SUN Hockey Pool

Feaster has refreshing approach

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:40 PM ET

While he’ll have to wait at least a few more weeks to officially get the full-time GM gig, Jay Feaster ushered in a new era down at the Saddledome Tuesday.

He did so by replacing Darryl Sutter’s annual grunt-and-groan stand-off with a refreshingly open, honest discussion with the media (thus, the fans) that saw the Calgary Flames acting GM do something his predecessor never would: Admit mistakes.

“I traded a seventh-round pick for a broken-down Freddie Modin,” said Feaster, shaking his head at how poorly one of his only moves turned out this year.

“That’s one that didn’t work out and I take full responsibility. But it’s not about pointing fingers — it’s about being honest, moving forward.”

While his predicted confirmation Jarome Iginla “isn’t going anywhere” grabbed most people’s attention over the course of his half-hour presser, there were so many other admissions he made that paint a more telling story.

For example, Feaster revealed his club has quietly been in the bidding for a few of the hotshot U.S. collegians recently inked to deals, but came away empty.

Reiterating just how important it is to restock the empty coffers, he said the plan put forth to ownership involves ensuring the franchise’s maligned scouting staff is bolstered to do a better job scouting the NCAA ranks as well as Europe and the AHL.

“It has not been a priority in the past here and not an area we’ve scouted as heavily as junior,” he said of the NCAA.

“But it is a way to replenish talent in a hurry.”

And that’s exactly what the Flames need.

He suggested re-inking goalie Henrik Karlsson won’t be a problem and while he also wants to sign free agents Alex Tanguay and Curtis Glencross, he knows how hard that will be given the club has already committed almost US$57M in salaries next season. (The cap will be $62M.)

He said ownership has yet to deny any request he’s made to date and that certainly could include opening up more cap space by burying the $3 million salaries of Ales Kotalik and even Niklas Hagman in the minors.

“Ownership is committed to winning, but you can’t simply keep going to ownership and say, ‘would you mind burying this contract because we made a mistake here?’ ” said Feaster. “I’m not sure that’s the most productive conversation for any manager to have.”

But one that’s necessary to start patching up the mess Sutter left.

Planning on being active long before the July 1 free agent deadline, Feaster will file his final plan to ownership after extensive exit meetings. He said it’s business as usual and he isn’t worried about speculation swirling while the “acting” tag remains.

After all, he will be the GM.

“If Ken (King) came out and said, ‘we’re taking the acting tag off’ what would you guys do?” laughed Feaster. “I’ll tell you one thing, if I’m not the guy, Connie (his assistant Craig Conroy) and I will arm-wrestle for the assistant GM job.”

Refusing to identify any untouchables outside Iginla, Feaster echoed Darryl’s plan to build around the core of the club by filling in holes.

He said he believes in Brent Sutter as coach, will never tell him who or how to play, and has an interesting theory on the role his bench boss had on the team’s turnaround.

Simply put, he thinks some players chose to commit fully to Brent and his system only once Darryl was excused, realizing the coach had Feaster’s backing and would stay.

Given the minefield of bad contracts Feaster is stepping into, there’s little question he’s in tough to effect significant change to a team that isn’t getting any younger.

But with the attitude he has, the measured approach and his respectful way of treating media and fans, he’s more apt to gain the patience of supporters than the man he replaced ever was.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ericfrancis

- Eric Francis is an ambassador for KidSport and will donate $1 for every new follower he gets on twitter this month.


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