Where Do I Begin?

Another season has come to an end for the Calgary Flames and to say it was a disappointment is grossly understated. I have expressed my frustrations all season as I never thought this group would be a playoff team this season and have been burning to write this post since the Flames were officially eliminated from the playoff race. I’m glad I waited now that I have listened to some players, Brent Sutter’s and Jay Feaster’s reaction to the season and what the future could bring.

Where do I begin?

 

MANAGEMENT:

The most glaring issue in my eyes is the Flames management. The Flames have been mis-managed ever since Cliff Fletcher left to become the President and GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1991. Since then, the Flames have had 5 general managers, including Feaster, who have each made some good moves but have also made some bone head moves and have combined for nine playoff seasons in 22 chances.

The past is the past but when is it going to stop?

Feaster has only been here for a year and a half and is in a tough spot heading into this summer after his team, who he has only tweaked, has now missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season. There are good things Feaster has done, but there are also things that concern me and possibly overshadow the good.

Feaster started off the season by guaranteeing the playoffs and saying the Flames need to get younger. During the year, Feaster appeared on live TV to express his disappointment in the team and to say you can fool him once but you can’t fool him twice. Feaster took over this team in Dec. 2011 and evaluated his team on their 30 game streak where they ALMOST made the playoffs. Last time I checked the regular season is 82 games but nevertheless Feaster took a chance. This season, the Flames were never a playoff caliber team and when Feaster appeared on live TV with Roger Millions to express his concerns he still had a chance to change things at the deadline. He stood pat at the deadline and was once again fooled by the group as they missed the post-season.

Feaster made some good moves to make the team younger but if it wasn’t for injuries did he really change much? For example, Paul Byron, who was called up a mostly early on, was a guy Feaster continued to say he wanted on his roster and a player they would make a roster spot for. Then when injuries hit in December, who was the guy recalled on December 1st? Thirty year old Krys Kolanos, who hadn’t played in the NHL since 2009 and needed a contract which put the Flames at the maximum 50. That proved to be costly as Feaster fully admitted to on the Fan 960 yesterday, as the Flames once again missed out on top NCAA prospects who wanted to see action this season but couldn’t due to the Flames being at the max 50 contracts. One of the prospects was Torey Krug, who evidently signed with the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Boston Bruins (weird how championship teams are run).

I just question Feaster’s evaluation of a team; he was hired by Darryl Sutter so they must have things in common which I thought was proved this year. He stressed the Flames goal all-season was to just make the playoffs and now finally, that isn’t good enough? Why waste a whole season to figure that out.

After all of that, judging Feaster after just one and a half seasons is unfair. I feel bad for the situation Feaster is in and really wonder how much control he has in making hockey decisions.

This is where my bigger concern with Flames management comes into question as I present the common denominator of the Flames latest demise... drum roll please…. Ken King. Since becoming the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Calgary Flames in 2001, the Flames have made the playoffs a whopping five times, losing in the first round in four of those appearances. During King’s 11 seasons with the Flames, the Flames have had three GM’s (Craig Button 2000-2003, Darryl Sutter 2003-2010, and Feaster 2010-present) and five head coaches (Greg Gilbert Mar. 2001- Dec. 2002, Darryl Dec. 2002-2006, Jim Playfair 2006-2007, Mike Keenan 2007-2009 and Brent 2009-present).

King, who prides himself with his charity work and his fan ‘awareness’, is said to be involved in every hockey decision, meeting, evaluation etc. Reading his bio on the Flames website it seems to me that King has, and I repeat, ZERO hockey experience.

While it’s part of every organizations procedure for GM’s to go over decisions with Presidents and Ownership, to have a President with no hockey history is beyond me. This is why I feel bad for Feaster and the situation he is in. His media availability didn’t sound like it came from him and that was made evident ten seconds in. Feaster put the blame on his shoulders, saying he makes the hockey decisions and he hires the coach… wait, wasn’t Brent here before Jay even came on as Assistant GM?

You look at the elite teams in the NHL and who they are run by. The defending champs are guided by GM Peter Chiarelli but more importantly Cam Neely is their President, the St. Louis Blues GM is Doug Armstrong, who is supported by President of Hockey Operations John Davidson and finally the Detroit Red Wings and not much needs to be said there. The list goes on and on but if the key to success is any more evident of having hockey people in hockey positions then I don’t know what is. The Montreal Canadiens have admitted the mistake and expressed the need for experienced hockey knowledge in their management, when will the Flames do the same?

If Mr. King isn’t handed his walking papers this spring, I have a hard time seeing anything changing and I’ll have a serious time cheering for this organization next season.

If King is indeed fired, Feaster and Sutter (who probably will be let go regardless) could also lose their jobs depending on which direction the new President wants to go in. I like Brent Sutter as a coach as I don’t think he has ever been given the proper players to succeed with. Sutter, who expressed his joy both on and off the bench coaching the Flames young players, admitted the Flames played their best hockey when those young players were in the line-up. Sutter has had success in the junior ranks and could be a good candidate as a coach in a re-build. I think Sutter and Feaster have both earned at least an interview with the new President and if they aren’t around next year, then that’s just the business, life isn’t fair, especially in Feasters case, being with the Flames for only a season and a half.

Feaster and Sutter aren’t the only ones who could be on the hot seat in the Flames management as Todd Button should also be handed his walking papers this summer, regardless of some recent drafting success (Baertschi and potentially John Gaudreau). Button, who has said his first draft fully in charge was 2001 (coincidence?), has had far too many duds for the Flames to have any success during his tenure as the Flames Director of Scouting. See for yourself.

 

THE RE-BUILD:

The worst thing about this season coming to an end and watching the player’s reactions, is hearing Captain Jarome Iginla’s thoughts. As hard as it is to say, I think Iginla has played his last game in a Flames jersey. He has expressed he doesn’t want to be part of a re-build and I’m just not sure the Flames have any other options. If there are any Flames fans that have a problem with that, then they shouldn’t call themselves a Flames fan. Iginla has put his heart and soul into this organization and who would like nothing better than to hoist a Cup wearing the Flaming C. Iginla deserves a Cup, enough said.

Elliot Friedman, from Hockey Night in Canada, had an interesting spin on the Iginla situation that is worth a read.

When mentioning a re-build, Miikka Kiprusoff’s name obviously comes into play as well. Kiprusoff, who was undeniably the Flames MVP again this season, would draw huge interest from teams needing a goalie and if the Flames truly want to re-build, Kiprusoff too could have played his last game as a Flame.

Many question whether or not the Flames should in fact re-build, which in my mind tells me they are more concerned in the Flames management in making the right move. Am I fully on board on the Flames re-building? No, but I really question the Flames management (read above).

If the Detroit Red Wings committed to a full re-build would very many people question it?

Probably not, but they are so well managed, a full re-build will probably never happen in Detroit. If you have the right people running your organization, they will do their homework and make sure they make the right deal

 

LAST THOUGHTS:

The best thing without a doubt for the Flames this season was their slew of injuries. This was the only chance Flames management and fans would see some of the Flames top prospects and it showed the cupboards aren’t as bare as many thought. Sven Baertschi, T.J. Brodie and Leland Irving all proved they are capable NHLer’s, all with very bright upsides. Once again management comes into question here on why they weren’t able to assess this earlier. Brodie and Irving didn’t earn their spots on the club at the start of the year; fine but looking at the Flames depth chart, the players who took their place was Anton Babchuk and Henrik Karlsson. Babchuk and Karlsson were both signed to two year deals last off-season which makes you wonder Flames management long term plans. It doesn’t make sense to me, Babchuk seemed to be signed just because they had money left over and Karlsson is an awful goaltender.

I was legitimately excited for the Flames for five games this season, all when Baertschi was up with the club. I think that and how the Flames played during that five game stretch, showed how important youth is and how young excitement and inexperience can rejuvenate a dressing room and a fan base.

The Flames have six UFA’s (Olli Jokinen, Lee Stempniak, David Moss, Tom Kostopoulos, Corey Sarich and Scott Hannan), all of whom shouldn’t be re-signed if the Flames are truly going in a new direction. Jokinen, the front runner of who not to re-sign, had two goals and an assist in the Flames final twelve games to go along with a plus/minus rating of -14. At a point in the season, Jokinen was rumored to potentially earning 4.5 million dollars in a long term contract this off-season and was deemed as a key cog by Feaster at a deadline. Jokinen wasn’t traded, which was a mistake as his stock will be never higher.

The Flames also have three key RFA’s as Mikael Backlund and T.J Brodie will no doubt be qualified but Blake Comeau should be sent packing.

It’s going to be a tough off-season here in Calgary especially if the likes of Iginla and Kiprusoff are dealt. Things have to change in this organization as they owe it to their fans to produce a winning product.

I heard Feaster use Intellectual Honesty again yesterday, I wonder if he is serious about it this time?

 

Stay with TCL West as I and the rest of the team will have more on the Flames off-season all summer long.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @NickSymon

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Comments

Derrick Newman's picture

Nice post Nick. And some interesting points. I agree in that Feaster hasnt really been given enough time to be judged given that he was saddled with some ridiculous contracts from the Darryl era. The King issue is a huge problem. He should be fired but he has tethered himself to the new arena and I dont think he is going anywhere unfortunately. Unless of course ownership finally wises up. I never agreed with the Karlsson signing of two years as I felt it didnt make any sense when Irving was clearly roughly a year away.
I also, however, dont believe in a full rebuild. I dont think they necessarily work all the time and in the cases of Pitt and Chicago, it took a long time for both those teams to see success. And Pittsburgh just so happens to have the best player in the world. Those players arent always available. Its going to be very interesting to see what happens. Major changes are expected...what actually happens is another story.