CALGARY – Jay Feaster sent a strong message to his team on Thursday night and he backed it up on Friday afternoon.
In the second intermission of Thursday night’s game between the Flames and Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary’s general manager told Sportsnet’s Roger Millions, “If we don’t show a whole lot more urgency heading into Monday, you (media) guys will be busy as it relates to the goings on in Calgary.”
The afternoon after Calgary blew a 2-0 lead and dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to Phoenix, Feaster tried to clarify his comments.
“I know that last night certainly it seemed as though the crazy GM lost his mind on the basis of one bad period and the bad game against Edmonton (a 6-1 loss to the Oilers at home on Tuesday), but we’ve been looking at this in terms of how we’ve been playing,” Feaster said.
What Feaster is calling for is a substantially better effort from the Flames on Saturday night at home against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“It’s not as though we’re walking into that group saying, ‘Boy, it’s do or die tonight—lose tonight and you’re all gone Monday,’ but again we want to see what the response is,” he said.
Feaster admitted to being frustrated with the way the Flames have played ever since they skated to a 5-1 win at home over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 14.
“Clearly we have not demonstrated as a group that we’re serious about bursting through and taking that next step and that’s why I got everyone excited,” Feaster said.
“I expressed my frustration (Thursday) night because we still believe the answers are inside that room, but as we talked about since I’ve been here, we have to be intellectually honest about it too.”
After Thursday’s setback, the Flames (28-23-10) sat tied for eighth spot in the Western Conference with the Dallas Stars and the Los Angeles Kings, while the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild and Anaheim Ducks are also within striking distance of the final playoff berth.
Feaster re-iterated he would like to see an elevated level of play from everyone on the team, especially the veterans.
“We have to demonstrate that because if we don’t, we certainly have a number of players who are unrestricted free agents at the end of the year and we have to start thinking about improving our hockey team,” he said.
“I don’t know that I want to say that we’re buyers or sellers. We’re looking at all of our options and everything is done with the idea of trying to improve the club.”
One player who is definitely untouchable leading up to the deadline is goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who Feaster credited with stealing three of four points on the road in games against the Stars and the Kings.
“If we were to trade 34,” said Feaster in reference to Kiprusoff’s jersey number, “is there a position lower than 30th? Because if we were to trade 34, we’d be sub-30, whatever number that is in a 30-team league.”
While the organization has also made it clear that captain Jarome Iginla is off limits, Feaster didn’t rule out the possibility of other deals before Monday’s deadline although he said he isn’t interested in acquiring rental players.
Forward Michael Cammalleri, who the Flames acquired on Jan. 12 from the Montreal Canadiens in a deal that sent Rene Bourque the other way, said that he and his Calgary teammates received Feaster’s message loud and clear.
“The simple message for us is to win games,” Cammalleri said. “Quite obviously we’re not good enough yet. We’re not where we want to be.
“We still like where we are. We still are right in a very exciting hunt and if we can improve from here, we’ll know where we’ll end up.”
Calgary coach Brent Sutter said that it’s his job, now more than ever, to get the most out of the players he has in his lineup.
“It’s a situation where you don’t control what’s being thought or what may or may not happen upstairs,” Sutter said. “What you can control as a player is how you perform and what you do on the ice. Let’s just keep our focus where it needs to be and let’s make sure we get the job done.”
Whether Feaster decides to pull the trigger on any deals before Monday, it’s clear that he has sent a strong message to his coaching staff and players.
“It isn’t about insulting anybody or hurting anyone’s feelings,” Feaster said. “It’s about being a playoff team, so let’s park the egos at the door and it’s all hands on deck right now. It has to come from within that room. It has to come from within.”