Random Thoughts - For Feaster This is the Easy Part

Kent Wilson
August 07 2013 12:28PM

 

 

Christian's lengthy defense of Jay Feaster has garnered a lot of comments, but I'd nevertheless like to add a few more here.

I'll start by saying Feaster's tenure is brief enough that the fairest grade we can assign him is "NA", or incomplete. Feaster has only been in the big chair since the middle of 2010 and much of his work was done while struggling beneath the wreckage of Darryl Sutter's descent into madness. Because of the make-up of the team when he took the reins, as well as some budget issues and the recent lock-out, the Calgary Flames have only played about two seasons worth of games during Feaster's watch. That's not a lot of information and opportunity for a manager to work with.

- In regards to the improvement of the Flames prospect depth and quality under Feaster, I'm personally reluctant to assess that a as a sign of management competence. For two reasons:

1.) We don't actually know how good the current crop of prospects is. The hope and hype surrounding kids tends to peak in their draft+1 and draft+2 seasons, because they are still, in many ways, blanks slates upon which fans can project their future hopes. It's only when they start falling at major hurdles like turning pro that grim reality starts to take hold.

It's possible the Flames have a bunch of future NHLers in the pipeline for the first time in a more than decade. It's also possible many of these kids turn out to be replacement level or worse. We won't really know how good the system is for a few years.

2.) Icing a lousy team, trading players for draft picks and stocking the cupboards is the easy part of rebuild. Pretty much anyone in the league can run the ship aground, move stars for futures and then pick quality prospects in the first round. Once the long overdue decision to start fresh was finally made this past season, Calgary's prospect base was going to seemingly improve as a matter of course, whether Jay Feaster or Aaron the equipment boy was running the team. Gathering picks and kids with current assets is the big, obvious first step that any NHL manager takes. It's the operative genesis of a rebuild.

Where things get interesting and where true managerial competence is required is lifting the club out of the basement and making it into a competitor again. As Steve Tambellini ably demonstrated in Edmonton, pretty much anyone can stink and stock the cupboards - it's taking those new assets and forging a winner that is the real test. And so it will be for the Feaster regime as well.

- Perhaps the one area where I can give Feaster and company truly high marks is the 2011 entry draft. Although point number one from above still applies to some degree, the Baertschi draft batch is tracking to be one of the best in a long time for the organization. Sven at 13 overall is probably a big enough win to float any one year, but the Flames also chose Markus Granlund, Tyler Wotherspoon, John Gaudreau and Laurnet Brossoit with their other four picks that June.

Baertschi and Gaudreau are both top-3 prospects in the Flames sytem no matter who you ask, while the rest of the 2011 class all easily slide into the clubs top-15 ranking. That's as consistent and talent-dense a draft performance you're likely to see in the NHL.

Of course, it's entirely possible none of those guys besides Baertschi will make the show for a variety of reasons, but chances are the Flames get at least three regular NHLers out of the five picks from 2011, with the non-trivial possiblity more than one of them will be high impact.

- In contrast, Feaster has made some moves during his time in Calgary that have made me question some of the processes that may be in place in the upper office. The summer that both Brendan Morrison and Anton Babchuk went to free agency I figured both represented a good test of whether Feaster was operating under solid principles. He re-signed both guys, failing the tests.

Neither contract was bad enough to be overly damaging, but it showed that the org either wasn't considering the right data or was satisfied with making superficially plausible signings rather than efficient ones. Even more annoying about the Babchuk contract in particular was the nonsensical inclusion of a NTC and the fact that Feaster;s coach at the time clearly had very little use for the player in question. Brent Sutter stapled Babchuk to the bench more or less from game 1 the following season, which makes me wonder to what degree the management looped in the coaching staff before inking a guy to $5M in guaranteed money.

Feaster failed a similar test last off-season when he re-signed Cory Sarich to a two-year, Babchukian type deal (which has since been deatl to COL). There ave been other red flags: the needless trade for the entirely useless enforcer PL3, acquiring and re-signing McGrattan, the Modin deal, the Richards gambit and attendant insistence that he, Iginla and Tanguay could have been one of the highest scoring trios in the league (an absurd claim, even at the time).

None of those things in isolation or even cumulatively were truly problematic. It's just so much ineffectual flailing around without a meaningful underlying principle or purpose that it makes me wonder just what information management is looking at to inform their decisions (and how they are weighting that info). Sometimes good bets and worthwhile gambles don't work out for whatever reason, but no one really needed the benefit of hindsight to see that most of those decisions probably weren't going to work out. That is: they were obviosuly poor bets from day one.

- Finally, my main concern with Feaster et al is how completely they seemingly misread the quality of the hockey club prior to the ship inevtiably sinking. When Calgary rebounded in 2010-11 after Sutter was dismissed, Feaster had the opportunity to move bodies at the deadline but instead opined that he "owed it to the players to  give them another shot" (not verbatim), which I noted was ill-advised at the time.

Before the Flames sank inexorably to the bottom of the standings this year, there was a lot of Darryl Sutter-type "business as usual" operating from the front office, even though it became clearer with each passing day that the roster had major, intractable flaws and that a drastic change of strategy was needed. Another example: Feaster had the opportunity to move Kiprusoff in the summer of 2012 with the aging 'tender coming off of one his best seasons in recent memory with the corollary being he was a bad bet to replicate that performance. Instead, the club hung on, Kipper's fell on his face, his league wide stock became worthless and the result was a former cornerstone asset being completely drained of value for good purpose whatsoever.

Of course, it's entirely possible (probable?) Feaster was operating under a pretty strict mandate of "compete now, no rebuild" which would have tied his hands significantly. That's the reason I am willing to give the Flames new management group the benefit of the doubt before I start actively condemning them. The events of last season made the rebuild inevitable whatever marching orders Feaster may have had from on high. Darryl's long shadow no longer darkens the roster and the need to "win now" is gone.

It's a clean slate for Feaster et al. We will soon know what they're made of.

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#51 chillout
August 08 2013, 06:36AM
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@the-wolf

I sure didn't want richards but lots of people did. What I'm saying was he had to try, if you're supposedly going for it you pretty much have to go after the big name free agents right? Otherwise you would look pretty stupid.

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#52 the-wolf
August 08 2013, 07:05AM
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chillout wrote:

I sure didn't want richards but lots of people did. What I'm saying was he had to try, if you're supposedly going for it you pretty much have to go after the big name free agents right? Otherwise you would look pretty stupid.

While I fully support the notion that Feaster was under a 'win now' mantra, I don't see that as an excuse for every poor move he did. Ditto for Sutter before him. So throwing the most amount of cash at him, more than what NYR offered, was not a bright idea regardless of his marching orders.

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#53 Michael
August 08 2013, 07:45AM
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'the Calgary Flames have only played about two seasons worth of games during Feaster's watch'

If the typical coach lasts around 2 1/2 years, and the typical GM four to five seasons, we should change the old saying about politics to 'two seasons is a lifetime in hockey'

'- Finally, my main concern with Feaster et al is how completely they seemingly misread the quality of the hockey club prior to the ship inevtiably sinking. '

This has to be a major concern, not only did we waste a year trying to chase our tail, but the return on our assets diminished. Feaster's tinkering before last year resulted in a completely unbalanced roster, to many small forwards, no top 2 centers, no physical dmen, a soft and easy to play against team. Not only did they misread the quality, this misread HOW to build a team.

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#54 coachedpotatoe
August 08 2013, 08:14AM
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I just wanted to say that while it is easy to bash Feaster and rank him poorly; how does he compare to other GMs in tenure. So I looked at the teams that made it to the finals, Chicago Bowman since 2009 ( he inherited a core group and has a stack of quality advisers), Boston, Pittsburg, and LA since 2006, and then the other model franchises (in my mind teams that have won Stanley cups and frequently make the playoffs) Detroit, Holland 1997 and NJ and Sweet Lou 1987 ( GM longer than many Flame fans have been alive). My point of this is give the man more than a couple of years before we fire him; keep complaining, stop watching, don't renew season tickets, don't buy stuff if you are unhappy. While I might agree that he has not lived up to the shoes of the GM's above; they were all afforded time or joined their teams on the upswing after all the heavy work was done.

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#55 Baalzamon
August 08 2013, 08:21AM
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@Michael

physical physical physical... softest team in the league... easy to play against... blah blah blah.

Want to know who was dead last in the league in hits last season? Chicago.

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#56 jay
August 08 2013, 08:24AM
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Instead of all these articles evaluating Feaster, somebody should do an article of all his famous quotes.

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#58 Kevin R
August 08 2013, 08:33AM
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the-wolf wrote:

Well balanced article.

Rex makes a great point. We've rest the clock for Feaster before.

My first indictment of him post-rebuild is his failure to utilize the Flames' extra cap space as he had bragged he would. I just don't get how the Flames would think that other teams would let star players or high end youngsters walk for nothing into another team's arms. Consequently, he failed to utilize that same cap space in the Iginla and especially JBo deals.

I think you & Rex have forgotten some of the events before critcizing Feasters timeline. 1/Dutter got blown away in December/Feaster given interim GM. 2/Butter turned the team around on an incredible winning streak, falling short of the playoffs. 3/Feaster wanted to give the players a chance that they were truly a playoff team, Im sure Iggy had convinced Edwards they were & they wanted to win a Cup in Calgary. Feaster stood behind his coach. Butter was allowed to hire his own assitants. Feaster had to sell Reggie cheap with Kotalik to buy themselves some cap space. 4/Season starts & Flames crapped the bed. Feaster was visibly upset with Butter & many players. Remember that Columbus game. 5/I personally attended a session where King was emphatically declaring that Flames management had no desire to trade Iginla. Guess what, if your boss says you cant do something & you like your job, I guess you dont do it. 6/Lockout time. Which probably made trading Kipper last summer a little difficult.

My point here is that that closet didnt get totally cleaned out until March. If I'm not correct, it took that stinker in LA when many owners were in the pressbox smoozing guests.

So Kent, yes, it's a clean slate because many decisions by Feaster were still in the complete clust &*%@ Dutter/Iggy era. What he does going forward is what we need to focus, evaluate & judge the man by. I'm just so glad we are moving forward.

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#59 the-wolf
August 08 2013, 11:10AM
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@Kevin R

I don't disagree. Feaster under a stupid mandate? Absolutely. So was Darryl and he lost his mind because of it. But one can still criticize Darryl's moves as they existed under those paramaters. Ditto for Feaster.

I'm just saying that there's nothing great about any of his moves and he's barely avoided some absolute catastrophes all while continually flapping his gums.

I do credit him with the structure he's brought back to the hockey offices and I think he made out very well in the Erixxon deal though the team as a whole should've had a better read on the situation to begin with.

But one can't just dismiss every poor move he's made by blaming ownership (though I think Edwards & his axe-man KK are idiots when it comes to hockey).

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#60 Sincity1976
August 08 2013, 11:46AM
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@Chillout

Of course we could have traded Iginla. He publicly said he would accept a trade if it was in the teams best interest. And if the Flames went to him and said they were going to rebuild he wouldn't have stayed.

There is no defending the organizations reluctance to pull the trigger on a rebuild. How much of that is Feaster vs King vs Edwards I don't know. But I don't think Feaster was some innocent bystander in all of this just dancing to someone else's tune. And if he was then I definitely don't want him as the GM.

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#61 the-wolf
August 08 2013, 12:23PM
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Sincity1976 wrote:

@Chillout

Of course we could have traded Iginla. He publicly said he would accept a trade if it was in the teams best interest. And if the Flames went to him and said they were going to rebuild he wouldn't have stayed.

There is no defending the organizations reluctance to pull the trigger on a rebuild. How much of that is Feaster vs King vs Edwards I don't know. But I don't think Feaster was some innocent bystander in all of this just dancing to someone else's tune. And if he was then I definitely don't want him as the GM.

Don't believe everything Iginla says. there's more there than meets the eye. He screwed the Flames over more than just with the Boston decline.

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#62 Robear
August 08 2013, 01:06PM
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the-wolf wrote:

I don't disagree. Feaster under a stupid mandate? Absolutely. So was Darryl and he lost his mind because of it. But one can still criticize Darryl's moves as they existed under those paramaters. Ditto for Feaster.

I'm just saying that there's nothing great about any of his moves and he's barely avoided some absolute catastrophes all while continually flapping his gums.

I do credit him with the structure he's brought back to the hockey offices and I think he made out very well in the Erixxon deal though the team as a whole should've had a better read on the situation to begin with.

But one can't just dismiss every poor move he's made by blaming ownership (though I think Edwards & his axe-man KK are idiots when it comes to hockey).

While I can understand people getting hackles up at some of the hyperbole that Feaster engages in (Best player outside the NHL - Best player in his draft year etc.), I have a pretty favourable view of his work so far, especially considering what was here when he got here. Bascially whe he arrived we had already missed the playoffs, had an aging core and our best young assets were Backlund Nemisz and Irving, with a steep drop off afteer that rather underwhelming group of youths (No slight intended to Backlund who I quite like).

Good organizations need a strong stable of developing players in order to continue having success. You cant simply buy competitive teams anymore. If I was Feaster I would have seen the mountain of work required to turn around the farm system and team after Dutter and realized that it was going to be 5 to 7 years before that could be rectified. Even with our recent influx of high drafts choices, I still expect an extended dry spell for the big club of 4 or more years.

The chouices for Feaster and ownership back in summer 2011 would have been clear. 1) Clear out all the vets, tank hard immediately and get to the rebuild quickly (which many on FN wanted to see), or 2) try and leverage the remaining star power left in my man Iginla, Kiprusoff and company to create a chance at playoffs and possibly catching lightning in a bottle for another magic playoff run AT THE SAME TIME as re-stocking the prospect cupboard that was so painfully bare.

Of those 2 options, if I'm the owner and its my money being spent, I know which one I'd choose. Take a chance on Iggie and Kipper for a couple more years and continue the background work. At the worst, having Iggie and Kipper around would buy the organization time to start the long slow process of re-stocking the prospect cupboard while the fan base is distracted with the potential for catching lightning in a bottle.

Now unfortunately (or predictably as some might say) Kipper's play regressed dramatically this season. I for one fully believe that had he not regressed SO ridiculously (less than .880 Ev SV%, are you kidding me?!?!) that we would have been better rewarded for our strong start to the year and likely would have challenged for a playoff spot again. In this alternate reality, I expect we would now be debating the merits of the new contract that Iggie signed with Calgary. Regardless, we are where we are and the re-tool has been accelerated to a full re-build. I'm glad that Feaster took the chance and rolled the dice on a couple of players (e.g. Hudler,Cervenka and Wideman). He didn't do anything to hurt the long term health of the organization and I'd much rather be watching meaningful hockey in April than debating the merits of the potential draft in February, as our friends up the road have been doing for the past half decade. Of course that is our new reality. Settle in folks its going to be a long road back to respectability

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#63 MC Hockey
August 08 2013, 09:51PM
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RexLibris wrote:

Very well thought out article.

After I finished reading it there was one question I couldn't help but ask myself.

When Feaster finished his first half-season as GM the general consensus was to give him the following season to put his stamp on the team.

Following that season, this last summer there was another refrain of letting Feaster have this (admittedly abbreviated) season as he had now cleared out most of Darryl Sutter's dead wood and the team was now a reflection of his vision and plan.

In other words, while I agree that the change of direction warrants some patience, it seems that we have uttered these sentiments before.

Go away fancy-Latin-named Oiler fan lol! Just kidding! You're just trying to make Edmonton's failed rebuild look better but them making the playoffs this year and losing in round 1 does not convince me that it was or will be a success! With Feaster and co, there really seems to be a well-considered strategy to stick the cupboards, develop the prospects, and improve the pros as well, where as Edmonton's plan is "pick the big scorers and no role players that are needed". The Ference signing was about 3 years too late in his career, reminds me of Flames getting a past-his-best Staois. Hey your team deserves scrutiny from reasonable Flames fans just like you apparently are a reasonable Oilers fan so don't rip me back for this one!

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#64 MC Hockey
August 08 2013, 10:00PM
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Monaertchi wrote:

Interesting question about Hartley, he was the coach brought in while still in "Win Now" mode. Can he coach young guys? Does he want to?

My guess is yes to both. Not based on any real hockey coaching knowledge, but the interview he did I think on CBC After Hours in the beginning of the season. He talked about how he got into coaching, the passion he had for teaching, etc... blah, blah.

Hi Beeker, I met Bob Hartley at a charity event last fall and then interviewed him for this very website which was posted last year in early December! He seemed quite committed to winning and giving whoever deserved ice time the ability to have it while still operating from the win-now orders from above. But yes, he seems committed to doing whatever it takes to win and will be smart enough to be patient with young guys and I really felt he knew where his own strengths and passions lie, which is motivating players, while important areas like video analysis during and after games to improve a players performance by showing them how to do better was left to people with that expertise, Chris Snow for that particular one.

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#65 MC Hockey
August 08 2013, 10:02PM
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T&A4Flames wrote:

I think people sometimes forget that Feaster made the Richards offer under the 'win now' mandate.

ROR, he made that offer with the thinking he fills a role of that mid 20 something player that fills a gap.

The mandate has now changed and it appears that he is acting accordingly.

Agreed heartily with your points here, nice job!

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#66 MC Hockey
August 08 2013, 10:11PM
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Sincity1976 wrote:

Feaster (and the Flames) allowed themselves to be fooled by a late playoff push in 2010/11 season. If the Flames would have started the rebuild that season they would have been trading a 43G/86P Iginla and a Kipper that was young enough to generate a very strong return.

Rather they continued to focus on playing and acquiring veterans and suspended the rebuild until the bottom fell out and we hit rock bottom.

I also shudder to think about how worse off we would be if Feaster actually managed to do some of the things he attempted. The O'Reilly fiasco. The Richards offer. God knows what other futile moves he attempted.

That ignores the media fiasco's (O'Reilly, Iginla/Boston, Kipper won't report, etc) and him constantly putting his foot in his mouth (I am not the guy for a rebuild, guarantee of the playoffs, fool me once, etc).

He is an embarrassment. The Flames refusal to fire him goes along with the constant theme of feet dragging that got us into this position to begin with.

Maybe after three seasons of top picks the Flames will wise up and replace the GM with someone competent. We have been following Edmonton almost step for step so far anyways so we might as well follow them there as well.

Disagree completely! Lots of GMs talk favourably about their own moves (made with input of valued colleagues) and because its our team and the guy is an overweight non-former player, and a lawyer to boot, then everyone piles on because its so easy to do! The bragging he supposedly does is overblown by a large margin and he was basically just following orders when he made the moves like trying to sign BRichards! As for the ROR affair, many other GMs and RORs agent admitted they could have made the same mistake.

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#67 Mangotanker
August 09 2013, 01:21AM
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Cannot continue to say that Feaster has been ordered around by the owners, and that he can't be held responsible for the things in the past like the Richards' attempted signing, the ROR stuff, Sarich resigning, Babchuk resigning, etc. Feaster deserves blame because he was a part of it. His job is to make smart hockey moves, and those dont fit the bill. He has made both good moves and bad moves in his time in CGY, but if everyone is simply going to point at the previous mandate and say, "How can we blame Feaster for that when Edwards is forcing him to do it?", then what was the point of having a GM in place?

And also, if the owners were pulling all the strings back then, what makes you think they won't be pulling them in the future? Or the present? CONSPIRACY lol :)

Great read Kent

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#68 Sincity1976
August 09 2013, 02:51AM
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MC Hockey wrote:

Disagree completely! Lots of GMs talk favourably about their own moves (made with input of valued colleagues) and because its our team and the guy is an overweight non-former player, and a lawyer to boot, then everyone piles on because its so easy to do! The bragging he supposedly does is overblown by a large margin and he was basically just following orders when he made the moves like trying to sign BRichards! As for the ROR affair, many other GMs and RORs agent admitted they could have made the same mistake.

Err .. the monkey walks sideways on Tuesday under the bridge while over the moon.

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#69 MC Hockey
August 09 2013, 02:40PM
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Sincity1976 wrote:

Err .. the monkey walks sideways on Tuesday under the bridge while over the moon.

Yes, that darn monkey. Hilarious retort...thanks!!!

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