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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
have 18 pts (7-7-4) and sit 12th in the Western Conference, tied
with Edmonton and three back of the final playoff spot.
have 24 pts (10-11-4) and sit 14th in the Western Conference, tied
with Colorado, four points back of the final playoff spot.
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.
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.
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
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.