THE MIRAGE OF CONTENTION

Unwilling to wander in the desert the way his neighbors to the north have these past six seasons, Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster is sticking to his guns when it comes to shaping his hockey team.

Feaster, who just parted ways with head coach Brent Sutter, has insisted since taking over the GM’s chair in Cowtown he isn’t going to follow the Edmonton Oilers lead and undertake a full-scale rebuild with the Flames despite growing sentiment he should tear the Calgary bandwagon down to bare metal and start over.

Feaster, whose Flames finished a lot closer to the playoffs this season than the Oilers did – closer must count for something, right? – but likely won’t repeat that feat in 2012-13, hasn’t come off his position. That seems unlikely to change, even with high-profile people like former Calgary captain Lanny McDonald throwing his two cents worth into the mix.

Start over? Like the Oilers, who’ll make their third straight first overall selection at the Entry Draft and use it to take Nail Yakupov (Feaster will add the 14th overall pick to his bursting list of prospects)? Hell no. Trade Jarome Iginla or Miikka Kiprusoff? Not a chance. Wander the desert in 13th or 14th place instead of 10th or 11th? Fans wouldn’t stand for it, would they?

In an interview with 960 The Fan in Calgary today, McDonald made his thoughts known, saying Feaster had already missed the boat in moving assets like Iginla and Kiprusoff and re-stocking the Flames because he’s been pre-occupied with selling playoff contention.

NO SAND BETWEEN JAY’S TOES

"I don’t think you have any choice but to explore them all," McDonald said in an item that just ran on Sportsnet, when asked about the possibility of trading Iginla or Kiprusoff. "I thought they should have made those moves either last year at the trade deadline or even this year at the trade deadline.

"If you go back to the trade deadline, and yes it’s a lot easier to just say it than it is to do it, but you have to make a commitment: ‘OK, we need to change this, this is not working, this is not good enough.’

"I think they were unfortunately kidding themselves when they thought, ‘Oh my God, we’re close. We’ve got to stick with this group all over again.’ You could predict that it was going to be, ‘Oh my God, we just barely missed. We’re in ninth place.’ But are you really close? No, especially when you see that level of play that is happening in the playoffs right now."

The link to the entire article at Sportsnet is here.

Feaster is convinced that between the roster he’s got, prospects in the system and making some noise in the free agent market — thanks to some salary coming off the books — Flames fans will be better served by a tweak or two rather than by admitting this is a team headed in the wrong direction, and fast.

Sounds like the approach the Oilers took all those years when they’d sneak into the post-season in eighth-place, only to have Dallas beat them for fun. Short-term pain for long-term gain? He’ll pass. And if Feaster can pull off a run like the Oilers did in 2006? Sounds like a plan. A bad plan, but a plan.

CONTENDERS OR PRETENDERS?

While the Oilers are a team on the ascent with a core that includes Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle (and will soon include the talented Mr. Yakupov) thanks to six straight years out of the playoffs, the last three as a lottery team, Feaster will have none of it.

At least not yet. My guess, and it’s only a guess because I’m not tight with anybody in Calgary ownership, is Feaster is running out of time until he either loses his job or sees that a stroll through the sand dunes is the way to go. Heaven knows, it took Edmonton’s management long enough to figure out faking it as playoff contenders wasn’t going to wash in the long run.

Oilers fans have seen that movie, and while it’s been a dud B-flick in terms of results since Chris and Lauren Pronger blew town, there is real reason for optimism, despite the misgivings and beads of cold sweat one experiences with Steve Tambellini at the controls. Better times are ahead.

Not so, I’m convinced, for Feaster and the Flames, who will remain in denial for as long as he’s calling the shots. Like I said, I’m guessing that won’t be for much longer — unless his cut and paste rebuild somehow works. Once that hits the wall, the real rebuild begins. As Oilers fans will attest, that’ll only take five or six years. Tops.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Hah!

    And I love that it’s posted on FN as well, well said Robin.

    You said a few times in the article that the Oilers will be taking Yakupov with their first, is this a gut feel or do you know for sure? I for one want us to take him.

    • I will only say this: I will be astounded if they DON’T take him and I will be equally stunned if they pick him and then trade him.

      While I just said (and wrote) that Steve Tambellini should shop the pick and see if there’s a deal that is at least worth considering, I’m not overwhelmed with confidence I would trust the return he deemed worthy.

      • The Moff

        Robin, any chance of the oilers trading 1st ov for leafs 5th and gardiner? Thought I read somewhere Burke loves Yak. Then flipping the 5th for for Cory Schneider, getting us a dman and a goalie?

        Is this too much pipe dreaming going on here? In the ballpark? Overpayment? Underpayment?

        • Bryzarro World

          Ya cause you want to trade high for an unproven goalie and defender? Nail is unproven as well put has a much higher ceiling IMO. Don’t trade a couple of maybes for an almost sure thing.

      • Oilers89

        I wholeheartedly agree Robin mainly because no team in their right mind deals a 1-2 defenceman, especially one that is in the age range of 25-30 which is probably where the Oilers are aiming because it doesn’t make sense to acquire one that’s in the twilight of their career. It also seems unlikely they could pry kids like OEL or Erik Karlsson from their respective clubs. Take Yakupov and Tambellini will have to do something he hasn’t really tried or been able to do and that’s acquire a dman through FA or trading other assets besides the no.1 pick.

  • Toro

    I think everyone knows that the Flames need to rebuild like the Oilers except for Feaster, He’s too arrogant to admit it though but WHEN the Flames owners decide its time to rebuild I hope Feaster resigns his position as GM considering last summer he said if the owners wanna rebuild like the Oilers they can find a different GM for the job, and I really really really hope the Oilers draft Yakupov and not give up a huge talent like him for something else unless its Weber, but I truly believe the Oilers wanted to draft Murray before they won the lottery

  • bazmagoo

    The Flames will make a couple of free agent acquisitions in the off season to continue to pursue the playoffs, but will start the season poorly and be out of the playoff picture by early February.

    Feaster will be fired, and there will be a clear out sale at the deadline. Ryan Smyth will be the first big name shipped out for a 2nd round pick.

    🙂

  • I listened to McDonald’s comment, live this morning. He was right about the flames but this comment could have pertained to the Oilers Veterens too. Tambi missed the boat on getting more assets by not trading coming UFA Veterens at the deadline. There’s nothing saying he couldn’t resign them again on July First.

    If you are an Edmonton or Calgary fan you should listen to the McDonald interview. Really to bad he isn’t interested in being a GM. Either team could use him.

  • Lexi

    As an Oiler fan in Edmonton, Feaster seems like he is actually slowly getting the Flames going in the right direction and the problem down there is Ken King and the owners. With Baertschi, Reinhart, Granlund and Gaudreau it looks like their drafting is improving in the last two years. He has rectified the salary cap hell. The tell of where they are going will be whether they trade Kiprosoff in the next year. My hope is that they get rid of Kipper, win next year’s lottery and get McKinnon and the Battle of Alberta will be back by 2015 and I think Feaster could be a great character in the Battle.

    • 24% body fat

      When all these free agents contracts are done at the end of the year do you think you are going to replae everyone of them with someone better and cheaper. Not likely. Free agents will now have to be overpaid in Calgary because the team has no clear direction.

  • Bryzarro World

    I can’t understand Feasters’ strong opposition to rebuilding. Maybe it’s just stubbornness on his part, because he said he is not interested in a rebuild, he is not prepared to recant. Robin, if you were the GM of the Oilers going into 2012-13, and were considering the possibility of trading Nail, what is the type of offer that would get your attention? I know you would want all teams to come forward with their best proposition, but who is the guy that gets your hand shake?

  • Bryzarro World

    Say what you want about Oilers management but they have done an increadable job rebuilding not only the Oilers but their farm system.

    The Oilers have the most talent in the league and its due to management getting them into this position.

    Calgary will be an easy 8 point a year for the Oilers.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Yakupov should be real impressed when he hears Tambellini’s comment about him not being the player Taylor Hall is. How does Steve already know Nail isn’t going to be close to a point a game player his first yr?

    Any indication if Nail Yakupov is all geeked and ready to come and embrace the Edmonton challenge?

  • justDOit

    I think the main problem with Feast is that he’s a Cup winning GM – but he inherited that team and only made a couple of tweaks to it in their Cup year. So this false sense of confidence is his worst enemy.

    Now he thinks that he can tweak the Flames and get into the playoffs. If one of those tweaks is finding the next human rake, then he might just succeed. Good luck to him.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    With Tambelini smiling like a sheshire cat after the lottery lets hope he and his contract/cap specialist have their eyes and hopefully some smarts on their prized RFAs. This could very well be Feasters plan for his rebuild. Pick sleepy slow mos (Tambos) pocket while he’s s scratching his nuts and assessing while throwing $10 million at Hemsky and trying to convince us there is hope for his prized goaltending signing. Feaster is no fool and has more lights on than the captain guiding our ship. This is what really scares me.

    • justDOit

      Could you elaborate on how Feaster is such a genius? You say that he is no fool, but we see no evidence of that in his work with the Flambes. He cup winning Tampa team was intact when he took the helm, save for two players.

      Trading away Regehr was not my idea of a smart trade (well it is, but that’s only because I’m an Oiler fan), and giving up a tough, reliable winger who can score 20 for and over-paid Camel-hairy doesn’t come close to genius in my books.

      • Milhouse Van Ched

        Um…buddy, if this tough, reliable winger you are referring to is Rene Bourque then you are delusional. He is terrible, lazy and could possibly be in the minors next year, and his contract is even worse than Cammalleri’s. That trade I still believe is Feaster’s best so far as Flames GM.

        Also, why don’t we all just agree the Canucks suck? Good plan.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I like Robin’s blog today alot. I have to agree also that Tambellini has to now say he wants to explore options cause this is is an important transitional phase to defcon 3 which is to get into the playoffs next season for sure.

    But I do believe that the Oilers clearly know that Yakupov is a very fast dynamic firepower future weapon for the Oil, especially when knowing of injuries to Hall, Hemsky, Horcoff, and somewhat too with Eberle and Hopkins happening this year. We had only two players play a full season because of injuries and because of bad playing.

    This then makes the point more so prevalent to draft this kid a priority as #1 than trade down and make mistakes maybe for other unprovable players in the draft or those type prospects other teams want to give up on.

    Now the other big question to add is…..Does anyone like the idea or want Brent Sutter to come in from Calgary to try and coach the kids next year up to three years for the Oilers or do they rely one more time on Renney?

  • Newj

    Rebuilds are never 100% surefire things. Remember the Oilers trying to sell Gagner, Nilsson, Gilbert, Grebeshkov and Cogliano as their future stars? And the Flames in the Young Guns Era? What about the Hawks in the early 2000s, when they tried to rebuild by drafting guys like Arnason, Daze, Calder, and Ruutu?

    My point is that the Oilers have a great young nucleus, but there is no certainty that these guys will be the present day Penguins or Blackhawks. And then there’s the fact that you usually NEED TO win when your young up and coming players are still on their entry level deals, so they’re providing you value. I see no indication that the Oilers will become a Cup contender before Hall, Eberle, and Nugent Hopkins need new contracts.

        • Oilers89

          1.25 (RNH) + 1.25 (Hall) + 4.8 or so (ebs) – 4.25 or so (Smyth) = 3.05 and this is not including other variables such as Khaby’s contract coming up, or horcoff’s or even Hemsky. I really cannot see how they have no money to throw at the defense. Even with Yakupov they are still fine.

  • When you need Vintage Flame for what? To ignore the obvious and talk smack about the Oilers? Get into it with me? Wrong number.

    I don’t give a squirt either way. I’m just laying out that I think Feaster is making the same mistakes Oilers management did until they were forced into the realization they weren’t good enough and couldn’t contend by patching here and there.

    The Oilers didn’t have some master rebuild plan. They just continued to slip until they finally figured out they’d have to do it right or be stuck with a team that was good enough to contend for playoffs, but little else.

    I respect Jay as a hockey man, but I can’t agree with his approach now. Unless you’re a kook, it’s pretty easy to see the Flames are headed down the same path the Oilers were. Best do it right and get started — the sooner the better.

    • There are many example where a rebuild isn’t “the right thing”. Like I listed above, there are numerous examples where a rebuild doesn’t work. If the Flames want to turn this org around, they need to draft better. That doesn’t mean that they have to draft in the top 5 for years to come. The Boston Bruins are the defending Cup Champs, and they Patrice Bergeron in the 2nd round, David Kreijci in the 2nd round, Milan Lucic in the 2nd round, and Brad Marchand in the 3rd round. The key is to draft better, not suck for 3 years

      • justDOit

        Did they draft better, or did they develop better? Free agent signings and trades have also helped the Bruins immensely.

        And can all 30 teams draft better? No they can’t. There are only so many great picks in the later rounds.

        It has to be a combination of drafting, development and deployment/execution. A weakness in any one area is a critical flaw.

      • RexLibris

        Not wrong, but what do you do when Feaster keeps trading away the Flames’ second round picks (2012 and 2013)?

        And while I have argued the same thing in theory myself, the easiest thing in the world to tell someone is: be better. Saying that the Flames should just draft the next Lucic, Bergeron, and Marchand is like saying to your financial advisor that you’ll just win the lottery (the real one, with money) to top up those retirement savings.

        The Flames drafting has appeared (emphasis on that) to improve in the last two years. They will need to graduate some of that talent to the NHL and continue to draft strong prospects in order for their record to actually improve.

        By comparison, the Oiler’s drafting has also appeared to improve in that they have a large collection of highly-rated prospects at nearly every position developing in junior and the AHL. The final word will depend on whether Martin Marincin or Oscar Klefbom or Tyler Pitlick become NHL players.

        Sometimes the key is to do both, draft better and suck for awhile. At least in what the Flames need (top-end talent) a team usually has to accomplish the former before they can rely more heavily on the latter.

  • striatic

    Feaster’s plan wasn’t a stupid one. there’s no reason that the flames, with their talent when he got the job, couldn’t have been at least as good as Phoenix was this year.

    which isn’t great, but at least a consistent playoff contender and a roll of the dice away from going deep every year.

    problem was, the flame’s organization just didn’t have it together to pull that off. players, coaches, management just couldn’t do the right things to bring the intensity and quality of play up one notch.

    Feaster’s strategy was sound. the flaws were all in the execution.

    in fact the execution was so flawed that the overall strategy isn’t viable now. oops.

  • Bucknuck

    Regehr, Bouwmeester, and Phaneuf with Kipper as tender, and Iginla leading the offense was a good team.

    What did the current GM get when they lost 2/3 of a top 4 D core? If I were a Flames fan I would be pretty darn mad.

  • justDOit

    The more I think about it, the more I’m starting to think that Calgary really has something wrong at the core. Here are two good reasons.
    1. Players that fail and are traded/not re-signed in Calgary become significant players elsewhere. Examples: Ian White (Detroit), Brent Sutter (Carolina), Chris Higgins (Vancouver).
    2. The Flames have struggled through adversity to put themselves in a playoff position the last three years. Then they go on a long losing streak at the most critical time to miss the playoffs. One year is a fluke. Three is a pattern.

    Whatever happens next year, it should involve a lot of change.

  • Listening to Stauffer show sounds like Yakupov will be drafted by the Oilers period. Lowe really left no doubt about it. Unless a massive over payment happens.

    When I think about an over payment I think of a 1st line center/forward, a 1st top pairing defenseman, prospects and a 1st overall, to me that’s as rare as trading the 1st overall pick.

    As for Tambellini, I’m sorry but his job is still to listen to his amateur scouting staff and not go off like some fool and start trading an elite prospect, or for that matter comparing them to NHL player’s especially ultra elite players when said prospect hasn’t played a game in the NHL!

    The rest of the summer we get to see how good of a GM he can be, this has to be Tambellini’s do or die summer. He has to get the right players in while deciding what players and prospects are going to be used as trade bait. Anything short of the playoffs and he should be fired the next day.

    As for Calgary I really like what Brownlee wrote, I’m not sure you could explain it any better then that, there in trouble, I personally feel for the fans because we went though the same crap.

    • Lexi

      To me the key to his summer is what the coaching decision is and if he can sign J Schultz and get one solid vet Dman.

      Between the lottery win, seeing the Flames wander the desert and now the Canucks collapse this might be the happiest I’ve been as a hockey fan since 2006. It is amazing how good things can look when the Oil don’t play.

      If the Canucks don’t win this year their window might be closing unless they can hit the mother load with a Schneider trade.

  • You know, its funny how a lot of people who don’t follow the Oilers always bring up the argument that the Oilers won’t be able to afford the talent they have. Trust me they will have no issues re-upping any of there players. The Cap is a non-issue with the Oilers.

    As for drafting better, how do you draft better when you’re drafting a player 13th to 16th every year?

    • Oilers89

      No kidding. That is all I ever hear. The Penguins pay Crosby and Malkin more than three of the kids should make on the Oilers, and they have one hell of a team.

    • justDOit

      It’s possible with a great scouting/development department. Detroit and Nashville have built their teams on consistently strong draft choices and by putting good people in place to keep watch over their prospects. Based upon the last 15 or so years the same case cannot be made for Calgary.

      I mean look at the difference between Edmonton’s scouting/development department from about 88-07 and 08-present. Not even close.

      • Lexi

        I hope you’re right. These are the most encouraging signs for the org. I also hope they make sure they have top notch cap management and CBA knowledge.

        I think they need to make sure they make the playoffs by 2013-14. I can’t even imagine how wild the city will be and I hope that will be what will get Hall willing to take a cap friendly contract that will allow the team to keep all the big 4 well allowing room for support players.

  • Oilers89

    Not that I actually give two craps about the Flames… but I do enjoy seeing Feaster make an absolute mess of that team.

    I don’t want the team to rebuild yet. I want them to rebuild when in a year or two when we start to become good. Then, we can finally rub it in their faces as much as they did to us.

    No holds barred…

  • justDOit

    I just hope Klowe isn’t getting any ideas by having Sutter coach team Canada.

    I mean… it is a bit weird the President of the oilers didn’t ask his own head coach to be the Canadian coach isn’t it?