Monday, March 28, 2011

Murray Edwards And The Dan Snyder Era Of Flames Hockey

Domebeer-aholics will know that Diane Francis's little bundle of joy doesn't usually get greeted with a triumph when he comes around these here parts. His column's are usually met with derision, with ridicule, with spite. Usually for good reason.

Today though, Mr. Eric Francis is welcomed into the Terrordome that is Dome Beers with open arms, a welcome smile, and, well, that's about it. We don't have it in the budget to break out elephant parades.

But why, DB? Because Mr. Eric Francis managed to extract some pretty juicy quotes from the molochs (Malaka?) who are running this team 'on a day to day' level. And the best part is, King and Feaster seemed to want Eric Francis to publish them. The term 'hoist by your pertard' comes to mind. (Shakespeare reference!)

Mr. Francis begins his column with the bitchy whine of an agent wheezing about Feaster not rolling over to give Glencross a four year contract extension (which would be fucking insane, but we digress). The agent complains that Feaster would have of course rolled over for Glencross and the agents 5% fee if he was not the 'acting GM' but rather the 'GM...err, GM'

All so much smoke. This agent is concerned about the Flames? No, this agent is concerned about his client, unnamed in the story, named on Dome Beers 'Curtis Glencross'. If Curtis Glencross's agent isn't concerned he won't be able to secure a four year deal for his client come July 1st, crying to Mr. Eric Francis about Feasters reluctance to cave is a funny way to show it.

Regardless, the agent story is merely a prop for Francis to get the story moving to the topic of Feaster, the title of 'Acting', and the involvement of ownership. And so we use it the same way here.

Eric Francis uses the agent's tirade to extract some of the most damning quotes one could use about the organization and their decision making process.

We all live in fear of it: the thought that Murray Edwards, his lieutenants from business who he has brought in as co-owners, and his vassal Ken King, men who know nothing about hockey, are in fact in charge of decisions relating to hockey when it comes to the Calgary Flames. Eric Francis smuggles quotes out of the bowels of the 'Dome that seem to confirm this. And we trust Eric Francis why? Because he takes his meals with Ken King in the owners box. In vino veritas, and loose lips sink ships.

First, the words of Eric Francis: Much to some critics’ chagrin, King and the ownership group spearheaded by Murray Edwards are intimately involved in many of the hockey moves made.

Much to the critics chagrin? Much to 'best practices' chagrin. Much to 'winnings' chagrin. How many times have you heard Ken King say he doesn't know hockey? How many times have you heard Ken King say he isn't involved? And now we learn that the truth to those oft repeated statements is compromised. Ken King may be telling you the truth when he says he doesn't know anything about hockey, but he is certainly lying to you when he says he isn't involved in hockey decisions.

And we know because of Eric Francis.

More damning quotes, this time from the man who makes buffets quake with fear, Fat Feaster: “Maybe someone like Lou (Lamiorello) doesn’t have to go through anyone for approval, but I’ve never been anywhere in hockey there isn’t a chain of command – an approval process,” said Feaster. “The only difference here is we have an owner involved on a daily basis, whereas in Tampa, Mr. (Bill) Davidson got involved a couple times a year.

We have an owner who is involved on a daily basis. Pray tell, what has the owner done to earn the position of GM? Has he coached hockey before, at any level? No, ok than. Has he played? No, well, alright. Surely he apprenticed under a knowledgeable GM for many years before being handed the reigns of the team? No? Oh, Murray Edwards bought the team? Ok, that gives him a right. But is it right? Of course it isn't.

Would Murray Edwards let Brent Sutter run his oil and gas pipeline? No, he wouldn't, because Brent Sutter wouldn't have a clue about what to do. So why is Murray Edwards allowed to make hockey decisions?

Similarly, we should ask questions about Feaster. A real, independent person wouldn't put up with the bullshit of having an owner 'involved on a daily basis'. We know from Feaster's days in Tampa Bay that if the owner says 'jump', or 'sign Vinny to a 10 year 100+ million dollar contract', Feaster replies with 'how high' and 'yes sir'. If an owner tells Feaster to trade Brad Richards to a team for an AHL goalie...
More quotes, this time from the vassal, King: "I’d be shocked and stunned if any team is making million-dollar, multi-year deals that didn’t include management and ownership reviewing it."

Ownership and management review the contracts. That comes from Ken King himself. Which means that ownership and management reviewed multimillion dollar contracts handed out to, oh, let's just take a name from random, Matt Stajan.

The teams own words. The team claims it has a review process for making decisions, on players and everything else. But what value does a review process have if the people doing the reviewing have no clue? The review process is inherently worthless if the people doing the reviewing are not qualified to be doing the reviewing. Internal controls are nice and all, but only if they work.

This vaunted review process allowed Darryl Sutter to trade the expiring contract of Olli Jokinen for Ales Kotaliks multi year cap space killing contract. The vaunted review process granted Matt Stajan a four year, $14 million dollar contract. The vaunted review process overpaid Jay Bouwmeester by two million dollars (which, if you know Murray Edwards background as an accountant focused on proper valuations, you should find especially jarring). The vaunted review process allowed this team to trade a third round draft pick for Steve Staios and his 37 games played this year (at 2.7 million dollars in cap space). The vaunted review process has the team wasting cap space on Ivanans (who's that?) next year.

We know from the columns written at trade deadline that Ken King was in the war room. The vaunted review process brought us Freddy Modin over a Zherdev. In other words, the vaunted review process brought in a player who couldn't play to provide depth in case injuries happened (which they did) instead of an actual player who could play and provide depth in case injuries happened.

The vaunted review system is operated by clowns who are out of their league. Ken King, Murray Edwards, people who have no inkling about hockey (see the Stajan extension) are 'intimitely' involved in hockey decisions. Maybe Darryl really did quit.

Ken King, on Feaster: “I think he’s doing a wonderful job, and we’re really encouraged.

Of course you think Feaster is doing a wonderful job, Ken. He does whatever you tell him to do.

Look, Ken King used to get a pass from us when we thought all he was there to do was sell tickets and merchandise. Now that we know, from Kings best friend Eric Francis no less, that King is involved, 'intimatly', in the hockey operations side of the business, he doesn't get that free pass anymore. If the owners are okaying every transaction, then they need to bear the blame for the wrong moves they have okayed. Was Darryl stabbed in the back to provide cover for Ken Kings mistakes? Wouldn't surprise us, now that we know that the PR department is apparently in charge of running hockey operations.

Ken King needs to be fired. If the owners want to be involved in the day to day of the team, they should get someone who knows something about constructing a hockey team to be the teams president, not someone who rode Darryl Sutters miraculous 2004 Cup run into a jersey selling genius label (honestly, he wasn't this marketing genius before that run). If Murray likes King, that's fine, but demote him to head of marketing. He is in over his head as president. And because he is, he is providing Murray Edwards with bad information. Which leads to signing Matt Stajan to a four year contract.

Feaster needs to be fired as well. It is becoming clearer by the day that Feaster was brought into the organization because he is willing to 'play ball' with the owners and King. The organization knew Feaster would 'play ball' because that is what he did in Tampa. We don't think empty suits should be making the hockey decisions for this organization, call us crazy. We would much prefer someone with character and professional gravitas, so that when Ken Kings comes running down the hall screaming that they have to resign Matt Stajan because that is what is good for the media story (we can't not sign Matt Stajan, we traded Dion for him!), he can tell Ken King to fuck off without fear of never getting a job in hockey again.

The best part about all of this is that now we know. Thanks to Eric Francis, we now know that it is indeed amateur hour at the Flames front office. We know that roles are not clearly defined, that there is indeed organizational overreach, that people who know a lot about marketing and oil and gas, but very little about hockey, are in fact doing the drafting, and signing the free agents. We know that the GM is just happy to be there, is essentially a cypher, and provides no 'checks and balances' to Ken King and the owners. And thanks to the agent quotes, we know that others in the hockey industry can smell the weakness and confusion emanating from the Flames front offices.

Domebeer-aholics, you have read it once, you have read it a thousand times. Lanny McDonald should be the teams president. Bob Gainey should be this teams GM, Michel Goulet should be the director of player personnel, and Craig Conroy should keep looking fly in the owners box, apprenticing under McDonald and Gainey. If Ken King triple promises to know his role, he can be kept on as the head marketer, although the word on the street is he even micromanages the creation of those pedestrian opening videos the club shows, which, if true, is a fireable offense in our books on it's own.

Anyways, yes, Eric Francis, you are receiving dap on Dome Beers. It is indeed a mad, mad world.

Furthermore, I think Peter Loubardias should be fired.

9 comments:

  1. FANTASTIC piece.

    I hate that Eric Francis had to get some props, but hey, at some point he has to do SOMETHING right... right?

    Anyway, you hit the nail on the head on several points. People need not look any further than the cluster-f*ck that is MLSE to know that incompetent and over-bearing ownership will lead to mediocrity at best. Fortunately, Flames ownership doesn't have another professional franchise to corrupt at the same time.

    As the details pour out from the Flames front office, it makes me less and less confident that a Stanley Cup contender will ever be re-assembled.

    When real hockey managers like Preds AGM Paul Fenton are ready to take over franchises; it would be ludicrous for Flames management to do anything less than make Jay Feaster compete with these guys for the job.

    But, if the rumblings from inside the 'dome are anywhere near true, then what would have once been a prized position (GM of Flames) is probably not exactly a desired position by the likes of Fenton... we'd probably end up with Pierre McGuire as GM (speaking of puppets).

    There's truly nothing to be excited about the current makeup of the Flames franchise.

    Thanks for the read.

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  2. I don't quite take the same read on this as you do DB.

    Those quotes don't tell me that Dazza had to run anything by anyone.

    To be honest, I think that Dazza didn't have any restrictions on what he did. How else can you explain the fact that he traaded away one of his prized signings (Dion) for Stajan and magic beans? The beans, of course, were the lynchpin of the deal.

    It was only when Dazza's moves became even more ridiculous that the team had to pull out the rug from under him and can his ass.

    Even reading the quotes on their face alone could certainly be interpreted as:

    1. The team has a budget for player personnel;

    2. The budget is set by the owners;

    3. To the extent that you are messing with the budget figures (IE going over the damn cap mess Dazza created) you need to get some input from the owners.

    I don't think that is horrible. If the owners limitation and involvement is "you get to spend $xM to fix Dazza's mess total" then I'm not concerned with it. If it is "Sign Stajan for as much and as long as you can" then it's a problem.

    Is it surprising that after letting Dazza run wild to the extent that the team was well over the cap and still had a shitty squad that some cost sanity came into play from the owners? They are businessmen after all.

    On the business side of things, if you are paying someone $3M to hang out in Abbotsford don't you think that you'd want to pay attention to where the cash is headed?

    It doesn't take many $3M buyouts or guys dwelling in the minors to have a significant impact on the bottom line, especially when you are (essentially) two years removed from being in the playoffs and can only look back to 2004 for the last post season success of any kind.

    Of course Feaster has training wheels on. That doesn't mean Daryl did. Do you actually think the Flames would have been able to get a real candidate to be the "assistant" GM while Dazza was very nearly a dead man walking? I think even Doug McLean would have turned down this job (not really but you get my point).

    Feaster was OK if he was simply a friendly face to trot out to the media instead of Daryl. Having him as an actual GM is a joke and that may be why he was hired if Murray et al want to become Dan Snyder.

    Weren't you just bitching about wanting the owners to get involved DB?

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  3. At least my therapist will think I am less paranoidal...thanks Eric Francis!

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  4. great post, db. reminds me of something my blogmate duncan wrote nearly FOUR YEARS AGO on his old site:

    http://flamesblog.wordpress.com/2008/07/29/whats-wrong-with-darryl-ask-ken/

    inneresting.

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  5. I'm not entirely sure what to make of all this. I agree with this:

    King: "I’d be shocked and stunned if any team is making million-dollar, multi-year deals that didn’t include management and ownership reviewing it."

    But I really don't like ths sound of:

    King and the ownership group spearheaded by Murray Edwards are intimately involved in many of the hockey moves made.

    Every organization needs checks and balances. In many cases it is a legal requirement (Sarbanes Oxley for instance - thanks Enron). Micro-managing is its own problem, too. Somewhere between Daz doing whatever the fuck he wanted to, and Feaster doing only what he's told to, is the right place to be.

    Brad.

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  6. Walk Invisible: The Flames blogosphere historian. I can't believe how well you remember individual posts.

    That was a great find BTW.

    Good stuff DB. I don't think I'm quite as cynical as you on the matter, but I could be convinced based on what this org does over the next year or so.

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  7. Wow - I'm not even sure how to comment on this.

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  8. I'm not sure if this article is serious or not but assuming it is serious.

    (1) On the topic of Owners, Harold Ballard, Wang, are the Flames owners really that bad ?

    (2) So where does the buck stop here ? First Darryl Sutter was the demon, now Sutter is off the hook because the Owners and King were making all the final decisions on contracts ?

    (3) Fire Feaster - shouldn't he actually do something first (besides an inconsequential Modin signing, did that take the Flames out of a playoff spot)

    I am starting to understand why D Sutter lied and said nothing to the media while in Calgary. I read the Francis article and shrugged, big deal - hockey operations transition of power. Than I read this interpretation of it and I was like :o

    I guess the the sky is falling in Calgary.

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  9. Best post of 2011 DB. Absolutely genius. Thanks for saying it. And in your words, of course The Feast should be fired..."he used to blog on The Hockey News' website!"

    Seriously though, K Squared had to of been involved all along. Ive hinted to it all along. And now we get the confirmation.

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