The first move was a quake. Way up there on the Richter scale.
Jay Feaster is out as the Calgary Flames’ general manager much more quickly than anyone anticipated even with Brian Burke looming large since his hire as president of hockey operations back in September.
The second move might have seemed a minor aftershock, but the demotion of struggling young winger Sven Baertschi was the most telling sign of the opposing views Burke and Feaster had when it comes to the team’s rebuild.
Feaster preached patience.
After finally, reluctantly, accepting the idea of a total rebuild rather than another retooling of the roster last season, he envisioned a youthful group growing together to eventually get back to the playoffs and a crack at the Stanley Cup.
His patience for those young players’ development – like Baertschi – was made perfectly clear by his hesitance to demote the struggling and the scratched.
Burke wasted no time in doing so, sending the 21-year-old Swiss prospect back to the Abbotsford Heat hours after announcing he’d taken over the reins as interim GM Thursday.
Given Baertschi’s reluctance to play hard in all three zones with and without the puck, and Burke’s mandate of bringing a more physical style to the ice under his guidance, don’t be shocked to hear Baertschi’s name bandied about in trade rumours from now until the deadline — barring a significant change in on-ice attitude from the winger in the American Hockey League.
By all accounts, there was no obvious tension between Feaster and Burke leading up to the firing.No heated arguments. But Feaster – as alluded to in a Darren Dreger tweet – could feel that something was amiss following Burke’s two-month assessment of the franchise’s direction.
Burke thanked Feaster in his news conference, wished him well going forward, and even gave him credit for adding a few pieces he likes.
“His fingerprints are going to be on this team for many years, with players he brought here, like Sean Monahan,” Burke said.
But make no mistake, they didn’t share quite the same vision, or the same timeline. If they did, the dismissal could have come in the offseason.
Yet here we are with Burke in control as the interim GM at a pivotal time for the direction of the hockey club. The self-imposed Christmas trade freeze is in effect, but come the new year, Burke — or the man who shares his very specific vision — will be in charge of making the kind of changes that will appease his sense of urgency.
"I’m not a patient person," Burke said Thursday. "I’ve said this before. I was born impatient. I’m going to die impatient. I know that. It can’t come as fast as I’d like it to come.”
It, being a team capable of making the playoffs. It, being a team that has a realistic chance of winning the Cup.
And just when the fans were starting to enjoy the positive signs in the first few months of the most serious rebuild in franchise history, as far from those things as they’ve been since Miikka Kiprusoff came to town.
What happens next is anybody’s guess. If Burke doesn’t like what he hears from the top candidates to take over GM duties, he’s ready to do the job himself.
Either way, the Flames are set to get a lot bigger and tougher in the near future.
"We want black-and-blue hockey here, that’s what we do in Alberta," Burke said. "We’ve got to be big and more truculent — I know you’re all waiting for the word, there it is. I want a little more hostility out there than what I’m seeing right now."
Despite that sentiment, he did make an effort to let a couple of college kids — and one special small-in-stature player know he could still have a bright future with the Flames, texting Boston College coach Jerry York about Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold.
“I said: Make sure you tell your players we still love ’em,” Burke said. “One of them’s quite small, the Gaudreau kid. But he’s quite gifted as well. There’s room for the small player in our game, but you’d better surround him with some beef.”
Sooner than later, it seems.
Burke isn’t very patient, after all.