Sunday, May 1st, 2016

On Choosing to Lose


David Staples thinks the Oilers will get the last laugh after reading Jay Feaster’s response to a fan who wondered why the Flames didn’t decide to adopt a scorched earth policy last year. Here’s what Feaster had to say:

“I’m sorry — Edmonton finished where last year, caller? Want to wager on where we finish relative to Edmonton this year? I’m tired of this question, I’ll tell you very honestly. I’m getting a little sour. How many teams . . . every year, for the last 10 years, five years, eight years, have finished in the bottom five, bottom seven, bottom 10? They’ve had a pick anywhere from No. 1 to No. 10 year after year after year after year, and they still wander in the desert. And they’re no closer to getting out than they were 10 years ago.

“You know what? I look forward to the Battle of Alberta for the next X number of years. If the idea is, ‘Burn it to the ground,’ then (Flames president) Ken (King) can find another manager to do it.”

Staples responds by noting that 1) Calgary is going nowhere fast, and 2) in two years, the Oilers will have the better team. Even though I agree on the first count and I won’t be surprised if David is right on the second, he is still ignoring the issue. The question is whether the Edmonton model is the correct one, if Calgary should have followed that path last year.

And I think Feaster is right. Were the Oilers right to blow it all up? No regrets with the Smyth trade and the subsequent moves that brought the Oilers to this point? It has been a four year rebuilding project – five out of the playoffs – with no end yet in sight. Even if Staples is right and the Oilers pass the Flames in 2012-13, that does not necessarily make them a playoff team after six years of wandering in the desert. The St. Louis Blues were the first post lockout team to “blow it all up” and six years later they still look like a team that is going nowhere. Years of pain and lost seasons can only possibly be worth it if the result is a genuine contender and the Oilers are miles away. They may never get there with this crew.

Brian Burke has endured a lot of criticism in the Leaf media for not adopting the Oiler model when he came to Toronto, but as his remake of the Leafs enters its third year, he looks like having an outside chance at a playoff spot. Did the Bruins suck for years to get to where they are? Did the Canucks? The Wings? The Sharks?

It isn’t hard to imagine that the Oilers will be a lot better than the Flames in five years, but a lot of water will flow under the bridge between now and then. We can’t say for sure. I can say that, as a fan, I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about where my team will be in five years.

All Feaster is saying is, “I’m not going to choose to lose until I hopefully find a franchise player in the draft. I think choosing to lose is a stupid strategy.”

Me too.

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9 Responses to “On Choosing to Lose”
  1. IamJoe says:

    I’ve actually heard it pointed out a few times by people that the Wings did suck, and magically, this is how they got good. They sucked and got Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov and Nick Lidstrom, and magically, this turned into cups. Of course, the Wings sucked for about 15 years there from the late 60’s to early 80’s, and it didn’t help ’em much. And they drafted Fedorov, Lidstrom, and Konstantinov all in that 1989 draft… after losing in the 3rd, 3rd, and 2nd playoff rounds over the three seasons leading up to that 1989 draft.

    Maybe EDM just has to wander the desert for 15 years, not 5. Then, 15 years after they stop sucking, all that sucktitude will magically pay off, and they’ll be rewarded and righteously vindicated with a couple Stanley Cups. So if we’re 4 years in, 26 to go… EDMONTON OILERS, 2037 STANLEY CUP CHAMPS BABY, WHOOOOOOO!!!!!!

  2. beingbobbyorr says:

    The suck-and-draft appears to be working for the Kings (even having wasted their 4th overall in 2007), who seem poised for very good things . . . . though, like the Bruins & Hawks before them, they did pick up some nice veteran assets via trade & FA.

    If LA does do what’s expected of them soon, TB will seem rather prescient in his prediction that this CBA somehow favors big-ish American markets: Anaheim, Pitt, Det, Chicago, Phila, Boston, LA . . . all that’s missing would be a run by the Rangers.

  3. GRR says:

    I don’t think that the Edmonton Oilers blew it all up. After the run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Oilers continued to try to build a play-off contender. But it never worked out. Most of the veterans that were traded because of personal or contract issues. The Oilers only decided to give up and start from scratch when it was clear that they were in the Taylor Hall sweepstakes. This was more because of injuries and inconsistencies than a decided effort to ‘win later by losing now’.

    Personally, I believe that scouting and development is the key aspect. It doesn’t matter where you pick, it’s who you pick that’s important, and how you develop that player. the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals are spent several years at the bottom, bu they drafted key players in all draft positions and rounds.

    The Oilers have a bright future not only because of 1st Overall Draft Picks in Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but also because of players picked later in the first or in subsequent rounds. of Sam Gagner, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Linus Omark, Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton, Anton Lander, Teemu Hartikainen, Martin Marincin, David Musil and Oskar Klefbom, only 4 are 1st round picks, and only 2 are top 10.

    The biggest issue for the Calgary Flames has been horrid drafting by the previous regime, But the selections of Sven Barstchi, Markus Granlund and Tyler Wotherspoon in 2011 bodes well for better player drafting and development in the future.

  4. youranidiot says:

    St Louis looks like they’re going nowhere? Really?
    Before the injury (and inexperience) bug bit them last year they were actually first in the league for quite some time. With Halak on top of his game, a maturing Pietrangelo, and a ridiculous crop of offensive prospects, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them competing for their division title in the next two years…

    • Tom says:

      I think you make my case. Even if you are correct in your assessment – I won’t argue on the assumption you know the Blues better than I – what will the Blue’s fans be left with?

      After 8 years of building, they might, maybe, compete for the Division. Is that what fans expected when the Blues threw in the towel and traded Pronger? I can imagine than announcement, “We are sorry to see Pronger go, but it is time to give up and rebuild. In about 8 years we will maybe be competing for the Division.”

      • IamJoe says:

        To be fair, if you can get the Central division crown over Detroit and Chicago and a decent team in Nashville, you pretty much are a serious Cup contender.

  5. Thomas Pratt says:

    Since UFA status now goes to players with seven years’ service, I always thought the wisdom of the Oilers’ plan would be proved by the number of 25 year old UFAs who resign. Isn’t that the key issue in the Doughty negotiations — how many UFA years the Kings can buy? We’ll see if Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins stick around a moment longer than they need to, or if the Oilers time and effort is spent developing players who choose to spend their primes elsewhere.


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. […] TOM BENJAMIN’S HOCKEY BLOG: Tom examines Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster’s recent comments comparing his building his club’s roster in comparison to the Edmonton Oilers rebuilding with youth, especially top draft picks. He believes Feaster is essentially saying that “choosing to lose” in order to attain high draft picks isn’t a wise strategy” and agrees with it. […]

  2. […] drew the ire of excellent blogger Tom Benjamin, who railed against “choosing to lose.” And I think Feaster is right. Were the Oilers right to blow it all up? No regrets with the Smyth […]

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