Flames get no luck in draft lottery, will pick sixth overall
GM Feaster knows fans wished they had tanked better, but it was part of building a winning culture
For some fans, it had been an irksome display of hockey.
To see their favourite team, the Calgary Flames, go out there most nights . . . and actually win. Terrible stuff. Awful to witness.
Down the April stretch, the Flames won six of eight dates at one stage, a spree that shoved them up the National Hockey League ladder — and, critically, further from the No. 1 overall pick.
Jay Feaster wants you to know that he was watching, too.
“But we’re not going to ask the coaches to coach or ever ask the players to play with the thought that it’s OK if we don’t win,” the general manager said Monday afternoon at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “Every time our guys put on the sweater . . . you better go out there with the expectation that we’re going to win. That needs to be the mentality. That needs to be the approach. And that’s exactly how we treated the end of the season.
“Do we want to win the lottery? You better believe it. We’d love to be sitting there with the first pick overall. Yet it’s important for our (young) guys to develop in a winning atmosphere . . . and have that we-want-to-win mentality. That becomes an organizational thing, a cultural thing.
“I hope the hockey gods will reward the team that did it the right way — because we did it the right way.”
The hockey gods and their blasted bingo balls, at the NHL’s draft lottery Monday night, determined that the Colorado Avalanche would get the first pick at the June 30 draft in Newark, N.J.
Meanwhile, the Flames — finishing a tank-free 25th overall (with a 6.2 per cent chance of bagging the No. 1 pick) — had not been affected.
They will shout sixth. Two other (forgettable) times Calgary has picked as high as No. 6 — Daniel Tkaczuk in 1997, Rico Fata in 1998.
Feaster, however, is not interested in history.
Current events are on his mind.
“The rebuilding phase, we want to do it sooner rather than later,” said Feaster. “This is not about, ‘Let’s see if we can finish last for the next . . . three years, then have the first pick overall.’ That’s not the direction that we want to go.”
By all accounts, it is a deep draft.
But at the very top — home to the likes of Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Aleksander Barkov — it’s special.
“A very good draft,” said Feaster. “(Our scouts) believe there are four elite franchise players, and a lot of very, very good players. But in terms of that top level? There’s a belief that it’s four deep. We’ll have more conversations about that in the next couple of weeks.”
The Flames go to New Jersey carrying three first-round picks — their own, the St. Louis Blues’, the Pittsburgh Penguins’.
Which gives the Calgarians some uncharacteristic clout on the draft floor.
“All of our options will be kept open,” said Feaster. “Those options include: making three selections in the first round; trying to package some things and potentially move up in the draft; the potential to take some of those picks and move down; the potential to trade picks for players that we would target. So as we go into New Jersey, we will keep all of our options open.”
Including their highest holler?
“If we were to do anything with that top pick, that would be potentially as part of a deal to move up even higher,” replied Feaster. “But certainly we believe that . . . we’re going to get a very good hockey player there — a guy that’s going to play for a long time. So, yeah, that would be very close to being untouchable.”
The team’s amateur scouts arrive in Calgary in two weeks. Led by Tod Button, director of amateur scouting, and John Weisbrod, assistant general manager, the Flames will scour year-end reports from the bird-dogs.
“We’ll refine the list that our scouts put together at the mid-winter meetings in January,” said Feaster. “We’ll get the list refined, and we’ll do it one final time when we get to New Jersey .”
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