On Tuesday the City of Winnipeg was shutdown with the return of NHL hockey, while today in the city of Calgary a “Prospect Countdown” – insert Final Countdown theme here- polarized the city. Such is life in a hockey mad city that just so happen is lacking blue chip prospects. Tim Erixon was more than just a six foot smooth skating Swedish defenseman; he represented a glimmer of hope for a fan base staring at a cap strapped team with two straight playoff exists. Erixon filled the fan base’s hunger for a young NHL ready prospect to inject life into the team and the fan base, all the while on a cheap dollar. Yet today fans are not pre ordering Erixon jerseys or awaiting prospect camp to see their prize prospect, they are starring at the three unknown assets he was traded for. The Flames were unable to sign Erixon, through no fault of trying, and the immediate fan reaction is much distaste towards Tim Erixon. Fans are warming up their vocal cords for the chorus of boos they plan to rain down the first time he sets a skate on Dome ice wearing those New York colors. While it is hard not to look at Erixon with a degree of disgust, what does it say about a franchise that cannot sign its first round pick?
In today’s day and age of advanced scouting and extensive interviewing, did the Flames scouts ever determine if Erixon wanted to be a Flame? Many fans have already pointed out that at the 2009 draft Erixon barely cracked a smile while pulling on the Flames jersey. However, Tim Erixon has attended several prospect and team camps since being drafted. Maybe I’m reaching here, but if Erixon never wanted to play in Calgary why bother coming here at all and why not just either demand a trade or stay home and in today’s scouting world its hard to imagine he was never asked if he viewed Calgary as a fit. So, perhaps this goes deeper than simply the thoughts and wishes of Tim Erixon. If he was ok to be drafted by the Flames, what as changed?
Through Jay Feaster’s interview we were informed that there were several issues the Erixon’s camp continued to put forth to the Flames. The issue of several no movement or trade clauses and high priced blueliners was raised by the Erixon camp. The returns on Cory Sarich and Jay Bouwmeester are sure not meeting expectations yet their salaries and contracts dictate that they are going to remain and are not going to be moved or demoted if struggles continue. In this circumstance, a two way deal is going to pay the price as has been shown in the past with Dustin Boyd and Mikael Backlund. However, perhaps the most interesting point from the Erixon camp was his worry that the Flames prefer a more veteran line up and that would work against the rookie. It is really hard to blame the young man when you look at a Hockey News publication that ranks the Flames 27th out of 30 teams for prospects, or young players on their team under the age of 21. Only a handful of young players have been able to graduate to the Flames in the last half dozen years, and many end up being traded away. The average age continues to stay at or near the top of the league, and most recently you had a prospect ask for his release from the club feeling his development was not best served with the Flames organization. This certainly does not bode well for an organization that is severely lacking in the development of top end prospects of any kind, causes serious worry for an organization that is not moving forward at a steady pace. Are the Flames just no longer considered top notch?
The simple fact alone that a division of hockey operations as extensive as the Flames could not identify from pre draft, though the draft, to the two years afterword that there may be an issue with Erixon is quite puzzling. The idea that a player can look at an organization, that has fulfilled his dream of being drafted, and logically determine that it is not the best place for young players to play is a truly worrisome and troubling idea. The pressure has been on the new GM Jay Feaster for the last few months, but I would suggest the time is now to put everyone in the hockey operations under the microscope. The biggest story of the day should not be a 20 year old man who wanted to choose his hockey path, but that a once first class organization may have to take a long, deep look at themselves and their future. The light of the end of the tunnel that fans keep searching for appears to get dimmer and dimmer by the day.