The axe has finally fallen, and the Flames have turned the page that fans had begun to scream for. Almost 8 years later, the tenure of General Manager Darryl Sutter has come to end and Jay Feaster takes over as the “acting” GM. I would like to start this by stating a Thank you to Darryl for all his hard work. This will look more toward his successor, not the past as I’ve written about that in the past.
The attention turns to his successor, Jay Feaster who steps forward to try and deliver the Stanley cup he prevented the Flames from lifting in 2004. A cup that many people believe he did not earn, but simply lifted on behalf of the actual architect of the Lighting, now Atlanta GM Rick Dudley. One should note that throughout the entire tenure of Rick Dudley Jay Feaster was side by side as his assistant GM, but none the less Feaster is rarely given credit. Looking at the roster of the 2002 Tampa Bay Lightning, the year Feaster took over, and the cup winning roster you Can see some truth to that. Cory Stillman, Darryl Sydor, Brad Lukowich, and Chris Dingman are the only notable names that were acquire by Feaster and helped Tampa win the cup. However, Feaster deserves some credit as those are all very key players to the 2004 cup run and none were acquired at a very high price. Feaster was also instrumental in the promotion of John Tortorella and developing Vincent Lecavalier, who Feaster managed to co exist with Tortorella. Feaster’s down fall is often linked with the “big three” in Tampa and the fall of the Lightning from champions to First overall pick. The term obviously referring to Feaster’s decision to pay Richards, Lecavalier and St Louis almost half of the team’s salary cap over long term deals. What most have not done, is look at the situation that Feaster was in.
One of the key changes to the CBA from pre lockout to post lockout was the huge drop in the age of unrestricted Free agency and it had a unique impact on Feaster. Feaster entered the new landscape with Lecavalier and St Louis both as restricted free agents, but both were now looking at unrestricted free agency in 2006 along with key defenceman Pavel Kubina. Kubina and Lecavalier would not have been looking at free agency for several seasons had the CBA not changed. Kubina hit UFA in the 2006 season and the money was not there so sign him and Toronto swiftly handed him a 4 year 20 million dollar deal. Under the old CBA, Kubina would not have been a UFA until 2008. With Lecavalier now only having 1 year left until UFA, the option of a short term, low money, deal was no longer available as Feaster would have been looking at losing his star for nothing. However, it was the Richards deal that really handcuffed the team. Having already signed Lecavalier and St Louis, Feaster stared down a 2006 offseason signing of his Conn Smyth winning, 90 points center in Brad Richards who only had one more year until he hit UFA. Again, due to the change in the CBA, Feaster was dealing with only one season until Richards would have been eligible for UFA status, whereas in the old CBA he would have been an RFA until 2011. Whether you agree with the decision or not, people have to recognize the unique situation Feaster found himself in and there is no doubt that the destruction of the Tampa Bay Lightning was due in large part to the changing economic structure of the NHL.
Does that absolve Feaster of blame, absolutely not he deserve a fair portion of it. Tampa was unable to cope mainly due to the fact that their drafts under Feaster were awful. Under Feaster, Tampa only drafted one player who has played over 100 games in the NHL, Mike Lindin, with Dana Tyrell looking like he may be the next one in line. Over a 6 year period, that alone would get some people fired. Feaster also struggled to find any answer in net, when many teams seem to find goalies all over the world year after year. Needless to say, Feaster will be under the watch in Calgary. Some of his tenure is something to get excited about, other is not. Ken King’s suggestion that Feaster will be the acting GM until the summer seems to have perked some ears rather than name him a permanent GM. But after a systematic look, it would appear it’s simply a case that perhaps the Flames don’t have 100% confidence Feaster is their guy. While I supported the decision to name Feaster assistant GM, I agree that perhaps 100% confidence in Feaster will require some time and results. We shall watch with a microscope to see what direction Feaster takes this team, but I think his experience and his past warrant the audition.