Though he believes in a Christmastime trading freeze, Brian Burke decided after three months on the job as the Calgary Flames' president of hockey operations that the time was right to fire Jay Feaster as general manager on Thursday
'Tis the season to give, and Brian Burke did just that on Thursday. The Calgary Flames' president of hockey operations gave pink slips to general manager Jay Feaster and assistant GM John Weisbrod.
Burke has been with the Flames for 98 days now. He has kept his distance from the team, but he has kept a close eye on it too.
He claimed he performed a thorough evaluation of Feaster and his staff over the past three-plus months and said he sought opinions from outside observers.
His conclusion was that Feaster was not the man to rebuild the Flames.
"I feel for us to take the next step we will do it quicker and better with this change," a messy-haired Burke said of the Flames' messy situation at a press conference announcing the firings.
That Burke made this move is no surprise. The timing, however, is peculiar. Burke believes in a Christmastime trade freeze, but this was a move he felt had to be made now, even though the season is only 30 games old and the Flames are right about where everybody expected them tospot in the West at 11-15-4.
Feaster certainly got it right with sixth-overall draft pick Sean Monahan. But the goaltending tandem of Reto Berra and Karri Ramo has been subpar, and Feaster failed to find a suitable short-term solution for the departure of Miikka Kiprusoff, who decided to call it a career a couple months shy of his 37th birthday. Nieuwendyk next?
We heard Burke's remarks when he was hired back on Sept. 5, a few months after NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan turned down the Flames. Burke said he was looking forward to working with Feaster and intended to take on "a background role." But with Feaster in the last year of his contract, how long could that last?
Burke likes to be front and centre. He likes to be seen and heard. He confirmed he will be the acting GM and that his search for Feaster's successor already has started. He also stated that he's prepared to be the GM full-time if a suitable replacement is not found.
The search will start with Joe Nieuwendyk, who worked under Burke with the Toronto Maple Leafs before going out on his own to run the Dallas Stars for four playoff-less seasons, which resulted in his firing. The 47-year-old Nieuwendyk won the first of his three Stanley Cups as a player with the Flames back in 1989.
Burke said one of his reasons for making the change now was because the Buffalo Sabres are amid their own GM search. Burke did not want to wait to begin his pursuit. He also felt the timing was right because the Flames' ownership group had met earlier this week. So while the gang was all gathered, why not inform them how he felt about Feaster's future?
Burke also felt his team needed more size, and yes, he did use the word "truculent" as well as "hostility." Burke's first move was to demote finesse forward Sven Baertschi to the AHL.
"We want black-and-blue hockey here," Burke said. "That's what we do in Alberta."
He also doesn't like the way his team has surrendered leads in the third period, most recently when his club yielded two third-period goals on Tuesday in Jarome Iginla's homecoming game to drop a 2-1 decision to the Boston Bruins.
All in all, the Flames have gone 7-3-2 when leading after 40 minutes. No other team has lost more than twice when leading after two periods.
Even though Burke acknowledged that Feaster and his scouting staff hit a "home run" with the selection of Monahan last June, Burke wants his next GM to be draft savvy so the presumable next top-five pick will be a key part of the Flames' future.
"We have to get those picks right," he said. "You have to hit home runs.
The importance Burke placed on the draft may raise eyebrows in Toronto because he gave up two first-round picks in a package to the Bruins for Phil Kessel -- selections the Bruins used to land talented young players in Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton.
Burke made some good moves over his four years in Toronto, especially the acquisition of James van Riemesky for Luke Schenn. But the Maple Leafs still haven't won a playoff series since 2004.
Which brings us to the Flames. They also haven't won a playoff series since 2004 -- the year of their run to the Stanley Cup final. It sure will be interesting to see if Burke has more success with this rebuilding effort in Calgary.
Tim WharnsbyTim's worked the sports beat at The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun, specializing in Canada's one true sporting obsession - hockey. He knows the players, the coaches, the backroom boys and most importantly, the fans. That's what he brings to his stories. Knowledge, fairness and understanding are trademarks of a Wharnsby story. That's what you will get here as he writes for CBCSports.ca.
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