We are on this whole "The Flames Have Shitty Management" campaign, and we have been on it quite a while. And while we may have been ahead of the herd on that point, it seems that our argument is starting to develop critical mass.
"The blame will be placed on the construction of this team if it goes off the rails, as Dome Beers notes in a post on Jay Feaster and Ken King: If Ken King and Jay Feaster sold ownership on this team being a good one, then that is on King and Feaster, not on the players. The players are who we think they are. They have been for at least two seasons. If management still has unrealistic expectations for them, or if they kept their jobs in the offseason by selling those expectations, that speaks to the talent and ability of the management, if you ask us."
We bring this up for a reason. Often, it takes an outsiders perspective to give one a true vision. People who are too close to something are too close, and they miss seeing things. While the local media in Calgary is content to blame the coach or more often the players, it seems that those outside the bubble and those removed from threats to access see something else entirely: They see bad management.
Ritch Winters, founder of hockey agency 'The Sports Corporation', took to twitter recently to lambaste what he perceives to be problems in the culture of hockey management. Mr. Winters is trying to establish an MBA program for sports management, so it is in his interest to present the current crop of managers as nincompoops. He wants people to enroll in his program. We understand that.
With that caveat aside, we thought we would take a look into what he had to say about the Flames, and specifically, to us.
Besides the current management of the Flames tendency to not know how to value their assets, or other organizations assets for that matter, one of the reasons we think they need to be fired is that under their watch, a culture of complacency has been allowed to develop. This is best embodied in the charge of 'Country Club' being leveled at the organization, a charge that has been around for many years. Put simply, we think it is much too comfortable to play in Calgary. Ritch Winters would seem to agree.
Some foreplay: Mr. Winters sent the these tweets:
"Bad ownership and management really is the problem with underperforming teams. No champs in management. Not likely to get one on the ice."
"Hockey reporters seldom give us much of what is wrong with hockey. Their buddies in management will cut them off. Its too bad for fans."
"Why is it teams under .500 think they still have a chance at this point? Smart owners refuse to recognize bad management is their problem."
"Jay Feaster did not select a single core player with 56 draft picks as GM in Tampa. How does he qualify 2 restock a team with no prospects?"
"Flames projected to miss playoffs for 5 more years based on best analytics available. Unless Leland can be Dominik Hasek. He just might be."
(Talking about the Flames vaunted 'new' scouting system) "They are old school. The changes they have made are 5 years behind the times - at least. They just don't know that."
You get the drift. And actually, he is saying things that we say here on DB, which is just the crazy, isn't it?
Anyways, getting to the point. We liked what Mr. Winters was saying, even granting him his salt, so we looked at his website. It has a page that shows you some of the clients the agency has. Some of the clients the agency has are Flames. Gio and Tangs.
Which we thought was a little odd. Here we have an agent who talked a lot of noise about when he was finding a team for Hossa, he used analytics to place him on a team with a great chance to win the Cup, allowing two of his players to sign in Calgary, who he very clearly does not think has a chance to win the Cup.
We then sent him a tweet: "I wonder if @hockeyagentdad told Tanguay and Gio how bad the Flames were when he negotiated their contracts. #JustWondering"
We got a response: "I expressed that concern over and over. Other factors came into play. Family. Teammates. Money. Not as simple as u suggest."
Which to us is Black Rob. Because, with all do respect for Mr. Winters, it is as simple as we suggest: These players signed in Calgary because it is comfortable. Winning, as per the Sports Corporations founding member, was not as important as 1) Not having to move the family, 2) Playing with teammates they liked (we are assuming he is talking about Tanguay here but who knows), 3) The money they were offered (did the Flames bid against themselves?).
Seems simple to us: Winning isn't a priority with this club, with the management on it, or with the players on it. We have talked about it before, with regards to the Glencross contract. Again, reasons for signing were family, proximity to his land out in the country, and the ability to network with the local companies downtown. All reasons that have to do with comfort, and have very little to do with winning.
Fish rot from the head down. There is a culture problem in Calgary; it starts with Ken King and it permeates down through the organization. The term 'winning' has become a glibly used sales tool, as opposed to the organizations reason for existence. We are glad outsiders like Greg Wyshynski and Ritch Winters see it, and are pointing it out.
We are just wondering when the local season ticket holders, media, and fans will wake up, take a step back, and realize it, too.
Furthermore, I think Peter Loubardias Ken King should be fired.
Which we take to mean that Roger was pushing for this guy to be coach. Which we are totally down with. Dude is a cowboy.
Anyways, getting a little tired of the media covering for the coach. And we aren't bloodthirsty: Bowman behind the bench wouldn't make this group a Cup contender. But please, to act like the coach is completely 100% innocent of contributing to the suck of this club is a little much.
For whatever reason (poorly constructed roster, management guaranteeing that this poorly constructed roster will make the playoffs), this group is not clicking. The effectiveness of the coach figures into the equation somewhere. Ultimately, we think that if the players are not buying into what the coach is selling, then the coach isn't a good salesman.
Brent Sutter's approach to coaching, as far as we can tell, has been to tell his team, publicly and through the media, that they suck. It has been. When he says "We suck so much we have to play the trap to win because we really really suck", (which, for those of you who don't speak Sport is what he is really saying when he says the team needs to play a team game, and be defensively responsible and all that) you don't think that gets on the players? We do.
We are going to steal this from Craig Button, but we are stealing it because we think it is just good coaching: A coach needs to get his players feeling good about themselves, because players are soft and pampered, and soft and pampered people need to feel good about themselves in order to perform. Players don't like getting told about all the things they can't do. It's acid to their confidence, and we know it is hokey as fuck, but confidence and swagger matter, especially when you are playing in a league that has all the top talent in it.
Anyways, it is a moot point, because, as we said, it doesn't really matter who coaches this team. There are too many NTC's and multi-year contracts on the roster for the coach to wield the hammer of a demotion, and if he restricts the minutes of the guys he is warring with, Iginla and Tangs, then the club really won't win many games. He is in a spot.
He is a man, so he won't quit, but he should. Brent should say that King saddled him with a club that had a very small margin for error, and slim chances to compete, and then King had Feaster flap his gums in the media about how the Flames were guaranteeing a playoff spot, which only added to the infeasibility of the whole operation. He should point the finger of blame not on the players, but on the people who assembled the players.
Look, you can bitch about Jarome all you want, but Ken King is the guy who decided to build his team around a 34 year old right winger. OK?
But we will put it another way: Jarome is past 30. He was/is going to decline at some point, because time is an asshole. The club, in his post 30 years, if it had decided it was going to keep Iginla on the roster, then should have made finding the 'next guy' a bigger priority than it did. Because it didn't, it has no leverage in the current situation. They can't bench the guy because he is their best offensive player, even at 34.
To us, this is just another note in the long tale of Ken King mismanaging this club.
Fuck, like 1000 words later and we are getting to what we wanted to talk about. 19 games in, 20 games in following tonight, the Flames will be a sub-.500 team. As it stands now the team is 27th in the league for goals per game (2.21) and 15th in the league in goals given up per game (2.68). The PP is 24th at 13.6%, and the penalty kill is working at a 82.4%, good for 15th. They give up more goals then they score at even strength.
Good teams are good teams for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons invariably happens to be that they do something well. The Flames do something very well: They are amongst the top teams in this league at not scoring.
Peter Maher likes to say that you use the first 20 games to evaluate the club. Well, we see it sits (as of today pre-Red Wing game) six points out of a playoff spot, and would have to climb five teams to get into a playoff spot. Couple this with the clubs previous performance of win one/lose one, and the odds that this team will make the playoffs would certainly have to be described to be at the low end of the table.
The club, in our view, needs to start positioning itself for next year. The team had the first 20 games to show us they were legit, and they have not shown us that. It's time to evaluate who is going to stay for next year and who is going to go.
But wait. Here we are going to tie our anti-SutterBourque and Stajans (and Tanguays, but we realize we may be in the minority with that opinion), then they have to start getting those players to produce more. Well, how do you artificially juice someones scoring numbers? Gee, we don't know, maybe PP time and an offensive minded playing style?
We here at DB are suggesting that Coach Sutters win lose record is less important than whether or not we can get rid of the Stajan and Bourque contracts. And to get rid of those contracts, those players are going to need good box car numbers. Which means, even if it hurts the chances of the team to win, which it does, that Stajan and Bourque should be getting fed PP minutes. It also means that the team should open up it's system, to allow for more goal scoring chances. It's not like the players are going to get worse +/- numbers then they currently are...and we may even be able to juice some goals out of those cats.
This offseason the club is shedding 10 salaries, but it will retain what is the new 'core' of this team: Jarome, Kipper, Bouwmeester, Tangs, Bourque, Stajan, and Gio. Backlund will be an RFA. The team will need to decide if it can win with this group. We don't think it can. We don't think reality thinks it can either. So the group needs to be broken up as well, not just to recoup cap-space that could be spent on better players, but also to get some of that stench of failure out of the room, and give some space for some new players to breathe and develop.
As we said yesterday, the Brand has been tarnished. The club is irrelevant. It's gone past punchline territory to 'Oh wow that team is still in the league?" territory. The person most directly responsible for that is Ken King. This club needs to rebuild, yes. But not only on the ice. It needs a new vision. It needs a new President, a new GM, a new coach. It needs new hope.
Furthermore, I think Peter Loubardias Ken King should be fired.
What? For reals, brah. At least we think they are. They sounds like DB. Talk what DB talks, we mean.
Yeah dude. We will get to that in a second. But first:Put your hand up if you watched the whole game last night?
We are a bunch of marks. That's the only word to describe that shit. You guys know we like wrestling. Wrestling came on during the third period. You know what we did? We didn't flip the switch; bailouts are for pussies (Hang Hank Paulson!). We stuck with the boys. Because there was no way they were going to lose to Columbus, right? The comeback was going to be sweet.
Three shots in the third period? Like, you guys get how hockey is played, right? When teams are down by whatever, they usually try to score goals, so they open up, and they generate more shots. Conversely, teams with big leads tend to play a little more cautiously, and open themselves up to taking more shots against. This is elementary stuff.
The Flames were down by two goals going into the third, against the worst team in the league. Three shots?
You can tell me it's talent all you want, but three shots tells me that it isn't talent, it's 'give-a-fuck'. Fire the fucking coach.
Let's be real frank here: There is nobody on this team who is as good a player as Jarome Iginla. Which means the team is dependent on Jarome Iginla. That is self inflicted. It also means that if Jarome wants to stay, and is using his NTC to stay, or you can't get anybody to give you anything for him, then you have to make him happy. Otherwise, you are cutting off your nose to spite your face.
People don't want to fire the coach because we have fired coaches before. That is retarded. That implies we have hired the right coaches before. Playfair busted. Keenan was a joke, and Sutter is currently experiencing that peculiar joy of being made into a punchline. We have had to fire so many coaches, because they hire so many bad coaches.
Iginla got 45 seconds of power play time last night. He also had one shot on net. Coincidence? (Oh, and by the way, nice to see Glencross show up with a whopping zero shots on goal with 1:50 of PP time.)
Anyways, we started out talking about how DB was the QR77 Sportstalk guys. We did so because we wanted to make a point. Last night, after the debacle, we tuned into QR, because Bryn is awful and Overtime is Overtime. QR77 guy had a call in show going on as well, but holy shit is theirs better. Some good points were brought up, we thought, because they seemed to be points we have been making.
Which is crazy, right? How people who have never listened or read each other come to the same conclusions? There is a word for that, in the science, we think.
So what craziness was being talked about on QR? Well, in general, 'Fire Ken King' was brought up, and of course we thought it was deserved. But also the coach, kinda what we just touched on, and then someone called with an idea that we are going to promote (read: steal).
First, 'Fire Ken King' was good because QR77 guys had some things to impart. One, they told us that they were pretty sure when Brent Sutter was hired in the first place, that Darryl was not exactly a proponent of the move, and the move had been made by Ken King. Which is fucking huge, people.
You know how we charge that the organization is run poorly, and one of the signs of that is that Ken King acts like the GM? There are examples of this when it comes to Feaster, the best being that Feaster had to ask for permission to sign Baertschi, or how about Ken King signing Glencross. So the question has always been, how much power did Ken have when Darryl was around. And everyone has always assumed that Darryl was in control.
Well, Darryl Sutter was the GM, and Ken King signed the coach. To us, that implies that the current working hypothesis is wrong, and that Darryl was not the man in charge, and in fact, would have had his moves vetted by King. Moves like trading Phaneuf. Moves like extending Bourque and Stajan. Who knows how far it goes. King might be responsible for Bertuzzi, for all we know.
We think it's funny that the radio personalities on the FAN won't touch that subject on the air, but the station without the teams tentacles in it will. Odd, that.
Moving on to the coach. QR guys, like DB, wants the guy gone. Honestly, we don't understand all the cover Brent Sutter receives. And hey, dontcha know he is being covered for by the same guys who never bring up Ken Kings meddling influence (Hi Sportsnet personalities!).
We covered it. Brent Sutter is a shitty coach. You know how I know? HE HAS NEVER MADE THE PLAYOFFS WITH THIS TEAM. The counter-argument is that he has been saddled with a team that was incapable of making the playofffs. You know what? We don't give a shit. He took the job with eyes wide open. We highly doubt he would have bolted New Jersey for a worse situation (from his perspective at the time). Brent thought we were a playoff team when he signed here. He hasn't been able to get them into the playoffs. He is a shitty coach, QED.
Alright, and now for the brilliant idea we are proudly going to steal off a season ticket holder who called into QR77 last night. Because it is quite brilliant.
The Calgary Flames brand has lost it's lustre. It's pretty apparent. The Dome is not full anymore, and people are having harder and harder times offloading their tickets. Moreover, the actual experience of going to a Calgary Flames game is boring. Not only is it boring, but it has gotten stale.
It's time for a re-launch of the brand. It's time for the team to re-evaluate how they operate on the game day level (And on every level, frankly): The team needs to look at it's same old same old boring contests. It then needs to throw them out and come up with new ones. You know that host they have had forever? Steve Strapon? Fire that guy, too. New look, new blood. And while we are at it, fire the people responsible for the music selection at the Dome. These people are morons, they have been filling the Dome with shitty music since the lock-out ended. New look, new blood, new music.
And new fucking goal song, for Whalens sake. Seriously, if the person who gave the ok to use 'Ducksoup' as a goal song is still employed by the organization, then that is reason enough for wanting to get rid of Ken King.
Seriously. Ducksoup? We went to our cousins birthday party. She is nine years old. She was getting hyped at the Ducksoup. If nine year old girls are your intended audience, Calgary Flames, then you made the right choice to go with that song as the goal song.
Anyways, on the topic of new. Know what else you have to do in a brand re-launch? Clear out the people who tarnished the brand in the first place. That means Ken King is fired. Feaster will be fired because the guy who replaces Ken King is going to want his own guy in their. So Feaster is gone, too. You may want to fire all the scouts. You definitely will fire Coach Sutter, and you probably would fire his assistants too, because they perpetuate a style of play that is simply not watchable.
New style of play, too. With a new President (Lanny!) and a new GM (Whoever Lanny Wants!) and a new coach (Whoever the Guy Lanny Wants Wants!), we are probably going to get a new style of play to go along with...yes, new players.
Shorter DB: Ken King has ran this team into the ground. Because of this, the one thing that Ken King should be concerned with, the brand, has suffered. We are hack advertisers at heart: Damaging the brand is a cardinal sin. Ken King needs to be fired for what he has done to the brand.
The people defending the coach have an agenda. They like the guy, they are friends with the guy. So when you hear the guys on the morning show on the FAN deflect blame, know it is because they break bread with the man. Of course they want him to keep his job, being friends with a head coach of an NHL team is cool. Roger Millions is pretty much in the same boat.
The players may not be any good. That doesn't exonerate the coach: his best player hates him. That means the coach needs to go. And because the players are not any good, the person who assembled them needs to be fired. Ken King needs to go. On top of that though, the person who went out and said that this roster was 'playoff bound', Jay Feaster, either lacks the integrity to tell the truth to his customers, or he is terrible at evaluating talent. Either way, he needs to go to.
This org needs to clear house. It needs to bring in people who understand hockey for one, which means not another Ken King, and it needs to get people who understand how to build a hockey team in the post-lockout NHL. Which isn't Jay Feaster.
Furthermore, I think Peter Loubardias Ken King should be fired.