Nobody should have been surprised this morning to learn that the Flames dismissed general manager Jay Feaster and assistant GM John Weisbrod.
Feaster’s record could be kindly be described as “checkered.” There was the botched Jarome Iginla trade. The near-disaster of the Ryan O’Reilly free agent offer sheet. Questionable management of diminishing assets like Miikka Kiprusoff. Not to mention Calgary’s general decline under his stewardship. Sacking him, then, was hardly an out-of-left-field decision.
The timing, though, was a surprise, considering it came just three months after Feaster’s job was said to be safe. But it had to be now, said the man who made that promise, Brian Burke, the Flames’ president of hockey operations.
“We’re not operating in a vacuum,” he said. “There’s another team [the Sabres] in the search. Time could be of the essence [in getting the guy we want].”
Burke made it clear that he will be looking outside of the organization — and not in the mirror — for a replacement. He is assuming the role of GM on an interim basis, and said he would pull the trigger on a trade if an opportunity arose to improve the team. But will he be the full-time GM? No. That’s not the deal that he made with ownership when he signed on in September. He isn’t going to welsh on it now, or do anything to cast suspicion on his decision to fire Feaster.
Burke’s motivations for making the move, after all, were straightforward. “What we’re doing now isn’t going to get us where we want to go as fast as we want to get there,” he said. “We’ll do it quicker and better through a change.”
There already are several names floating around as possible replacements for Feaster. Burke said that he has already secured permission from one organization to interview a candidate, and has made similar requests to other clubs as well.
Some of the names churning through the rumor mill include Dave Poulin, who Burke hired to be Toronto’s VP of hockey operations, Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning, Coyotes assistant GM Brad Treliving and Maple Leafs assistant GM Claude Loiselle.
Darren Dreger is reporting that Calgary has gotten permission from the Stars to speak with GM Joe Nieuwendyk. He’s a smart man, and he was a great player during the Flames’ golden days, but his management résumé with Dallas doesn’t have a lot of highlights. His misses include firing coach Dave Tippett and replacing him first with Marc Crawford and later with Glen Gulutzan, trading James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski, and getting minimal returns for dealing Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow. In other words, Nieuwendyk’s résumé looks a lot like the one that Feaster will be handing around shortly.
One name to keep a close eye on: Mike Futa. In his role as the Kings’ director of amateur scouting, he drafted Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, Andrei Loktionov, Brayden Schenn, Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan and Linden Vey — from just the 2008 and ’09 classes alone. Futa doesn’t just have a great eye for talent, he has an eye for the heavy, truculent talent that Burke covets for Calgary.
“We’re not hostile enough for me,” Burke said. “This isn’t flag football. I like teams that bang. Big hockey wins in our league. We want black and blue hockey here. Right now, we’re smaller than I want to be. We’re gonna need some draft expertise. We’ve gotta get these picks right. We have to have expertise in that area.”
So was it Buffalo’s reported interest in Futa earlier this week that prompted Burke to clear the decks so he could speak with him before the Sabres stole him away? Seems like a fair guess.