Johnson: Flames won’t be content with a lengthy rebuild
Even though the trade deadline has passed, GM Jay Feaster will remain in evaluation mode as he prepares club for next season
Another deadline has come and gone. The tremors, the aftershocks, to the jarring seismic activity registered hereabouts over the last week, were, as it turns out, mild.
Blake Comeau to Columbus? Nice fella. Hard worker. But not exactly off-the-Richter-Scale, earth-shaking stuff.
So with the 1 p.m. MDT trade moratorium passed, auditions to inhabit this post-Iginla, post-Bouwmeester, post-apocalyptic world of the Calgary Flames began last night against those whippersnapper Oilers. And, no, not only for the grass-green, dewy-eyed kids they’ll be plucking out of Abbotsford for a look-see, either.
The big-ticket guys. The remaining marquee names.
They’ll be specimens wriggling under a microscope, too.
The effort level from the young ’uns, looking to make a mark, leave an impression, gain a foothold, is a given. Energy and enthusiasm being, after all, their stock in trade. They’ll make mistakes, sure, but they’re going to be busting their fannies regardless of the famous names that have departed, the growing sense of playoff hopelessness.
They have no reputations to sit on, no sense of entitlement to surmount, no time for dissatisfaction or personal pity parties.
“They know where I am,” Feaster countered when the possibility of veteran malaise was brought up during Wednesday’s post-deadline availability. “They know where I am and if that’s their attitude I wished they’d come and seen me before 3 p.m. Eastern time.
“If you want out, I’m a pretty available guy.
“Seriously, if that’s the case, if there are veteran players who are ‘Woe is me!’ and ‘I lost my dog and my best friend!’ and ‘My wife ran away with the lawn-mowing guy!’ then come see me.”
There’ll be no need for anyone to bother knocking on the GM’s door.
The guilty parties will be easy to spot.
For as undeniably difficult as this current situation is, the compounding frustration of playing out the string, watching cornerstone players dealt away with nothing immediate in the way of aid coming back in return, the worst thing any of them can do is now is the minimum.
Rebuilds are hellish enough beasts to try to sell to a paying public without piling on the problem with an unmistakable lack of try.
“We recognize that we have a job to do,” emphasized Feaster. “The preparation and the approach of the coaching staff is: We’re professionals and we have an obligation. We have an obligation to our fans, first of all. We have an obligation to our ownership. And, candidly, we have an obligation to each other. Every one of us, we all have a job to do, and we need to do it professionally and with pride.
“And that’s how we intend to see it out.”
He spoke again Wednesday of the 180-degree switch in philosophy, of the importance and quality of this upcoming draft and the very real possibility the Flames will have three first-round selections. Of how he considered few of his assets “untouchable” as he worked the phone and the deadline approached. Of how, despite erroneous — and he felt irresponsible — reports to the contrary, he had, never, ever put Curtis Glencross on the NHL’s version of the Home Shopping Channel.
Yes, Jay Feaster, who for the last month and half looked like a guy who actually had just lost dog or his best friend seemed a revitalized spirit Wednesday.
A recent vote of confidence from on high, perhaps? A sense of blessed relief that the long-neglected overhaul had finally been given organizational benediction? Whatever, the man seemed to have his money pitch, his fastball, back.
And considering he remains in charge of the show, however you may personally grade his performance since taking the big job and/or over the past week, that’s a good thing.
And he made it perfectly clear that in these troubled times, he simply will not stand for half-hearted efforts, petulant pouting or any lazy, easy ways out.
Any player that’s of a mind to roll over and wait for a tummy tickle had best prepare for a change of address come summer. No matter what their standing within the dressing room.
“We lead a pretty charmed life, I think,” he said, with welcome candour. “We have a lot of people that come here and pay good money to enable use to live the life that we live. And we have owners that support us and allow us to do what we want to do, spend to the cap and commit the resources.
“And as I said earlier, every one of us, from me right on through to the assistant medical trainer — and that counts every player in that room — we have an obligation to be the best we can be, to make sure we’re giving our fans and our owners good value.
“That’ll get me on Sports Centre tonight, I guess. And I don’t mean to be flippant about that. But honestly, the veterans . . . let’s start playing.
There are 13 games remaining. The organizational gaze has shifted, of course, off towards the horizon. But the challenge of the here and now for any player is to make plain beyond a shadow of a doubt their desire to be a part of that horizon.
“There are guys in that room . . . the consternation and concern that they’ve shown over whether they were going to be moved or not,” said Feaster. “We’ve had a number of guys tell the coaching staff ‘I’ll feel so much better at one o’clock Mountain Time today.’
“Candidly, I expect that we’re going to see that translated on the ice sheet tonight. We should see that translated on the ice sheet tonight.
“There are some guys who feel good that they weren’t moved.”
Easy to say, of course.
No time like the present to go out and actually prove it.
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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