Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Andrew Ference

I will admit, had this deal been announced at this time last season, I would have bought anyone nearby a drink in order to toast his departure. He was my favorite Flames whipping boy last season, owing to his penchant for comitting baffling, defensive-zone gaffes at inopportune times.

Metrognome takes the words right out of my mouth, but as he notes, things have changed. He started last season very poorly, but ended up being maybe the Flames best defenceman in the playoffs.

Pace Mirtle, I think the key to the outgoing part of this trade is not Kobasew, but Ference. Life as an NHL GM -- outside of Edmonton, at least -- means that sometimes you just have to turn the page on a younger player, even with the full knowledge that he may end up being productive somewhere else. If you never "give up" on a young player who may have greater potential, where do you end up? I suppose right now, Marc Savard and Martin St. Louis could be working the #1PP unit with Iginla. Then again, we'd also be wondering why Rico Fata and Oleg Saprykin can't develop any chemistry with Matt Lombardi, and I'd be sitting in a cold bath blankly stroking a toaster.

Giving up Andrew Ference, though, is a big risk. While he'll never become an offensive dynamo, he's only 27 and it's unlikely that he's peaked as a quality defender. And even if he has: there is not a team in the NHL who doesn't have room on their roster for an everyday defenceman who can take a regular shift, kill penalties, mentor his teammates, work his ass off, and is signed for 3 more years at $1.4M/year. Not one.

It's Tuesday afternoon now, 3 days later, and the point above has been made elsewhere, as well as just about everything else that can be said about this deal. That includes "The X Factor", as in, what kind of void has been left in the dressing room, and what are the implications (both direct and karmic) of trading a guy who recently signed a long-term deal for a "hometown discount".

I'm going to go out on a limb here (read: make myself look stupid) and guess that there was another unstated reason why this trade was made. Call it the Peplinski Underwear Theory.

There is a certain order, or Law of the Jungle, when it comes to team sports -- hockey as much as any of them. I don't know if you'd properly call it old school, and I frankly don't know if it's legit or just superstition. But the Law is that a player's leadership role (or presence) on a team must be roughly commensurate with his on-ice role.

Andrew Ference is by all accounts a good guy and a smart guy. The media loves him because he's frank and thoughtful. He was obviously very popular on the team, and here's where I veer closer to my point. You know how between the two HNIC games on Saturday nights, they always show a clip of the teams in the late game coming off the bus? You always saw Iginla, Ference, and Regehr together. Sometimes they were merely bunched; sometimes they were chatting, laughing, whatever.

I'm guessing that -- not by design, but through sheer force of personality -- Andrew Ference had a presence on the Flames that exceeded what you would you expect from a 27-year-old 3rd-pair defenceman. I'm further guessing that the Coach was uncomfortable with this (cosmic imbalance!).

In the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals, Jim Peplinski was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career -- twice. It wasn't a decision on merit, exactly (he was certainly more effective than Lanny at that point, who drew in for the clinching game in Pepper's place). It was Terry Crisp's signal to Al Macinnis, Doug Gilmour, and the other top guys that they were the leaders of the team and they were responsible, regardless of Peplinski's leadership qualities and the C on his sweater (he shared it with Lanny and Tim Hunter, who was also a G6 scratch). This is why, in all the pics from the Montreal Forum of the Flames celebrating with the Cup, Jim Peplinski is wearing red long underwear: because he wasn't playing; he was riding a stationary bike in the dressing room, watching it on TV.

So there's your theory as to other reason why the Flames were willing to give up Ference. They want Iginla and Regehr to be the clear Big Dogs. You might think I'm on crack; that's fine, I just hope I've explained myself clearly.


Matt, I take your point, but I think your theory is groaning under the weight you placed on it. I think a simpler explanation is Boston said, " we want Regehr", Calgary said "no". Boston said, "we want Giordano", Calgary said, "no". Boston said, "we'll take Ference", Calgary said, "how soon do you want him?".

Interesting post Matt.

Always liked Ference a lot - he seems a thoughtful and articulate young man which makes him a rarity in pro sports. That's not meant to be a slap either - I think a lot of hockey players are not of that character but I also think a lot who may be submerge that beneath the bland quoteless don't rock the boat persona.

Which leads me to this question - is it possible that Ference's media friendly persona was seen to be a problem by Playfair/Sutter and that they were actively shopping him as a result. Not a problem with his teammates but maybe with the old style boss?

Wow, great take. It's as untestable as, say, any of Freud's theories, but, interesting nonetheless.

Also, post opening quote? I feel like a superstar.

I don't know Matt. Aren't you kind of insinuating that being a good guy and being a leader are the same thing?

I've played with many "good guys", players who were absolute riots in the clubhouse that everybody loved, yet nobody would have ever considered them leaders. They were just fun guys to have around; nothing more, nothing less.

But I do find the idea of the BIG THREE (Regehr, Iginla, and Ference) rather amusing.

I think the answer is that Boston wanted him for precisely some of the 'pro-Ference' arguments you made. If anything, the Bruins desperately need a hard-nosed, third-pairing blueliner to play behind (with?) Chara and give that team a little big of heart.

Chiarelli would have demanded a defenceman the other way in any deal for Stuart (they did, after all, already trade Jurcina) and who else would have been expendable on the Flames blueline?

who else would have been expendable on the Flames blueline?


Mclea, not intentionally, and I do understand the distinction. My Theory Only! is that Playfair perceived most (or certain) players "deferring" to Ference (and no I don't know exactly what I mean by that) who ought not to be. And I do *not* mean that the players were being trampled on against their will; more like they were allowing Ference to accept responsibility that they ought to have been accepting for themselves.

BD, I don't believe so. I think he would have been asked to "shut up" first, and Ference would have complied and/or we would have heard something about it.

Also unlikely: traded at the behest of powerful oil interests who didn't like that AFence was best buds with Al Gore and David Suzuki.

Matt, please don't link to anything posted by Mike Hudema on this site again. Now I have to go take a shower.


Here's hoping the Bruins screw this up (how could they not, they're the Bruins) and Ference and Bergeron come the Oilers' way for say, our Bergeron and a pick.

A guy can dream.

Very interesting theory, especially with the Pepper comparison.

There's a couple random thoughts I have on the subject which I haven't articulated.
a) Why not trade Warrener? I'm not saying he is/was less valuable than Ference in the dressing room/on the ice. But the fact is that Warrener barely seems able to play two games in a row anymore. So now we could end up with Stuart and Zyuzin, instead of Stuart and Ference.
b) Very very strange that Ference did not put a no trade clause in his contract. He said something that implied that he expected not to get traded. If he expected it, why not ask for it in writing? If that was some sort of a verbal agreement, then it wouldn't have been unfair for Ference to expect it be included in his contract.

I had a dream the other night that Warrener was traded...straight up to the Red Wings for Lidstrom.

I will be glad when the trade deadline passes and I can return to fictional characters and talking animals instead of real people.

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