CALGARY — Jay Feaster was general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning when they beat Darryl Sutter’s Calgary Flames in the 2004 Stanley Cup final.
Now Feaster is joining the Flames as Sutter’s assistant general manager.
“He’s an old enemy if you guys remember from the ’04 Stanley Cup finals,” Sutter acknowledged Thursday during a conference call. “He’s a guy that I respect a lot and respect his input and knowledge of the game. I’m really looking forward to working with him.”
Feaster, 47, has been out of the NHL’s managerial ranks since he resigned from the Lightning almost two years ago. The Williamstown, Pa., native was the Lightning’s GM from 2002 to 2008 and assistant GM of the team for the three seasons prior to his promotion.
“My role, as I understand it, will be to provide my thoughts, my perspective, to counsel, to advise, to give my perspective and take on things,” Feaster said.
That Sutter has taken on an assistant isn’t unexpected. He and Flames president Ken King hinted at the possibility to the media shortly after the regular season.
Calgary missed the playoffs this year for the first time since 2003. While the Flames were one of the top defensive teams in the NHL, they were the worst offensively.
Sutter has been his own counsel on management decisions since Calgary hired him as coach and GM in 2002, with the exception of 2006-07 when Doug Soetaert spent one season as Sutter’s assistant. Sutter vacated the coach’s position after that year to focus on managing the club. The Flames are an older team spending close to the salary cap of US$59.4 million. Sutter signed former Flames Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen when free agency opened last week in hopes of revitalizing the offence. The GM is relying on players to step up their game next season to get the club back into the playoffs.
The natural speculation will be that Feaster is in Calgary because Sutter is on a short leash and that Feaster would replace the Viking native if the Flames do not improve next season.
“I’m not coming there to be the general manager of the Calgary Flames,” Feaster insisted. “I’m coming to be the assistant general manager and provide that insight and that perspective.”
When Feaster was an assistant GM in Tampa Bay, the lawyer was responsible for contractual, collective bargaining and NHL legal issues, as well as the organization’s scouting department and its developmental league affiliates. His comments Thursday suggested he will be more of a consultant with the Flames. Feaster believes one of the best decisions he made after his promotion to Lightning GM was bringing Bill Barber on as his director of player personnel.
“That team approach to management is becoming what is the norm in the league today,” Feaster explained. “Bill was a new set of eyes from outside the organization, someone coming in with a fresh perspective. It was truly what I think was an objective view of where we were in Tampa and Bill helped us achieve great success.
“That’s what I’m hoping I can do as I move to Calgary and work with Darryl. It’s a fresh perspective. It’s a set of eyes from outside the organization. I can be a resource for Darryl.”
Feaster revealed that Sutter contacted and met with him during this year’s Stanley Cup final in June. Feaster then came to Calgary to speak with president Ken King and team co-owner Murray Edwards, and further with Sutter, before taking the job.
The 2004 Stanley Cup final is never far from the minds of Flames fans. Feaster was reminded of Game 6 in Calgary, when there was a third-period dispute over a Martin Gelinas shot that appeared to have crossed the goal-line behind Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
The play wasn’t reviewed to the dismay of Flames fans who believed that could have been the winning goal and given the Flames their first Stanley Cup since 1989. The Lightning won that game in overtime and the series in seven games.
“I think it was the second thing that Murray Edwards said to me after ‘hello’ was ‘you know that goal was in,”’ Feaster said with a laugh. “I’m hopeful both the media and Flames fans, we can just move forward on things.”
Before joining the Lightning, Feaster spent nine seasons in management positions with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears, during which time the team won a division title (1994) and a Calder Cup (1997). He resigned from the Lightning in 2008 after the club finished last in the NHL.