On the day that Darryl Sutter finally stepped down/was pushed out as the Calgary Flames’ general manager, team captain Jarome Iginla said it would be business as usual for him. No trade demands. No second thoughts about his commitment to the only NHL organization for which he’s ever played. For now anyway, Iginla said his primary goal was to expand upon the team's modest two-game win streak, with a view to making up the necessary ground in the Western Conference playoff race.
“Really, the focus of myself and the group is to just keep playing better hockey,” said Iginla, moments after the press conference introducing the Flames’ new interim general manager, Jay Feaster. “We still think we can get back in it this year and if we are able to - if and when we’re able to get ourselves back into it and make the playoffs, we’d be on a heck of a run, to win two of every three of our remaining games.
“That’s really where my focus is. It’s not on ‘what ifs?’ or ‘if this changes or that?’ because there are so many different scenarios that if you start thinking too much, it wastes energy as far as preparing for games and being in the right mindset.
“I literally think our group has been playing better and [the playoffs] are still possible and we’re going to try to keep our focus on that.”
Officially, Sutter stepped down as Flames’ general manager Tuesday, a day after team president Ken King asked him to do so. The two met the day after Christmas to plot the long-term future of the organization. King asked Sutter to stay on in an advisory role, but acknowledged that Feaster now has full control of the hockey operations side. Feaster's appointment is on an interim basis - he acknowledged that this amounts to an “audition” for him. If Feaster’s vision for the future coincides with King’s and the rest of the organization's, then the job will go to him on a permanent basis.
Feaster led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup, defeating Calgary in a seven-game final. That was the zenith of Sutter’s tenure with the team. Since the lockout, the Flames’ fortunes have progressively sank, to the point where they are now 14th in the Western Conference, and six points out of a playoff spot.
Feaster handled the press conference well, and suggested that in his previous history, he didn’t believe in a scorched-earth rebuilding strategy - and kept on the coach that he inherited in Tampa, John Tortorella.
“I do believe we have some good people in this organization,” said Feaster. “At the same time, I think as an executive, you can’t take anything off the table either. You can’t go in with the blanket assurance that everything’s going to stay the same.”
Feaster will inherit a team full of veteran players on no-movement contracts, meaning even if he wanted to undertake a major rebuild, his hands will be tied - in the short term anyway - by the contracts that he inherited.
“The important thing in today’s NHL is to have flexibility,” said Feaster. “That’s an important aspect, an important dynamic.
“You have to go into any organization, any situation, and look at it and evaluate it and make your decisions.
“There are more kids coming through the pipeline ... we’re going to be a whole lot better than some people give us credit for going forward.”
Feaster gave a hint to his long-range thoughts only when talking about the race that the Flames find themselves in to make the playoffs.
“I want to make the playoffs, but I don’t want to just make the playoffs and then go out in the first round,” he said. “I don’t want to be a team that says, ‘Well, we made it every year for four years.’ I’m telling you, when you win a Stanley Cup, that’s the only thing that matters. It’s the only place you want to get back to - and that’s where I want to get back to here.”