Season over, Flames now look for answers

Roman Horak Flames
Roman Horak was one of several young Flames praised by Jay Feaster at his year-end media session. (Icon SMI)

Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster opened his media availability on Tuesday morning with an apology to Flames fans and ownership over what he termed a “disappointing” performance by the hockey club in the regular reason. Feaster also acknowledged that changes are necessary for the club going forward.

“This is not where we expected to be. We expected to be preparing for the playoffs,” said Feaster. “What troubles me the most, I guess, about this season, and what we as a hockey management group need to find answers to and come to grips with, is the fact that every time our hockey club this season had an opportunity to push through, they failed to do it.”

Feaster noted that one of the common threads in his exit interviews with players was the notion from several players that the team seemed to relax when they hit a certain level or benchmark – such as temporarily approaching .500 or the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference – which in turn led the team to slide back to their prior position. He noted that a repeat of this season’s performance won’t be acceptable.

“This is not a situation I want to be in next year, I’ll tell you that right now.” said Feaster. “I have no interest in standing here on April 10th next year explaining why it is that we’ve missed the playoffs.”

Calgary’s general manager disagreed with the notion that the team improving was predicated on blowing the club up for draft picks and missing the playoffs for a few years, such as what has occurred in Edmonton. Feaster noted that there are many different ways to improve the club. He declined to discuss the fates of specific players – dodging questions about the future of team captain Jarome Iginla or head coach Brent Sutter.

“I will be sitting down with Ken King and ownership, and I will be reviewing every player in the organization, and every member of the hockey operations staff, and I will be making recommendations as it relates to players and staff and coaches,” said Feaster, noting that the process would begin right away.

The gathering of local media was not wholly negative, however, as Feaster heaped praise upon several of the team’s younger players. He noted that the younger players brought energy to the club and the team played stronger with them in the line-up, a sentiment that was echoed by head coach Brent Sutter in his media availability earlier in the day. In addition to speaking highly of the team’s prospect depth, Feaster also praised Abbotsford Heat head coach Troy Ward, describing him as “one of the best development coaches in the game” and speaking about his ability to get players NHL-ready.

“I think Troy and his staff, they’ve done an incredible job there,” said Feaster. “It’s one of the things that we’ve found, as we’re trying to sign some of these free agent college players. We’ve landed a couple of them because in fact the agent or the player has been familiar with Troy and has said, ‘that’s a spot I want to go.’ He gets guys ready for the National Hockey League.”

In particular, the fact that the Heat clinched a playoff spot was a reason to celebrate the AHL club’s coaching staff. While the Flames dealt with injuries throughout the year, they received constant relief from Abbotsford, which meant the minor league club was continually scrambling to restock its line-up.

“We devastated that team, because every time we recalled a player to come here for an injury, they’re scrambling and he’s kept that group together. To have them sitting right now in the fourth spot and looking to try to clinch home ice in the first round, I can’t say enough about the job that he and his staff have done,” said Feaster.