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.

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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 suba steve
August 07 2013, 07:05PM
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I often find myself defending some of Feaster's moves, not because I think he's wonderful, but because a lot of posts are just a little too harsh in discussing him.

I agree with most of this article, Kent. Feaster is a lot less "tight lipped" then I would be in his place, D Sutter had that part of the job down cold. Some signings have confused me Sarich, and McBackup and particularly Babs (who like you stated was in B Sutter's doghouse before the ink was dry, more communication between coach/GM required). Drafting has improved, 2011 earned the GM/scouts a little patience from me in waiting for Janko/Poirier etc.

Good read.

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#52 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
August 07 2013, 10:01PM
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The Feaster debate doesn`t really rile me up, as I don`t believe his input has been significant since the rebuilding began in earnest. With regards to scouting, he simply rubber-stamps what his scouting department concludes by committee. And as concerns NHL transactions, he has a very narrow parameter within which to work, since it is obvious that ownership wants to constrain spending while wholeheartedly embracing the rebuild.

What he is, however, under-rated at is his ability to manage the numerous bodies in management and scouting, and to vet and nurture talent in the front office. Hence, this excerpt from the Sun:

“The next step in the continued development of Craig Conroy as a front office executive for our hockey club is to get him day-to-day management responsibility in the AHL,” Feaster said in a statement. “Given that we have asked (assistant GM) John Weisbrod to spend more time with our NHL coaches and players this season, as well as see even more NHL games, we believe the opportunity exists to transition Craig further into the hockey operations in Abbotsford.

Thus, from the foregoing, it seems that Weisbrod is slowly but surely being acclimated to the duties of an NHL GM, while Conroy is given a crash-course in ABBy on the intricacies and responsibilities of being an assistant GM.

The on-ice product, evidently, isn`t the only thing being rebuilt in Calgary, as the front office will probably look drastically different in a couple of years.

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#53 Tony
August 07 2013, 10:26PM
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So the Flames lost their ECHL affiliate to Anaheim. Any rumours on which team the Flames sign with next? Las Vegas again?

http://www.utahgrizzlies.com/news/?article_id=2472

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#54 SmellOfVictory
August 07 2013, 11:05PM
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schevvy wrote:

On the whole Richards thing- saying they (Iggy, Richards, and Tanguay) would all get above 100 points was absolutely insane. When was the last time a whole line got 100 points each? The 80's? If I'm ever in the need of a good laugh I remember that Feaster statement.

We won't be able to really grade the Feater regime for at least another 3 years IMO. This year coming up is going to be rough, and chances are the year after that might be even worse. That's stuff that comes with most rebuilds, and if fans are wanting Feaster gone after a couple bad years following the rebuild declaration then they don't fully understand the situation. Give him 3-4 years. Then judge him.

Just don't take any more ridiculous runs at free agents Feaster. Or make ridiculous proclamations like "Jankowski will be the best player of this draft class in 10 years"

I know you were making a point, but just for interest's sake, the Pizza line juuuust missed the "100 points each" marker in 05-06. Alfie and Heatley both had 103, and Spezza had 90 due to injury (only played 68 games). So they were legitimately on pace for a trifecta of hundred pointers.

Prior to that would've likely been the mid-90s Penguins.

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#55 Baalzamon
August 07 2013, 11:26PM
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@SmellOfVictory

Worth noting that Spezza only played 68 games that year.

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#56 Reidja
August 08 2013, 12:52AM
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"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."

I'm sure I speak for many when I say that I have respect for your journalistic integrity in this regard, and a greater respect for it in that I trust you will call that spade if the time comes.

As a fan (full stop), I am less encumbered and have already said my piece on this topic. A generational change is required from the foundation of the building to the top floor corner office. How long will it take? That is my burning question.

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#57 Captain Ron
August 08 2013, 01:05AM
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coachedpotatoe wrote:

I had forgotten about St Louis and so I would agree with you and downgrade him to an F. How Button keeps a job as a hockey insider I don't know.

Button annoys the hell out of me on TSN. Wish they would get rid of him.

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#58 the-wolf
August 08 2013, 06:12AM
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@BurningSensation

And yet, lots of 'average' Flames fans at the time were incensed when it happened. Scouting then is not what it is now either. Plus, I could care less about the other 29 GMs in the league. Button was terrible. An 'F' indeed.

Suppose Todd had been named GM instead of Craig? There's some alternate history to chew on.

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#59 the-wolf
August 08 2013, 06:15AM
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chillout wrote:

I just get annoyed occasionally by the people who don't look at the situation from several angles. Many think he's a bad gm because his hair...and so on and so on. Sure he's done some stupid things, but people have to look at the situation at the time too as well as what every single other gm in the league was doing too.

When we signed babchuk didn't pardy get signed away for like 2mill a year or more. Sure babchuk is terrible but that was a massive overpay for pardy. Defencemen were hard to come by that summer. I could have my timeline mixed up, I didn't look anything up.

Richards...every gm in the league was gunning for him. He was the man that summer, sure now it looks like was lucky we didn't get him but had there not been such a bidding war, he would have been a good player to have at the right price. Feaster would have been just torn apart just as much had he sat on his hands and done nothing at all.

re: Richards, I disagree. Plenty of people on here were hoping we wouldn't land him and were immediately glad when we didn't.

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#60 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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#61 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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#62 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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#63 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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#64 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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#65 MC Hockey
August 08 2013, 10:00PM
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Monaertchi Gaudnett 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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#66 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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#67 ?
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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