Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Holiday Feast(er)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Jay Feaster.

With the recent announcement of Darryl Sutter's resignation, a promotion for the Assistant GM seems an obvious choice for a team in transition - especially halfway through the regular season. Looking at the big picture though, would we have predicted Jay Feaster to be the GM of the Calgary Flames one year ago? That perspective presents a stronger element of surprise.

Many of us lack a detailed understanding of Feaster's history as a General Manager, but there are some events we can look to with his stint in Tampa Bay.

Positives: First off, a Stanley Cup. No matter what way, shape or form, championship titles are tough to dispute. Feaster took a horrific hockey team and turned them into champions. While I don't profess to know the ins and outs of that process, it's an important bullet on his resume. Coupled with an impressive regime with the Hershey Bears, we know the man is capable of assembling a winner.

Negatives: Salary cap mis-management. Feaster was caught in an awkward transition at the outset of the new CBA. Suddenly, he was faced with a number of cup-winning free agents set to hit the market, along with a recently imposed salary cap. Most notably, budding star Vincent Lecavalier was set for free agency, and subsequently signed to an astronomical multi-year extension. As a result, the team was forced to part ways with goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and, eventually, Brad Richards. This period yielded much of the criticism directed at Feaster over his regime in Tampa. Upon his arrival in Calgary, Jay purposefully addressed those topics, detailing the mistakes he made, and the learning process that took place as a result. A General Manager that is accountable for his mistakes? Boy, that's a new one around here.

In his short stint as Assistant GM in Calgary, Feaster emphasized his "old school" approach as being comparable with Darryl. The only relevant synonym for "old school" in the NHL is a "pre-lockout" style of management. As we've learned, such philosophies fail in a league that continues to move towards speed, skill and youth. Let's hope Jay's self proclaimed "old school" style has some elements of new school as well. After almost 7 months of close observation, you'd think Jay would be able to learn from some of Darryl's mishaps. 

What else do we know about Jay Feaster?

Great communicator - media savvy

Strong supporter of Brent Sutter

Doesn't miss an episode of One Tree Hill... Simply because we have no reason to believe otherwise

Found a way to get along with John Tortorella

... Okay, so personally I know very little, but what could the promotion of Jay Feaster mean for the Calgary Flames? 

Unfortunately for some passionate fans, Jay's position at the helm does not necessarily mean that aging stars Iginla, Regehr and Kiprusoff will be dealt away for young prospects within the calendar year. My less-than-educated guess would be that no General Manager wants to be known as the guy that took power, and drove the face of the franchise and his friends out of town shortly thereafter. I expect the newly appointed GM to take a more conservative approach to his first season(s) running the team.

Personally, I'm pleased with the transition, because I had no confidence that Darryl and his stubborn ways were going to address the obvious shortfalls of this group. I was tired of hearing him say that goal scoring wasn't a problem, that the Olli-Tangs-Iggy connection was working well, or that he would still trade Phaneuf for a few "impact players" from the Maple Leafs. Given the decision making in recent history, how could we believe that the team wouldn't continue on its downward spiral under Darryl's watch?

It was clear a change was needed. From my perspective, it was clear THIS change was needed. But what will Feaster add to the perpetual carousel that is the Calgary Flames?

All I can say is, at this point, I have no reason to believe Jay Feaster won't perform well as General Manager for this franchise. While the transition may be unfamiliar, or even unpopular, Jay will provide a fresh outlook, and even if only slightly - a new direction. As fans of a 14th place team, what else could we ask for?

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