Paraphrasing the old saying, "If you can't bea'em, bring'em on", the Calgary Flames announced yesterday that they've hired Jay Feaster, formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning, as assistant GM to Darryl Sutter.
Since Feaster's Lightning team defeated the Flames in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, he was unceremoniously dumped from the GM job in Tampa Bay when the OK Hockey circus led by Oren Koules and Len Barrie took over. Recently, he has spent the past two seasons as a blogger for The Hockey News.
Feaster's hiring for Calgary is a smart move, as it brings on an experienced executive with a Cup ring to be the guy that will tell Sutter things like, "No, do not bring back Olli Jokinen(notes)." (Of course, we're a week late on that piece of advice.)
Feaster's presence should also light a fire under Sutter, who must realize that the Teflon suit he's worn since taking over the GM reigns in 2003 is almost worn out.
It was only a matter of time before Feaster found himself back in the game. A GM who helped build the Lightning into Cup winners deserved a second chance in the NHL. Feaster's entrance back into NHL management willhelp lay the groundwork for his next GM gig -- one that could be right down the hallway in Calgary, in a larger office.
The Stanley Cup Final appearance that is atop Sutter's resume as a GM has lost its luster now that the Flames failed to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2002-03 season. Fans are tired of watching an underperforming team on a nightly basis and the annual pressures of winning in a Canadian hockey market never go away. Feeling he needed the help, it was Sutter who reached out to Feaster to gauge his interest in coming aboard.
While the move may help the Flames, Sutter just found his future replacement.
Helping Sutter turn the roster around won't come easy for Feaster as 10 current players have no-trade/movement clauses in their contracts. In one of his blogs, Feaster admitted he's not a fan of them.
From The Hockey News:
"I believe success is possible when owners own, managers manage, coaches coach and players play. Overreach in any area - such as when owners solicit the input of players about signings or who the player would like to play with, or when players decide they know more than the coach and don't need to play his system - and you create an environment in which success may not be impossible, but will be inherently more difficult. The no trade/no movement clauses are perfect examples of overreaching. While GMs may have great reasons for agreeing to them at the time, in short order they find their hands tied and options limited."
The window to win in Calgary is quickly closing as captain Jarome Iginla(notes) and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) are both 33. Sutter's moves over the past few seasons have not done anything to bring the franchise closer to their first Stanley Cup. The Jay Bouwmeester(notes) signing might have needed a season to break in, but if he produces another lackluster year in Calgary, that $6.68 million cap hit will look like quite the albatross.
Olli Jokinen .. well, you know all about that already.
How much rope is Flames ownership going to give Sutter should the team get off to a slow start, knowing there's already asuccessful (and better) GM on the payroll?
Sutter's time in Calgary is coming to an end. The hiring of Feaster is just the first step in the process of the changing of the guard.
This situation for the Flames will end in either of two ways: Either the Sutter/Feaster duo works like a 1a/1b goaltending situation, where both are pushed by each other or one feels the pressure of the other andsteps up their game or Feaster is the man put in charge of cleaning up the mess.
It might be a little painful at first, but Calgary fans will win in the long run.