1. A judicious decision
So the Flames, much to my surprise, didn’t make serious runs at any of the league’s big free agents this summer, or at least, didn’t make runs serious enough to actually attract them. That’s not the surprising part. The surprising thing, I guess, is that this team really is committed to tanking hard next season.
It would appear that Feaster is indeed planning to do what’s best for the team and not necessarily his job by going forward with a team on which Lee Stempniak and David Jones are the top two right wings every single night.
I love it.
The money I expected Feaster to spend against the cap didn’t really matter since the team was never going to come near the ceiling this year or next year or maybe ever, ever, ever again.
I said it on Puck Daddy last week but the thing with this kind of free agent class this summer (see also: a bad one) is that even when they’re bad, teams spend like they’re not. David Clarkson, as the "prize" of the class, has exactly one 40-plus point season ever and he’s 29 years old. Is he a good enough NHLer? Of course. Is he worth anything near the contract he got? No. So the question is this: Why do GMs act like he is? There’s not really a good reason for it** except that GMs are not necessarily good at their jobs; if, for example, Dave Nonis had not signed Clarkson, and he did indeed get outbid by Edmonton or whoever (the who doesn’t matter in this scenario) the headlines would have been "Leafs lose out on target Clarkson, sign awful No. 1 center for no reason" instead of "Oilers get Clarkson." Considerations such as these do not lend themselves to judicious GMing.
So for Feaster to stay out of it, to some extent anyway (we’ll never know for sure if he took a run at anyone of note), was something he couldn’t have handled better. Takes a lot of chutzpah to avoid that and enter the season with a roster this bad, but I’m glad to see it.
**(Kent recently attempted to answer this question here).
2. The minor moves he made
Staying out of the free agent market as a whole wasn’t all Feaster got up to, of course. He traded for Kris Russell which is a decent enough defensive deal insofar as one assumes Russell won’t be actively terrible. The terms of that one-year deal, by the way, are perfectly acceptable.
But then again he gave Brian McGrattan two more years for reasons that defy logic. That kind of thing is maddening. I don’t have to explain to you why.
He also made the Karri Ramo and Corban Knight contracts officially official, and I’m not particularly wild about either of them in theory. In actual practice, I feel like both being slight overpayments doesn’t really matter, and if anything people in my position (wanting them to go 0-82-0 next season) should cheer for that kind of thing since it prevents them from adding more expensive pieces. So I guess to that extent I’m fine with it.
And then, as I was writing this, Mikael Backlund got his two-year deal, which came as something of a surprise to me, mainly because I assumed he’d only get one year because this would be his last contract with the team if he doesn’t score like 40 points next season. It might still be, because at some point you have to assume they’re going to cut bait, but I’ll take the term and money both. Good deal for both sides, I think.
3. Get used to the Oilers killing Calgary
So it seems like Craig MacTavish is immediately trying to make a huge impact in Edmonton, and good on him for it. The Oilers are now officially better than the Calgary Flames on paper and probably on the ice as well, and the gap between them is only going to broaden over the next three or four years.
This new playoff format makes things interesting, in that I still don’t think either Albertan team is going to be good enough to muscle their way into the postseason under this format. With that having been said, though, (and Flames fans will hate to hear this) any delusions that you might be holding about winning the Battle of Alberta should be checked at the door. The Oilers roster as currently constituted is going to blow Calgary out of the water. If they can improve their defense in any appreciable way any time soon, they’ll be good enought to be considered a borderline playoff team.
The Flames need to add roughly six thousand players to get to that point; these, though, are the benefits of starting a rebuild several years earlier before Calgary realized it needed the overhaul.
4. Another thing for which I have to praise Feaster to my chagrin
And finally, to that end, I have to bring up the fact that Hockey Prospectus’ Corey Pronman recently ranked the Flames’ organization 10th in the league. This is something unfathomable even a year ago, when Pronman had them in the low 20s or so. They might have been in the mid-to-upper 40s before that. Tough to say.
To that extent I understand the people who say I should cut him some slack on the Jankowski and Poirier picks, given that he’s also pulled or traded for a number of high-quality players from lower rounds. The team’s issue isn’t necessarily that they can’t draft well, or identify talent.
He’s certainly re-stocked the cupboard in a major way, and indeed looks poised to do so again next season when they finish 29th or 30th in the league and take a serious run at a top-flight prospect. This is especially shocking given Feaster’s overall drafting record in the past, but if the Flames are acknowledging that they have a problem in any way, this is a brave new world to begin with.
5. The Bieber to-do
Not that this is Flames related but everyone is acting like Justin Bieber touching the Stanley Cup or stepping on the Blackhawks logo or having his jersey hung in Jonathan Toews’ locker and that’s been a whole thing. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Many have pointed out that he touched the Stanley Cup in the past and despite a lot of eye-rolling about it no one cared. But this time he did it dressed like Ice Cube circa 1990 for no readily apparent reason, while standing on the Blackhawks’ logo. Greg Wyshynski made the point — and a very logical one — that if you don’t want people to step on the logo then you don’t put it on the floor, but this being hockey, Tradition wins out over logic.
The reason the logo is on the floor is so that guys have to THINK to avoid it, because it’s some sort of holy relic, or whatever. That, of course, is silly. The Flames’ logo, or the Blackhawks’ or the Jets’ or the Bruins’ or any other team’s is as sacred as any corporate logo, and it stands for something only so far as the guys wearing it are being paid by that team. Think the Blackhawks’ logo is this Important Thing to, say, Ray Emery, who was just playing for them but now signed with the Flyers? I have a guess. That guess is no.
As for the Cup, people have eaten cereal out of the Cup. Babies have pooped in the Cup. I would imagine someone has had sex in or against it more than once in its illustrious existence. It’s a sports trophy. Justin Bieber touching it is probably the sixth-most disgusting thing to happen to it since Jonathan Toews picked it up a few weeks ago.