Flames’ quest for more grit will continue after failed attempts last off-season
Feaster admits going hard last off-season after a “player” that sounds a lot like Brandon Prust
A year ago, reporters gathered to listen to Jay Feaster.
Feaster, general manager of the Calgary Flames, declared that his team needed size and grit.
Monday, reporters gathered to listen to Feaster.
Yup, size and grit. Still.
“It’s something I failed to get done last summer,” Feaster admitted at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “We are a small team. We are a team that is not as hard to play against as we need to be. And that’s a function of getting the right personnel.”
The right personnel, according to Feaster, comes at a cost.
See if you can fill in this blank.
“There was one of them that we went after hard, last year,” Feaster continued. “That player, in fact, had played here before. And the team that lost him, they certainly talked about it all season.”
Sure sounds like Brandon Prust, who left the New York Rangers, spurning the Flames and joining the Montreal Canadiens (for a four-year deal worth $10 million).
While, no doubt, there are challenges to landing the perfect piece, it’s worth noting that the Anaheim Ducks, in the same off-season, hired Sheldon Souray (six four, 233 pounds); Bryan (Bad News) Allen (six foot five, 226); Daniel Winnik (six foot one, 201); Brad Staubitz (six foot one, 215).
Feaster, however, emphasized that his team now possesses assets it did not have last year — three first-round picks, for starters, and a whole pile of cap space.
Which is good, because the Flames’ deficiencies don’t end at sandpaper.
Feaster also expressed a “desperate need” for centres, not to mention upgraded beef on the blue line, which is a wish-list not exactly new to these parts.
“And I’m not going to try to undersell that it’s difficult to do,” he said, “(acquiring) centremen and that grit factor.”
So, undersized and soft, the Flames had embarked on the 2013 campaign. And, perhaps predictably, flopped.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed with how this season went,” said Feaster. “It’s not acceptable to miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.”
During Monday afternoon’s 25-minute sermon, Feaster expanded on a number of topics:
“The play of Matt Stajan,” Feaster said of the centre who was plus-seven — Lee Stempniak, at plus-two, was the only other plus-rated teammate. “Mikael Backlund, I thought, had a very good year. T.J. Brodie. Certainly, the play of Jay Bouwmeester enabled us . . . to get the return (from St. Louis) that we did. The acquisition off the waiver wire of Joey MacDonald.
“I also liked the fact that our compete level was very good for the most part. In the past, a bad game, a bad lead for the other team, and a lot of times it would spiral out of control. This past season, we did a good job of staying with it.”
Teams, under the collective bargaining agreement, have two freebie buyouts. This off-season or next, each squad can turn loose as many as two players at the cost of two-thirds their salary — with, mercifully, zero salary-cap residue.
Feaster didn’t dismiss this avenue of change.
“Everything’s on the table,” he said. “It’s not something that we’d have to look at to become cap compliant, but if it’s organizational direction . . . .”
Miikka Kiprusoff’s future
Management did not have an exit interview Sunday with Kiprusoff. The goalie, with one year remaining on his contract, is expected to retire. But who knows? The Flames don’t.
“We’re going to give Kipper time to think about things, to contemplate what he wants to do,” said Feaster. “At the appropriate time, we will sit down with him. So we don’t have any sort of announcement to make.”
Life without No. 34
“As we’ve said for some time now,” said Feaster, “we have to start planning for the day when Miikka Kiprusoff will not be our No. 1 goaltender.”
So Edmonton Oil Kings star Laurent Brossoit has been signed. Same with Swiss netminder Reto Berra (acquired in the Jay Bouwmeester deal). Plus, the Flames have in their plans Karri Ramo (acquired with Michael Cammalleri last season) and prospect Joni Ortio, a 2009 sixth-round pick.
“After playing the last couple years in Europe . . . and prepared to compete and be a No. 1 guy in the American Hockey League is Joni Ortio,” said Feaster. “We do have a plan (for the goalies), but it’s not something we want to share in a lot of detail right now.”
Leland Irving, a free agent, is not in anyone’s plans.
First year of Bob Hartley & Co.
“They did a real good job,” said Feaster, pointing to, among other indicators, a power play that was ranked No. 9. “I thought they did a good job teaching. We had a number of players talk about, ‘Boy, I wish I had this coach when I was younger . . . (because of) the things I’ve learned this year.’ I know that they were very well-prepared.”
Confirmed list of the wounded
Forwards Curtis Glencross, Alex Tanguay, Sven Baertschi, Mikael Backlund, Roman Cervenka, Steve Begin; defencemen Derek Smith, Brett Carson.
“We don’t expect long-term concerns with any of those guys,” said Feaster.
C-NOTES: The Flames’ development camp is slated for July 10-16 . . . The Flames are entered in the Young Guns rookie tournament in Penticton, B.C., Sept. 5-9.
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald