Feaster’s Chance

Whether you like it or not, Jay Feaster is now the General Manager of the Calgary Flames, and he is tasked with turning a non-playoff team back into a contender in the next four years (the term of his contract).  There are reasons why many Flames fans are skeptical of Calgary’s choice to drive the bus, but I’m willing to give Jay a chance at the helm.  And hey, seeing as how none of us have control, it’s probably the best way to avoid severe headaches.

Feaster’s draft record is horrid, and probably the worst of any general manager over the last decade or so.  In his time as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jay drafted 62 players.  Just five of those players have seen any significant NHL time, and just three could be considered regulars at this point (Steve Stamkos, Dana Tyrell, Mike Lundin).  The other two, Blair Jones and Jay Rosehill, have seen some NHL time over the past couple of seasons, and would be in the "replacement player" category.  Furthermore, Stamkos barely counts, because he was drafted by Lightning ownership, and anyone reading this would have drafted either him or Drew Doughty.  So yeah, an 8.1% draft conversion rate over a six year span is just not good enough (in comparison, Darrly Sutter was at 8.7% as Flames GM. Yay.)

Jay’s other main downfall in Tampa surrounded poor management of his roster and salary cap following a Stanley Cup win in 2004.  The cap problems came as a direct result of large, long term contracts to his three top forwards.  Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier signed five, six, and four year contracts respectively, and it made things extremely difficult to shore up other areas of need.  Feaster also let Nikolai Khabibulin walk as an unrestricted free agent, as the goaltender would sign with Chicago; the Lightning welcomed Marc Denis with open arms, unfortunately for them.

A massive fail of a trade that sent Brad Richards to Dallas is probably Feaster’s last real move of note in Tampa, as the Lecavalier 11 year extension and the Stamkos selection were done under the obvious interference of ownership.  Richards, the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, was dealt to the Stars on February 26th, 2008 in a deal that was set to help fill Lightning needs in the depth and goaltending department.  Mike Smith, the cornerstone of the trade, has yet to yield anything positive, while Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern no longer play in Florida.  Even with a high cap hit, a trade involving Richards should have returned something much more substantial than a backup goaltender and two depth forwards.

So why would you have any faith in Feaster at all?  Well, spending some time around the man in the past ten months or so, two things come to mind when I’m asked why he’s the right guy for the job.

Familiarity

While I think Calgary’s decision to leave the acting tag on Jay’s title for as long as they did was a little silly, it’s what they decided.  When the team was finally ready to make the decision, it was just over a month from a highly anticipated first round selection in June’s draft.  It was about a month and a half away from a crucial July 1st signing period and an extremely important summer for the franchise.

So, because the Flames decided to spend as much time as they did evaluating the franchise (which is probably a good thing in a lot of ways), bringing in a brand new man may not have been the best option.  For instance, even if the team had made their decision in mid-April following the season, it still wouldn’t have given a new front man much time to get the lay of the land.  Briefing with players and coaches and other hockey staff would have been crucial, and time consuming, when the focus should be on setting this team up for long run.  That’s where Feaster gets the leg up.

Jay has been here since the summer of 2010, granted in a different position as Assistant and then Acting GM, but he knows the organization a whole lot more than any other candidate would.  He was the right call to play placeholder till the end of the season, and that time at the figurehead helm also probably served to his advantage through the hiring process.  I really do believe knowing what’s going on and having a grasp on personalities and organizational workings are important factors in this decision, and not having to worry about them this summer should help the team when make important calls.  But that can’t be the only reason to show confidence in a GM.

Admission and Awareness

Having talked with Jay on numerous occasions, and been privy to his interviews first hand on numerous more, I can tell you the man is not shy in telling you when he’s made mistakes in the past.  The first day Feaster was in town, he joined Boomer and I at the Saddledome, and made no bones about how deciding to let Khabibulin walk and settle on a vastly inferior tender was one of his biggest mistakes.  He’s admitted numerous times that signing the "Big Three", if you will, to their large contracts handcuffed him and made it difficult to keep the Lightning at a championship level.  At the very least, the guy knows when decisions of his haven’t worked out.

But what does that really matter in the long run?  That girl I made out with outside of Hudson’s or that hot dog I had shortly afterwards were not good decisions, and I’d have no problem admitting it after the fact.*  But admitting it is only half the battle.  Making different choices next time around is what really counts; meaning next time I’ll think twice when a girl tells me she drives a 1981 station wagon with wood panels.

Feaster is not only aware of what has happened in the past, he’s spoken many times about how those past decisions have and will continue to influence future ones.  I think it’s significant in itself that an NHL GM is as open as he is about things we on the outside deem as mistakes or poor calls.  It’s kind of refreshing following the "I know better" era of the general manager previous.  But on top of the breath of fresh air the whole thing is, I truly do believe Jay is a smart man who will lean on a number of different things when making important decisions in Calgary.

He’ll lean on the knowledge from the results of prior decisions made as a GM, but he’ll also lean on his hockey staff.  With Michel Goulet and Craig Conroy already in the organization, there’s a good base right from the start.  At Monday’s news conference, Feaster also made mention of a new Assistant GM, and a search that continues right now.  That’s also an opportunity to bring in another smart hockey mind who can assist in making smart and well thought out decisions.  And let’s not forget Head Coach Brent Sutter, who will be heavily involved in hockey operations as well.

There are many reasons to be skeptical of Calgary’s new permanent General Manager, and I understand all of them.  That said, I’m a little more positive than many are when it comes to his ability to do the job.  I’m not going to defend the guy carte blanche and tell you he’s going to lead the team to a Stanley Cup in his four year term; but I will give him a chance from my humble, meaningless seat.  Feaster has a chance to reset the course of this franchise, and that chance begins this summer…let’s hope my optimism isn’t unfounded.

*Any accounts at Hudson’s Canadian Taphouse are fictional.  Or are they?

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Steinberg, go to bed. And you totally didn’t make out with any chicks outside of Hudson’s. Just like I totally didn’t do that thing at the Cat.

    Feaster isn’t going to get any slack from me. Until he proves otherwise, he’s a bad GM and the hire was not a good one. Why? Because he’s never really done a good job with an NHL team aside from acquiring one player in 04. I like that he’s almost as self-depricating as myself, but it would be better if he didn’t make decisions that required said deprecation in the first place. I don’t really care that he’s familiar with the team, because everything he’s said thus far has either echoed Darryl, KK, or the Owners. I could do that, and probably for substantially less money.

  • I am willing to give him a chance… let’s see what he can do with the cap situation and at the draft before we drag him to the Guillotine. I don’t expect a Stanley Cup from uncle Feaster but if he can correct some of Darryl’s mistakes (*Stajan*) cough, cough… I will be happy.

  • For a while there everyone was saying the Flames should hire a true hockey mind and make Feaster the AGM once again. Feaster would be great at negotiations and contract features as well as a easy-going and positive atmosphere around the organization whereas the new GM would be the true brains behind the operation.

    What if it’s the exact opposite? Feaster seems to realize his limitations and is humble enough I would suspect he would address those with an AGM hiring to make up for it. He can hire a hockey mind to make a lot of the recommendations that would truly help this organization.

    I dont blame Jay for a bad drafting record either, its all on the scouts. The Flames need better scouting hands down.

  • Good stuff Pat. That’s all very fair.

    I’m going to say this about Feaster: I hope he’s learned the right lessons from his past. For example, letting Kahabibulin walk was an an error inasmuch as he replaced him with Marc Denis. “The Bulin Wall” played 50 games for the Hawks the next season…and managed a god-awful .886 SV%. He has had precisely one good season since winning the cup: a .919 SV% year with CHI in 08-09. That was the performance that convinced the Oilers to sign him to his current ridiculous deal (during which he’s been horrid again).

    So, frankly, letting Khabibulin walk was certainly the right choice. He’s been both mediocre and grossly overcompensated since he left T-Bay. The misstep was not finding a decent goaltender afterwards (like, say, Thomas Vokoun who was available and Feaster decided against acquiring because he wasn’t “clutch” enough).

    This is relevant to the Flames because Kipper is probably the first big piece the club should trade if they can given his slide from the top of the league over the years. If Feaster sees that as another “letting Khabibulin walk” however, then he’ll likely cling to Kiprusoff for dear life.

  • Haha,

    how many no movement clauses do you guys have now? TSN was bashing the crap out of you guys last night for (a) having the worst upcoming talent, and (b) having no resources to do anything about it.

    At least you have Kipper! hahaha…

    • NTCs and NMCs are not that big of a deal. All they do is prevent you from sending the player to the minors, and protects the player from getting traded to Edmonton. Players with these clauses get traded all the time.

    • All Kent talked about was Khabibulin being a terrible piece of poop as a goaltender. How is that comparing the Flames to the Oilers?

      @todd – Re-sign dude, re-sign. And by the way, how is defending Bertuzzi going for you Canucks fans? He sure helped out in a pinch when crippling revenge was needed…

      Besides, ten or twenty more Saddledome hotdogs and Feaster is probably a goner anyways.

      As for the article on hand, we can certainly look into the past and conjecture what we will about Feaster, but the real proof in the pudding will be what he does now.

      – GlenX signing was good (although the term/money could have been slightly better).

      – NTC/NMC are irrelevant as we shouldn’t be making trades for Edmonton or Toronto’s garbage anyways.

      – Our scouts should be getting better, Brent + Conroy have more control, and hopefully we bag an AGM that has hockey sense to temper Feaster’s urge to “not let another Khabby walk”

  • jakeryley

    I think a lot of people unfairly use “poor cap manangement” and cite the contracts he handed out after the 2004 cup championship as the reason. He had St. Louis, Richards, Lecavalier and Khabibulin needing contracts and the salary cap (atleast for the 2005/2006) was fairly tiny while top tier players were still commanding top tier salaries. What was a realistic solution to the problem he faced? As the cap-crunch era began, there was no way Feaster could have kept all 4 of his big dogs.

    He chose Vinny, Marty and Brad(ie) and let Nikki go, and it was the right decision. Khabibulin signed a huge contract with the Blackhawks and was nothing but a burden for them during the duration of that deal.

    Also, citing the Brad Richards trade as a failure is absolutely fair, to a point. You have to look around the league at the ‘superstar’ trades that have occured over the last decade. Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley both went to San Jose with their previous clubs drawing back less than impressive packages. Years later, we all know how the Dion Phaneuf trade turned out. Moving big dollar contracts is not easy, and it’s even harder to bring back something of value in those transactions.

    Right now, I’m pretty excited about the Calgary Flames organization as a whole. The open approach that we saw taken in the press conference on Monday, Curtis Glencross discussing his extension and even his comments on the publics reaction to it was a slap in the face to how the organization used to be run. Not to mention the fact that we actually have some young players who should make an impact in the NHL this season in Erixon, Backlund and possibly Brodie.

    I can’t help but feel “refreshed” and optimistic. I can’t wait for the draft.

    (good read Steinberg…I’ve missed Flames news)

    • Also, citing the Brad Richards trade as a failure is absolutely fair, to a point. You have to look around the league at the ‘superstar’ trades that have occured over the last decade. Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley both went to San Jose with their previous clubs drawing back less than impressive packages. Years later, we all know how the Dion Phaneuf trade turned out. Moving big dollar contracts is not easy, and it’s even harder to bring back something of value in those transactions.

      It’s a good point, and you can throw in Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa in that mix as well. It’s not an easy thing to do, moving massive contracts like that…but then Feaster shouldn’t have signed all three guys to those fat contracts, and been forced to get minimal return for a high value asset.

  • Let’s wait and see who he brings in as an assistant GM(s).

    As far as his draft record in Tampa is concerned, shouldn’t a lot of that blame be shared with his scouting staff? Do we know that Jay was overruling his scouts and picking whoever he wanted? If he is following his scouting staff recommendations and failing miserably, then I guess we could fault him for not replacing the scouts.

    In 2002 & 2003 he didn’t have first round picks to make. In 2004 and 2005 he had the 30th pick in the first round. In 2006 they had the #15 pick and took a Finnish goalie that didn’t pan out. 2007 they didn’t have a first rounder. 2008 was Stamkos.

    He traded the 2002 first round pick for Fedotenko. That worked out pretty well?

  • jakeryley

    re: familiarity – the exact opposite argument could be made. there’s too much familiarity and hiring of pals and family that’s been going on with the flames. Perhaps a fresh face completely outside the organization would do wonders?

    re: admitting mistakes – who cares? I have the feeling Feaster will interpret those moves in the wrong way and hang onto guys who should be moved. And if he has to bring in a hockey guy under him, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to be the guy under the hockey guy? Once again the Flames run things in order to fill seats first and win hockey second.

    As Justin mentioned, what’s really changed? Gm #5 now who will try to ‘win’ every year and not do a real rebuild. Feaster got this job because he knew what the owners wanted to hear. “Win now, win now!”

    re: scouting – how do you know? The GM has to actually listen to his scouts. Hard to condemn when you don’t know who’s really calling the shots. Many stories out there about GMs overriding scouts because they fall in love with or hate a player based on literally one game they saw him play – damn the 1.5 years the scouts were watching him. Which is why, IMO, the head scout should be calling all the shots at the draft, not the GM.

    We’ll have the same ‘competitive’ team as last year that will go nowhere and do nothing.

  • To say I’m skeptical would be an understatement.

    His biggest regret was letting Khabby walk? That was a GOOD move!! It was not finding a decent replacement that screwed him. I can’t believe he thinks that… everytime I hear him or KK talk, I lose less and less faith in the organization.

    Sure, I’ll cut him some slack for the next month and we’ll see what he does at the draft. But, we do have a little bit to work with so far.

    1) Fred Modin. FAIL

    2) Curtis Glencross. Too much money for third line. Too much term that’s compounded with a NMC for a guy who took 1/3 of the nights off. (although I felt GlenX was a priority, it still has to be for the right deal, this seems strangely Sutter-ish to me).

    Not off to a good start. And, I guarantee Alex Tanguay is not coming back to Cowtown without some variation of a NMC. So, for them to tell us they won’t be handing those out is crap.

    Jay Feaster has his work cut out for him and he’s not off to a good start.

  • Steinberg, go to bed. And you totally didn’t make out with any chicks outside of Hudson’s. Just like I totally didn’t do that thing at the Cat.

    this is awesome. just tell me the truth: is the hotdog part real, at least ? cause THAT’s regrettable.

    if the flames trade glenX for prospects/draft picks before july 1 (when the contract kicks in), does that make feaster the imaginative and cutthroat type of GM we need, or just a jerk ?

    • Emir

      We can’t have him do that or we will be stuck with nmc’s to sign 4th line guys. Earns the rep of an idiot and people won’t trust him. Why did Darryl starting having to hand out nmc’s? After what he did to Andrew ference people did not trust him.

      I feel like feaster will either do really well be ausr he has learned from his mistakes and brought in the right people to support him, or it will be an epic fail. I’m hard pressed to see a grey zone. But personally I think he will do good, I think he os playing to his strengths and where he is weak he is bringing in people to fill the void. That’s what we need the leadership to do in order to be successful.

      As for tsn, they love to bash the flames so they can take attention off the garbage teams in Ontario.

  • I fail to understand why everybody is constantly freaking out about NMCs and NTCs. They are all different. Yes, some mean that the player can’t be traded anywhere, but those are usually reserved for the top 5-10% of the players in the league.

    Many clauses just give the player the ability to list a few teams that they won’t go to.

    NMC and NTC doesn’t necessarily mean that the player can’t be traded. In fact, players with these clauses get traded all the time. The clause merely gives the play some say in where they are going.

    Would *YOU* sign a contract that didn’t include some assurance that you wouldn’t be traded to Edmonton?

    The issue is not whether Feaster hands out clauses like candy, the issue is what those clauses contain.

    • The issue is not whether Feaster hands out clauses like candy, the issue is what those clauses contain.

      I completely disagree, for a few reasons.

      First…while it’s not impossible to trade a guy with a NTC or NMC, it ABSOLUTELY makes him less attractive to some teams. So you limit your trade options right away, because some teams don’t want to think about a guy with a clause.

      Second, what makes this a head scratcher is that Feaster said publicly a few team that he doesn’t believe in no trade clauses. Then, the first contract he signs, has one? It’s a little odd.

  • Jano

    Not a fan of Feaster. With that though, I’m willing to give him a chance. (not that I really have a choice) Sure his drafting record is not very good at all, but when you don’t draft inside the top 15 for most of your reign, you’re not going to get the true gems. Now the trading of those 1st round picks during his “win now” mentality in TB is what’s a little worrisome. Especially with Fedotenko being the top prize in return.

    • Wouldn’t you be in “win now” mode if you had Richards, St Louis, and Lecavalier under contract? When are you going to win? Later? Should he have gone into rebuild mode?

      Fedotenko scored 12 goals in 22 games in the 2003-2004 playoffs. TB does not likely win the cup without him. That doesn’t strike you as a decent return on a first round pick? Keep in mind, Fedotenko had scored 16 and 17 goals in his first 2 NHL seasons. He appeared to be a future star at the time.

      The only first rounder that he traded post lockout was 2007 when he traded the #16 pick (in a very weak draft) for Shane O’Brien. At the time, O’Brien was very highly rated and had just come off a 22 point performance in the AHL playoffs. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but this doesn’t strike me as a terrible risk at the time.

      • Jano

        I never said that Fetotenko was a bum by any means. 26pts in 78 games is hardly what I would call a future star though, even with 17 of them being goals.

        The point I was trying to make was I have heard the win now chant from the Flames for a long time now, and don’t want that to continue if it means sacrificing top draft picks to do so.

  • I still don’t know about Feaster, we’ll have to see how this pans out. His record is less than desireable, however he has Conroy, he’s gonna have another AGM to help him as well, I thought we also hired a capoligist a couple seasons ago as well so maybe with all their powers combined we can do well again. We are getting a bigger scouting staff as well it seems, so he’s gonna have a lot of help. Which also begs the question, was it D. Sutters choice to have a smaller scouting staff and no AGM or was it the organizations?

    And I don’t get all the prospect hate we always get, Reinhart, Howse, Brodie, Erixon, Breen to name 5 off the top of my head, Cameron had a dissapointing move to the minors(went down to the ECHL), but he still is a good prospect, Wahl was injured last year and didn’t get to show what he can do either.

    However, I’m curious to see what Feaster does during his first draft, we are all aware what feaster has to do this offseason(dumping Hagman and Kotes, resigning Tangs). Its what he is gonna do during the draft, will he be like Sutter and seem to take the bigger sized less skilled player, or will he break the mold and take a player like say Portlands Bartschi? He would be classified as undersized, 5’10” or so, 175lbs, but dude has a ton of skill and most scouting reports have him around the 12-14 slot. I know Sutter wouldn’t take him at all, he’d find a “bigger” player that had size and grit for up the middle.

  • Jano

    so they said in the presser that signing glenX was a front office group project. that all of king, feaster, holditch, conroy and even murray edwards had a hand in it….

    does that not render feaster professionally impotent ??! does that not mean that the GM isn’t enouogh to get’er done ?! the club chairman, president, and sr. vp have to get involved to sign what will turn out to be a third liner ?

    rough start.

  • For all those not ready to accept Feaster, who would you bring in to get everything ready and organzied a month before the draft? I’m not endorsing the man, but since the organization waited this long to remove the stupid “acting” from his title, he was the most logical choice. I like the term and cap hit on GlenX contract, but myself, I wouldn’t have wanted to add that NMC unless there were windows opened within it.

    There has also been a lot of mention that with Dutter gone, everyone in upper management will now have the chance to “do their jobs” as opposed to Darryl running the show and making all the decisions on his own. At this point, Jay is keeping most of the people who occupy desks in the front office. Those who are being consulted the most by Feaster are people like him (Conroy and Goulet not included in this), they didn’t play NHL hockey and their specialities lie within the finincial and contractual realm of the NHL. And most were there long before Darryl arrived.

    I was happy to see D. Sutter given his walking papers, but I think most people don’t realize that the Holditch’s, Burkes and Buttons of the world were being counted on to do “Their jobs” long before Darryl reign began. And we all know how well the Flames were doing before that and how well they were drafting. I don’t mean to belittle these people, they have families and feelings and know doubt try to do their best. But I wonder if they have become complacent and under Sutter did just enough to stay employed and not get in his bad books. It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds with Feaster at the helm.

  • Jano

    “That girl I made out with outside of Hudson’s or that hot dog I had shortly afterwards were not good decisions, and I’d have no problem admitting it after the fact.”

    Thanks Pat, theres an image that i didnt need in my head

    • I beg to differ. It’s an image you DID need in your head.

      @walkinvisible

      The hot dog part is usually true, although hot dog could be subbed for hot and sour soup at U & Me restaurant at 3:30 am.

      @Justin Azevedo

      What thing at the Cat?

  • Yet again another loser “posing” as me. I am kinda getting sick of it, but if that’s how bored you guys are in Calgary so be it.

    You guys in cowtown should give Feaster a chance, maybe he’ll do better his second go round. YOur old gm RISer bombed his first time, but did much better he second time. Ahh the Gary Leeman trade. lol Look it up wagon jumpers, yes Doug Gilmour did once play for your franchise.

    Anyways Feaster has to clean up Sutter’s mess so I wish you second best to my Nucks.

    Game 2 just started, GO NUCKS GO!