a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

06/01/11 31.0 Flames Lose Top Prospect

Tim Erixon

No matter how Flames management tries to spin this one, losing Tim Erixon is a major blow. What does this have to do with the Oilers? Well, being rivals we delight in each other's misery.

20 year old Erixon was really the only blue-chip prospect in the Flames' system. In fact, he was one of the few bright spots for that organiztion at the moment. The team missed the playoffs for the second straight year and being so tight against the salary cap meant that there wasn't much room to improve the roster and make the top eight in 2011-12. Erixon was one way for the Flames to improve their blueline cheaply and without giving up anything. And now he's gone.

Of course, Jay Feaster managed to wrestle 2 second round picks and a prospect out of Glen Sather in New York, which is a better outcome than if Erixon had simply gone back into the draft pool this year. In that case, the Flames would have got only one compensatory pick. The prospect - Roman Horak - was taken 127th overall by New York in the same 2009 draft that Erixon went in. In 64 games for Chilliwack of the WHL he scored 26-52-78 and was minus-7. The Hockey News Future Watch had Horak ranked #10 (of 10) in New York's system, and said that he projects as a third-liner. The two second round picks that Calgary received are #43 and #57 overall.

The Flames actually did need additional picks in this draft, because thanks to the wonderful management of Daryl Sutter they are bereft of selections. However, to get those picks at the expense of their top prospect is obviously counter-productive. While organizational depth is obviously important (especially for a team like Calgary which has very little), the Flames under Feaster are still in win-now mode. They simply don't have the time to wait for two second round selections to pan out. As such, even though the picks are better compensation than nothing at all, the Flames could never benefit as much from them as they could have from Erixon.

Erixon didn't want to sign in Cowtown because he wanted the best chance to play in the NHL. He and his agent felt that, given how close the Flames are to the cap, he would not be able to fit into the team money-wise. And because of the large number of No-Trade and No-Move Clauses on Calgary's roster, Erixon felt that it would be a player like him who would be demoted for cap reasons. He's probably not incorrect in that assumption. If the Flames had been better managed over the years, they wouldn't have been in this situation with their top prospect. No-Trade and No-Move Clauses should only be employed when absolutely necessary, and the Flames give them out like candy. Now they are stuck.

This event sets the Flames back at least a year or two at the NHL level, and the one foot Calgary had in the grave just sunk a little deeper. It's another thing that makes rebuilding in Calgary make sense, because the Flames will at least have some draft picks, but no impact prospects. Their number one prospect is now defenseman T.J. Brodie, who might end up being okay but won't change the fortunes of the team.

This article is a rare departure into pure Flames news, but it's too interesting to pass up. Loving Calgary's suffering aside, the Battle of Alberta is some of the best hockey there is. As fun as it is for one team to beat up on the other, it's not as much fun as watching two quality teams duke it out. Recent management of Alberta's NHL franchises has been poor to say the least, and today's events are a further indictment of what's happening in Calgary. It's showing no signs of changing down there.

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