The Calgary Flames' decision to hire Brian Burke as president of hockey operations has fueled discussion about the future of the team's front office. Burke has proven to be a lightning rod for attention in the past and some question whether the former Maple Leafs GM will be able to take a less demonstrative approach in his new position, a concern which he tried to quell by proclaiming himself "a good teammate" during his introductory press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Based upon the explanation given by the Flames, Burke will be working hand-in-hand with general manager Jay Feaster in attempting to re-establish the franchise as a playoff contender. The philosophical approach involves a collection of hockey minds -- led by Burke -- pooling their ideas and opinions so that Feaster can assemble the roster as he sees fit.
While Burke has veto power, he doesn't plan on using it, as he envisions a working environment where he and Feaster will discuss personnel decisions in a diplomatic fashion that will result in mutual understanding on all transactions.
Despite this idealistic proposal, many believe Feaster's days are numbered in Calgary, with Burke waiting in the wings to push the incumbent aside. That speculation might have received a bit more fuel on Friday, when Tony Gallagher reported that the Flames interviewed and offered the same position that Burke ultimately accepted to Nashville Predators GM David Poile.
Poile has deep ties to the Flames organization. He got his start in professional hockey with the franchise and acted as the club's assistant general manager prior to taking over as the general manager Washington Capitals in 1982. He even provided Ken King advice in dealing with the damage from the floods over this summer.
Ultimately, Poile declined the Flames' offer, but some still question whether Feaster would have retained his job in the event of Poile accepting the president position. While anything is possible, King's explanation of the Flames' decision to create a president position leads one to believe that Feaster wasn't in jeopardy of losing his job.
King stated that the franchise had been discussing a new management structure for approximately 30 months. The goal, based upon their explanation, was to expand the front office and, in essence, strengthen the hockey operations department by allowing King to focus on the business component of the operation.
If that truly is the goal (and that means taking the team's explanation at face value), then it seems like the organization was looking to remove King more so than Feaster.
In terms of Poile declining the position, it's easy to think of reasons why he would want to stay in Nashville (and even easier to think of reasons why he wouldn't want to go to Calgary). But, at the root of it, if the Flames were offering a president position under a revamped management structure that Poile wasn't interested in, it doesn't mean Feaster's head was on the block. For all we know, it very well could be, but the decision to offer the position to Burke or Poile doesn't prove that.
From an outsider's perspective, the landscape in professional sports is changing. Days of "general" management are slowly coming to an end, as each phase of each operation becomes slightly more specified. In my daily operations, I lean on a group of individuals who help me accomplish all kinds of tasks, both professional and personal. One person can only do so much and having the aide and guidance of other individuals can help create amazing projects.
Based upon the Flames' press conference, it sounds like the organization is attempting to do just that.