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.

  • Oilers89

    These playoffs are a real eye opener to how far the Oilers really are. The only games I watch during the regular season are Oilers ones so had no real idea what other teams in the league were like against each other.

    It’s almost like a completely different game out there. Other than brief flashes of intensity, I don’t think the mighty Oil are even close next year. Look at any team in the playoffs and compare their intensity to ours- unreal.

    Maybe it’s just the games I’ve chosen to follow- Pitts-Philly, LAK-Van,
    It’s actually great entertainment regardless of who you’re cheering for.

    Is it sadistic to watch a series just to watch a team lose?
    The Oilers have a lot of work to do and I’m not sure who is capable of doing it.

  • Mr. Brownlee,

    I know that this article rings of the truth when I, as an Oiler fan, find myself genuinely pitying Flames fans. I sympathize, as I have seen their (Calgary’s) situation before. Years wandering aimlessly, wading through stinking pools of mediocrity with no end in sight. It sucks. It hurts. So much so that I wouldn’t want any other fan have to go through it – not even a bastardly Flames fan.

  • Mr. Brownlee,

    I know that this article rings of the truth when I, as an Oiler fan, find myself genuinely pitying Flames fans. I sympathize, as I have seen their (Calgary’s) situation before. Years wandering aimlessly, wading through stinking pools of mediocrity with no end in sight. It sucks. It hurts. It rips your heart right out. So much so that I wouldn’t want any other fan have to go through it – not even a bastardly Flames fan.

    Canucks fans on the other hand can go to hell!

    Now that’s the truth!

  • paul wodehouse

    Since the lock out the Oil finishes and drafts have been

    2006 – 16th, no 1st rounder
    2007 – ~24 th, Gagner, Nash, Plante
    2008 – ~20th – Eberle (draft choice from Ducks as part of Pronger Trade about the 20th pick)
    2009 ~ 20 th, MPS
    2010 – 30th, Hall (1st rebuild year)
    2011 – 30th, RNH
    2012 – 29th, Yakupov (?)

    The “rebuild” started about January 2010 so we have just fiished year 2. 2010 was the “blow it up” year.

    From 2006 to 2009 the Oil were close to where the Shames are now, marginal playoff team getting middling drafts with limited propects in the organization. One might predict a hard fall is coming, almost assuredly if Iggy were to sustain a significant injury.

  • smiliegirl15

    Unfortunately for the Flames, their fans aren’t as understanding as Oilers fans or maybe, aren’t as faithful. Their bandwagon will be empty in a heartbeat as soon as the word rebuild is said.

  • smiliegirl15

    Great Article Robin,
    You’re absolutely right. Feaster is in denial – and it is sad to see a good franchise – yes even the Flames – flap in the wind aimlessly because of one painful characteristic that is defining this man’s legacy: HUBRIS! It held down our great organization as well as we all know for years before ownnership and management finally admitted that a rebuild was not beneath them. I really feel for a good Edmonton boy like iginla who won’t ask for a trade and will probabley wallow in mediocrity for the rest of his days in Cowtown.