If not Feaster, who?

Robert Cleave
December 29 2010 04:36PM

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As Kent noted earlier, the ascension of Jay Feaster to the Flames GM job, even on a temporary basis, has left a few of us with some misgivings. Feaster's record in Tampa was mixed, with a few decent moves being overshadowed in the end by a very poor drafting record and the Richards trade.

I don't think that Feaster will be let go any time soon and he does deserve a chance to formulate a plan for the club's future, but if the Flames decide to move on this summer, there a few assistant GMs that might be of interest.

One thing that's always important to note is that assistants have varying degrees of input and autonomy between organizations, and that's completely dependant on the comfort level of their boss. As a result, it's often difficult to completely assess the value an AGM adds to a club until they move on.

As well, with earlier free agency and the restrictions that the salary cap imposes, any NHL team's success rides on their pro and amateur scouting departments to a greater degree than at any point in the recent history of the league. Any GM that really looks like he knows what he's doing has almost certainly benefited from a strong scouting department along the way.

One thing that is standard, however, is that AGMs usually are in charge of player development, whether they act directly as GM of the minor league team or as an overseer of the person in that role.

When assessing any organization, I'm also mindful that there are good teams are still reaping the benefits of the old system, and I'm thinking of the Red Wings in particular here. Gabe Desjardins' point the other day that there might not be one team or GM in the league that really has the cap system fully mastered as of yet is likely bang-on.

With that in mind, it's sometimes a bit difficult to project how any AGM will do when they get handed the keys to the whole operation, but there are a few gents with decent organizations that deserve a look.

In no particular order; 

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Ron Hextall of the Los Angeles Kings works the draft floor during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
 

Ron Hextall, Los Angeles:

Hextall is a pretty famous person for his ability on-ice, but he's spent the last number of seasons working his way through the ranks with Los Angeles, serving as both AGM for the big club and GM of the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. The Kings have moved several decent young players through their system since Hextall signed on in 2006, and Manchester has been a competitive outfit during his tenure.

I did note that Dean Lombardi was comfortable enough to let Hextall field questions on behalf of the club in the wake of the first attempt to acquire Marco Sturm. That might be a small hint about the trust level between Lombardi and Hextall, since Lombardi hasn't needed a protective buffer from the media in the past.

The Kings have built a pretty decent foundation over the years, and I suspect that if Lombardi isn't ready to move on, Hextall would be likely be interested in sitting in the big chair with another organization. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Jim Nill of the Detroit Red Wings works the draft floor during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
 

Jim Nill, Detroit:

Jim Nill is someone who might end up becoming more famous as an executive in waiting than he ever was as a player. He's been at Ken Holland's right hand since Holland took over as GM in 1997, and during that period the Red Wings have been the league's premier organization.

Nill's primary role with the club has been to oversee the amateur scouting department, which might seem like a pretty attractive credential to have, given the Red Wings' success at mining the late rounds for elite players, but unless he's bringing Hakan Andersson and his horseshoes along for the ride, I'd be a bit wary of ascribing too much of that to Nill. Still, he's been a non-trivial part of Detroit's management team over the years, and he's extremely well-regarded.

Whether he'd leave for Calgary is another story, since he lost out to Craig Button the last time the club held a proper search for the GM job, but he's certainly a worthy candidate. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Anaheim Ducks Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations David McNab looks on during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
 

David McNab, Anaheim:

McNab is a Ducks lifer, spending the entire history of the club as either AGM or Senior VP of Hockey Operations. He's survived several GMs along the way, including Brian Burke, who's known for wanting his own people in place, and the Ducks have built and rebuilt a couple of times in his tenure.

McNab's real calling card is his ability over the years to find college free agents. Andy McDonald, Chris Kunitz, Dustin Penner, Ryan Shannon, Ryan Carter and Curtis Glencross were all McNab signings. That's some list, frankly, and a team that is as short of picks as the Flames needs to find players from unusual sources, so any edge that someone like McNab could offer might speed the club's re-tooling. If he'd be willing to leave SoCal, he'd be worth a serious look.

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 26:  Ryan Ellis puts on a new Nashville Predators sweater as the Predators Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton looks on after he Ellis was selected #11 overall by the Predators during the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre on June 26, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
 

Paul Fenton, Nashville:

Fenton is the latest in a series of young execs that David Poile has groomed over nearly 30 years as a GM. Fenton's immediate predecessor as AGM in Nashville was Ray Shero, so there is a certain pedigree at work with people that come from the Predators, and Fenton's own work overseeing amateur scouting has been quite good.

The Predators have drafted well, and for a team with considerable financial restraints they've managed to be incredibly competitive. Poile and Barry Trotz should get the lion's share of credit for that, but if nothing else, Fenton has a good role model that he's learned from.

He, like Hextall, is also the GM of his team's AHL affiliate. Milwaukee has routinely been competitive in their league, and no AHL team solely rides on its own draftees. Virtually all of them have AHL-only players (ex: Jon Rheault), and it's the AGM's job to find the right guys to mix with an organization's kids.

If your AHL team spits out solid prospects while being good at actually winning games, chances are your minor league GM has a clue. As I mentioned, I don't have a dog in the fight, and if Feaster stays and does well, that's certainly fine with me. The only caveats I'd note about Nill and McNab is that both are well-ensconced in their current jobs, and they along with Fenton are north of 50 years old. Only Hextall is younger than Feaster, in fact, so if the Flames' job is found to be a bit wanting, they might choose to stay in place rather than take a job that might require several years of hard slogging.

In Fenton's case, Poile will be 61 this winter, so he might be ready for succession in the near term. At any rate, if the club chooses a different path later this year, there are people out there with some worthwhile experience to consider.

Whether outsiders consider Calgary's job to be one of interest is another matter, of course.

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Robert Cleave is a perpetually grumpy Winnipegger.
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#51 the-wolf
December 30 2010, 11:58PM
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negrilcowboy wrote:

staal for Dion? There was no way that would have ever happened. Outside of the Flames market area Dion wasn't revered very much. The spin doctors build this kid up to be legendary before he hit the bigs. Dion's game always had big holes in it, back in the Rebels days these were overlooked. Dion is finally learning how to be a defenseman. He was a trainwreck back of the blueline. Norris candidate that played soft minutes against the oppositions lesser lights.Great point blast, huge hitter but lost in his own zone. Dion wasn't coached, he was given carte blanc. it wasn't until Iron Mike that the his shortcoming were acknowledged locally.

Agreed, but this was also 2 years ago, 1 year before his rep took such a beating and the Pens were sort of in the market for a D.

And there's at least a few GMs who would've given up a lot more than TO did for Dion.

I mean, aren't you wondering why Calgary couldn't get Fleischmann?

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#52 the-wolf
December 31 2010, 12:21AM
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everton fc wrote:

@wolf

Bouwmeester gets us a first liner. Perhaps less payroll, in the process.

Moving some of our second and third line also-rans frees up salary. If Kotalik can be coaxed back home, more salary is dumped. Staois comes off the books. As does Sarich.

Freeing up more payroll gets you another first liner, via free agency.

A decent, elite centre between Iggy and Tanguay forms a formidable first line. My opinion, of course. Would anyone here take Malkin or Carter for Bowmeester? Maybe add another roster player to the deal, dump some more payroll, and take a pick in return, with Malkin or Carter?? That's the kind of blow-up we need. If its even possible.

We moved Joe N for Iggy years ago. And we never won. So the theory of moving aging starts for youth doesn't always work.

I don't think GMs like Holland would move Iggy. Again, my POV. And good coaches get the most out of guys like Bertuzzi (the Wings have certainly not chosen a "youth movement". They are the model franchise...)

Phoenix, St. Louis, Boston... none of these teams have a better roster than ours. Not on paper. Yet they are better than we are in the standings. Why?

We need a new, fresh, creative GM with proven scouting ability. We need better scouting for better drafting. We need a new, young, progressive coach who knows how to inspire and build team chemistry, consistency, and confidence.

If we this type of coach now, with this exact roster, we'd be in the playoff picture.

Disagree, no one team gives up a true top 3 player for Jay. You're overrating him.

The payroll commitment for next season is still quite large, but even if you do free up cash, what true first line player wants to come here anymore? Sorry, but the veneer of this team being a "contender" has worn off, to say the least. Maybe we could offer them a NTC though. Also, the money it would take to sign such a player puts you right back up against the cap.

We never won with Iggy (whom until 2 seasons ago I thought the world of) because he's the only young guy with top talent we got back then.

Pittsburgh: Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury Chicago: Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, about 15 others Calgary: Iginla

That's the difference. And if ownership had let Al Coates (the guy who brought in Regehr and Iginla for Fleury and Nieuwendyk) do a proper rebuild at the time, instead of insisting, as they still do, on this asinine policy of "win now, win now," the Flames would've finished lower, picked higher and traded for more picks and prospects. Example: less Corey Millens, more prospects/picks instead. More resources, time and effort would have gone into drafting and development and those moves would still be paying dividends.

A GM like Holland wouldn't move Iggy if he was in Detroit's situation. When you're successful and have a large talent base you keep vets for mentoring roles. Because you can afford to.

Calgary is not anywhere even remotely close to Detroit. Iggy needs to go out of necessity because he's our best asset. We're not going to win anything anytime soon so why would you want to the TO route like with Sundin and get nothing? Had they approached him and told him they wanted to rebuild and he wasn't part of the plan anymore 2 years before he went to Vancouver they would've got an excellent return for him. Instead, they still suck.

Bertuzzi took a year to buy in there. He did so, as have others, because of the enormous amount of peer pressure that exists. You play the system and you work hard, always, no exceptions. That culture does not exist in Calgary, not by a long shot. Guys come here and see our captain play however the hell he wants to play, damn the system and take off periods, stretches of games, etc. Has very little to do with coaching. Detroit is the way they are because Bowman convinced Yzerman to buy in and because he did, Datsyuk and Zetterberg did and because they did so have the rest.

Wings may have not chosen a youth movement, but they are amply stocked with player after player who they drafted and developed. Really, what's the difference? Bottom line: you can't win without proper drafting and development.

Phoenix, St. Louis and Boston: I could argue the talent thing, but it doesn't matter. I hate the expression "on paper." What does that even really mean? OK, so the talent is equal lets say. Those teams have better leadership and a better work ethic among the players than we do. All part of the equation.

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#53 everton fc
December 31 2010, 08:48AM
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@wolf

You package Bouwmeester w/another roster player... and you get what you need, for I totally agree, Bouwmeester is over-rated, as much as he's overpaid. Teams need defencemen. And some have money to burn. A good GM would make this happen. A good GM would have signed Cammy. If Sutter did this, he might still have a job.

We don't have this type of progressive GM now. Nor did we before. Which is why we have Kotalik. Staois. Stjan at $3mill/year. And Jokinen, who is still an okay signing at $3mill/year, but who also shouldn't have been re-signed here. In Calgary.

We have not had good scouting, and good caoching (other than Darryl and Playfair) for over a decade. That's obvious.

We are not at all close to the Wings. Agreed. Because, other than the Cup run, we have not had good scouting, good drafting, food coaching... Other than Darryl and Playfair behind the bench.

To get to where the Wings are is never easy. But following the blueprint is the logical first step.

Sorry about the cliche "on paper". Forget paper. The three teams mentioned are no better than us. They are simply better coached, and have better chemistry due to better scouting. Inspiration - again, better coaching. Coaching that gets buy-in, and develops "peer pressure".

Actually, you and I are not that far off the page. We want the same thing.

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