Flames hire Jay Feaster

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

When then-GM Craig Button hired Darryl Sutter to coach the Calgary Flames back in 2002, whispers in the city suggested he had just signed his successor.

That's exactly the way it played out months later when Sutter was handed Button's job.

With Thursday's move to bring in Jay Feaster as assistant general manager, Sutter hired a man who ultimately could become his replacement.

Feaster has been an NHL GM. He helped guide the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup title over Sutter's Flames.

He made his leap to the Bolts GM job in 2002 from the assistant post under Rick Dudley.

It's easy to assume that will one day happen here in Calgary. But, truth is, the addition could actually save Sutter.

It might add years to his tenure atop the hockey operations totem pole in Calgary.

While his title still gives him final say in any decisions, Sutter's new right-hand man will share in the responsibility of their outcomes.

No longer is Sutter the only scapegoat.

More importantly, though, the addition should help the Flames become a better team.

For a franchise that's been locked in Suttervision for the better part of a decade, Feaster's fresh perspective will be welcomed by all.

"I think you'll see that they complement each other," Flames president Ken King said after a conference call that featured traditionally brief answers from Sutter followed by full-length additions from his new assistant. "In personality and skill-sets and everything else.

"It's just a great fit."

For all that's been said about Sutter since the Flames missed the playoffs this season, few actually believe the man is stupid.

And bringing in Feaster was brilliant.

Sutter's star was losing its shine with the fan base, which ideally holds the ownership group accountable. Another year as disappointing as the last could mean an end to Sutter's term-less contract.

With him having the foresight to hire someone capable of taking over, some now envision Sutter's time as Flames GM ending years down the road, with him stepping into some other role in the organization, while his own hire, Feaster, is handed the reins.

If it comes to pass as it did with Button and Sutter, it may be years rather than months away.

Feaster knows what his role is for now.

"I'm not coming there to be the general manager of the Calgary Flames," Feaster said. "I'm coming to be the assistant general manager and provide that insight and perspective."

The 47-year-old admits it's unusual for a former GM to take a step back and advise from a role as the assistant.

"It's unique," he said.

"Not necessarily that many bring them in and put them in an assistant general manager role.

"Really, you have to have a dynamic and strong personality as a manager to be willing to do that."

Sutter doesn't lack in confidence or gall. And while the GM said Thursday he was looking for "a partner in hockey," there should be no doubt who still wears the spurs at the Saddledome.

"(Feaster) kind of had to make us believers, too, that he wanted to be an assistant," said King, who completed the deal but admitted it was Sutter's hire.

"I negotiated the deal just to take a little pressure off of Darryl during that time period, but Darryl identified him, recommended him -- and he was right on the money with him."

Maybe the kind of move that allows Sutter to eventually leave the role on his own terms.


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