Jay Feaster was a Dead GM Walking and everybody knew it. The once-mighty Calgary Flames have been a case study in mismanagement for a long, long time.
Feaster only made things worse with his reign of error.
Brian Burke could have waited until after the holidays to make this change, but why bother? The Flames aren’t going anywhere this season.
He’s had time to assess the situation. He saw the mess Feaster made. Drafting, trading, free agency . . . the Flames had more misses than hits in all those areas.
The team waited too long to move Jarome Iginla. Feaster let Miikka Kiprusoff get old and retire before the team anything in return for him.
The Flames virtually gave away prime-age defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who is starring for the St. Louis Blues this season. Feaster also botched the Ryan O’Reilly offer sheet, putting the franchise in position to lose O’Reilly on waivers after spending three high draft picks as compensation.
We could go on and on. The results on the ice speak for themselves. Change is needed.
With the Buffalo Sabres also looking for a GM, Burke decided to jump into the search process while all of his options were open.
“I feel for us to take the next step we'll do it quicker and better with a change,” Burke told reporters after whacking Feaster.
Watching the Flames hasn’t been easy on Burke. “I was born impatient,” he said. “I will die impatient.”
Burke is shopping for a top talent evaluator to reverse the franchise’s fortunes at the NHL Draft. Among the candidates: Dave Poulin, Claude Loiselle, Paul Fenton, Joe Nieuwendyk and Jim Benning.
Feaster left behind an elite young player in Sean Monahan. But Sven Baertsch remains a source of frustration. Not surprising, Burke shipped him out after canning Feaster.
Naturally, Burke will want the new guy to add additional muscle. “There's room for the small player in our game,” Burke said, “but you better surround him with some beef.
“I like teams that bang. I don't like the way we play."
Then again, who does like the way the Flames play? They don’t have a goaltender, they have big money sunk into twilight-year finesse players and they don’t have many assets other teams covet.
Now that Jarome Iginla has departed Calgary, teams have stepped up their bidding for defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.
Since he has a year remaining on his contract – at $6.6 million – contenders might be willing to spend more for him that they would on a rental player like Iginla.
The St. Louis Blues are shopping for a defenseman to pair with Alex Pietrangelo. That team could offer winger Ty Rattie, who excelled playing with Flames prospect Sven Baertschi in the Western Hockey League. The Blues could easily part with young defenseman Ian Cole and draft picks to make a deal.
The Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins are just some of the other potential destinations.
Bouwmeester, 29, isn’t a physical player. But he can rush the puck and he his famously durable, with 620 consecutive games played and counting.
He has no-trade protection in his contract, so the Flames are already discussing trade possibilities with him. The Flames need to rebuild and Bouwmeester has an opportunity to orchestrate his trade to a contender.
“I understand it. It’s the situation we’re in,” Bouwmeester told the Calgary Herald. “It’s been the same the last two or three weeks, people have mentioned stuff.
“But again, until it’s brought to you and you have to make some decisions — or they make some decisions — you can’t worry about it. I’ve been, really, in that situation before where there was stuff flying around and something potentially could have happened, but you really just have to separate yourself from it and go about your day-to-day business.”
Playing for a winner appears to be his top priority.
“It doesn’t matter who you are — that’s why you play,” Bouwmeester said. “I want to be able to play in the playoffs. I’d really like to do it. That’s No. 1 for me right now.
“You think about things, but again (a trade) is not something that’s been really brought forward, so you’re not going to preoccupy yourself.”
The Calgary Flames finished last season in no-man’s land. They missed the playoffs despite employing a high-cost veteran nucleus.
A series of draft disappointments left the franchise without the Next Wave of exciting young talent. General manager Jay Feaster, caught in between, decided not to blow up the team and start over.
Instead, he hopes to engineer a partial renovation to freshen up his group for new coach Bob Hartley.
Disappointing defenseman Jay Bouwmeester could depart as part of that process. His professional decline continued last season with a minus-21 rating and just 29 points.
He carries a cap hit of nearly $7 million for each of the next two seasons. But his size/skill combination figures to intrigue Eastern Conference teams – especially the Philadelphia Flyers, a team that can’t expect Chris Pronger to return from severe post-concussion syndrome.
Moving Bouwmeester could create much-needed cap room for the Flames. His exit could color Feaster’s thinking on his unrestricted free agents (like Olli Jokinen) or possible trade targets (like Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal).
With the NHL salary cap expected to rise to $70 million, now is the time for Calgary to clear Bouwmeester's massive salary off the books. A proactive move before the draft and the start of free agency could position the Flames for some meaningful change.
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