Five things: So now we're talking about Feaster

Ryan Lambert
August 08 2013 09:40AM

1. Where he started

So Christian Roatis wrote a voluminous post "Defending Jay Feaster" this week and it got a lot of very deserved attention. Personally, I'm not sure Feaster necessarily needs defending because he's in a job where he is going to receive criticism a lot of the time almost no matter what he does since that's how the rebuild process usually goes; there's a reason most guys that oversee the beginnings of such actions — Steve Tambellini, etc. — are heavily embattled and tend not to be able to keep their jobs long enough to see their work in the trenches come to fruition.

The reason for that, meanwhile, is that rebuilds are hard to do as a baseline, and harder to get right. Tambellini, just to use a recent example that's more or less along the same lines as his former team's provincial neighbors, may have been able to draft first overall a number of years in a row, and that's very helpful to success, but it's also not conducive to convincing your bosses that you should keep your job. Furthermore, the other moves he made were underwhelming at best, and I think you could say the same for Feaster. Which is what leads me to believe that Feaster is not long for this job either, and he shouldn't be.

2. The trades

The post contained a comprehensive breakdown of every trade Feaster has made since taking over the job, of which there were 22. To look at them one at a time and say "This one was good, this one was middling, this one was bad," is kind of missing the point, because the overarching issue behind all those transactions was the looming necessity of the rebuild under which the team is now operating and his — and his bosses' — ongoing refusal to accept that this was the case.

The first two trades of his tenure (which brought Freddy Modin, Roman Horak, and a pair of second-round picks to the team) were who-cares by definition, though the latter was at least more interesting because his hand was forced by Erixon's refusal to sign. Two of the next four, though, portended the direction in which the team is now headed: Moving Daymond Langkow, Robyn Regehr, and Ales Kotalik were all salary-dump moves, which indicated that the team was acknowledging all the dead weight Darryl Sutter loaded onto the roster. These trades were made about two months apart in the summer of 2011, and sandwiched an AHL trade, and a swap that brought Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond to Calgary in a swap that foreshadowed how needlessly, and stupidly, the idea of "being tough to play against" was tied to Feaster's philosophical team-building inclinations.

Again, those trades were summer 2011, and yet the team toiled on in sub-mediocrity for another two seasons for reasons that defy logic. The trades made during those 600ish days before he accepted what he had to do show a man idly twiddling his thumbs with no real direction. Consider what he brought aboard since the beginning of the 2011-12 season via trade:

Blair Jones, Mike Cammalleri, the rights to Karri Ramo, the rights to Dennis Wideman, and Brian McGrattan, plus a number of AHLers, and picks in the fifth and seventh rounds. What he shipped out included Brendan Mikkelson, Rene Bourque, Brendan Morrison, Henrik Karlsson, AHLers, prospects, and picks in the second and fifth rounds. He also traded down when he could have had Teuvo Teravainen to get Mark Jankowski (weeeeeee!) and Patrick Seiloff, and that's a trade that already looks like it wasn't necessarily very wise.

What was even the point of all these swaps? Don't answer that, by the way. It's a rhetorical question.

The "rebuild" trades have to be treated separately, I think. It must be reiterated once again that his hand was forced when it comes to the returns. This means that the guys he got were necessarily not going to be good enough for the names he was moving, and in all I think that while it's perfectly reasonable to criticize him for those deals, that has to come with at least some amount of understanding.

What should be praised, though, is his ability to wrangle legitimate NHLers for mid-round picks, if only because he needed to fill a bunch of roster spots. That's really all fine with me.

But taken overall, the names Feaster has shipped out in the past few years probably should have gotten better returns. It comes down to an issue of philosophy, since he couldn't move Iginla, Bouwmeester, Kiprusoff, etc. until it was far too late. That, I think, can be counted as an indictment of his job performance. To use a football analogy, he should have gotten flushed from the pocket years ago, and is now being given credit for eating the ball and taking the sack, rather than throwing a pick. It's the smarter course of action at that point, but he didn't do enough to prevent the necessity in the first place.

3. The signings

This is where the real and actual criticism of Feaster can begin in earnest. The idea that you can't criticize him for trying to take a run at Brad Richards is a joke. It's a great and tender mercy that he and Sutter had already made Calgary so unattractive to free agents that Richards said "No thanks," because if he hadn't this rebuild wouldn't be happening right now, and everyone would still be here.

Moreover, the idea that you can't criticize him for the Ryan O'Reilly fiasco — and that's plainly what it was — because Colorado matched is baffling.

The person who made the comparison of a dog who tried to bite people only to find that he was muzzled and therefore shouldn't be considered a bad dog who tries to bite people was bang on. Management was never going to think trying to sign Richards was a bad idea, since they would have okayed the money and years on the deal. The O'Reilly thing, meanwhile, was a good idea in principle and an awful one in actual practice, and I still think he should have been fired for even trying it.

But to talk about the guys Feaster actually signed, well, it's still not a good thing to have on your résumé. The Tanguay deal, for example, was awful. So was the Sarich extension. That he offloaded both of those contracts successfully is to overlook that he also signed them in the first place for reasons that are probably impossible to comprehend. Anton Babchuk, too, was an inexplicable and bad signing. I would lump the Stempniak extension in with these as well.

These join the Wideman and Jiri Hudler deals as having been made in that vain pursuit of a playoff spot, and these two catastrophic deals are still on the books. Probably will be for a while. The Roman Cervenka experiment having gone sideways meant that he only wasted on year's worth of money for no reason, and thus it was in the end neither good nor bad, really, if you think about it.

Extending Mikael Backlund and TJ Brodie were good signings, but they were also RFAs whom he was always going to re-sign. Along these same lines, any GM who signs what amount to middling NHL roster players to short-term, low-money extensions is doing a great job because he is simply doing his job.

The only real home run out of all these is of course the Curtis Glencross signing, which gives fair market value to a guy who's slightly overrated. One truly good-job contract in more than two seasons? Yeah, that's worthy of defense.

4. The drafts

Here's where I have my real issues with Feaster, as you all know by now.

Almost everyone he picked was listed as being a "prospect with [definer] potential." This is obviously true. All prospects have theoretical potential, with the exception of Keegan Kanzig. I would say, however, that there are only a handful of currently-unassailable picks in the mix here. Sven Baertschi, Jon Gillies, Johnny Gaudreau, and Laurent Brossoit all seem like excellent value selections based upon where they went. A few others (Morgan Klimchuk, Markus Granlund, Pat Sieloff) seem like they could be as well. Everything else is open for debate.

The problem with this is it's all stuff we won't know whether he was actually any good at it until about three years from now at the earliest. However, the gripe I'll make with the idea that Feaster has built the Flames into a top-10 farm in the league is that of course he did; he missed the playoffs three years in a row and has now been stockpiling higher-round picks for a while now.

As Kent said yesterday, that's the easy part of being in a rebuild, and that means you can't give him credit for not screwing it up. There was a giant hole in the middle of the floor, he didn't step into it and die. Good job? Yeah, I'm not so sure you can say that.

But here's the thing, right? He's left himself open to a lot of criticism in the meantime. The Jankowski pick looms large (especially considering how good guys like Teravainen and Olli Maata look), as does picking Monahan — a safer bet with a lower ceiling — instead of Nichushkin. Baertschi seems like the only slam-dunk first rounder, and even then he got a decent bounce on it.

The thing with the late-round picks that seem more likely to work out, and I've always said this, is that it's throwing darts at a dartboard to a large extent. In the same way that I don't think Ken Holland is a drafting genius for getting Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in the sixth and seventh rounds, I don't know if you can look at Feaster taking a flier on a fourth-round 5-foot-4 kid and say, "Well he knew Gaudreau would be a good pick." He got lucky. Good for him. Darryl Sutter almost never did. I might even consider this kind of thing to be little more than regression to the mean, I think.

5. What does it tell us?

I understand all this is long and incredibly subjective, but the point is that you're only going to see Feaster as being particularly good at his job if you're willing to forgive all the inaction to do what he should have done in his first two seasons.

He's been fine — not good, just acceptable — in the rebuild process to this point. And again, it's only because it was almost impossible to screw up selling off everything. I'm sorry if it rankles you that this is the case, but it is. Any defense of Feaster begins and ends with a sentence that involves the phrase, "Well if you ignore…" and that's a crazy thing to say, isn't it? Ignore what he started with, ignore how he did his job for two years, ignore that he started the rebuild then inexplicably stopped, ignore that he's only just now getting around to fixing things, ignore that some of the contracts he's gotten credit for moving were ones that he signed, ignore that his drafting has been questionable even as it's supposed to have been easy.

It's silly and it accomplishes nothing. If you want to continue that house on fire analogy, it's like he's just now getting around to throwing a fresh coat of paint on the remains that have long since stopped smoldering, and maybe swept up only part of the mess. Doesn't change the fact that he still doesn't have a roof over his head.

Around the Nation

686dfac3780611cb7acad6ce5166c6c1
Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
Avatar
#51 Kurt
August 09 2013, 09:17AM
Trash it!
4
trashes
Props
2
props
BurningSensation wrote:

Now the issue you raise is that what Quisp (and Feaster) were working off of was not the final document (that you quote) but rather summary;

The 2013 CBA Summary (quoted by Quisp);

"All Players on a Club’s Reserve List and Restricted Free Agent List will be exempt from the application of CBA 13.23 Waivers in the case of a mid-season signing. For further clarity, if Club A trades such a Player to Club B and Club B signs the Player to an SPC, such Player will be exempt from the application of CBA 13.23."

In other words, the CBA summary is clear that ROR was free to sign a contract with Calgary as an RFA and play in the same season without going through waivers, and the basis Feaster had for thinking this was the case was the official document the NHL/NHLPA released to the teams.

Given that Feaster was having to read the summary and not the actual document, he looks to be free and clear. It certainly would have put the league in a very poor position to claim that while the summary says one thing, the final document they released later on says something else and therefore ROR goes on waivers.

For the NHL to claim then that summary they provided was wrong, and they really meant for that loophole to be closed is a very thin stick with which to beat Feaster.

I further wonder whether the NHL would bother to try and enforce the clause as finalized. Colorado's GM, ROR's agent, Feaster, the blogosphere (including everyone here), and every major news organization thought that ROR was an RFA available to be signed without a waiver claim. But the NHL would step in and say 'oh wait, we meant to word that differently, sorry. ROR goes on waivers. Surprise!'?

I think that highly unlikely. Feaster signed ROR in good faith. Colorado matched as per the rules. Was it a mistake? Depends on whether you think Feaster should have been blowing up the roster against the owners wishes. If you understand that Feaster was operating in a 'trying to win now' scenario the ROR signing looks not only reasonable, but positively EXCELLENT. But if competing for the playoffs is not your thing despite what the owner wants, then ROR is a mistake, regardless of what the CBA bylaws might have said.

Full disclosure, I think Feaster stinks and should be fired for ROR. But I think the bigger issue, independent of any trade, draft pick or offer sheet is the macro job he did at managing the team assets heading into a rebuild. I don't give him a free pass because of some perceived win-now ownership push down. I don't buy that, no excuse. He alone cost us 3 years by blowing the value of our assets and refusing to rebuild until no value was left. Sort if like your stock broker selling your entire portfolio after a market crash... And then blaming market forces... Would you forgive him and shrug? But I digress... I think the key take away from your comment above is the last bit.

If Feaster had a plan and was rebuilding and trading assets why was he whale hunting a few months earlier. Some people will say he changed his plan and responded to his situation and that ROR fit in regardless of the rest of the plans...

But to me it just looks like he had no plan and was completely changing his macro level plan week by week based on how the previous week went. That to me is scary. Some people pointed out the Holland example and his 20 year comment. I tend to agree a bit, GMa are judges way too early. But sometimes bumbling is bumbling and you don't have to wait to see a lack of a long term plan and a consistent clear plan. Has this team shown a clear plan for any amount of time?? I'd suggest the past few months is the first time (since the trade deadline). That's at least encouraging, but not something to commend management for.

Avatar
#52 BurningSensation
August 09 2013, 10:16AM
Trash it!
3
trashes
Props
6
props
Kurt wrote:

Full disclosure, I think Feaster stinks and should be fired for ROR. But I think the bigger issue, independent of any trade, draft pick or offer sheet is the macro job he did at managing the team assets heading into a rebuild. I don't give him a free pass because of some perceived win-now ownership push down. I don't buy that, no excuse. He alone cost us 3 years by blowing the value of our assets and refusing to rebuild until no value was left. Sort if like your stock broker selling your entire portfolio after a market crash... And then blaming market forces... Would you forgive him and shrug? But I digress... I think the key take away from your comment above is the last bit.

If Feaster had a plan and was rebuilding and trading assets why was he whale hunting a few months earlier. Some people will say he changed his plan and responded to his situation and that ROR fit in regardless of the rest of the plans...

But to me it just looks like he had no plan and was completely changing his macro level plan week by week based on how the previous week went. That to me is scary. Some people pointed out the Holland example and his 20 year comment. I tend to agree a bit, GMa are judges way too early. But sometimes bumbling is bumbling and you don't have to wait to see a lack of a long term plan and a consistent clear plan. Has this team shown a clear plan for any amount of time?? I'd suggest the past few months is the first time (since the trade deadline). That's at least encouraging, but not something to commend management for.

Yeah, you and I don't see eye to eye on this at all.

Here's where we part ways;

"But I think the bigger issue, independent of any trade, draft pick or offer sheet is the macro job he did at managing the team assets heading into a rebuild. I don't give him a free pass because of some perceived win-now ownership push down. I don't buy that, no excuse. He alone cost us 3 years by blowing the value of our assets and refusing to rebuild until no value was left. "

There is no question that the Flames ownership gave Feaster a mandate to 'win now'. None. His marching orders were clear from the moment he was hired. You can disagree with this directive from ownership (and many will join you in disparaging it), but I don't think there is any question that is what the directive was.

His trades and signings at the time reflect that imposed direction. He moved Regher (and Kotalik) not for prospects, but to get out of salary cap hell. He signed bomb-throwers to contracts because the team needed the nuclear option to compete with other top end teams in the West, and the ROR signing was an attempt to add useful high-end NHL talent at center at the expense of future picks rather than current assets.

Should the Flames have been rebuilding the moment Feaster arrived? I think that is a fair argument to have, but it wasn't Feaster's call to make.

I think that once Kipper got hurt/sucked like a chest wound at the mid-point of the season Feaster went to mgt and insisted that a rebuild was now the only option left, or they would lose Iggy for nothing, and miss the window on getting a 1st rnd pick for JBo. It was at that point that the 'macro-plan' was finally changed.

That all said, I think Feaster was doing a 'soft rebuild' from the moment he arrived. The Regehr trade cleared cap space (one of the things you need to do in a rebuild), and the other trades Feaster made the team younger and cheaper while at the same time keeping the team competetive. In his first two years he was doing a balancing act, trying to add young talent and picks while still being within spitting distance of playoff dates. Sure he was whale-hunting (in particular for Brad Richards), but that fit in with his mandate from above, and he had created the cap-space to add a whale should he hook one.

Once he was given the go ahead to tear it down though, many of the pieces to launch the rebuild were already in place. The scouting dept had been retooled (from the top), the prospect pipeline had been improved, he had added an advanced stats guy, the relationship with the AHL team was strengthened, etc. Areas of the organization that are typically ignored by high-end playoff teams were being rebuilt even as the team was trying to make the playoffs. Once the rebuild was fully launched these areas didn't need to be overhauled anew because they had already been addressed.

Avatar
#53 Kurt
August 09 2013, 10:48AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
3
props

@BurningSensation

I don't agree entirely with your stance, I find it much to apologetic. That said its a valid opinion and one I respect.

I guess for me I tend to blur Feaster in with a general 'management' group that also includes ownership, or the entire organization. So I don't let him off because he had things pushed on him. Your positives are valid, where we differ is that you feel his sins are forgivable. I think being unwilling (or unable) to stand up against ownership for what he felt was right is a lack of ability to do his job.

Anyways, this horse is deader than dead. Lets are how the season unfolds. I am quite optimistic based on the past few months, especially Feasters inaction in free agency. That is a clear change of direction and a huge positive IMO

Avatar
#54 Jeff In Lethbridge
August 09 2013, 02:29PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

I just want to take this moment to commend you all for refraining from fat jokes. you all hav shown a lot of maturity and self restrant.

Comments are closed for this article.