There is a telling moment early in the documentary Oil Change, which chronicles the ongoing rebuilding of the Edmonton Oilers, that also says something about the challenges facing their provincial rivals, the Calgary Flames, in the months and years ahead.
It is only October, but a caller to the local Edmonton radio station expresses his frustration that - six games into the season - he hasn't seen more progress from this young and much-hyped team of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and all the rest. Six games into a multi-year reconstruction of the organization's foundation and for some anyway, the bloom was already off the rose.
This, of course, represents the dilemma at the root of any NHL rebuild, large or small: They generally don't come equipped with a magic wand that the new general manager can wave and presto, undo all the sins of the recent past.
Whenever an organization makes a significant change at the top, as the Flames did this week, there is always that cathartic short-term adrenalin rush in the community - that better days are ahead and maybe even just around the corner. Then the snow falls the next morning again, and the actual work begins - of sloooooooowly changing a culture, a line-up, a development system; in short, of making all the other various and sundry adjustments needed before an organization can get back on the right track.
It is a slow and imprecise process and many times, requires a franchise to take one step backward in order to move two steps ahead. Too often, the transitional regime doesn't ever get the necessary time to effect real change - and pays the price because of the prevailing what-have-you-done-for-me-lately ethic that permeates professional sport (and isn't limited to just impatient radio audiences).
It can be a thankless job and requires someone to go into the undertaking with his eyes wide open - which is where the new interim Calgary general manager Jay Feaster finds himself now.
The Flames play the Oilers Saturday night in Edmonton, and it'll be the second game under Feaster's watch. This past week, the new man spent the first days of the post-Darryl Sutter era outlining his philosophy, which he insists will not involve going all scorched earth in the manner of the Oilers' reconstruction project. That, said Feaster, was not his "MO" and "not the history of the way I've managed."
His message was straightforward and clear and delivered in such a way so that there could be no misunderstanding: The Flames nucleus - consisting of right winger Jarome Iginla, goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff and a decent defence corps of Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr and Mark Giordano - will stay put for now.
Once Giordano's new contract kicks in next year, the quintet will collectively gobble up around $28-million in annual salary-cap charges, almost half of what a team can spend nowadays. It means that if Feaster plans to hang to all five long-term, his options for change are limited to excising all the peripheral players, also earning too much money, that aren't contributing to their salary levels.
Good luck making that happen.
In terms of what comes next in Calgary, usually a good indication of how someone will act in the future involves digging into their past behaviour - and Feaster's past involved a long and mostly successful run at the helm of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Indeed, Feaster faced a crisis - of a slightly different variety - coming out of the NHL lockout, which came immediately on the heels of the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup championship.
Feaster had a nice core in place - Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, Vinnie Lecavalier plus goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. Unhappily for the Lightning, they were the first victims of the hard salary cap that emerged from the 04-05 collective bargaining negotiations - a tight $39.5 million limit on spending that probably hit the Lightning harder than any other team.
With four star players to satisfy in negotiations, Feaster just couldn't shoehorn them all in.Report Typo/Error