The Flames are definitely under transformation with Jay Feaster. He was criticized when he took over as Acting GM for doing nothing. For simply riding the team that Sutter built on its post December run to within a whisker of the playoffs.
The shoe has dropped and the Flames have definitely entered Feastaforphosis.
The mini-rebuild / retool that so many have called for may be here. In many ways it seems to have shocked some fans and is being treated with a lot of trepidation, which it should be. It is not being embraced with open arms despite so many calling for it.
Because fans overvalue established players and some may not realize what a rebuild really means, although it is probably sinking in. I can see the wheels turning.
"Hey, wait a minute, if Regehr is only worth that, I am not sure if I want to trade him."
This is where reality begins to bite, rarely if ever are fans happy to see proven players go for the unknowns of draft picks or young prospects. Outrage is always the initial reaction, even when these trades turn out excellent down the road. I remember the frustration when Joe Nieuwendyk was traded for some 11th overall pick named Jarome Iginla. The biggest outrage was when Theoren Fleury was traded for a couple wanna be's and a13th overall pick that turned out to be, yep, Robyn Regehr.
Of course that is when it works, more often than not they don't turn out. Lets review recent events and see if we can read the tea leaves of what Jay Feaster is doing.I'll admit I was surprised with the events leading up to July 1.
I honestly thought the Flames might tread water this year and do the big moves next off-season. See how the season played out in 2011-12 and then if the Flames were a non-playoff team watch the Regehr's, Langkow's, Sarich's go up on the block for picks / prospects at the trade deadline.
I anticipated changes this year to be mainly in management but the roster I thought would stay fairly stable. Feaster is not sitting tight though. So what are the big markers so far?
The old Sutter draft philosophy is out the window. Taking much smaller skill players. We've seen this before on other teams with limited success but it may be the wave of the future as the NHL continues to crack down on contact that results in injury.
The smaller, skilled player may not be checked out of the NHL or quickly take a career ending injury as has happened in the past. These players are years away though so this is a vision of a potentially smaller, faster Flames team.
These draft picks are going to be probably several years away from playing and if they work out they will be on a post-Iginla Flames. John Gaudreau is a sleeper pick, high risk but I think Theo 2.0 when I see him. Small but you see the attitude in his eyes.
Two Europeans in Sven Bartschi and Markus Granlund are just fine with me, especially Bartschi who was expected to go in the top ten by most, so the kid is a steal for the Flames but Rico Fata and Brent Krahn broke my spirit for following prospects long ago.
The Buffalo Sabres Trade
For several years now the "Trade the Core" chant has been rolling around at different volume levels, well it happened but the Robyn Regehr trade is one that is a bit obscured.
You have to step back from it to even attempt to make sense of it. It should probably be presented as Robyn Regehr + Ales Kotalik + 2012 2nd rounder for Chris Butler, Paul Byron and Cap Space (which will lead to another undetermined player through FA perhaps?)
Ales Kotalik being included is clear negative value to factor in. The Sabres are certainly the only team in the NHL that would consider giving Kotalik another chance. Lindsey Ruff knows him well and coached him when he played his best but still the Flames had to throw in a 2nd rounder to get rid of him.
I personally break the trade up in two parts. Kotalik as a salary dump + a 2nd rounder to Buffalo. Remember Kotalik could have been had for nothing on waivers but no one took him, not even the Sabres, so you know the Flames had to sweeten it to get rid of him.
Regehr is probably best seen as straight up for Chris Butler and Paul Byron and the outrage erupts. Like Fleury before him, this is simply the risk that you take going young. Fans always overvalue their players, especially the long-term franchise players.
To prove this point, after the Mike Richards trade to the Kings for Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn I immediately inquired if they would have preferred Jarome Iginla instead of Mike Richards. Without exception the chorus from Kings fans was no way! Mike Richards is younger, cheaper and way better for the team going forward.
Therefore, Jarome Iginla is not even worth Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, maybe Iginla would get you just Schenn, now how do you all feel about that? This is what happens in a rebuild.
The thing on the Regehr trade that is not up front and center is the fact that it added a lot of Cap space. This will likely translate into some kind of player the Flames would not have had a chance to get otherwise.
Clearly a primary goal of Feaster was to get out of the "Cap Jail" that Darryl Sutter left them in, to do it they had to sacrifice Robyn Regehr.
Are the Flames Rebuilding ?
This is really tough to say because they have sent a mixed message. On one hand they have extended Alex Tanguay for a 5 year term which is not indicative of a team on the rebuild. On the other hand they have traded a proven core player for two young and very unproven players which is indicative of a quasi-rebuild.
The Flames did not want draft picks which implies they are looking for prospects who are NHL ready. It is looking like they are going to push to be competitive for the foreseeable future. This is not a bad thing but the burn it to the ground crowd is not going to be happy, although they may have saw the return for Regehr as a frightening appetizer of what a rebuild and trading older players for prospects will look like. Hard to get those fan glasses off sometimes.
The Flames have also swept the useless crumbs out of the already bare cupboards by not tendering qualifying offers to John Armstrong, Gord Baldwin, Hugo Carpentier, Josh Meyers and Matt Pelech and former first-round pick Kris Chucko is an unrestricted free agent whom the Flames won’t make an offer to.
So change is afoot, make no mistake.
But then we hear these strong rumours of them attempting to sign Ryan Smyth which would be Sutter-like in not only not rebuilding but actually throwing away youth to get an older declining player. If Ryan Smyth had been traded to the Flames well then you would have been thinking Darryl Sutter was in a Jay Feaster body suit.
Final Thoughts into July 1
A couple take-aways as the Flames progress into what will be a very interesting July 1--lets face it, who knows what they are going to do. Flames fans have enjoyed a exciting July 1 for years now. Previously the Flames looked handcuffed going into July 1, not anymore.
There is a few interesting players out there as UFAs, a few interesting options. At this point in time the Flames are a weaker team than they were last year without Regehr, so I am looking for something to strengthen the team. It should be interesting but I don't know how they can possibly top last year's July 1.