Calgary fans, enjoy yourself this weekend. Your Flames brain trust just got a lot smarter thanks to the hiring of Jay Feaster as the team’s assistant GM.
Public relations have been a bit of a nightmare for the team this summer and the fact Edmonton fans are framing their autographed pictures of Taylor Hall right now and feeling good about themselves can’t help. GM Darryl Sutter has been ruthlessly mocked by almost everyone for his off-season maneuvers, the most prominent being the signings of former Flames Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay.
True, Jokinen is not making the large stipend he once commanded, but with rumors of him not being the most popular player behind closed doors and the fact he has never won a playoff series in the NHL, there’s at least smoke, if not fire. Tanguay is coming off a disastrous 37-point campaign in Tampa and his production has been halved since his first season in Calgary (2006-07).
When confronted with this perceived dog’s breakfast of acquisitions recently, Sutter was haughty. “Important people” thought his signings were smart, he sniffed. But for all his bravado and self-assuredness, there is one thing Sutter is not: a winner. He came close in 2004, as the underdog Flames went all the way to the final, but the recent past is littered with teams good enough to make it to the final without actually having the pedigree.
Brother Duane has four Stanley Cup rings from his time as a player with the Islanders, while Brent has two of his own, plus two world junior gold medals and a Memorial Cup title as a coach. Of course, achievements behind NHL benches have also eluded Brent, whose New Jersey teams were bounced in the first round two years in a row before last season in Calgary, when he couldn’t even get Darryl’s misbuilt squad into the post-season.
To be fair, Darryl did lead the Indianapolis Ice to the International League’s Turner Cup in 1990, but I don’t know if winning it all in the second- or third-best men’s league on the continent is the same as the rigors of the Memorial Cup or Stanley Cup.
It has been 20 years since that Turner Cup and keep in mind, that was when Darryl was coaching, not managing. As a coach, Sutter has been successful. As a GM? Not so much lately. Which is why Feaster is such an important acquisition by Flames ownership.
Feaster may not have grinded through years of service in the NHL as a player, nor grown up on a farm that raised cattle and grew pucks out of the earthen soil, but he is a winner. He has a Stanley Cup ring, ironically, from beating the Flames as the GM of the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning. When the Bolts were purchased by Oren Koules and Len Barrie in 2008, he saw a storm of ineptitude on the horizon and wisely packed in his sails. He even blogged for THN.com. How much smarter can he be?
Now, he’s a second opinion for Sutter and that’s exactly what the man needs. ‘My way or the highway’ rarely works these days and Sutter can snipe at the local media all he wants, but missteps in his on-ice decision-making take Calgary further away from the Cup.
They may look like the odd couple, but Feaster and Sutter have the opportunity to be yin and yang together. And with the city of Edmonton fawning over youngsters Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi (he dropped the ‘Svensson’), at least there’s some optimism in Cowtown today.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday.
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