Although Feaster had gone through a whirlwind-encompassed six weeks leading up to the draft-which probably manifested itself in the form of gray hair on his head and lines on his face- there was much more work to do.
A common criticism of Feaster is that he ‘never played the game’. At one time that may have been important, but the role of the NHL GM has changed in recent years.
With a more complex CBA, stiff competition for players at every level, significant contract and player-exchange issues resulting from the salary cap etc., gone are the days when one man can run the show. For progressive NHL franchises, Hockey Operations/Scouting has transitioned to a more executive-oriented paradigm at the top level. The GM is now functioning more like a corporate CEO, who assembles the best team possible and facilitates decision making by committee; being the ultimate arbiter if consensus can’t be reached.
With this in mind let’s look at what Feaster has done with off-ice operations.
Before he was even named full-time GM Feaster hired Craig Conroy as a ‘special assistant’. Although I am not quite sure what that means, Conny’s duties are varied as we saw last year, ranging from specific player evaluations to public relations. Basically his role seems to be an employee who can pick up the slack when Feaster needs time to address core issues. A welcome departure from the Darryl-days when input and task delegation were bete noire under his authoritarian regime.
Feaster added John Weisbrod as Assistant GM in 2011 after winning the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins. This is the ‘hockey guy’. Weisbrod has a diverse background and skill set. He played hockey for Harvard, while getting a degree in English and was drafted by the Minnesota North Stars, only to have his NHL career cut short because of injury.
Weisbrod served as Head Scout of the New Jersey Devils before being hired by RDV Sports in 1997 as Vice President and General Manager of the Orlando Solar Bears of the now defunct International Hockey League. During his tenure, the Bears had the highest winning percentage in the IHL winning two Eastern Conference championships as well as the Turner Cup in 2000-01.
In 2000, Weisbrod was named COO of RDV Sports, and GM of the Orlando Magic on March 12, 2004. Not passionate about basketball, Weisbrod resigned in 2003 to take a scouting job with the Dallas Stars. John left the following year to take a job scouting for the Boston Bruins, rising to the position of Director of Collegiate Scouting before landing with the Flames after the Bruins Stanley Cup in 2011.
No stone has been left unturned by Feaster who completely revamped the Flames’ scouting department, coming none too soon in the eyes of many. The Flames went from having thirteen scouts and one titled employee-Tod Button as Director of Scouting-to sixteen scouts with more concise role distinction, better coverage and newly defined reporting lines.
John Weisbrod was named Director of Scouting, with Tod Button taking over as Director of Amateur Scouting, managing eleven scouts who cover the CHL, USHL NCAA and Europe. Calgary also have five pro scouts, four who work in North America and one in Europe. European pro scout David Volek has paid early dividends being instrumental in bringing Roman Cervenka into the Flames’ fold from the KHL.
Feaster is clearly of the opinion that a lot of young talent is going to be coming out of the US in the future with three scouts dedicated to the USHL and NCAA.
Lastly, Feaster decided to invest in technology and tech personnel in a big way. Soon after his duties began, Jay decided to utilize the Decision Lens software program that is designed to aid its users in a collaborative decision-making processes. Without going into a technical description of the features and process, it is used to help scouts rank the players they have been scouting for the draft, and was described by the Flames as a major asset in its initial test drive at the 2011 Amateur draft.
Feaster also decided to employ the PUCKS system with Video Director Chris Snow acting as head techie. PUCKS is a database driven video software program which logs stats of all players in all games with links that bring up the appropriate video segment when the statistic was recorded among many other things. This system can be accessed by the entire staff via I-Pad.
Say what you want about Feaster but he is not afraid of change, and in this case a complete overhaul.
Factoid: Craig Conroy played his 1000th game as a Calgary Flame on Oct 10th 2010 and retired on February 4, 2011.
Next time I will look at the player personnel movement in Jay's first year.
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