CALGARY — It was a conversation Jay Feaster didn’t think he’d be having and one he doesn’t want to be repeating a year from now.
Heading into his first full season as Calgary’s general manager last fall, Feaster thought the Flames had what it took to earn a playoff berth.
But on Tuesday, he found himself apologizing to fans for missing the post-season for a third straight year.
“When last season ended, I really thought that we were close,” Feaster said. “The fact that we’re here meeting with you (the media) here today on April 10 is disappointing and it’s frustrating for us an organization and it is not acceptable to this organization. This is not where we expected to be. We expected to be preparing for the playoffs.”
“We have a very, very busy off-season ahead of us,” said Feaster, adding that he didn’t want to talk about individual players or members of the coaching staff at this point. “It’s clear that we need to make changes. We’re going to have to do a number of things in the off-season, because this is not a situation that I want to be in next year.
“I’ll be sitting down with Ken King and ownership and I will be reviewing every player in the organization and every member of the hockey operation staff and I’ll be making recommendations as it relates to players and staff and coaches.”
Head coach Brent Sutter, whose three-year contract is up this year, also met with the media and explained that both he and the players realize that changes in the off-season are looming.
“They understand it as well as I do as far as … you miss playoffs three years in a row with virtually the same group, you know you’ve got to expect there’s going to be some heavy discussions done and evaluations,” Sutter said. “You’ve got think there’s certainly going to be some changes.”
Should he get another opportunity behind the bench with the Flames, Sutter said he’ll take a vastly different approach to the way he coaches the team.
“If a decision is made that they want Brent Sutter to come back as coach, I will do some things different because I believe in that,” Sutter said. “It might not be pleasant and it might upset some people, but I think it’s at that point where there really has to be an awareness about where we’re at and where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.”
From the start of the season, Sutter said that he and his coaching staff have to instil a belief in the players that they can not only compete, but excel in their quest to return to post-season action.
“You don’t want to be a team that’s just trying to fight for the last two playoff spots,” he said. “You want to be a team that’s in the hunt right from the start and you’re shooting to finish in the top three or top four in your conference. That’s got to be your goal. Just to be a playoff team, when you have that mindset, at some point in time you’ll fail with it.”
Like Feaster, Sutter believed that the Flames had the talent to earn a playoff berth and he took responsibility for not getting the job done as head coach.
“I feel like I let a lot of people down starting with our owners and the people inside of our organization and the great fans here,” Sutter said.
Feaster also shouldered the blame for Calgary’s disappointing season because he’s the one making personnel decisions.
“As we look at what went wrong this season and as we review where we are, understand that from the perspective of the general manager of the hockey club and from the front office, this season has been a failure,” he said.
In addition to deciding whether Sutter will return for another season, Feaster will evaluate whether or not to re-sign unrestricted free agents Olli Jokinen, Lee Stempniak, David Moss, Tom Kostopoulos, Cory Sarich and Scott Hannan.
“With the number of unrestricted free agents that we have and where we sit relative to the (salary) cap, there is an opportunity to do a lot of different things,” Feaster said. “We do have money coming off the books, so there is a real opportunity to put a different look on things.”
Feaster added that he’ll look into whatever it takes to improve the Flames heading into the 2012-13 campaign.
“All of it is in play,” he said. “There are a number of ways to improve your hockey team and that isn’t always just by acquiring draft picks. There are other ways whether it’s signing free agents or it’s trading for players.”