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.

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.

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

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:

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!


  • Wax Man Riley

    Thanks for the overview of “This Week in the North West”…

    It still amazes me how someone like Mark Spector can draw an audience. He was a terrible writer with the Journal and even worse colour commentator for Sportsnet. I remember his ant-Satan articles back in the 90’s. You would thought he worked for the Catholic church. Even back then he was complaining how Satan was “soft” and wasn’t a good fit for the young Oilers. We needed Byan Muir. Things worked out great.


  • Phixieus666

    Ya I just don’t even know what to say about this today.


    Hey tambo wake the F*ck up. Your team lost to the worst team in the league, your team is falling faster than the sh*tty vets on the team. Its called a purge and it needs to happen ASAP. MOVE THE VETS OUT.

  • Between this and Lowetide’s article saying how MGMT hasn’t negotiated with Smid yet on a contract extension plus Brown getting 11+ mins, handling of injuries (Eberle pronounces self ready to play, Nuge shoulder…)
    I think I may need a drink; every minute of every day; until the pain goes away. As I am not going to cheer for another team, safe to say I’ll be dead from alcohol poisoning soon

  • Phixieus666

    Yeah, I can’t stand spector anymore. He thinks his opinion counts for something. It doesn’t.

    As to the NW division: it is quite frankly the worst division in hockey. With the realignment coming, you get some perrennial top teams added to it, making life even tougher for my lowly Oilers.

    How about last night’s game against CLB for famine for the Oilers: they’re starving for wins and can’t get one against the worst team in the league.

    I’ve heard a lot of chants to get rid of the coach, and I certainly would like to see a guy like Ruff there. I also always like to give a GM several years to make an impact, however Tambelini has been around for almost 5, he’s burned through coaches and taken this team to the top spot in the draft too many times.

    Further famine: my desire to see the Oilers in the playoffs.

  • OilersBrass

    So does anyone else think the Brown trade was pointless after watching last nights game? The kids were being pushed around and bullied more than any other game i’ve watched this season.

    • Phixieus666

      Seriously man, the guy hasn’t even had a chance to practice with the team yet and he still managed to play 11 mins, most hits on the team and didn’t hurt the team. He probably doesn’t even know all their names yet man.

      • Phixieus666

        I’m all for patience, but I didn’t like him turning down the scrap with Boll. New team, liberties being taken, nobody else doing anything (as usual) – isn’t fighting Boll exactly why you were hired?

        On the plus side, I did find his speed a nice surprise. Reserving judgment – for now.

        • Phixieus666

          On the fighting front the Oilers were up 3-2 at that point. There was no need for him to fight. It would be better served to play the pest at that point. I thought he should have fought when it was 3-3 and they didn’t seem to have anything going however. But I think at that point he was stapled to the bench while Kruger tried getting the offense out as much as possible.

  • ScottieA

    At first I thought that Tambellini was left off of the Stupid vs. StupidRel chart, but then realized that he would be placed higher on it than Sherman and Feaster. An outlier as it were.

  • justDOit

    Further to the RoR signing, the Flames would have had to PAY the $2.5M signing bonus for this season as soon as the contract was official – and THEN put him on waivers.

    Sherman is just as much to blame for his ignorance of this new rule though. He should have told RoR’s agent that he can’t trade him because of those two KHL games he played. So either negotiate in good faith with this team, or be prepared to sit – you have NO hand in this matter. No hand.

    A good article here on managerial slip-ups:

  • Wax Man Riley

    Jesus just watching LA makes me wish “why couldn’t our Oilers be like that!”. They had a bad gane in Casuck land but destroyed Nash and St.Louis after that. And they dont even have there two toughest D-man back from injury yet.
    Still blows me away Doughty has no gaols yet and he’s getting paid 7 mill Per!! Sh!t!! Maybe he needs a change of scenery eh?? Doughty and Penner to Edm for Hemmer, Jeff Schultz and our First? is that an over pay or is that fair?

  • Oilfred

    What I find puzzling is why Sherman would swoop in and match Feasters offer sheet in the middle of the Flames- Avs game. Why such haste? He had a week to mull it over, and maybe let the revelation that ROR would have to clear waivers, likely to be claimed by the BJ’s, costing Calgary a first,and third pick, 2.5 mill, AND ROR, be the juices that Feaster would have to stew in! Why not let Feaster (who Sherman seemed to be peed off at) sweat and then extract a concession or two from Calgary (another draft pick or a salary dump) and then graciously let Calgary off the hook at weeks end?

    Was Sherman as ignorant of the rules as Feaster? Or are we talking collusion of some sort? Anyway, I’d rather be thinking about that stuff than the Titanic of a disaster called the Oil, which is currently plowing into a succession of icebergs like a drunk driver bouncing off parked cars.

  • DSF

    Keep selling out the games at Rexall and watch the utter BS of an organization that the Oilers have become. Tambellini and Lowe are frauds. They have given the fans false promise. Hey Mr. Katz or Bob Black or whoever gives a flying bleep, clean house upstairs, then clean house downstairs (RK has no clue wtf he is doing either) and bring in some people with brains and a whip,not an Al Pacino motivation speech. No more propaganda. There is an awakening in this town and while some of us saw how incompetent Lowe was years ago, the rest are now getting on board. Oilers fans do not deserve this. Also next time..DO NOT START FIRES ON WHYTE AVE during a playoff run (i bet it was a bunch of losers who aren’t fans anyways but they blended in and, the hockey gods are still making us pay for it). You Think Vancouver is going to make the finals again?? Those idiots burnt down the city twice, and Montreal is still paying for burning the downtown area after they won the CUP! Goodluck.

  • Oilfred

    I’m just curious, if O’Reilly was lost by Calgary to waivers, who would of been responsible for the $3.5 milllion(?) signing bonus? Calgary, on top of the lost draft picks?

  • vetinari

    Gentlemen… gentlemen… Let’s just agree that ALL of the Northwest GMs had eaten idiot sandwiches this week and move along to the real issue… can we set odds at which of the five GMs will be the first to be fired by his respective team? I would give Feaster and Tambellini even odds on that one…

  • OilClog

    Brownie will be a favorite here, he has heart and hits and hits
    and hits more. He wont be a savior but will be fine and will give you all he has every night, no nights off. He is a role player who knows his role.
    Yes, we need more than him. I will take him on the forth rather
    than Lenny Petrell.

  • justDOit

    The Northwest is quickly becoming the West’s answer to the Southleast division. The Oiler’s incompetence over the years is magnified when you look at the piles of crap that they get to play against every year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Canucks were the only NW division team to make the playoffs again.

  • DSF

    Thank you thank you thank you for highlighting Spector’s idiocy with that Tweet. Why does Edmonton have to get saddled with media dinosaurs like this spewing incorrect, xenophobinc garbage. I’ve never seen a media guy end up on the wrong side of an argument so many times.