I had the opportunity to attend an event on Tuesday night held by the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto at the Palliser. The event was part of their Leadership Speakers Series and featured author Jason Farris, who’s also an executive with the Dallas Stars, and Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster. Feaster is one of 35 general managers featured in Farris’ new book, Behind the Moves: NHL General Managers Tell How Winners Are Built.
A Change in Philospohy
In addition to discussing the book and swapping hockey stories, Feaster chatted with members of the audience following the formal Q&A part of the evening. Since we’re headed towards the draft, I asked him about the retention of Tod Button. (I’ve previously written here about Button’s performance as head scout).
Feaster explained that a lot of the rationale lies in how players were being evaluated prior to past drafts. Right now, the Flames are looking at maximizing assets and getting the best player available – he cited a hypothetical: if the Flames thought a 5-foot-9 player was the best available, they’d take him even though they already have Paul Byron and Johnny Gaudreau in the organization, because not everyone is going to play for the Flames and assets can always be moved.
In addition, the Flames reportedly used to draft based on perceived need. In a past draft, for example, the Flames decided that they needed to draft an eventual replacement for an aging Rhett Warrener. (This could be referring to the 2005 drafting of Matt Pelech, although the Flames have drafted many big/physical/clunky d-men in the past.) Considering that the draft is such a crapshoot (and that drafting the “best player available” isn’t a guarantee that you’ll produce an NHL player), it’s a bit unsurprising the Flames had such marginal success in the draft that they did considering the limitations they seemingly placed on themselves.
In this context, both the retention of Button and the Flames apparently improved drafting make a bit more sense. It’s hard to conclude that Button (and his staff) weren’t good at their jobs if they were given such narrow parameters to find and recruit players.