CALGARY - Apologies all around. Answers, you’ll have to wait for those.
Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster spoke for a half-hour on a wide range of topics, without delving into specifics on any of them.
The man is a lawyer by trade, so no matter how each question was carefully worded, he wasn’t about to reveal anything outside of what he covered in his opening statements.
But you can bet the apology was genuine.
“To the fans,” Feaster said. “From those of us who failed to deliver what we promised, we apologize to those fans.
“From the standpoint of hockey operations, we apologize to ownership. They are committed and they give us resources to do the job. It’s our responsiblity to do that job. Having failed that again, it’s not where we want to be. We have a busy off-season ahead of us. We’ve already started on that off-season.”
Sorry doesn’t cut it for most passionate fans in the city who are tired of watching other teams battle for the Stanley Cup the last few years.
They’re tired of seeing the Flames come oh-so-close only to miss the playoffs and draft in the middle of the order again.
So is Feaster, and he’s really only been in the GM’s chair for a year-and-a-half.
“What troubles me the most about this season and what we as a hockey-management group need to find answers to and come to grips with, every time we had a chance to push through, we failed to do it,” Feaster said. “That bad start, we were sub .500. Every time we got to within a game of .500, we stumbled again. You go back and you look at game No. 60. We are coming off a 1-0 win at L.A. We’re in eighth place. We are at home facing a homestand, and Edmonton runs us right out of the building.
“In mid-March, it looked as if we would be out and it would be a long end to the season. Then, we string together five wins. Those five wins put us in a situation where we were one point back. Then, we lost five straight games.
“In short, every time we had the opportunity to break through, we failed to do it.”
The public autopsy has been going on for weeks in the media and among the fanbase.
The private one has just begun.
Feaster, team president Ken King and the ownership group will be evaluating for weeks to come and determining the best course of action.
Everything — from trading away stars to signing big free agents — will be discussed.
But so far, Feaster’s findings have been a little bit confusing.
During exit meetings, he said while meeting with the players there were plenty of theories as to what went wrong this season.
“I talked to 24 guys (Monday) and got about six different sets of answers as to why that is,” Feaster said. “I had some guys talk about the pressure of it. All of a sudden you are the hunted and not the hunter. I had some guys talk about in the context of a sigh of relief to get there. Then, the level drops. You become complacent. You don’t have the same urgency.
“We will look at it real hard. As a club or as an organization, we have a lot of work to do. We have to figure out what it is mentally that stops us from breaking through when we have those opportunities.”
Whatever decisions he comes to, Feaster expects they will be met with approval.
Despite all the talk about the idea ownership is restricting Feaster’s actions, the GM says he hasn’t experienced any resistance to his suggestions since taking over for Darryl Sutter last December.
“In that entire time period, I haven’t gone to Ken King and said this is what I want to do … and have them say that’s not what we want to do,” Feaster said. “We have conversations about it.
“The reporting relationship is no different from what I had in Tampa. It’s probably the same as 27 or 28 teams in the NHL. I report to the president, and he reports to ownership. They are all successful businessmen, and they challenge. They ask why you want to do something. Is there an alternative? It’s a healthy process. There’s no instance where they didn’t support what I asked them to do.”
Based on the last few seasons, this summer may go a long way in proving that.
But we’ll have to wait and see.