Ex-Flames GM Jay Feaster did a good job rebuilding a derelict development system in Calgary. But he was slow in acknowledging the team needed a rebuild and he was often fleeced when it came to trades.
Jay Feaster came out on the short end of many of the trades he made in his time as GM of the Flames, but he and dismissed assistant GM John Weisbrod did a very good job rebuilding Calgary’s dreadful prospect system.
Since taking over from Darryl Sutter three years ago, Feaster and Weisbrod put a strong emphasis on drafting and developing, focussing on players who possessed what they called high hockey IQs.
In three drafts (2011 to 2013), skilled forwards such as Sean Monahan, Sven Baertschi, Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuk and Mark Jankowski have been selected in the first round. But it’s in the later rounds where the Feaster-Weisbrod tandem found hidden gems who are considered solid NHL prospects. Hobey Baker Award favorite Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College) was taken in the fourth round of 2010. U.S. national junior team goalie Jon Gillies (Providence) was a third rounder in 2012. Tyler Wotherspoon, Markus Granlund, Patrick Sieloff, Brett Kulak and Laurent Brossoit (since traded) are other highly regarded prospects taken in the past three drafts.
Calgary’s history of drafting and developing had been among the worst in the league in the decades before 2010. Of 20 first round picks taken between 1990 and 2009, only Cory Stillman, Dion Phaneuf and lately Mikael Backlund made a significant impact with the Flames. And there was precious little culled from the second round and beyond.
With a stronger cast of prospects coming through Calgary’s system in recent years, the Abbotsford Heat have become the No. 1 team in the American League this season.
It’s at the trade table where Feaster struggled.
Among his early deals was packaging hard-hitting defenseman Robyn Regehr, winger Ales Kotalik and a second round pick to Buffalo for depth defenseman Chris Butler and minor-leaguer Paul Byron. The trade was considered a salary dump with the Flames having no use for Kotalik and Regehr making $4 million so a draft pick was thrown in. But a craftier GM would have parked Kotalik in the AHL or Europe and gotten more for Regehr. It’s important to note the Sabres traded Regehr to Los Angeles for two second round picks two years later.
Feaster was also late to the party when it came time to trading Jarome Iginla. The deposed GM thought the Flames were playoff contenders and resisted trading the aging captain when he could have received a bigger return. Instead, he got just a first round pick and two C-list prospects for a 35-year-old Iginla.
Feaster also didn’t get enough for 29-year-old defenseman Jay Bouwmeester last spring. The return from St. Louis was again two C-list prospects and a first rounder for a premier defender who is a candidate for Canada’s Olympic team. Compare that to the Sabres, who got two top prospects, a first and second round pick for Jason Pominville.
Feaster also waited too long to trade Miikka Kiprusoff. By the time it occurred to the ex-GM to move the aging stopper, the goalie decided he no longer wanted to play the game.
Then there was the Ryan O’Reilly offer sheet debacle with the Colorado Avalanche. Had the Avs not matched, Feaster and the Flames stood to lose O’Reilly on waivers, plus the first, second and third round picks as compensation.
Feaster’s most recent big trade involved dealing disgruntled Alex Tanguay and Cory Sarich to Colorado for unproductive winger David Jones, on a long and lucrative contract, and fringe defenseman Shane O’Brien. When healthy, the playmaking Tanguay was a good fit with Colorado’s goal scorers. Jones has done little in Calgary other than help the Flames reach the salary floor. That was also a loss.
Other trades for the likes of Dennis Wideman, Kris Russell and Mike Cammalleri were wins for Feaster. But it wasn’t enough to keep his job.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN