Jay Feaster's tenure as general manager of the Flames ended Thursday, and any objective observer will conclude that his time in Calgary was a failure. Too often, he held onto players for too long and failed to get solid return on players when he finally did ship them elsewhere. In a lot of ways, it became his M.O.
It's not all Feaster's fault there, because the Flames have a history of doing this. Calgary hasn't been a contending team for years, and the Flames have missed the playoffs in four straight seasons, but they've had an extremely difficult time admitting that they need to rebuild from the ground up. In recent years, Feaster was right at the center of this poor decision-making, and the Flames have a long road ahead of them as a result.
Let's look at his failed moments as GM of the Flames.
Hard to put the blame solely on Feaster here, but the Flames couldn't sell Erixon on signing in Calgary, and when he asked to be traded instead, they sent the best defensive prospect they've had in years to New York with a fifth-round pick for Roman Horak and two second-round picks, used to take Markus Granlund and Tyler Wotherspoon. Horak put up a whopping 18 points in 82 games in Calgary before the team shipped him off to Edmonton, Wotherspoon looks like a big nothing and Granlund is the wrong Granlund.
Calgary's Granlund may end up being pretty good, but the old adage goes that you should never create holes with trades, and the Flames have a cavernous hole in their group defense prospects since Erixon was traded.
Remember when Regehr had value? He's not very good anymore, but when Calgary traded him in 2011, he was viewed in many NHL circles as a top pairing shutdown defenseman. So what did Feaster get for him? Less than Buffalo got when it traded him two years later. The Flames were compensated with a second-round pick, a roster player in Chris Butler and a fringe prospect in Paul Byron. Butler at least made the team, but a bottom pairing defenseman isn't much return.
Going cheap on goaltending
Henrik Karlsson, Karri Ramo, Reto Berra, Joey MacDonald ... all these guys have two things in common: they're cheap, and they're awful. At first it seemed like the Flames were unwilling to bring someone in who might challenge Miikka Kiprusoff, but even after his retirement, it's just one reach after another. The Flames currently don't have a goaltender with a save percentage higher than .896 -- how is that even possible? Perhaps prospect Jon Gillies could solve their woes, but he's still 19 years old and years away. Feaster showed no inclination to solve the goaltending problem.
Not trading Kiprusoff
Feaster tried to trade Miikka Kiprusoff last season, and in typical Feaster manner he waited way too late. Kipper was checked out of the game by then and putting up the worst numbers of his career at age 36. A good GM would have capitalized on his final good year, the year before, and traded him while he not only had value, but wanted to compete for a cup. The over-attachment to a franchise icon crippled the Flames' ability to improve themselves (this is going to be a running theme).
Trading for Cammalleri
Mike Cammalleri was the best player in the deal, but you can make a very good argument that both the teams involved in this trade lost. Sure, the Flames got out from under a longer contract when they got rid of Rene Bourque, but they acquired a high-salary player with no shot at competing, and gave up a prospect and a high pick in a deep draft year when their cupboard is barren. Cammalleri is a very good player, but what has this trade done for the Flames? Make a roster that has no chance to make the playoffs slightly better, and lose futures. Sounds smart.
The Dennis Wideman contract
I ... I don't even know where to start here. Wideman is a serviceable defenseman, but there's a good reason why he was traded to the Flames for all of a fifth-round pick and Jordan Henry. Signing him to a long-term contract and making him the top paid guy on the blueline is pretty ludicrous. It's not as bad a move as some of the others on this list, especially with the cap increasing, but seriously, why?
Does this one even need to be explained? With supremely skilled players still on the board in a deep draft, Feaster elected to go with a relatively unknown high school player in the first round, who weighed about 150 pounds when drafted. Feaster was quoted saying that in 10 years, Jankowski would be the best player in the 2012 draft. Well, even if you're right (you're not, Jay), by then he'll be a UFA and leave Calgary like everyone else. Jankowski is currently scoring a half-point per game in his second year in the NCAA, while Olli Maatta, drafted right behind him, is looking solid on defense with the Penguins ... in the NHL.
Not getting enough for Jay Bouwmeester
It's tough to trade a big cap hit, it really is. But just a single piece of value (no, Reto Berra isn't good) for a top pairing defenseman who can play 25 minutes a game isn't impressive. The Flames seemingly made a solid pick with Emile Poirier, but you're still looking at just one possible top-six player in return for a guy Calgary used to call a franchise defenseman. Not good enough.
Waiting too long on Iginla
It's understandable that you don't ever want to let go of a franchise icon, which Jarome Iginla obviously is, but you also can't let him sit there and rot his value away with age while your team isn't competing. When Feaster took over for Darryl Sutter in late December of 2010, Jarome Iginla was in the middle of a 43-goal, 43-assist season, and the Flames were in the middle of yet another season of almost making the playoffs. As a manager, one of your jobs is to assess the future of the organization, and if Feaster had done so, he'd have seen the desperate need to rebuild. Putting Iginla on the trade block either at the trade deadline, or at the 2011 draft, he could have made out like a bandit. Instead, Feaster waited, and waited, and watched Iginla decline with the team's fortunes. When the Flames finally decided to trade him, all they got were a couple of OK prospects and a first-round pick.
The pick ended up being Morgan Klimchuk, a talented if undersized left winger, but is that really all you can get for the best player in franchise history? A complete inability to make the tough decisions in time to get valuable return is going to be Feaster's legacy in Calgary.
Mismanaging Sean Monahan
After finally admitting that the Flames needed to begin a rebuild, Feaster selected Sean Monahan with the sixth overall pick. We could argue about whether he was the best player available, but the fact is that the bigger mistake was keeping him in the NHL this season. Calgary is going nowhere, and wasting a year of Monahan's entry-level contract is going to hurt the team in the future when it has to give him more money sooner. You could say that exposing Monahan to the NHL sooner will speed up his development, but the Flames have no reason to be impatient because they're a long way from competing.