CALGARY – The rebuild not fast enough for their liking, the Calgary Flames fired general manager Jay Feaster and assistant GM John Weisbrod on Thursday.
Brian Burke will serve as acting general manager. Hired as the team’s president of hockey operations in September, Burke stated he would not fill the GM’s role for long.
“I feel for us to take the next step, we’ll do it quicker and better with a change,” Burke said. “I did not come here to be the general manager. I am not going to be the general manager other than for a short time.
“We have received permission to interview one candidate already. We’ll seek permission to interview others today.”
Head coach Bob Hartley and his coaching staff were assured they will remain in place for the rest of this season, Burke said.
The Flames were 11-13-4 and 14 points out of a playoff berth heading into Thursday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“This is all about having a parade,” Burke said. “It seems very distant on a day like today. Our team is struggling and we’re near the bottom of the standings and a guy is standing up here talking about titles and people are saying ‘man, this guy needs a urine test.’
“But that’s what this is about. I wouldn’t have come here if that wasn’t the ultimate goal. I have to look at the steps that have been taken and figure out what’s the best way for us to get on that path.”
One of the team’s priorities is to get bigger and more “truculent.” He pointed to the Anaheim Ducks who won the 2007 Stanley Cup with him as GM.
“You can pick the top 10 teams in our league right now. One thing they have in common—the coaches might be different, the system might be different—one thing they have in common is they’re big,” Burke said.
“Once the Anaheim team won the Cup in ’07 every team started to blueprint themselves after that. We’re not big enough. We’re not hostile enough. I don’t like playing flag football. I like teams that bang. That’s what wins in our league.”
Calgary did not make the playoffs in the two full seasons Feaster served as GM.
Feaster joined the Flames as assistant GM to Darryl Sutter prior to the 2010-11 season. He took over as interim GM when Sutter stepped down in December. Calgary did not qualify for the post-season that year either.
“There’s definitely a shock factor,” Flames forward Mike Cammalleri said of Feaster’s dismissal.
“You wake up and go to work and things change. At the same time with Brian coming and us being in the position we’re in, not just management, but coaches and players, are aware that we’ve got to get results.”
Feaster inherited an older, expensive team. His attempts to get younger and tougher were hampered by several players with no-trade clauses in their contracts.
He dealt captain Jarome Iginla and defenceman Jay Bouwmeester last spring, which added a pair of first-round draft picks to the No. 6 pick Calgary already owned.
With his first pick, Feaster drafted Sean Monahan, a 19-year-old forward who is currently injured, but has been an impact player for the team. Calgary currently has about $16 million to spend under the salary cap, according to capgeek.com.
Feaster previously served as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who he guided to a Stanley Cup win in 2004.
Burke has had a long career as a hockey executive. He has previously served as GM of the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Hartford Whalers and Ducks.
Burke said it was tough to fire Feaster, who he called a friend. But he said hard decisions come with the job.
“I’m not kissing babies up here,” he said. “I’m not running for office. This is about winning hockey games.
“I wanted to do it as far away from Christmas as possible. As soon as this decision was reached and sold to ownership, I wanted it done.”
The Flames haven’t made the playoffs in four seasons. Calgary hasn’t made it past the first round since their run to the Stanley Cup final against the Lightning in 2004.
“If you look at our record, it’s not where we want to be and we have to change it as players,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano. “You could call it whatever, but the bottom line is this: as an organization, I’ve been here for a while now, and right from our owners down, we want to win.
“Nothing else is acceptable. We’ve got to start winning hockey games and push this forward.”
Burke said one of the reasons for the shakeup is that he believes the Flames are giving up points in games they should win.
“I’m frustrated like all of our fans are with our inability to hold leads,” Burke said.
“I love how this team works, I love how the coaches are playing the kids … I’m just frustrated that we seem to routinely turn third-period leads into losses.”
Calgary’s new general manager will choose his own assistant, according to Burke. The Buffalo Sabres are also in the market for a new GM.