May 18 2011 07:10PM
Jay Feaster has never proven himself to be a good general manager. So why on earth would he start now?
So the other day the Flames cut the "interim" tag off Jay Feaster's role as general manager, allowing him to skip from the store delighted at having a brand new franchise to run into the ground. Not like there was anyone in hockey who didn't see the move coming — and even if they somehow missed it in the first few months, his getting a crack at re-signing Curtis Glencross (more on that later) was the nail in the coffin on anyone else even being considered for the gig in passing.
First, let's be honest: there is almost nothing good going on down in the Flames organization these days. Almost everyone is old, almost all of those old guys are overpaid, almost all of those overpaid guys have no-movement clauses. It's a bad jumping-off point. In addition, there's almost no one on the farm that is expected to make a half-decent impact at the NHL level in the near future if at all.
None of that, of course, is Feaster's fault. But he sure as hell isn't going to help anything.
The Permanent Record
Feaster has three things on his resume that must be considered to determine whether he is the right guy for the job (and of course, it's moot at this point):
1. He has a remarkably poor drafting record.
Let's put it this way: Jay Feaster has a worse drafting record than Darryl Sutter. That, obviously, is saying something. Then it's saying it again, then getting out a megaphone and shouting it, then skywriting it over the Grand Canyon.
He was GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2002-08, and was in charge of all those drafts. During that time, he drafted 62 players. One has played more than 250 NHL games — Paul Ranger — and he's no longer in the league. Now, yes, he drafted Steven Stamkos, but anyone on the planet including my dog (who is very stupid not only for an NHL general manager but also for a beagle). After Stamkos, the most successful guy Feaster ever drafted is... wait for it......... Mike Lundin. A second-pairing defenseman who was chosen in the fourth round of the 2004 entry draft.
And hey, remember that deep-as-an-ocean '03 draft? Every guy in the first round has made the NHL, all that stuff? Yeah, Feaster took 11 guys that year. The most successful is Nick Tarnasky, who is also out of the league.
Overall, he took nine players in the first and second rounds of seven entry drafts, indicating that he often used high picks as bargaining chips (which itself is troubling given the team's current position of being completely bereft of impact talent at the AHL or junior level). Of those nine players, two are still in the league, and the one that isn't Stamkos is Matt "122 career games in parts of four seasons" Smaby.
So Smaby this isn't a guy you want in charge of a team that will need a serious rebuild and overhaul of the farm system.
2. He has a remarkably baffling free agent-signing record.
Let's start at the very beginning of Feaster's tenure as GM in Tampa, when he seemed to catch Lightning in a bottle on the trade front. He made two semi-notable acquisitions that summer, both before the draft.
The day before the 2002 draft, he traded Tampa's first-round pick (No. 4 overall, used to select Joni Pitkanen) Ruslan Fedotenko and two second-round picks to Philly. Fedotenko was a key cog in the 2004 Cup champions, but neither of those draft picks amounted to much of anything. The second transaction was swapping another second-rounder for Brad Lukowich, a decent player for the '04 team. The same is true of when he traded a second-round pick (used by St. Louis to pick David Backes) for Cory Stillman.
However, he didn't make his first big swoop for a free agent until the following summer when he acquired Eric Perrin. That's right. The first free agent who was not restricted to re-up with the team that Feaster signed was Marty St. Louis's college buddy. The next summer, his one unrestricted free agent signing was Craig Darby. Later, he would add players like Andy Delmore, Filip Kuba and Doug Janik. A few other two-way deals
Underwhelming and infrequent signings seem to be Feaster's speciality, and the trades are usually on a similar footing. Maybe the purse strings were a little too tight in Tampa for him to make splashier deals, but at the same time, I don't know if you want a guy who has never wrangled an unrestricted free agent more noteworthy than Filip Kuba being in charge of a real live National Hockey League team that spends money.
3. He won a Stanley Cup and has been standing around with his hands in his pockets for a year.
This is, obviously, the only thing considered by Ken King and whoever else considered this fiasco.
"A STANLEY CUP! RIGHT IN CALGARY'S FACE, REMEMBER?"
Yes, I do remember, and apart from the small handful of players he traded a four years' worth of second-round picks for, he was responsible for signing almost none of it.
But I saw where even someone as respectable as Elliotte Friedman said Feaster was the right guy for the job because the team played better under him than it did Darryl Sutter, and I just about spit out the moutful of cereal I was chewing at the time. The team played better under Feaster because it was playing under not-Sutter. It could have been Feaster or you or my beagle (who will be 11 on June 6). As long as any of those mammals weren't calling down to ice level and saying, "Oh jeez ya know Brent I think maybe Bouwmeester should be paired with Staios," every 20 minutes, the team was bound to be appreciably better.
Sutter created a toxic environment for the club — of this there can be no disputing — and Feaster didn't fly in to clean it up like Super Mario Sunshine. He just looked at the goopy brown stuff all over the organization and opted not to add to it.
The crossing of the Rubicon
So they hired Feaster, sword drawn, die cast. Again, we all knew they would.
And what was his first act as Real GM? He looked at a roster loaded with overpaid players with contracts that would take them deep into their 30s, many of which included no-trade, modified no-trade or straight up no-movement clauses, and said, "This is a problem."
To rectify it, he signed Curtis Glencross to a contract that would keep him with the club into his early 30s and gave him a no-movement clause (by my count, the 10th on a team with a maximum roster size of 23 players). This madness is somewhat mitigated, people say, by the fact that it's an AFFORDABLE four-year deal with a no-movement clause.
Maybe they're right. By the end of his four year deal as GM — and I'd bet a boatload of money he doesn't make it that long — Feaster might be merely signing 24-year-olds (though he sure as hell won't get them through the draft!) to four-year deals for decent money and those no-trade clauses that allow them to pick any 10 teams to which they refuse to be shipped.
And nightmarishly, that would actually be a huge improvement over the last guy.