Some hockey people think Jay Feaster's in a rough spot. He doesn't.
Some people see a Calgary Flames team hovering between eighth and 10th place in the NHL's Western Conference standings, unsure it'll make the NHL playoffs, and they think Feaster, the acting general manager, is tied up in knots. Can't sell the house, can't jeopardize a possible postseason berth yet has to secure lost draft picks and potential.
Outsiders see the horns of a mighty dilemma. Feaster doesn't. What he envisages is standing in front of the local media following the NHL trade deadline next Monday and announcing … nothing.
Works for him, he said Thursday.
"If there's an opportunity that we think is too good to pass up, we'll [make a trade]" he explained off the top. "If I come out here with all of you on Monday afternoon and say that we didn't make a move, that's going to be alright, too, because I really like this hockey club and I have no interest in breaking up this team."
We're not talking about some Big Red Machine here, but the Flames' play since late December (15-5-5) has carried them back to a possible playoff spot, and Feaster believes that run - and the potential for more - should be rewarded. Having waited for the players to finally buy in and relax, management has chosen to err on the side of caution and see how far that takes them. It's their trade day plan and they intend to stick to it.
"I believe this group deserves the opportunity to stay together and see it through, getting to the playoffs and how far we go in the playoffs," said Feaster, who has been hearing the same stuff from his coach.
"I like our team," Brent Sutter said. "That's the message I say to Jay."
The Flames have settled into a comfortable rhythm, playing better defence, scoring timely goals and riding goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff's steady efforts, all without a serious injury to a keynote player. They'd like to add some depth on defence and they'd like to add another top-nine forward. "That's sort of the Christmas wish list," Feaster admitted.
But it's a pretty modest list. And if nothing happens and nothing is announced, the Flames are certain there's something to be gained from that, too - a boost in faith that this team can do the job.
"Most guys are feeling pretty good about their game and they're feeling they can contribute," said captain Jarome Iginla, who explained the Flames' resurgence as a combination of things.
"We were starting to play better just before [Darryl Sutter resigned as GM and Feaster assumed the acting title on Dec. 28] The coaching staff got to know the players a little more. They adjusted things. As players, there was more freedom to be a bit creative; that's shown a lot of guys can make some great plays. There are so many things," Iginla said. "All of them have helped us be more confident."
And all of them have been noticed by Feaster, who insisted he is not about to be caught up in any trade-day euphoria, no matter what other teams are doing.
"You see the deals and it's a pretty heated market and we have to be concerned about deficit spending," Feaster said in reference to making trades that cost the Flames draft picks, like the second- and third-round picks they lack in the entry draft this year. "I'm not sure that's where we should be as an organization. You expect those second-round picks to play for you."
Still, Feaster has been busy, taking and making calls with his NHL peers. He's also been "trying to give us flexibility" by waiving veteran forwards Ales Kotalik and Niklas Hagman. Kotalik cleared re-entry waivers Thursday and will be sent back to the American Hockey League's Abbotsford Heat. Hagman, who also cleared waivers, will play for the Flames in their game Friday against the San Jose Sharks.
Calgary has 20 games remaining in the regular season, 10 at home, 10 on the road. "We've played good; we're not playing great," assessed winger Alex Tanguay. "We need to climb another notch."