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M&G Round Table: Feaster Your Eyes On This

Jay Feaster. Stanley Cup winner with the Tampa Bay Lightning, much (rightly or wrongly) maligned GM of the same club. terrible writer for the hockey news, man who doesn't ride horses; now Mr. Feaster will be adding another title to his collection: General Manager of the Calgary Flames. Or, in a sense, removing one, as he was Acting General Manager, and the "acting" has since been lost.

So does this bode well for the Flames? Terrible? Is it a complete non-change from the reign of Darryl Sutter? The finest Flames minds answer below.


I'm not so jacked about Feaster.  I respect his perceived acumen for contracts and the salary cap.  Frankly, I really hope it's true.  It's just that I haven't seen it in action.  And after Darryl's cap management, the Flames could use a number-cruncher and negotatior-type.  He's just not someone that I can whole-heartedly support at this point.  I'm stuck in the middle, waiting to see what he'll do.  The Glencross deal was a good step, but there are a lot more difficult decisions to make in the next few months.  He may have inherited a talented team in Tampa but he did put a few of the right pieces around them.  He deserves credit for the Cup win, because even with talent it's not a slam dunk.   On the dark side, his draft record with the Lightning was miserable, and the Flames have one of the barest cupboards in the NHL.  Had Ken King and company hired someone with the track record of David Poile, I'd be chest-bumping everyone in sight, and possibly even scooping some snow from the ice and throwing it in the air, since it's all the rage lately.  But with Feaster, I'm just nodding silently and thinking that it should all work out OK, or then again, maybe not.



The hiring of Feaster as permanent GM of this club means that the status quo will reign supreme in the organization's near future. Sure, he has yet to hire an assistant GM (Craig Conroy notwithstanding) and is allowing Brent Sutter to select his own "veteran" coaching staff, whatever that means, but his mentions of rediscovering the club's "identity" and the team not being as far away from "cup contender" status as some would think seems like more of the same Sutter-speak. Previous trades and drafting record aside, it's hard to judge Feaster too harshly on what he's accomplished thus far with the Flames (apart from the Fredrik Modin trade); his first real tests as general manager will come at the Draft in late June and with free agency in early July, but let's just hope he hires an assistant with an eye for talent. As with any "new" hiring, a wait-and-see approach is warranted. 



I question this move, but we all saw it coming and it basically became a forgone conclusion for the impending apocalypse that was last summer when he was hired as Sutter's assitant. Feaster's experienced as an NHL general manager (so that's going for him), but I don't see a lot of change at the helm between him and Sutter (especially at the draft and I think that was one of the major downfalls of this organization). I think that's part of the problem that has plagued this franchise- there has been an unwillingness to let go of that storied Cup run, and therefore an unwillingness to evolve. I would have been a bit more optimistic if a stronger assistant (see Assistant GM Michael Santos in Florida as an example) familiar with the intricies of the cap was at Feaster's side, but Craig Conroy did come 3rd or 4th in the TSN Regular Season there's that. I hope Jay Feaster can right this ship, and like the hundreds of other Flames Fans (read: Lemurs) I'll invest my faith into his process and hope that he can save this ship from sinking into the abyss that has become the sea of red


Mitch's Novel:

I am not thrilled with the announcement of Jay Feaster as GM. I think he was well suited to the Assistant GM position but not the top job. I think strong potential candidates like Paul Fenton (Asst GM of Nashville ) or Ron Hextall (Asst GM of L.A.) among others would have been better picks for the top job. Jay certainly has a skill set: media savvy, legal background, some limited GM experience in the tweaking stage of a top team but he did not fit what the Flames are going to need in the coming years which is a retool on an aging team and he has 4 more years on his contract. 

  1. Why Not Jay?


(1) The top of the list is hockey experience, as in life-long experience.

Hockey is not in Jay’s blood; he discovered the game later in life. He admits this himself. He may know hockey from the perch of the GM box but that is different from living hockey from birth. Playing it as a kid, riding the bus in the AHL and working your way up.

There are only three GMs currently in the NHL who do not have experience playing the game at least at the college level or higher. Two of those three come from very strong GM pedigrees, Stan Bowman (son of Scotty Bowman) and Chuck Fletcher (son of Cliff Fletcher). 

The only other GM without any bio of actually playing the game at a higher level is Greg Sherman, current GM of the Colorado Avalanche but he had been Assistant GM for 7 years and with the organization for 14 years, plus he was born and raised in Denver.  So there is a case for Sherman in the Avalanche organization, due to his long experience with them, although based on the Avs / Blues trade last year some would still question Sheman's hockey eye despite his many years with the Avs, which brings us to reason 2 why Jay is not the ideal candidate. 

(2) Not with the Flames long enough.

Simple as that, this in and of itself is not an issue, if you are strong in hockey experience or recently in another organization, in fact it can be an advantage.

Hiring an Assistant GM from any other NHL team would have brought in a wealth of new information from that organization. Look how the Kings have drafted for the last few years; Ron Hextall is well aware and privy of their upcoming draft order. Look at how the Predators have home grown some excellent Defensemen through the draft. Paul Fenton is well aware of their upcoming player priority in the draft. Regardless of who was picked by the Flames, they would have benefited tremendously from receiving some information from another NHL team. Which leads us to issue #3 with Jay.

(3) Out of the NHL hockey operations loop for years.

What has Jay been doing for the last several years prior to coming to Calgary? He has been a hockey blogger with the Hockey News. Not to dish on bloggers, I am a blogger after all but I certainly am not qualified to GM the Flames. When I read this article a few months ago my eyes went wide with trepidation as Jay candidly commented on the ‘challenges’ of being a GM today and making trades.

"That’s the tough thing. Guys want to match up term, too. It’s difficult when you have contracts with term and big dollars." (Jay Feaster)

"I had to laugh, I had one guy say to me it has to be a fair deal skill for skill, but it has to be even money, too." (Jay Feaster)

Really? Just figuring this out? Is it just me or is someone admitting the ‘challenges’ of doing trades today also admitting they may not be up for the challenge of being a GM in today’s NHL? It’s tough to make trades today? Really, didn’t know that. The Cap impacts the discussion? Really? (massive sarcasm) It gave me the impression that Jay may have been blogging away on the armchair GM threads a little too much.

 Of course it is a tough to make trades today, no kidding. Is Jay playing NHL 11 on the X-box with his kids and thinking that is all you have to do to make trades? The fact that he chuckles at the challenge is also something I didn’t like leading to reason #4.

(4) Jay is too light hearted about hockey.

That is not going to fly long-term in a Canadian market where hockey is serious business. Jay is in his honeymoon with the local media but if the results of the team start to come in and are less than a playoff team, the press pens will sharpen.Jay took advantage of the upswing of the team that Darryl built last season and he will only have a very short time to use the excuse of the team failing being Sutter's team as well. Nice how that works both ways for him.

The jovial and casual approach of Jay may be a weak criticism. Part of dealing with the transition from the media hating Darryl Sutter BUT if given the choice I prefer the serious hockey man lacking any media savvy over the suave salesman who lacks genuine hockey acumen. Chuckling off the terrible trade he made for Fredrick Modin is no laughing matter, not in Calgary anyway.  The Flames are in no position to gift any picks, no matter how late, for full-blown liabilities. 

I did not appreciate the tone of the press conference announcing him as GM and the Glencross signing. For a non-playoff team I thought they were all, including Ken King, too casual and giggly. Making golf jokes and essentially have a good laugh at the situation. Ken King apologizing to the media if they had to miss their tee times to come to the press conference. I think it is time to wonder if the President of a NHL team who opens a press conference with the implication that everyone would rather be playing Golf than talking hockey just might be the wrong man for the job of running a hockey team. 

I got the impression that they all, including Ken King, are not taking the task ahead of them very seriously at all. If that task is building a Cup contending team, which I am not sure if it even is anymore. 

For a team that has spent to the Cap limit and has missed the playoffs for two straight years you should not have a giggly group at the management table. There appears to be no plan other than to continue on with the ship that Darryl Sutter built and in the same direction he set. But now they have thrown the old Captain over board and seem to have no concern about it as they play mini-golf on the deck, oblivious to where the ship is headed. The reality is that this should be a terrifying situation as now there is no hockey man at the helm with a sense of long-term vision.

Jay Feaster's remarks about the Flames going for the Stanley Cup struck me as condescending. You are not in Kansas or (Tampa) anymore Jay, you are in a real hockey market with informed fans. I felt it was a tad glib to tell Flames fans that the team would be contending for the Cup next year, does even the most optimistic fan really believe that? They may hope for it but has the pixie dust of 2004 not fallen off most of us at this point?

Keeping the company line of being really positive about D Sutter's core and positive about where the franchise is heading is quite worrisome for a new GM taking on the role. It has to make you wonder why they even fired Darryl Sutter in the first place.

I dug up Mike Gillis first press conference as GM of the Canucks and I have much more respect for a new GM who comes out and says, yes we have problems and this is what they are and I am going to address them. Look where the Canucks are today. 

He is one quote, if you do not want to read the entire thing. 

I don't think this team is close [to contending] at this particular point," Gillis said. "I think this team needs to get faster.  It needs more grit, it needs to be more competitive. "We have a solid defense and solid goaltending. But there are a number of areas that need to be addressed. (Mike Gillis on the Canucks - April 24th, 2008)


(5) Is Jay Feaster capable of making good trades for the Flames? 

 Again with the Darryl Sutter relativity factor, love or hate Sutter, one thing you have to admit is that the man could make trades in the NHL. 

I bet he had respect when he was on the phone with other GMs. In the very small 30 man club of NHL GMs what is Jay Feaster's reputation amongst them? Has anyone considered how he is viewed by those 29 other key men? Is he respected? Do they see him as a rube? Do they see him as a media blabber mouth they would never confide in? Do they see him as a savvy hockey man and if not how will this impact his ability to do deals with them?

Not all of Sutter's trades turned out good but some did. He could work a deal successfully, will Jay be able to do the same? The Owners of the Flames have to look down the road here a bit because moves will have to be made, not necessarily next year, but certainly in the coming years and I am genuinely worried about Jay's ability to successfully do so. 

The new 'collective' management style, of the Flames now with Jay is something he mentions constantly. His quote from the presser was something along the lines of "I don't believe in the word 'General', in the term 'General Manager', I believe more in the word 'Manager' and collective input." 

Certainly the contrast is again here from the Darryl Sutter authoritative world where there was no question who the man was, who was making the hockey decisions. The vulnerabilities and failings of that dictator like atmosphere are clear internally but the other extreme of too much collaboration and weak leadership can also lead to poor decisions or no decisions, no action, stagnation. 

 Jay is very clearly coming into the GM position with the type of approach of a corporate executive. He admits his short comings, he looks to put people in place under him that have the right skill set and he is looking to manage those people. It is a bottom up decision tree as opposed to the top down decision tree of Darryl Sutter.

The problem is that this is what Ken King should be doing, not Jay Feaster as GM. The GM desk is where the hockey buck should stop. Where is the hockey visionary? Where is the hockey tactician? If someone says Craig Conroy I am going to facepalm. 

As a side note, I have no problem with Conroy taking his Special Assistant position, the way I understand it he is a sort of player liaison and that has value. It is not that Conroy does not have a role here but as the man who can pick out the best upcoming junior players, well, again that type of experienced hockey man is not there in the Flames management team yet. 

Jay Feaster is a man who admitted that he broke down in tears and could not finish the phone call after trading Brad Richards to Dallas. 

"I phoned Brad and I couldn't finish the conversation. I broke down and I couldn't finish talking to him," Feaster told a day after he sent Richards to Dallas.

What do you think Brian Burke thought when he read this? Need I remind anyone that Darryl Sutter traded his own son. Darryl Sutter had respect for players as well, he revealed that by bringing in an iron curtain of almost unprecedented media silence though not by crying when he told a player he was traded. It is part of the business. Jay is good with media but he is also too open with the media, to the point that other GMs may limit their conversations with him or may not even want to talk to him. 

Lets not even get into the fact that the Richards trade was a bad trade at the end of the day, lets get into looking at the disposition of a person who will be doing the work of a GM. The most recent evidence is not good, not only the Modin trade but even the recent Glencross resigning where it sounded to me like Ken King did the bulk of the key work on his ranch with his horseback ride and meeting with Curtis. Am I the only one who was wondering why Jay Feaster was not closing the deal instead of Ken King? Is contract negotiations and resigning not clearly in the job description of the GM, not the organization's President?


(5) Work ethic and hockey. Is Jay Feaster going to live, eat and breath hockey for the Calgary Flames?

No, I came across this article in my research. It is a long article from the Gulf Coast Business Review in February 2004 but you do find some very telling quotes from Jay Feaster. 

"Going from Demers to working for Dudley was diametrically opposed," Feaster says. "Rick is hockey 24/7, 365 days a year, any hour of the day or night. I used to say to Rick that he's the kind of guy who hates to take two hours out of his hockey day on December 25 to open his presents." (Jay Feaster)

Forgive me but as a hockey fan I don't see this as a failing and am wondering if the Flames should not have actively pursued Rick Dudley instead as GM. I am also thinking Darryl Sutter would be wondering what the issue is too as may several other current GMs in the NHL who naturally live the game in their lives. 

Our relationship should have worked better than it did because Rick didn't want to be an administrator. He wanted to be out scouting. In my situation, with a young family, I was happy to be the guy in the office, being the administrator." (Jay Feaster)

Jay Feaster is happy to be the guy in the office, the administrator. Too bad we don't have a GM that wants to be out scouting or perhaps better put, can scout.  

Feaster, who has been married for 15 years and is a father of four, says that Dudley called him at home at all hours of the day and night. He would call at 10:30 p.m. and tell his assistant, "Remind me tomorrow to talk to you about" One night, Feaster's cell phone rang at 8:30 at night. His son Bobby, then 5, answered without asking who was calling. "Dad," he cried out, "it's Mr. Dudley!" Dudley was amazed. "Was that Bobby?" he asked Feaster. "How did he know it was me? "I didn't have the heart to tell Rick he was the only one to ever call at those hours. (Jay Feaster)

Well I guess we know if Ray Shero calls after 6:00pm looking to trade Jordan Staal he won't be calling Jay and the Calgary Flames. Jay's off the clock. 

This is probably going to come out wrong and cold-hearted but I would prefer a GM who has hockey first, the workaholic GM. 

Final Word

 I believe the Flames organization is too casual and light-hearted about being out of the playoffs for two straight years on a Cap team. The problems in the organization appear deep-rooted, far deeper than the GM position.

By formalizing Jay Feaster as GM it reveals to me that Ken King and others in the organization are not doing due diligence on the position nor are they taking seriously the challenge of building a Cup team. The decision worries me that the franchise may be in more trouble than we realize. A new GM is an opportunity to do a thorough house cleaning of the organization, a fresh start and from the beginning we have seen none of that. A previous player re-signed, another NMC handed out, another late draft pick thrown away for an old player. 

Remind me again why Darryl Sutter was fired?

(ed. note: when Mitch told me it was going to be long, I thought he meant like 3 paragraphs. Love you Mitch)


I'll admit, when they announced the hiring of Jay Feaster and it was clear that absolutely nobody else had been seriously considered, I was livid.

Then I stopped being livid about Feaster and started being livid about, well, what the hiring of Feaster means.

It means that Ken King and the even higher ups are the ones really running the team, and Feaster is just a face a press conferences. Don't believe me? Who was it that convinced GlenX to sign a new contract while horseback riding? Not Jay Feaster, the Not-Acting General Manager.


So what I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't be upset about Jay Feaster making GM moves, because at the end of the day, he really won't be. No, you should be upset about Ken King making GM moves.