Dating the Flames

Whoa there big boy, it’s not what you think. This isn’t a charity auction where a donation of $1000 will net you a night on the town with Bryce Van Brabant. Although, if you were so inclined, and made the cheque out to cash

No. I made a promise. No more trafficking in professional athletes.

So, back to the theme of this article.

History is filled with dates. 1099 C.E. – the capture of
Jerusalem by the armies of the First Crusade. 1066 C.E. – Norman conquest of
England by William the Conqueror. 312 C.E. – Battle of the Milvian Bridge. 1453
C.E. – the fall of Constantinople to the armies of Sultan Mehmet II. 399 B.C.E
– the Death of Socrates. 1274 B.C.E – Ramses II fights the Battle of Kadesh
against the Hittite Empire.

What is often overlooked is that many of these dates are
approximations. Some have been shown to be very nearly exact, while others are
estimates arrived at by various historiographical means.

What the hell am I rambling on about now? Damned if I know, but let’s see where I get to. 

The history of the Calgary Flames rebuild is being written
as we speak. In all likelihood, the collective experiences of the media, fan base, and outside observers will collaborate to create a not-altogether-precise sequence of events. We’re human and that’s what we do. Some characters will be unjustly
vilified while others unfairly exalted, all because of shared memory and post-hoc bias
narrative construction.

So how do we make sure that we pin down at least some basic,
fundamental facts before we go on? We can start with the beginning of the
rebuild and trying to affix an approximate date as to when this whole thing started.

To do this we’ll need to set some ground rules. We need
objective, rational arguments, proofs provided when possible, and a
generally-agreed upon definition of what constitutes a rebuild. And a lemur. Don’t forget the lemur.

Who Decides When A Rebuild Happens?

I’ve been down this road before on the FlamesNation forum,
with varying results. But this is the first time I’ve approached this topic as
the focus of a specific article.

This is a dialogue, a discussion with give and take, and
while I’m going to put forward my perspective on the subject, I hope that you
will all contribute to the process as well. For those of you who may be
concerned about an intentional drive to create a concensus history using shared
memory thus raising the possibility of incorporating significant levels of bias
into the narrative, we’ll be challenging each other at every turn to ensure
that what we have is as close to the real events as can be arrived at in this
situation. But, you know, if you aren’t worried about all that stuff, that’s cool too. 

We’ll begin with a definition.

In the past I’ve defined a rebuild as the process of roster
changeover that specifically targets core players in exchange for younger
players, prospects or draft picks. Salary dumps, the trading-off of veteran
players to be replaced internally by younger prospects, and what are generally
called “hockey trades” of one player for another are, by my reckoning, not
moves that are intrinsically indicative of a rebuild.

We also need to decide what constitutes a rebuild-action.
Primarily it would appear to revolve around player trades, however free-agent
signings are also an indicator of an organization’s intent, and one that I would consider to be a signifier of a team less devoted to rebuilding, dependent on the caliber and expected role of individual pursued and/or signed.

For me, a definition of a rebuild is as stated above, but within the context of several other intentional actions/decisions by the organization that trend in the same direction. This includes draft actions (trading down or out versus trading up), free-agency (signing marquee free agents to long-term contracts versus depth support players to shorter-term deals), and asset trades. 

Disagree? We can discuss the definition in comments section. But for now, let’s look at timelines.

The following is a list of every major acquisition the
Flames made from the time Jay Feaster joined the franchise to June 2014 draft.
I’ve interspersed some media quotes and other details to provide an approximate
timeline in order to best estimate when the prospect of rebuilding took hold on
the organization.

2011-06-01          Flames acquire Roman Horak, two 2011 second round
picks (#45-Markus Granlund) (#57-Tyler Wotherspoon) for Tim Erixon, 2011 fifth
round pick (#133-Shane McColgan) in a trade with Rangers.

2011-06-25          Flames acquire Chris Butler, Paul Byron for Robyn
Regehr, Ales Kotalik, 2012 second round pick (#44-Jake McCabe) in a trade with

2011-07-02          Flames attempt to sign Brad Richards as a free agent, believed at the time to be an offer of approximately $64 million over nine years. Source

2011-07-09          Flames acquire Jordan Henry for Keith Seabrook in a
trade with Panthers.

2011-07-14          Flames acquire Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond for a 2012 fifth round pick (#135-Graham Black)
in a trade with Devils.

2011-08-29          Flames acquire Lee Stempniak for Daymond Langkow in a
trade with Coyotes.

2011-09-01          Feaster’s
response in a radio interview: “I’m sorry — Edmonton finished where last year,
caller? Want to wager on where we finish relative to Edmonton this year? I’m
tired of this question, I’ll tell you very honestly. I’m getting a little sour.
How many teams . . . every year, for the last 10 years, five years, eight
years, have finished in the bottom five, bottom seven, bottom 10? They’ve had a
pick anywhere from No. 1 to No. 10 year after year after year after year, and
they still wander in the desert. And they’re no closer to getting out than they
were 10 years ago. You know what? I look forward to the Battle of Alberta for
the next X number of years. If the idea is, ‘Burn it to the ground,’ then Ken
can find another manager to do it.” Source

2012-01-06          Flames acquire Blair Jones for Brendan Mikkelson in a
trade with Lightning.

2012-01-12          Flames acquire Mike Cammalleri,
Karri Ramo, 2012 fifth round pick (#124-Ryan Culkin) for Rene Bourque, Patrick Holland, 2013 second round
pick (#36-Zachary Fucale / Zach Fucale) in a trade with Canadiens.

2012-01-27          Flames acquire Brian Connelly for Brendan Morrison in
a trade with Blackhawks.

2012-06-22          Flames acquire a 2012 first round pick (#21-Mark
Jankowski), 2012 second round pick (#42-Patrick Sieloff) for their 2012 first
round pick (#14-Zemgus Girgensons) in a trade
with Sabres.

2012-06-27          Flames acquire rights to Dennis Wideman for Jordan
Henry, 2013 fifth round pick (#127-Tucker Poolman) in a trade with Capitals.

2012-07-02          Flames acquire Jiri Hudler as a signed unrestricted
free agent to a 4-year contract.

2013-01-21          Flames acquire 2013 seventh round pick (#198-John
Gilmour) for Henrik Karlsson in a trade with Blackhawks.

2013-02-16          Flames
have 11 pts (4-5-2) and sit 14th in the Western Conference, tied
with Colorado with 12 games played, one quarter of the abbreviated 2013

2013-02-28          Flames acquire Brian McGrattan for Joe Piskula in a trade with Predators.

2013-02-28          Flames
have 18 pts (7-7-4) and sit 12th in the Western Conference, tied
with Edmonton and three back of the final playoff spot.

2013-03-14          Flames
have 24 pts (10-11-4) and sit 14th in the Western Conference, tied
with Colorado, four points back of the final playoff spot.

2013-03-21          Flames
have 26 pts (11-12-4) and sit 14th in the Western Conference, tied
with Colorado, six points back of the final playoff spot with 20 games
remaining in the season.

2013-03-28          Flames  acquire rights to Kenny
Agostino, rights to Ben Hanowski, 2013 first round pick (#28-Morgan Klimchuk)
for Jarome Iginla in a trade with Penguins.

2013-03-28          Feaster
on trading Jarome Iginla to the Penguins “We, as an organization, are
grateful for everything our captain has done. We’ve missed the [Stanley Cup
Playoffs] the last three years, we are in very tight spot right now as far as
qualifying for the playoffs and we have Jarome in the final year of his
contract. This is not why I came to Calgary, to be the guy to trade Jarome Iginla,”
Feaster said. “It’s an unfortunate and difficult part of this business. It
was tough. I’ve only known Jarome for the three years I have been here, and
Jarome has been very good to me. They are tough conversations to have.” Source

2013-04-01          Flames acquire Mark Cundari, rights to Reto Berra,
conditional draft pick(s) (2013 first round pick if Blues qualify for 2013
playoffs, otherwise 2013 fourth round pick and 2014 first round pick (2013
#22-Emile Poirier)) for Jay Bouwmeester in a trade with Blues.

2013-04-01          Feaster
on trading Jay Bouwmeester “We asked him for his list of teams – he did not
request it,” Feaster told Fan 960 radio in Calgary. “We did have some
conversations with Jay over the past few weeks in terms of where he would be as
far as an extension when we’re able to sign one in the summer. We just felt
that that was probably not a realistic possibility for us. We initiated it from
the beginning. [There was] nothing from Jay, other than the fact that he was
willing to work with us.” It’s on me,” Feaster told the radio
station. “I talked when I came here and took over as the interim GM that
it was about intellectual honesty. Unfortunately, the results of the last two
years, under my watch, maybe I wasn’t as intellectually honest as I needed to
be. That’s the one thing that I wasn’t going to make that mistake again this
year. No, we’re not done,” he said. “We’re open for business. We may
get a lot of phone calls; we’ve made a lot of phone calls. We’ve apprised other
teams of what our thinking is and who we’re willing to move, and who we’re not.
We’ll continue that process right through until 1:00 Mountain time on
Wednesday.” Source

2013-04-03          Flames acquire 2013 fifth round pick (#135-Eric Roy)
for Blake Comeau in a trade with Blue Jackets.

2013-06-17          Flames acquire Corban Knight for a 2013 fourth round
pick (#97-Michael Downing) in a trade with Panthers.

2013-06-27          Flames acquire David Jones, Shane O’Brien for Alex
Tanguay, Cory Sarich in a trade with Avalanche.

2013-11-08          Flames acquire Ladislav Smid, Olivier Roy for Roman
Horak, Laurent Brossoit in a trade with Oilers.

2013-11-21          Flames acquire 2014 sixth round pick (#175-Adam Ollas
Mattson) for Tim Jackman in a trade with Ducks.

2013-11-22          Flames acquire Lane MacDermid for a 2014 sixth round
pick (#154-Aaron Haydon) in a trade with Stars.

2013-12-30          Flames acquire Kevin Westgarth for Greg Nemisz in a
trade with Hurricanes.

2014-03-05          Flames acquire 2014 second round pick (#54-Hunter
Smith) for Reto Berra in a trade with Avalanche.

2014-03-05          Flames acquire a 2014 third round pick (#83-Maheson
Iactopelli) for Lee Stempniak in a trade with Penguins.

2014-06-28          Flames acquire Brandon Bollig for a 2014 third round
pick (#83-Maheson Iactopelli) in a trade with Blackhawks.

Pinning it Down

Now, many people try to pin historical events on one moment,
a discrete pinpoint in time when all things leading up to it reach a tipping
point and an event we know as history occurs. Sometimes this happens, but more
often than not historical events play out on a spectrum where smaller events
lead the principal players to make decisions which in turn spawn reactions and
decisions again. Each one pushes towards the event that is considered pivotal
and which we afterwards try to define within a strict date. To return to
history again to illustrate my point, Operation Overlord, the invasion of
Normandy, occurred on June 6th, 1944, but the drawup to the invasion
took years of planning and preparation. The event itself occurred at a distinct
point in time, but to divorce it from all the activities and circumstances that
led up to it would be a mistake.

So if we want to pin the date of the Flames’ rebuild to a
specific date, my recommendation would be for March 28th, 2013 – the
day Jarome Iginla was traded. However, if one wanted to stretch it out and
determine when the probability of the Flames’ rebuild began on the road to
imminent inevitability, then I would suggest that this was determined sometime
early in the month of February, 2013 when the Flames struggled early in the
season and was made a virtual certainty with the impending expiration of Jarome
Iginla’s contract.By the same token, one could easily suggest that the rebuild began after Iginla was traded with the move of Bouwmeester based on the difference in Feaster’s comments to the media between the two trades. 

All the other circumstances that surround the Flames’
timeline from the moment Feaster joined the organization to the moment he left,
two demarcations that clearly outline the movement of the organization into a
rebuild, suggest roster movement more aligned with cap management and player
acquisition (ie: Regehr’s trade to Buffalo, trading down for Mark Jankowski and
Patrick Sieloff, the Wideman acquisition/signing, and so on).

So we have three points on a spectrum, late February 2013 when the Flames’ fate seemed inevitable and Iginla’s contract was set to expire with the trade deadline looming, the day that Iginla was traded, or the time between that and the day that Jay Bouwmeester was traded. From my perspective any of these would be defensible positions to take, although my personal leaning is towards the Iginla trade as a reasonable marker.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I would agree. Some argue the Regher trade, however the signings of Hudler and Wideman the summer before the Iginla/Bouwmeester trades do not signify a “rebuilding” mindset. It had to have come after those two signings in my mind.

  • The Last Big Bear

    To continue your military historical theme, trading your longest-serving captain and franchise player for picks and prospects is analogous to signing the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri.

    It is the unambiguous and definitive event that defines the end of one era and the beginning of another.

    Even though the writing had been on the wall weeks before.

      • PrairieStew

        Feaster’s remarks put the guy in the hole to begin with. It usually takes at least half a season for a guy from Europe to adapt the North American game. That’s all the guy had because of the lockout. He still managed to outscore Cammalleri at even strength/60; so he wasn’t that terrible. Too bad he didn’t stick around and try it again.

        • PrairieStew

          Personally I’m of the belief that, had Damien Brunner signed with the Flames and Roman Cervenka with the Red Wings, a lot of the same conversations would be going on only with the names reversed. Cervenka would still be in the NHL, and Brunner would have returned to Europe.

          That’s my feeling about the two of them, anyway. Don’t see a lot of difference, myself.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Great read, I would be inclined to say it was when Iggy was traded. I’d also lime to point out how dang good this trade was: “2011-06-01 Flames acquire Roman Horak, two 2011 second round picks (#45-Markus Granlund) (#57-Tyler Wotherspoon) for Tim Erixon, 2011 fifth round pick (#133-Shane McColgan) in a trade with Rangers.”

    We got more from Tim Erixon then from Iggy or Jay No!

    • ChinookArchYYC


      Feaster did some good work, but messed up more than he fixed. I can understand the Iginla value, since his hands were basically tied, but in 2 years I can’t understand the poor return on Bouwmeester. Regardless of what many Flames fans thought of Bouwmeester’s play, he should have received more for that trade.

        • BurningSensation

          Three questions:

          1. What makes you think Rattie was ever available, for anything?
          2. What’s so great about Rattie, anyway?
          3. If the Flames had gotten Rattie in the deal, would that have pulled the 1st round pick out?

          Personally, I’d rather have Poirier than Rattie.

          • piscera.infada

            Exactly. Agree with all three questions.

            I guess if you wanted to play hard-ball re: Rattie, you could always have brought up the “Detroit offer” that almost, certainly, 100%, without a doubt, maybe, for sure, likely, didn’t, but probably did, “in a matter of speaking”, exist – according to my friend’s, friend’s, cousin’s, friend, who happens to be a friend of Ken Holland’s sister-in-law’s, maid-of-honour’s, dog.

          • BurningSensation

            Personally, I don’t really get what people’s fascination is with Rattie. He played with Baertschi for two seasons. Big whoop. His numbers fell (a bit) the following season in spite of playing a great deal on a line with 120 point scorer Nic Petan.

            He’s a good prospect, not a great one. And not worth the price of acquisition. He’d fetch more in a trade than Markus Granlund, but what evidence is there that he’s a better prospect? None, really.

  • BurningSensation

    I’m still of the mind that the rebuild began with Feaster shipping out Regehr to clear salary cap space.

    Every move he made after that was to;

    – get younger
    – add draft picks
    – shed big ticket contracts

    The Iginla trade was simply the end of ‘Feaster’s slow-rebuild’ and the start of Burke’s ‘accellerated rebuild’ (whatever that is).

    Feaster did all the heavy lifting; clearing cap space, adding picks to the top end of our drafts, fixing the scouting/development pipeline, etc.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Disagree. “Every move he made after that was to; – get younger – add draft picks – shed big ticket contracts”

      Signing Wideman was a adding a big ticket contract. The quote above about “wandering in the desert” and “find another manger to burn it to the ground” means they still wanted to remain competitive. Management indicated on several occasions that if they could just get in, “who knows what will happen with Kipper in net”.

      Make no mistake the “re-tooling” ceased with the Iginla trade and the “rebuilding” began with it.

      • BurningSensation

        I don’t think there is anything incoherent about Feaster and Co. trying to do both, remain competitive and rebuild, at the same time.

        That is what good teams do.

        Take a look at what is going on in Dallas. They are in the middle of a ‘rebuild’, yet they also managed to make the playoffs.

  • Parallex

    It’s the Iginla trade. More precisely it began the moment that they decided (not considered or asked for a list… the moment that the decision was made that Jarome Iginla would not finish the year as a Flame) to trade Iginla but we don’t know that exact moment. Practically speaking rebuilds begin once a team is no longer “going for it” and nothing signals the giving up of the ghost more then trading your all-time leading scorer, face of the franchise, and captain.

  • piscera.infada

    In short, why does it matter? I’m sick of this “takes five years”, “three years”, “be competitive by ‘x'”, et cetra, ad nauseum. The only reason you need to hammer out the “beginning” of the “rebuild” is so you can try (with utter futility) to guess it’s end-point. It’s really an exercise in being unreasonable. Do all “rebuilds” get the arbitrary “5 year” tag, because that’s what some goof in Edmonton said? Then, do we keep pushing to “(re)discover the beginning” of the “rebuild” so we can justify the timeline?

    Really, the only thing that matters should be team building. It should be perpetual, so you don’t have to take “5 years” every “10 years”, and we don’t need to force the beginning of a “new cycle”. It gets stale constantly talking about ‘x’ because ‘y’ takes ‘z’ to develop to ‘w’, and so on and so forth. It’s not cut and dry, there is no formula, there is no catch-all – this narrative does nothing but reinforce those beliefs.

    It’s an interesting conversation piece, for sure. I just think the “rebuild” narrative has become too narrow and pigeon-holed to be applicable in reality.

    • RexLibris

      No arguments here.

      This discussion is merely meant to set the milepost somewhere along the road.

      Maybe the Flames get things put together in three years’ time, maybe five, maybe another ten.

      The usefulness in having this debate is that it at least creates some plausible definition as to when it all began.

      Should the Flames be in a similar situation next fall that they are likely to find themselves in this year, it would be helpful to avoid having people, especially in the media, suggest that the Flames have been rebuilding since 2011. It creates confusion in the discussion and clouds the real issues such as development, drafting, talent identification and acquisition and the decision-making processes of management.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I agree with your view, especially about a rebuild needing to be perpetual.

      I hate crediting the filthy Oilers with anything of value, but during their hay day (in 1000 C.E.) Glen Sather was adament that 20% of the team needed to turn over every year. In general, I agree with this. 4 – 5 players need to be changed every year with the intent of keeping a good balance of veterans, players in their prime and rookies. D. Sutter made a lot of changes, but he did not invest enough into the future and brought in too many passengers that were ‘post-apex’ (i.e. Nolan and Amonte)

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Another thing to think about is cap space. If you are anywhere near the cap, that is not usually an indicator of a rebuilding team. The Flames cleared the most space with the Iginla and Bouwmeester trades.

  • prendrefeu

    As terrible as the Iggy trade was.. and it was BAD.. Feaster didn’t really have much of a choice on the return, as the timing (and circumstances) were brutal. Here’s hoping Klimchuck is the next Claude Giroux.

  • RexLibris

    I don’t know if one trade signifies a rebuild, a rebuild is inevitable when you have overpaid underachieving veterans who cannot get you past the first round in the playoffs, finish in the sixth to eight spot while stumbling down the stretch or missing the playoffs entirely with a veteran group. I think trading Reggie was the first sign because in all the time that had passed not a single core player had been moved out unless you count Dion. Iggy, Reggie and Kipper were the three constants despite changing the GM, multiple coaches, multiple surrounding cast changes. The Iginla trade really hit it home and the Jay-Bo trade and attempt to trade Kipper finally signaled ownership came to terms that they had to start over again.

    • RexLibris

      For me the trading of Regehr was indicative of a chance of management more than ultimate direction (challenge now vs tear it down).

      Most new GMs trade a couple of “core” players under their predecessors.

      Smid was considered core under Tambellini. Arguably Grabovski was a key player for the Leafs under Burke, yet Nonis bought him out.

    • PrairieStew

      They played the Czechs yesterday. He looked pretty good. He had some great chances but didn’t bury and drew a couple penalties.

      I think Canada is playing the Russians today at 5, and Klimchuk looks like he could be playing with McDavid!

      Great article. We should figure out how long ago the Oilers rebuild started, or maybe it would be better to see how many unsuccessful ones they have had in the last 10 years.

  • PrairieStew

    You missed March 1, 2013 when the Avalanche matched the Ryan O’Reilly offer sheet. That’s when the rebuild really began, Feaster had exhausted all avenues to get a #1 centre for Iggy. That goes through ( and it would have – the league would have bent their own rules) and perhaps you are looking at resigning both Iggy and Jaybo……

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I’ve felt the same way for a long time. The ROR fiasco was Feaster’s moment at the poker table and going ‘all in’ for the playoffs. When he failed, a rebuild was inevitable.

      In support of Rex’s position
      “Now, many people try to pin historical events on one moment, a discrete pinpoint in time when all things leading up to it reach a tipping point and an event we know as history occurs.”
      The ROR fiasco wasn’t the defining moment of the rebuild, but was the end of the Go For It era.

    • RexLibris

      I knew I’d forget something.

      The O’Reilly offer sheet was a moment that could have been included.

      That being said, as a strictly hockey move – giving up picks for a young asset – it doesn’t necessarily move the needle in either direction for or against a rebuild because O’Reilly was still so young.

      It was certainly a defining moment, though.

      The Oilers got lucky when Darcy Regier matched the Vanek offer sheet. The Flames dodged their own bullet when the Avalanche matched the O’Reilly sheet. Regardless of what Feaster and Weisbrod would have argued, the NHL had a ruling and in all likelihood would have stuck by it.

      I wonder how Monahan would look behind McKinnon, Duchene, and O’Reilly with Landeskog on his wing?

      • Matty Franchise Jr

        Hey Rex: you are by far the smartest Oilers fan I know (not much of a compliment, I know); when was the last time a NHL team had a lower number of total first round ranking draft picks than the Oilers have had over the last 8 years??? (You can reverse the lottery pick win if it makes you feel better).
        Meaning: when was there a team that was worse than the Oilers over an 8 season period?


        • RexLibris

          Interesting question.

          There are a lot of variables at play here and comparing the Oilers of 2007 to 2014 to the Islanders after 1987 or the Penguins post-2000 or even the 1970s Capitals isn’t cut and dried comparisons.

          The Oilers have been bad for a long time. The details of that period involve a change of ownership, an inadvertent semi-rebuild following the 2006 cup run prompted by an exodus of talent over the span of one season virtually unrivaled in modern NHL history and the end result of a cost-cutting measure taken several years’ earlier.

          That the Oilers believed they could compete in the old Pacific division in 2007, 2008, and 2009 shows a lack of objectivity both in management and ownership. The change of the latter prompted a realization that a more critical eye needed to be trained on the franchise, and the choice in new management only served to exacerbate some of the problems, although it did repair the developmental system significantly.

          The Islanders’ fall from grace is not unlike the Penguins in that both were prefaced by the changing economic landscape, something that also undermined the Oilers and Flames franchises, except that the Islanders lacked the management ability to cope with the change while the Penguins under Craig Patrick took full advantage – and won the lottery of the decade.

          The Capitals were an expansion team and took the same approach to rebuilding as the other three mentioned, but did it par excellance.

          For my money I don’t know that there is a worse team in NHL history than the 1974-75 Capitals. They went 8-67-5, a .131 winning record and posted only a single road win. Remember, this is prior to the NHL Entry Draft when the draft rules written by Sam Pollock of the Montreal Canadiens were still in place and heavily favoured the established teams. GMs like Pollock would routinely trade a tired old veteran to one of these sad-sack teams for their 1st overall pick and then win a Cup with the kid still in training blades behind a powerhouse roster. It was out and out larceny on many occasions.

          Back to your question though, I think it would be wise to discern the Oilers’ record of futility as being comprised of two parts. Prior to 2010 and following 2010. Before the Oilers tried to be good and were terrible. Afterwards they tried to be terrible and were really good at it.

          The addition of three consecutive 1st overall picks helps, but those picks need to be taken in context. Taylor Hall is one of the best wingers in the NHL, Nugent-Hopkins is a very young center who has had to play with no; support. None. Horcoff. Belanger. Vande Velde. Gagner. Nobody could shelter him even to the extent that Backlund or Stajan can for Monahan and his development has been affected by it. Yakupov is learning a lot about the game at a late stage. Earlier in his career I believe he was given a fair bit of rope because of his skill and some of the technical issues are only now being impressed upon him. He cannot be blamed for this as it is the responsibility of the coaching staff to train and educate players. That he had done as much as he has almost entirely on skill is a credit to him, but there are details that observers take for granted that he is having to discover.

          All these players are excellent to have, but they can do nothing if the development system does not produce effective NHL players every year or two and the budget cuts to the AHL development system under the EIG ownership created a gaping hole in the system that isn’t widely understood by outside observers and wasn’t felt until approximately five years later. Add to that a spotty drafting record under Kevin Prendergast and the Oilers’ fate was more or less sealed as early as 2003.

          In answer to your direct question, I went back and had a look at season droughts and the Oilers are pretty much in a league of their own.

          For interests’ sake though, it has been 20 years since the Islanders last won a playoff series (92-93).

          So, over the last eight years no NHL team has been worse than the Edmonton Oilers.

          If you are using a PC, ctrl-P will print that last sentence. 😉

          • BurningSensation

            Nicely done Rex, thank you!
            (Like I said: the smartest Oilers fan I know)……

            It’s too bad there isn’t a way to determine who owns the worst 8 season record of all time; we often say it is the 07 to 14 Oilers……….it would have been nice to back it up with stats…..


          • loudogYYC

            The late 80’s Nordiques were a disaster but I doubt that lasted 8 years. The Coilers hold a very special spot at the bottom of the toilet HOF.

            I think @Derzie is right in that the timing matters for the sake of measurement. I remember at the beginning of the 2013 season I was using the 20 game mark as a measuring stick, hoping the Flames would be below the 23 point mark because then it would be highly unlikely that they would finish top 8 in the West. By game 18 the Flames had 18 pts and in my mind, that was when the rebuild began because they went and acquired a policeman in McGrattan instead of a scorer.

            This is probably my favorite article of yours @RexLibris, nice job!

      • PrairieStew

        I have to believe it would have turned out for the Flames. The NHL recently backed down on the Kovalchuk penalty to the Devils. The purpose of that rule that a guy w/o a contract must pass waivers if he has played in Europe was put in to prevent teams from loading up at playoff time on players after their Euro season ended. There were a couple of years that the Oilers did that in the mid 80’s – Reijo Roustalenin was the last guy I think. With the lockout and the fact that he only played 2 games I think the league would have ruled it an oversight and let it happen.

        Oilers got lucky when they didn’t get Heatley too !

        • RexLibris

          Remember when the Devils retained their pick in 2012, despite it being the 29th overall in what was considered a shallow draft?

          Lamoriello knew right from the get-go that his sentence would be commuted if he (and here I mean Devils ownership) kept his nose clean.

          I’m not certain that Feaster and Weisbrod would have been so fortunate. This wasn’t a cap-compliance work-around, this was an aggressive roster raid (albeit a legal one) on another team.

          They could have argued ignorance under the ink-still-wet new CBA, but that doesn’t usually get you anywhere in quasi-judicial situations.

          Much would depend on their tone and deference towards the league during presentations. I know that sounds silly, but where some people have egos, Bettman and company have other people’s egos carry their egos around in a great big sedan chair. For egos.

          Put it this way, would forfeiting what became a 6th overall pick (as well as a 2nd and 3rd, if I recall correctly) in a much-ballyhooed deep draft in addition to not acquiring the targeted player and potentially crippling your franchise and putting your employment in very real danger be worth the risk of leaving it up to league interpretation to decide?

          • PrairieStew

            No disputing the fact that it was a mistake. It would have been a colossal disaster for Feaster and Weisbrod – absolutely career ending. I think that, despite their competitiveness, the group of GM’s are reasonably close knit. Though Feaster is somewhat an outsider I can’t imagine they would have allowed the league to embarass themselves so totally. Maybe I am naive but… whatever I guess we’ll never know.

  • The Last Big Bear

    lol @ dividing the Oilers decade of suck into different eras.

    “Well, prior to 2009-2010 season they tried to win, but were awful. Starting in 2009-10, and lasting until 2011-12, they changed tactics and were intentionally awful. Since the 2012 offseason, they have tried to win again, but have just been awful.

    So you see, these are 3 very different periods of Oilers history.

    Kind of like a rabbit being crushed and eaten by a snake, sometimes it struggles, sometimes it resigns itself to fate, and sometimes it starts ineffectually kicking again. For rabbit fans, these distinctions are important, and its not adequate or accurate to simply say ‘That rabbit is being eaten by a snake’. There are important nuances within being inexorably crushed and swallowed whole.”

  • BurningSensation

    Speaking of historically bad teams, the Philadelphia Quakers were so bad they didn’t even come back for a second season. Just 4 wins and 12 points in 44 games. That’s a 0.136 ppg rate–almost as bad as Rex’s Capitals.

    • RexLibris

      …almost as bad as Rex’s Capitals

      Hold on! I take absolutely NO ownership of the 74-75 Capitals. That was Milt Schmidt’s team, not mine. I told him, though. I said, “Milt, you can’t go to war with these guys, Milt, you’re gonna get killed, Milt”. But would he listen? No.

  • Derzie

    Progress needs measurement. We all have our own mental image of the trajectory of a rebuild. Ideal is the path goes from the dumpster to the cup in X years. The reality is most rebuilds start at or near the dumpster but reaching the cup as the end point is a rare thing. For example, the majority of the hockey world looks at the Oilers as major underachievers on the the rebuild road. Arguments abound over when the rebuild started. The trend has been down so the jury is out on if the start is still to come. Not knowing where the start is (and why it is a start) casts doubt on where it is and what the next steps are. With the Flames it is clear when it started: The Iggy trade on March 27, 2013. This is valuable as we need to understand what are realistic expectations. The optimistic hope is 2 years we start to be competitive (2015). The realistic is 3-4 years (2016-17). Now we watch. By 2015 we’ll know if we are trending correctly or not. Much clearer path than our Shelbyville cousins up north but success or failure is TBD.

    • RexLibris

      It also depends on the assets that are available once the rebuilding path is taken.

      The Oilers really only had Penner to trade and in terms of prospects they had Paajarvi, Eberle and Petry coming along.

      Hemsky was injured during both potential trade windows and his reputation around the league never recovered. Penner netted the Oilers Oscar Klefbom in 2011, a prospect who may finally enter the NHL on a permanent basis later this season.

      Jeff Petry only came along in the tail end of 2012, six years after he was drafted.

      Paajarvi never became the scoring winger that was anticipated and Jordan Eberle’s rookie year was the same as Hall and Paajarvi, when the 1st line center was Shawn Horcoff.

      By contrast, the Penguins had Ryan Whitney, Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang all in the fold when Sidney Crosby came along. Not to mention a partial season from Mario Lemieux.

      The Flames have entered their rebuild trading away Iginla and Bouwmeester to add 1st round picks, as well as falling back on Mikael Backlund, TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano.

      Fans should be thankful for these luxuries and not take them for granted or pillory teams without.

      Given the lack of defensive depth for the Flames, I’m not sure 2015-2016 is reasonable. Had they one or two really strong defensive prospects almost ready to make the NHL jump in their system, I would say perhaps. Without that, though, you are needing to trade or sign those players and that is a different animal altogether.