After the much-ballyhooed search for assistant GM, the Flames finally found their man (or at least one of them) when they announced the hiring of former Lightning executive and GM Jay Feaster as Sutter's new partner in crime. Feaster has been out of work since he resigned from his Lightning post after six years on the job as GM in 2008, and claims that Calgary is one of the few places he was willing to give the role of assistant GM another go. Feaster has been portrayed as a "fresh perspective" and lauded for his media relations skills since the news broke yesterday evening, which is not irrelevant from a Flames' fan POV after years of Sutter-speak, but how is he in the hockey operations department? I contacted John Fontana of SBN's Lightning blog Raw Charge to find out, and he kindly replied with his take on Feaster's tenure in T-bay:
Let's start by admitting straight away that Jay Feaster is a lawyer first and a contract guy. He has worked as a GM, but his first front-office related work was in the contract field. That's how he got in with the Lightning and he fell upward from there.
While it's good to have fresh blood in the organization, and having a non-hockey player handle the executive stuff...well, Feaster has that down. I don't know if he has the roster management stuff down so much.
Tampa Bay's 2003-04 teams wasn't entirely built by Feaster. People like to heap all the praise on him, but the truth is that most vital cogs in the lineup were brought in by Phil Esposito (Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Pavel Kubina, Dmitry Afanasenkov) and Rick Dudley (Martin St. Louis, Fredrik Modin, Nikolai Khabibulin, Cory Sarich, Dave Andreychuk, Tim Taylor). Feaster's accomplishment was rounding things out for the final push.
Feaster's big issue is he comes off like a gambling addict when there's a flaw in the team, and his scouting isn't the best...so when he gambles on a player and loses, he covers the bet and bets again with something vital.
The best example of this is the Lightning's goalie situation from 2005 until Feaster's ouster in 2008. Khabibulin left and Feaster covered the loss by deeming John Grahame the #1 starter, backed up by ancient Sean Burke. When that failed, he dealt key contributor Fredrik Modin and more for Marc Denis. He also drafted Riku Helenius as the "Goalie of the Future" in the first round. When both of those failed, he traded away Brad Richards for Mike Smith.
While the Bolts remained a playoff team up until 2007-08, Feaster's moves trying to cover his ass were hurting the Bolts more than helping them.
He's a great guy, he's approachable from everything I've heard about him (had an email rapport with some fans), but I'm not sold on his as a GM/judge of talent. People crow about 2008's drafting and how he seems to have hit a home run (Stamkos, James Wright, and others in the system), but it's his only draft class that's paying dividends for the Bolts.
While Feaster's title in Calgary for the time being is that of assistant general manager and we likely won't encounter many of the situations John mentioned above with him second in command, he will undoubtably have some input on Darryl's dealings from here on out. The portion of my dialouge with John that jumped out at me most was his statement that "...Feaster's moves trying to cover his ass were hurting the Bolts more than helping them," because it sounds eerily similar to what the Flames have been going through with Sutter at the helm. If it takes an outside perspective to correct that, than the Flames' new first mate can be my guest, but I'm not exactly brimming with confidence that that'll be the case. Considering an assistant GM's successes and failures typically occur behind the curtain, so to speak (i.e. Michael Holditch's alleged responsibility for Cap Crunch '09), I believe a "wait and see" approach is warranted here. Taken in conjunction with the news that the Flames have let go three of their long-time scouts, the organization's apparent off-season makeover could potentially be far from over.