Never Change, NW Division. Never Change.

Feast or famine

Wow. There really is no middle ground in the Northwest Division, is there?

Whether it’s in the standings, with the Canucks pretty much feasting on the talent starved rest of the division, or in the front offices, where you could never accuse any of the GMs of being underfed, but sometimes it sure seems like they’ve starved their brains of oxygen.

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That’s right: it’s feast or famine in the Northwest. (Yeah, I went there. Deal with it.)

This last week was no exception…

Just when you thought Jay Feaster couldn’t prove himself more inept, he went out an signed restricted free agent, Ryan O’Reilly, to an offer sheet. Nothing wrong with that, in and of itself. In fact, I’m sure there were plenty of Flames fans out there planning the celebratory feast when it was announced. Even when Colorado quickly matched, there was at least a sense that the Flames front office was trying.

But those feelings of self-satisfaction were short-lived.

On Friday morning, Sportsnet broke the news that O’Reilly would have had to clear waivers before he could suit up for any team other than Colorado because he had played two games in Europe after the start of the NHL season on January 19. Just like that, the team and it’s fans were once again starving for some sort of hope.

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But hey, there’s plenty of blame and embarrassement to go around on this one.

Just down the Rockies from Calgary, Avs GM Greg Sherman shouldn’t be feeling too smug about this one. After all, he’s the one that left his best centre out there to get offer-sheeted. Sure, the Avs always the the right to match, but Sherman should have learned from David Poille’s experience with Shea Weber that if someone actually signed ROR, the offer sheet would likely be structured in a way that was extremely inconvenient for him to match. And sure enough, the two year deal effectively blows up Colorado’s salary structure when it expires.

So yeah, maybe it’s the altitude, but Sherman’s brain may be a little starved for oxygen as well. Luckily for him, Jay Feaster is around to make the rest of the GMs in the division look good. Maybe we need a new #fancystat to apply to front office staff:


That being said, there may be one GM in the Northwest that even Jay Feaster doesn’t make look good. I mean, it’s still early but has anyone noticed how Ryan Suter is quietly turning himself into the most overpaid player in the NHL? We laughed at the contract Feaster threw at Dennis Wideman, but compared to Suter, it was chump change:

Didn't think it could happen

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Like I said, it’s still way too early to judge the suter signing. Heck, we have another 13 years to comment on it. But the early returns are rather underwhelming. And while I wouldn’t seriously compare Suter (a legit top-pairing defenseman) with Wideman (usually just a top-4 guy), it’s interesting to note that both players are getting top pairing minutes but Suter is the worst possession D on his team (-5.2 CorsiRel) while Wideman is doing pretty well (7.3 CorsiRel) all things considered.

Sure, Suter is playing some tough minutes in Minnesota, but remember, he’s getting paid $100 million! That’s what you pay a dominant defenseman, not somebody that can be unfavourably compared to Dennis Wideman.

Anyway, Feaster also picked up Brian McGrattan from the Predators this past week. Predictably, this set off an arms (or is that fists?) race in western Canada. First to respond, uncharacteristically, was Mike Gillis, who picked up noted pugilist, Tom Sestito, to replace the departed Aaron Volpatti. But at least Gillis didn’t expend any assets to add Sestito, picking him up on the waiver wire. 

The same can’t be said for Steve Tambellini in Edmonton. The Oilers gave up a conditional 4th round draft pick for hirsute winger, Mike Brown. Sure, this addition does nothing to address the Oilers’ real needs, but let’s not that get in the way of the dominant narrative:

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That’s right. Your bottom six guys don’t need to try and score. I’ll try and keep that in mind when the dominant narrative shifts to the lack of secondary scoring…

Anyway, this revelation totally ruined this chart laying out the conditions that would boost the draft pick up to the 3rd round:

Conditionally offensive

On the bright side for the Oilers, Brown is a Don Cherry favourite, so this trade should get them way more exposure on Coach’s Corner every Saturday night.

This is actually long overdue, given the obvious relationship between Don Cherry and the team’s namesake:

Oilers are Don Cherry's new favourite team

And that’s to say nothing of the petroleum products those suits are made of.

I want to finish off with the Canucks, who did most of their blundering on the ice in the past week. Even there, the feast or famine motif continued, with a great outing against the streaking Kings on Saturday night, followed up by a listless loss to Feaster’s hapless Flames on Sunday. Sure it was a brutal travel day, but not as brutal as the Canucks’ performance when they finally got to Calgary.

I’m not sure you can pin it all on the defencemen, but with Kevin Bieksa back out of the line-up, Alain Vigneault opted to sit Keith Ballard yet again and went with Cam Barker instead. I’m not sure how or why Ballard found himself in Vigneault’s dog house yet again, but Barker is worse and he bites: 

His Barker is worse and he bites

So yes, it was quite a week in the Northwest Division, and hopefully it really never does change. While we might be starved for action on the ice, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of entertainment off of it!



  • beloch

    In all honesty, the potential requirement that O’Reilly would have to clear waivers was a clear oversight on the part of the league when drafting the temporary CBA. If the Wild didn’t match the offer sheet, Feaster would have lit a fire under the leagues’ collective asses to get that hole patched and business would have proceeded as normal. If RoR did wind up on the waiver-wire it would have been an embarrassment to Bettman and the league. They would have looked utterly inept to let a team operating within the spirit of league law get cheated so egregiously by the hastily and improperly written letter of the law.

    Personally, I can’t fault Feaster for operating within the spirit of league law to improve his club, even if his faith that the blood-sucking lawyers would manage to dot all the i’s may have been misplaced. He gets a pass from me. The league, and Bettman in particular, should be the ones called out for both missing this loophole and not immediately correcting it when it was pointed out. Not having Feaster’s back in this situation can only bite them in the ass going forward. By being silent in this affair, the league has basically opened the door to GM’s screwing each other over with legal shenanigans. It’s going to be a lawyer-fest from here on out!

    • JCDavies

      “If the Wild didn’t match …”

      I’m guessing this is a typo …

      Although Feaster clearly wasn’t alone in missing the waiver requirement, I’m not sure he should be let off the hook so easily. The rule you are referring to is not a new rule and ,according to Chris Johnston, has been dates back to the ’80s. It is Feaster’s responsibility to understand the rules in the CBA before committing his organization to several million dollars in expenses and if there is something in the CBA he didn’t fully understand, he should have sought clarification from the league.