Since Brian Burke took time to assess Jay Feaster before his dismissal, I thought I would take a while to evaluate the choice. Now that the season is over and a new GM has been hired the time seemed right.
I am not going to analyze every deal, signing and draft pick Feaster and Weisbrod made. That has been done to death, and many of the conclusions people have made are subjective and debatable. So I am going to stick to what I feel are undisputable facts.
First a little well-known context. Feaster was handed a mess. No doubt about it. The team’s core was older and much less productive/effective than when they had been a playoff team. There were several bad contracts with a lot of term attached. There were too many non-essential personnel with no trade/movement clauses in their contracts. There was no cap room. Multiple draft picks had been dealt by Sutter in his quest to ‘reload’ and combined with bad draft choices the result was the Flames having one of the worst prospect pools in the league. A declining bubble team as well. That is ugly.
In a blog I read by Jay Feaster, he intimated some of Lou Lamoriello’s thoughts regarding the GM position, and Lou told him (paraphrased) ‘The measure of a GM’s contributions is the legacy he left behind’. So what was Feaster’s legacy?
1. Increased and reorganized the scouting staff. Calgary now boasts 14 full time scouts including director Tod Button. The Flames enjoy increased representation in all areas, most noticeably Europe and the US.
2. Brought the Flames into the 21st century with the acquisition of tracking and decision-making software along with technical personnel to maintain it.
3. Drastically improved the prospect pool, both through the draft and signings.
4. Brought in a coach who current management is ecstatic with.
5. Changed the culture of the team. According to organizational behaviour specialists this is the most difficult thing to do in any organization.
The day of the presser announcing his hire Mr. Burke said ‘I think I can provide some help but I think Jay’s got great ability and he’s already made some very important steps towards fixing things here’.
Sounds like Mr. Burke thought Jay did a pretty good job in general terms, so why was he fired? Well Mr. Burke was forgivably ambiguous referencing trades and drafting. But Burke had already complimented Jay’s drafting (Flames knocked it out of the park) and was well aware of his trading record when he commended Jay’s ‘great ability’. Was all this just lip service?
At the hiring-presser Burke disclosed that ownership/Ken King had decided to alter the paradigm and organizational structure of Hockey Ops. Had they felt the current mgmt. team of Feaster and Weisbrod were the long-term answer you would think they would have been promoted.
Furthermore once the structure was in place, Hockey Ops could have worked together utilizing the then-current personnel’s skill sets enhanced and guided by Burke. But they chose to go another route after only a couple of months. I believe that Burke was hired in part not to assess what Feaster had done in the past, but whether Feaster was the best option going forward. If he had drafted Olli Maata and not bothered with the O'Reilly offer sheet I think he would still have been fired. Because although Feaster actually did a pretty good job under very difficult circumstances, the Flames thought they could do better with someone else. And I agree.
Factoid: Jay Feaster was the shortest serving GM in Calgary’s history having served from May 16, 2011 to December 12, 2013.**
** Does not include his time as interim GM.
Thanks for reading.