy, keep your job.

This raises the question of whether Feaster is really in charge of making Flames hockey personnel decisions. It has been suggested to me from various Flames fans that Feaster is simply a puppet for another person in management/ownership who is actually making the decisions. The puppet master could be anyone in the front office, from Ken King, to Murray Edwards, and I think this is a plausible theory.

The only particular evidence against Feaster-as-Puppet is the rumor that he left Tampa Bay being due to his frustration with the interference of management by Oren Koules and Len Barrie. Unfortunately, newspapers are dying so Canada.com no longer hosts the original story by Calgary Herald’s Scott Cruickshank. Many in Edmonton questioned, and still question, whether Tambellini was making player decisions, or whether Kevin Lowe was still the guy calling the shots.

I think now that we see Craig MacTavish making some moves which are distinctly ‘un-Tambolike,’ we can at least say Lowe is not making ALL the decisions. With the Flames, I’m not so convinced that we have seen a particularly distinct pattern emerge from Feaster as from Sutter. Darryl never seemed to invest all that much in the future, mortgaging it as he saw fit to plug current holes in the roster. I don’t recall many age for youth trades under the Sutter tenure, and until Iginla and Bouwmeester were traded we didn’t see any under Feaster. But with Kiprusoff on the last year of his deal, Iginla at the end of his contract, I think everyone involved in decision making realized that the jig was up in 13-14, no matter what. Iginla was going to be on his way out of town, and that was that.

An intriguing possibility is Jay Feaster simply didn’t see the Flames’ implosion coming at all, and in some ways, I think this is the most defensible position. If you can believe it, the Flames were 5th(!!!) in the League at Fenwick %, 9th in CF%, and just below average PDO, at 5-5 EV yet still missed the playoffs in 10-11, the season Feaster took over. That was an improvement over the year before, in which the Flames were a respectable 9th in CF%, and 14th in FF%. The Flames’ SH% went in the tank that year, and another playoff miss. Going into 11-12, you could argue that maybe the Flames aren’t that far off a legitimate contender. But the bottom REALLY fell out in 11-12, where the Flames beat only the Leafs in FF% and they were 26th in CF%. That is a BAD hockey team. Just awful.  But do you look at the previous two seasons and say they were the anomaly, or do you look at the 1 season out of three and believe IT is the anomaly?

Now, 11-12 was clearly not the anomaly, even though I think the team might’ve been a bit better than their stats showed. But at least being fooled by the team the previous couple of seasons is at least a defensible mistake. But this is not the mea culpa Feaster produced for us fans. And even more distressing is his insistence that in the 13-14 season, playoffs is the goal. I don’t know if he’s looked at the roster lately, but there is a lot of necessary churn before this team even sniffs the playoffs. I think Feaster may still be being intellectually dishonest with himself.

Or maybe he just sucks at his job.

Either way: I don’t predict a real improvement in the Calgary Flames until whoever is making the decisions is replaced by someone who understands what it takes to win (find good players, keep good players), the Flames are going nowhere. Maybe that guy is Burke, although there are still real questions about how that addition will play out.

  • Parallex

    i think it’s a little of both.

    no one ever wants to be proven wrong, regardless of their actions. thus, less “intellectually dishonest” but more “intellectually stubborn”.

    I don’t like his abilities as a talent evaluator, and his hubris regarding legalities and rules in the nhl also annoys me.

    he’s not the worst, but rarely does he make a move that inspires a complement.

  • Stockley

    I like what the current management team has done at the draft the last three years. I don’t care who the props actually belong to; whether it’s Weisbrod, the scouts or someone else. At the end of the day the prospect cupboard is looking a lot less barren, there are some players with legitimate chances to not just ‘make’ the NHL, they might actually become stars.

  • calgaryfan

    “And even more distressing is his insistence that in the 13-14 season, playoffs is the goal.”

    What insistence? He’s since qualified that “marching orders” thing by saying he meant the team WILL NOT lose on purpose. That doesn’t mean they think the team will win. And the fact that he repeatedly talks about rebuilding–and uses the word–implies that they ARE–even if they weren’t before–aware that this team is NOT good enough. I fully understand being less than confident in this management group, but you’re basically just looking for excuses to complain for no reason here.

    I completely disagree that you’re emotionally distanced from the team. This post evokes nothing so much as petty bitterness. There’s nothing wrong with being bitter about this management group, but trying to claim that you’re being objective and “emotionally distanced” (your words, not mine) when you so clearly aren’t is intellectual dishonesty.

    That’s right. I said it.

  • beloch

    “I don’t recall many age for youth trades under the Sutter tenure, and until Iginla and Bouwmeester were traded we didn’t see any under Feaster.”

    This is false. Feaster did make the team older in a few trades, such as when he picked up Dennis Wideman for Jordan Henry and a pick, or Blair Jones for Brendan Mikkelson. The team also got a bit older in the trade that brought in Babchuk and Kosopoulos, which can be seen as one of Feaster’s worst moves. However, Feaster’s trades have, on average, made the team significantly younger. He shipped out Regehr right before he fell off a cliff. He traded Langkow for Stempniak. Camalleri is also slightly younger than Bourque. Feaster was definitely making a point of shipping out post-apex talent. People were aghast at the Regehr trade. He was a pillar of the team! The return was viewed as inadequate, but he did unload Kotalik’s hot-potato contract and Regehr’s play since has vindicated Fester somewhat.

    “And even more distressing is his insistence that in the 13-14 season, playoffs is the goal.”

    He clarified his 2014 playoff comments:


    “That was the point of the message. It’s the idea that, again, we’re going to go about it the right way. We are going to re-tool, and we are going to get young players in the lineup, and we’re going to continue to give our kids an opportunity to play and to grow, and that’s how we’re going to build.

    But while we’re doing that, we’re not going to say ‘No worries. No expectations. No pressure. Don’t even think about trying to be a playoff team.’ That’s not how it’s going to happen.”

    Source: http://www.calgarysun.com/2013/04/06/feaster-clarifies-playoff-comment


    His recent comments about the loss to the Sharks at the young-prospects tournament can be viewed in a similar light. He seems to be going to great pains to ensure that complacency in losing does not creep into the Flames’ team culture. While a good work-ethic won’t turn a bad roster into a championship roster, a bad work-ethic can certainly impede the development of rookies.

    A part of Feaster’s job may be media relations, but that is subordinate to building a winning team. I have no problem with his comments because he appears to be using the media to motivate the rookies. I do question what he’s going to do as a losing season drags on though. These tactics are going to get very, very stale after a while. The players may even revolt late in the season if he keeps saying stuff like this while bringing up half the Heat for “tryouts” in an effort to ensure a top pick.

    Here’s something rather funny: If the Flames had received league-average goal-tending, they’d probably have made the playoffs in 2013. Feaster was inexplicably correct in assessing the quality of the 2013 team. He just failed to predict Kipper going Chernobyl. Even with the disaster in net, the Flames still would have picked substantially later than #5 if Feaster hadn’t loaded the team with so many AHL’ers that, some nights, more than half the team was AHL call-ups. Even with Bouwmeester and Iginla gone the Flames are still not a bottom-5 team.

    Had the goal-tending fiasco not occurred last season, I honestly expect Iginla and Bouwmeester would not have been traded. Iginla would probably either have left as a free-agent this summer or resigned at an exorbitant salary. Had the Flames made the playoffs last season or even just narrowly missed them (again), no doubt the gradual retooling would have continued and the team would have likely remained mediocre for at least a couple more years. For this, you absolutely can blast Feaster. He didn’t enter this rebuild in an intelligent manner. He delayed and delayed until it was finally forced upon him. In that sense he’s probably no different than most GM’s out there, but he certainly didn’t distinguish himself from the pack! Feaster isn’t brilliant or incompetent. He’s just a very Charlie Brown shade of mediocre.

  • loudogYYC

    Maybe I’m just being an optimist here, but I think the hiring of Burke is the beginning of real change. Feaster may have been the puppet of a few businessmen before, but now he has to answer to hockey guy. So he might have what it takes to be a competent GM in the NHL, but if he doesn’t Burke can replace him and stay on course with the program.

  • loudogYYC

    You know Kent, you ignored one other possibility:

    -Feaster knew the team wasn’t good enough but did not have the green light from Ownership to commence the rebuild & sale of core players 2 years ago.

    He has drafted well & we do have some very promising young talent breaking in & making names for themselves. He hasn’t gone out & signed & overpay some useless UFA’s. He jettisoned more of the old guard in Tanguay & Sarich. What else would you expect him to do. They still have to field a team & justify to Season Ticket holders a reason to spend lots of $$$ to see this product on the ice. Yes, it is a business. We can complain about Feaster & complain about the hiring of Burke, or we can boldly go where we haven’t been for a long time and hope for as many good things as we possibly can. You’ve been preaching for quite some time about taking a step backward so we may take a few forward. We’ve just taken that step backward, the stats are depressing you too much.

    • supra steve

      As usual, Kevin R is a voice of reason on FN.

      How many NHL GMs have a perpetual green light to trade their franchise player (who may also be tight with ownership) without consulting ownership? If VAN is to move the twins this year will ownership need to give consent? What about Ovie in WASH, if management decides that he is better as a trade asset, will/should ownership need to be consulted?

      Now, I can’t say that I know for sure, but my guess is that yes, owners like to have a say in these types of transactions. Every one of us would love to give our two cents on every transaction, and we do, on this site. So under my assumption, more then one GM in this league could be classified as a “puppet” for ownership/upper management.

      This is not to say that I am a giant fan of Feaster and every move/signing, but I like the way things have progressed in general since he took over.

      Could Burke do better on his own? I’m not convinced that he could, but having him as a sounding-board for Jay may be helpful.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    The article should have been called An Era of Intellectual Arrogance. I’ve never been witness to Edwards actions or even heard him speak, but the rest of the Flames braintrust is a list of who’s who of big talking heads. Imagine having a conversation/beer with one of King, Feaster, Burke, or Wisebrod. You ask a questions, and he gives you BS answers, while using big words and trying to coin a phrase. You down your pint, and look for the nearest exit.

    Whether Feaster identified the true status of the Flames is irrelevant. To Kevin R’s point earlier, the direction of the Flames after the Darryl Sutter era could have been (and in my view) was mandated by personalities up the organizational food chain.

  • RexLibris

    I’ve argued at length about Feaster’s “intellectual honesty” line before.

    Here’s a rough definition of intellectual honesty:

    an unbiased, honest attitude which can be demonstrated thus – where personal beliefs do not interfere in the pursuit of the truth, relevant facts are not omitted even when they challenge one’s initial hypothesis, facts are presented in an honest matter and not altered to support one’s preferred outcome/view, references are acknowledged and plagiarism is avoided.

    Basically they are the tenets of the traditional scientific method and are the guiding principles behind virtually all academic institutions.

    Now here is a definition of cognitive dissonance: the discomfort existing when one holds two or more mutually exclusive ideas/beliefs and results in the creation of alternative and supporting ideas and beliefs that support the initial belief system rather than question one’s core beliefs.

    From where I sit, the most likely scenario is 4 (don’t forget he built the Lightning team that drafted 1st and 2nd in consecutive years and is just now coming around), with the also possibility that he blended scenario 3 with a healthy does of cognitive dissonance and cherry-picked enough statistics and partial realities (such as claiming to be a leader in advanced analytics despite a woefully understaffed roster in that department and in clear contradiction to what is known about other teams’ efforts in that regard) to support that belief.

    A good read, Sepp. And I completely understand the distancing of oneself from the “home” team for the purposes of emotional clarity.

    • RedMan

      I think my emotional distancing started after 04. I was pretty crushed. I thought ‘why am I doing this to myself?? this basically doesn’t affect my life at all. There’s no need to feel like shit over not winning.’

      I’ve become more like Bob McKenzie and the theatre alone is entertainment enough.

      A new era of young gunz is dawning I would say.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    … or maybe there is another scenario; Feaster was hired to see if he could help Sutter follow ownerships’ marching order of making the playoffs no matter the cost and when this failed they fired Sutter and replaced him with Feaster. They then jerked Feaster around with the title interm and gave him the very same marching orders. After all Feaster like all the other GM’s are employees of the ownership and their job is to do what they are told. The mess Feaster inherited was horrible: salary cap issues, no depth in the organization, little depth in scouting,an aging core and the dreaded marching orders of making the playoffs. Feaster went about publicly following marching orders but at the same time changing the following problems:getting out of salary cap prison, improving the depth in hockey personal and management, slowly making a change to the core. I suspect that privately he had conversations with his boss KK and ownership about the need to rebuild (like most good employees privately not in public for fear of losing his job); I suspect the reality finally hit KK and ownership when they started hearing from season ticket holders about the need for the rebuild.

    Kent you should start with intellectual honesty that you want Feaster fired. There are many things to complain about with Feaster: maybe not getting enough for some assets(although I am sure there was much more to get at the time of the trades), for some of his poor statements, and RoR offer sheet. However I look at the best franchises in the league and the one thing that seems to be clear is that they have had relative patience with GM’s. Look at Pittsburg this year and all the assets they traded away to make their and it failed; should their GM be fired? You want to bash Feaster bash him for the things he has done poorly but come up with an alternative, the Flames seem to be a better organization today than the day he became GM and the truth be told Feaster has contributed to this change.

    • RedMan

      I was just looking at it myself and thinking there might be some fireworks. I think the game here will look different to the game in Edmonton. I like the potential of the Monahan, Porier, Ferland line; it has a bit of everything great hockey sense Monahan, speed Porier and grit with shill in Ferland. If this kids develop along the way they have shown this year it could be good NHL line in the future. These are the types of things I would rather be talking about rather than Feaster and Burke.

        • ChinookArchYYC

          After looking at the two rosters the Flames have sent out to the split squad game i think the game here has the potential to be the more entertaining. As for Hall meeting Sieloff it won’t happen tonight, but Hall might school the man child Kanzig but then again it might just take one good hit by the man child on Hall and that game could erupt. The Calgary line up at home has three interesting lines and then a huge question mark. In Edmonton we have sent some warriors and a few kids, I worry with whom they sent Granlund to play with. Hopefully they change combinations up and let both goalies play in each game. It will be interesting to say the least. I wonder who is running each bench tonight. I think Hartley will be here in Calgary, whose in Edmonton? Ward? Where will different aspects of management be?

  • calgaryfan

    Lame article, always the same, bash Feaster, acuse ownership of meddling. Flames nation writers need to get some new ideas, tired of reading the same stuff over and over.

  • RedMan

    Here’s something rather funny: If the Flames had received league-average goal-tending, they’d probably have made the playoffs in 2013. Feaster was inexplicably correct in assessing the quality of the 2013 team. He just failed to predict Kipper going Chernobyl. Even with the disaster in net, the Flames still would have picked substantially later than #5 if Feaster hadn’t loaded the team with so many AHL’ers that, some nights, more than half the team was AHL call-ups. Even with Bouwmeester and Iginla gone the Flames are still not a bottom-5 team. /quote

    I totally agree with this. The question is, why didn’t he just say ‘hey guys, we got unlucky.’

    And if he recognized we got unlucky and weren’t just purely bad, why the sea change?

    This should be the takeaway points of my post.

  • calgaryfan

    Kent, I think next time you’ll have to put the line that says “By: Sapp MacIntosh” in 36 point font, because apparently only a third of us can be bothered to notice it as is.

    You know. Bolded, and all that.

  • RKD

    It’s only a matter of time before Burke replaces Feaster as GM and starts making moves that are un-Feaster like. I can see the two clashing heads, especially in the presser when Jay told Burke he and Weisbrod like a guy and Burke said I don’t like him.

    There’s going to be conflict in player personnel decisions given the fact Feaster has to report to Burke. If down the road Burke doesn’t like Feaster and Weisbrod’s evaluation of player talent he will tell Ken King and they will fire Feaster.

    Feaster almost lost O’Reilly to waivers, that would have been worse than the Phaneuf trade.

  • supra steve


    I like your articles, but please don’t post anymore from this Sapp guy. This wasn’t funny, nor insightful.

    He repeated what everyone has said for months. Nothing original at all.

    It is easy to just whine and complain, but don’t lower the value of the site by letting an amateur like Sapp write on here.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work.

  • Section205

    Darryl locked up a bunch of key players to big contracts and NMCs through approx 12-13 season. That was the window that Darryl thought would exist. At the end of his tenure he was willing to risk significant future assets and go “all in” for this window. Expensive gamble.

    He made a bet on his core group but they faltered about 2 years earlier than he expected.

    I say 2 years because, like your article points out, 10-11 season was actually a good season and it is only 11-12 when the team really stumbles hard (although Kipper’s goaltending masked it to a significant degree that season).

    Feaster comes in in 2011 and fully knows that he has some underperforming, overpaid, older players with NMCs and he knows it will not be a quick fix. I give him credit for trading Regehr and Langkow when he could (hated giving 2nd to Buffalo mind you).

    So Feaster has to ride the wave which, in the meantime, has a few pretty substantial streaks where the team plays good hockey for extended periods. So maybe the team wasn’t a total disaster.

    Like you said 13-14 was destined to come and I would suggest that even Darryl would be rebuilding at this stage with Iginla, Kipper etc moving on. You can tell by the expiry dates of Darryl’s largest contracts that he expected the gig would be up about this time.