Defending Jay Feaster

When Jay Feaster officially replaced Darryl Sutter as the General Manager of the Calgary Flames in the December of 2010, a collective sigh of relief echoed through Calgary. After all, Sutter’s dubious moves were jeopardizing the already down ward spiralling and aging Flames team – one no trade clause at a time.

That feeling of relief, was then quickly substituted by a (possibly pre-mature) sense of optimism. After all, Feaster was at the helm of the Tampa Bay Lightning when they beat out the Flames for the Stanley Cup in ’04. What many people didn’t know is that Feaster inherited most of the cup winning core. Richards, Lecavalier, Khabibulin, St. Louis and many others were already there when Feaster assumed the commanding role. Yes, he augmented the key pieces with a few additions (namely Daryl Sydor and Ruslan Fedotenko) that were imperative in the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, but the point is most of the heavy lifting had been done prior to his arrival.

So all the praise and hoopla he earned following the Cup win wasn’t all that warranted.

One word I used to describe him when he was named the Interim GM here in Calgary: overrated. Besides his minimal involvement in crafting that one championship team in Tampa, he also carried with him an abysmal drafting record with the Bolts. Excluding the Steven Stamkos pick for obvious reasons, only 4 players drafted under Feaster went on to play over 150 NHL games – none of them becoming more than role/replacement players once reaching the NHL. He did draft Karri Ramo though, so let’s hope he hit that one out of the park.

Nonetheless, optimism ran high in Calgary that Jay Feaster would be the man to right the ship and take the Flames to the promised land.

House on Fire

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. When Feaster was promoted to the GM role, he was faced with two problems: An unreasonable pressure o win and an aging, sub par, over paid roster. He had a truck load of no-trade clauses to deal and barely any cap space to operate with.

If Feater tried to look to the prospect system for help, he’d be met by only Greg Nemisz, Tim Erixon and Leland Irving. Everything was pretty bleak. He slowly began to cleanse the organization of these trouble spots and mend the tears that Darryl Sutter’s madness had created. He also had to do this with the intention of staying competitive and making the playoffs – which has proved to be an impossible task.

Slowly, the prospect system has been rebuilt and cap flexibility has been restored. Yet, a portion of the fan base is still unhappy. Patience has seemingly run out and people want a change. But why? What has Feaster done to merit a pink slip? As my colleague here at FlamesNation Ryan Pike once wisely said, "Feaster inherited a house on fire, put it out and is now taking heat because the house is slightly charred." I couldn’t agree more.

All Feaster has done in Calgary is clean up the mess that Sutter left behind and only now is beginning to put his own stamp on the club. My opinion is probably in the minority when I say this but I think Feaster has done an admirable job considering the circumstances.

The Feaster Resume

You may not agree with me, but when you look at the facts, most of what Feaster as done during his time in Calgary has benefited the club. Have a look for yourself:

Trades:

Note: The players acquired by the Flames will be first and both bolded and italicized

Trade:

Date:

Verdict:

Freddy Modin for 2011 7th round pick (#193-Colin Blackwell)

February 28, 2011

Not the best trade as Modin was plagued by injury and only ended up playing 4 games for Calgary. But considering what they gave up, not a big deal.

Roman Horak,

2011 2nd round pick (#45-Markus Granlund),

2011 2nd round pick (#57-Tyler Wotherspoon) for Tim Erixon,

2011 5th round pick (#133-Shane McColgan)

June 1, 2011

After being handcuffed by Erixon’s refusal to sign with Calgary, Feaster managed to get excellent value from the New York Rangers. While Erixon still has the potential to be a stud defensemen, Calgary got 3 (very good) prospects in return. Considering neither Erixon nor McColgan are with the Rangers anymore, I’d say Calgary wins this trade.

Chris Butler and

 Paul Byron for Ales Kotalik

 Robyn Regehr

2012 2nd round pick (#44 – Jake McCabe)

June 25, 2011

I don’t really want to talk about this. Feaster got fleeced, plain and simple.

Jordan Henry for Keith Seabrook

July 9, 2011

AHLer for AHLer. No real winner or loser here, although Henry did put in good minutes for the Heat during his time there.

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond for a 2012 5th round draft pick (#135 – Graham Black)

 

Stupid move and Black has put up back to back 50 point seasons in the WHL. This could come back and bite Calgary in the butt. We’ll see.

Lee Stempniak for Daymond Langkow

August 29, 2011

Langkow was coming off that gruesome neck injury and was in the twilight of his career anyway. Stempniak is a big part of this Flames team right now and has turned in good value for the Flames. Win for Calgary.

Blair Jones for Brendan Mikkelson

January 6, 2012

Low upside prospect for low upside prospect. I actually thought Jones was filling in that 4th line center role well this year, but the coaching staff seem to agree. Mikkelson also got some NHL games under his bet with the Lightning but has since moved on. I’d call this deal a draw.

Michael Cammalleri,

 Karri Ramo,

2012 5th round pick (Brett Kulak) for Rene Bourque,

 Patrick Holland,

2013 2nd round pick (#36 – Zach Fucale)

January 12, 2012

The winner of this deal will ultimately be decided by the prospects involved. Cammalleri and Bourque have brought relatively the same value to their respective teams, it all lies on what Holland/Fucale and Kulak/Ramo do. At this point, I’d call it a draw but Ramo’s performance this season will likely decide it.

Brian Connelly for Brendan Morrison

January 27, 2012

Another low key move, the Flames traded Morrison who no longer had a spot on the team to Chicago for Connelly who helped out the farm team. No winners. No losers. If anything it was a favour to Morrison – finding him a home.

Akim Aliu for John Negrin

January 30, 2012

This deal looked a lot better for Calgary at the end of the 2011/12 season with the way Aliu played those final two games, but now this is just another AHLer for AHLer deal.

2012 1st round pick (#21-Mark Jankowski)

2012 2nd round pick (#42-Patrick Sieloff) for 2012 1st round pick (#14-Zemgus Girgensons)

June 22, 2012

The infamous Jankowski deal that made some Flames fan cringe – when the trade was announced as well as when the 21st pick was made. After all, Finnish dynamo Tuevo Teravainen (projected to go Top 5) was still on the board and Jankowski was projected to go mid 2nd. But now when looking at this deal – Jankowski and Sieloff for Girgensons – it’s a win for the Flames. Girgensons doesn’t project to be anything above a fringe second line guy while Jankowski could be a Top 6 center and Sieloff a Top 4 defenseman.

Dennis Wideman for Jordan Henry and a 2013 5th round pick

June 27, 2012

That’s about market value for the rights of a good NHLer like Wideman so nothing to complain about. Henry’s an AHL level guy and the 5th rounder was dealt.

7th Round Pick (#198 – John Gilmour) for Henrik Karlsson

January 21, 2013

Karlsson had no future in Calgary (he had just lost the back up job to Leland Irving) so turning him into a decent prospect was a job well done by Feaster and the scouting staff.

Mike Testwuide for Mitch Wahl

February 25, 2013

AHLer for AHLer. Nothing to see here folks.

Brian McGrattan for Joe Piskula

February 28, 2013

Well not only did fan favourite Brian McGrattan add needed grit to the team, he also turned into a scoring machine, sniping 3 silky geno’s – matching his previous career total (LOL). Ryane Clowe had the same amount of goals as MacGrattan last year and the Rangers paid way more than an AHL defensemen to get him. Yeah, I’d rather have MacGrattan too. Who needs skating anyway? Career defining win for Feaster 😉

Ben Hanowski, Kenny Agostino and a 2013 1st Round Pick (#28 – Morgan Klimchuck) for Jarome Iginla

March 27, 2013

We’re now wading into "wait and see" territory as these latest trades can’t be fairly judged for another few years. On the surface though, 2 solid prospects and Hanowski is pretty good return acknowledging the circumstances Iginla was traded in. Getting good return on an average 35 year old NHLer who will only go to ONE team is no easy task. Even if that guy is Jarome Iginla. Iginla is also no longer a member of the Penguins so those 3 pieces for 28 "eh" games of Iggy seems like good, bordering on great value for Calgary. For the record, I would’ve preferred Boston‘s deal.

Mark Cundari, Reto Berra and a

2013 1st round pick (#22 – Emile Porier) for Jay Bouwmeester

April 1, 2013

Wasn’t a fan of this deal when it happened and frankly, I’m still not one. Bouwmeester is still a premier NHL defensemen and albiet a little over paid, he’s worth more than what was acquired. It seemed like Feaster felt like he needed to tear it all down at once and may have rushed this deal a little. Best case scenario is that Berra is a starting goaltender, Cundari a Top 4 D and Porier a Top 6 forward but to me it looks more likely to turn into 3 average guys for Bouwmeester. Many media outlets however reported this was the only deal that included a 1st rounder – which would’ve been a must – so providing that be true, Feaster did ok. Again though, we can’t judge this trade fairly until we see what the three guys turn into.

2013 5th Round Pick (#135 – Eric Roy) for Blake Comeau

April 3, 2013

The fact that Feaster actually got something – let alone a solid prospect – out of a deal for Blake Comeau is magic. Tip of the hat to you sir.

Corban Knight for a 2013 4th Round Pick (#97 – Michael Downing)

June 18, 2013

As of right now, Corban Knight is one of the top prospects in the organization, he fills a massive need at center and most importantly, is better than Michael Downing. Things can however, change. Today, it’s a steal for Calgary, but for all we know Knight will bust and Downing will be the next Bobby Orr (he won’t but for argument sake go with it).

 David Jones and Shane O`Brien for Cory Sarich and Alex Tanguay

June 27, 2013

We’ll have to see how these guys do with their respective teams in 2013/14 but on the surface, Calgary gets younger, faster and harder to play against (Sarich doesn’t add toughness from the press box) which are all things they identified as goals. Looks good to me.

 T.J. Galiardi for a 2015 4th Round Pick

July 2, 2013

We won’t know the verdict of this one until long down the road but Galiardi is a serviceable NHLer with a little upside still remaining which more than can be said for most 4th Rounders. Still, this one is long from decided.

Kris Russell for a 2014 5th Round Pick

July 5, 2013

Same as Galiardi, Russell is a better player than most 5th rounders will become, but we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.

So of the 22 trades Feaster completed as GM of the Flames, I would say he only got ruined once – on the Reghr deal, although the PL3 trade was a loser the moment it was consummated. Everything else is either fair (in the case of the AHLer for AHLer), good value or to be determined. I joked about MacGrattan being his career defining trade but in reality the Iginla and Bouwmeester moves will be the ones that will define his stay as GM of the Flames. Both look decent at the moment but only time will tell how good the return for the Flames really was.

So the trade record isn’t too shabby thus far.

Maybe it’s his signings or drafting? Let’s take a look.

Signings

During his 3 summers at the helm of the Flames, I’d say Feaster’s Free Agent Frenzy activity has been defined more by deals he didn’t make than the deals he did. ‘Twas just 2 summers ago – in 2011, that Feaster moved heaven and earth to try and sign Brad Richards and rekindle the relationship they had in Tampa Bay. His failure to do so is currently being praised by every Flames fan on the planet. Having that monster deal attached to that player right now would be disastrous to the rebuild. In fact, if Richards was here there might not even have been a rebuild initiated.

Then there was the curious case of Ryan O’Reilly. What a rollercoaster that was. It went from pure elation "omg we’re gonna get a franchise centerman for only a 1st and a 3rd and we’re gonna make the playoffs with him" to disappointment "damn they matched" to a mix of horror and relief "we could have given Colorado our 1st and 3rd and then lost the player on waivers?!?! Thank god they matched!".  

Either of those two deals happening would probably result in Feaster losing his job. Imagine if both signings had happened, the franchise would’ve been in the worst spot of any NHL team in recent memory.

Feaster’s actual signings however aren’t too bad. Aside from a couple of uncomfortable term and money combinations handed to Alex Tanguay ($3.5M cap hit for 5 years) and Dennis Wideman ($5.25M cap hit for 5 years) it’s been mostly recruiting college kids and signing/re-signing guys in the organization, although the Anton Babchuk and Brendan Morrison re-signs were bad bets, albeit not terribly damaging ones.

Feaster also managed to sign Curtis Glencross to incredible hometown discount with a cap hit of $2.55 million for another 2 years which currently seems too good to be true. He took a swing at Roman Cervenka and has taken heat for KHL sniper’s flop in Calgary, but it was a decent low risk, medium reward gambit for the Flames. In fact, I’d like to see more of these type of ventures – eventually one of these home run swings will connect.

Juri Hudler’s 4 years at 4 million per is another deal that could be a source for criticism because he’s now one of the highest paid players on the team and not really the sort of talent that is going to turn the ship around. Hudler performed well last year, though he may not last in town over the long term.

A few notable re-signings include Lee Stempniak, Mikael Backlund (twice) and TJ Brodie to good term, fair money deals. A couple of head scratchers in the form of Anton Babchuck (2 years, $7M) and Cory Sarich (2 years, $4M) but neither did anything more than fill the press box and slightly lighten Murray Edwards’ pockets.

Everything else has been relatively low risk and low profile. No real Glen Sather bombs on Feasters resume in Calgary to this point. Yeah, he almost bit the bullet twice with Richards and O’Reilly, but he didn’t and in my opinion that’s all that matters.

Draft

So his drafting record is the only tangible thing (short of the team’s performance) left to judge Feaster’s time in Calgary and we all now that there’s little here that speaks against Feaster and his management team. He’s done a masterful job of turning the prospect base into one of the best in the league. Nonetheless, let’s take a quick look: 

#, Year

Name

Status/Potential

13, 2011

F Sven Baertschi

Top 6 NHLer with upside

21, 2012

F Mark Jankowski

Top 10 team prospect with Top 6 upside

6, 2013

F Sean Monahan

Top 2 team prospect with top line potential

21, 2013

F Emile Poirier

Top 10 team prospect with Top 6 potential

28, 2013

F Morgan Klimchuck

Top 10 team prospect with Top 6 potential

45, 2011

F Markus Granlund

Top 15 prospect with Top 6 potential

57, 2011

D Tyler Wotherspoon

Top 15 prospect with Top 4 potential

42, 2012

D Pat Sieloff

Top 15 prospect with Top 4 potential

75, 2012

G Jon Gillies

Top 10 prospect with starting potential

67, 2013

D Keegan Kanzig

Prospect with potential

104, 2011

F Johnny Gaudreau

Top 5 prospect with top line potential

105, 2012

D Brett Kulak

Top 20 prospect with Top 6 potential

124, 2012

D Ryan Culkin

Top 15 prospect with Top 4 potential

135, 2013

D Eric Roy

Top 15 prospect with Top 4 potential

164, 2011

G Laurent Brossoit

Top 15 prospect with starting potential

165, 2012

F Coda Gordan

Top 25 prospect with Top 9 potential

157, 2013

F Tim Harrison

Top 20 prospect with Top 9 potential

186, 2012

F Matt DeBlouw

Top 25 prospect with NHL potential

187, 2013

D Rushan Rafikov

Top 15 prospect with Top 4 potential

198, 2013

D John Gilmour

Top 25 prospect with NHL potential

Overall, it’s a very solid group. A gecent mix of talent and depth. Looks like a number of these guys will actually be NHLers one day. Quite the change from the Sutter era.

Conclusion

So why are so many Flames faithful calling for it? My answer is: the way he sometimes handles his business and puts the fans in a crappy spot. Nothing concrete or official, rather little declarations and bold speeches that sometimes put the Flames and their faithful in the cross hairs of critics and trolls league wide. The guarantee that Calgary will make the playoffs? That ridicule lasted right up until Feaster told the world that 21st overall, off the board selection Mark Jonkowski will be the best player to come out of the 2012 Draft. Combine that with the crappy records and underachieving, aging group in Calgary, Flames fans were constant targets for jokes and tease from the rest of the league.

Feaster’s rhetoric aside, his tenure in Calgary began on the wrong foot, mostly because the prior regime bungled things so badly. Only now that he’s been allowed to clear everything out and start fresh will we really get to see what kind of mark he can make on the organization.

  • BitGeek

    I think with Feaster at the helm, we’ll always be saying… “It could have been worse”.

    He’s not a complete disaster, but nothing in his resume stands out as consistently good either.

    He did inherit the burning house and has put out the fire without bringing the whole structure down. Now he needs some consistent good wins for the organization.

  • Clyde Frog

    So his drafting record is the only tangible thing (short of the team’s performance) left to judge Feaster’s time in Calgary and we all now that there’s little here that speaks against Feaster and his management team. He’s done a masterful job of turning the prospect base into one of the best in the league.

    LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

    Yeah, rose coloured glasses much? I can only imagine how many NHL teams would trade farm systems with Calgary right now….

    Lol Janikowski will go down as a lesson to all GM’s who get the off-the-board itch.

      • Clyde Frog

        Just repeat that 3 times a night and you’ll be fine…

        The fact that Ben Hanowski and Kenny Agostino are being considered as more than a couple hands to hold the bag of pucks that was that 1st round pick just shows you how far this prospect pool has to go.

        People showing “respect” for the Jarome Iginla trade need to remember that Feaster could have traded him earlier for a more substantial return… But got lost twiddling his thumbs until this looked like a “decent” return.

    • Purple Hazze

      Hampus Lindholm will then reaffirm that sometimes, “off the board” is a phrase reserved for analysts without the jobs in hockey ops they desire. It is a fabrication. Those draft lists are just averages of a survey of scouts, not actual opinion of the hockey analyst. To come up with an average, some teams have a player higher, other’s lower. Therefore some guys rise, and some fall. A player may be taken “off the board” by one team, but had that team not taken him, been drafted very soon after anywys. Those scout samples are also severely prone to bias and based on personal relationships.

  • To a certain extent, Calgary’s WILDLY improved drafting is a combination of (a) Feaster and John Weisbrod giving scouts clear instructions on how to evaluate players for their internal list and (b) actually LISTENING to their scouts about what they come back with.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    The article misses a couple of important elements that the GM should be judged by as well. I like what he’s done from an organization point of view. The Flames are no longer a one cowboy show, instead feaster has expanded the team management and appears to have given each of his guys a real opportunity to make decisions. Decisions appear to be a committee of talents. I applaud this move.

    Feaster made the AHL farm team a priority and began improving the team immediately after getting the top job. Hiring Troy Ward in my view was also an important move in this regard.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I don’t like writing young guys off like Jankowski off, but I’d have to agree with Arik and say it’s not looking good. I’m obviously hoping that he’ll put a big step forward this year – time will tell. Overall Feaster has been average to below average in his trade dealings, but good to very good (at least as far as I can see) at the draft table.

    His worst move by far was the Bouwmeester deal. I believe he could have and should have got more, and if the Blues were not going to provide more, he had the option to wait to make the move this coming season. I just hate this deal.

    • Arik

      Exactly. I’m not saying Jankowski will never amount to anything (which people seem to think I am because people love putting words in my mouth), just that the outlook is grim. I’m a realist, not a “JAY FEASTER POOPS UNICORNS AND RAINBOWS” kinda guy.

      What people seem to forget is that I was actually somewhat pro-Feaster when he was first hired. I didn’t like the hiring process, but I didn’t mind Feaster himself. Obviously, I’ve become very disenfranchised.

      • T&A4Flames

        Since you seem so negative towards the article and somewhat towards Feaster (in regards to this blog), I suggest an article that compares GM’s over the same period that Feaster has done his work in CGY in a similar format to this article (obviously eliminating the “top 10, 20” listings).

        Feaster etc gets a lot of focus here obviously and much of it negative. People are so quick to jump on him for questionable things, but other GM’s make errors as well. We just don’t here about them or focus on them. 29 other organizations to look at and compare to Feasters body of work. You up to the challenge?

      • prendrefeu

        Yes, because everyone on the internet absolutely pays attention to one individual in the midst of everything else going on in life. Forgive us, Arik, for our blunder forgetting where your opinion stood on a topic long ago.

  • Arik

    Also, listing all the drafted players rankings in terms of the team (Top ten prospect!) is rather silly, given how self evident it is. Feaster could be the worst drafter ever and all his prospects will be top 10/15/20 team prospects because duh.

    • SmellOfVictory

      In that sort of context I think the better way of looking at it would be that, within a year of the 2011 draft, Feaster’s picks already comprised the majority of the top 10 (if I recall correctly). Part of that was due to Erixon being traded, but nevertheless, he’s clearly been a better drafter than his predecessor. And it appears as though the Flames may be above average in general over his tenure so far.

      2011 for the Flames looks as close to a draft slam-dunk as one can get, at this stage. That obviously could change, but for now there’s no real indication that any of the guys picked are going to bust.

    • piscera.infada

      Yes, he really should have listed every prospect in the system as some sort of league-wide meta-ranking – that certainly would have been an easy task, and not at all open for debate.

      But you always seem to be one who gives the most apropos commentary.

  • piscera.infada

    Nice overview. I tend to think he’s doing alright, but I’m still disappointed he couldn’t get Ty Rattie in that deal for Boumeester. Agreed about his rhetoric. I’d say that was actually his biggest strength when he first got the job. It was refreshing to actually hear a GM talk to the fans and the press, and eloquently. But nowadays we know that most of it is just hot air.

  • piscera.infada

    D Keegan Kanzig – Prospect with potential.

    Great!!

    Thanks for this article, I thought I was the only one. While his tenure thus far hasn’t been a rousing success, I’m not sure how much better it could have been. Sure, he dodged a few bullets (Richards and ROR), but what GM hasn’t? Feaster came in with a deck stacked against him – an organization in crisis and an ownership group that couldn’t move on. All tolled, it’s slowly but surely moving in the right direction.

  • Arik

    The infamous Jankowski deal that made some Flames fan cringe – when the trade was announced as well as when the 21st pick was made. After all, Finnish dynamo Tuevo Teravainen (projected to go Top 5) was still on the board and Jankowski was projected to go mid 2nd. But now when looking at this deal – Jankowski and Sieloff for Girgensons – it’s a win for the Flames. Girgensons doesn’t project to be anything above a fringe second line guy while Jankowski could be a Top 6 center and Sieloff a Top 4 defenseman.

    This is…awful analysis. Jankowski is tracking worse now than he was before since we’ve actually seen him in the NCAA and it’s been bad.

    Furthermore, you completely ignore the fact that Teravainen has looked utterly excellent in WJC camps recently and scored 31 pts in 44 games in the SM-liiga.

    • McRib

      “Teravainen has looked utterly excellent in WJC camps recently and scored 31 pts in 44 games in the SM-liiga.”

      Teravainen had four points against a Team USA Blue Split Squad?!?! How is that utter excellence?!?!?! Half of that team USA Blue sqaud was cut yesterday!!! USA also had Collin Olson in for 3 of the 4 goals… He is a sive that had a 3.09 GAA last year and was pulled from more games than he won. Lets see how Teravainen looks against USAs full squad in December or for that matter Canada’s squad.

    • Parallex

      No he doesn’t, the trade didn’t end up being Jankowski & Sieloff for Teravainen it ended up being Jankowski & Sieloff for Girgensons… if you’re picking a winner for that deal then you use who they actually got not who they could have had (otherwise you may as well just call it a draw because neither of them got Teravainen).

    • Purple Hazze

      He’s tracking worse now than when he was drafted? Is that why when THN did a re-draft of the 2012 draft and they had him moved up to 25th. The only way he got worse is if you had some lofty unrealistic expectations of him for his first NCAA season. It was a weak draft year, especially for forwards.

      As far as your other comment about what team would trade prospect pools with us. Well considering that after this year’s draft our prospect pool moved up to being ranked 10th, I’d say there’s about 20 teams out there that would be willing to trade with us.