When Jay Feaster was named Acting General Manager of the Calgary Flames in late December, the team was struggling mightily.
Under Feaster's watch they finished the season 25-11-9, won the Heritage Classic and nearly qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Those results led the Flames to name Feaster as their full-time GM Monday.
"We indicated on Dec. 28 the process we wanted to embark on, and today we have concluded that process and I'm pleased to announce Jay Feaster will take over the role effective now as GM of the Calgary Flames," team president and CEO Ken King said at a news conference. "Jay has shown tremendous spirit and tremendous work ethic as we wound our way from Dec. 28 to today, and we're very fortunate to have him on board."
Feaster came on board last summer, signing a five-year contract as an assistant to then-GM Darryl Sutter. But with the Flames sitting at 16-18-3 on Dec. 28, Sutter stepped down and Feaster, who as GM led the Lightning to their first Stanley Cup championship in 2004, took control of the job on at least an interim basis.
Now the title is permanent.
"I have to tell you very honestly, the most exciting part for me of today is the fact I no longer have to answer the question, when are they going to take the 'acting' off your title," Feaster said, drawing laughs from the media assembled. "While I know that was a source of concern and angst for some members of the media and fans, this truly was a process that we had talked about at the end of December, that no decisions would be made until the end of the season, until I'd had an opportunity to submit a final report and evaluation and a plan going forward. That's what we did, we worked our plan, and while the season ended for us prematurely as far as we were concerned, certainly the work we had to do did not end."
Feaster said that includes hiring an assistant GM in charge of player personnel, a veteran assistant coach for Brent Sutter's staff to join the returning Dave Lowry and a goaltending coach. One position in the front office has already been firmed up, as Feaster announced Craig Conroy, a long-time NHL veteran who was playing in Calgary before announcing his retirement this past season, is staying on as a special assistant.
"He has embraced any job we've given him," Feaster said. "I'm excited by the fact he's going to be on board with us for a long time."
Feaster was also asked to address the future of Sutter, whose contract expires after the 2011-12 season. While he said signing Sutter to an extension wasn't an immediate priority, he also hopes that relationship will be a long and successful one.
"At this point in time Brent and I have had a number of conversations, and Brent has been the one to initiate them," Feaster said. "He's said, 'Don't expect me to come in here and ask you for an extension.' … I have a lot of confidence in Brent. When Ken and I talked, what we're trying to do is the triage aspect of it, handle the things that need to be attended to the most critically, and the other things can wait. Brent's situation is not something that is critical right now. It's all in due course as far as that goes."
Sutter will be attempting to guide the Flames to their first playoff berth in his third season in Calgary. The last one was a bit of a roller-coaster, but Feaster saw the attitude around the team change during the second half of the season and thinks a lesson may have been learned about how to deal with the adversity and come out on the other side.
"One of the most important things you need to do when going through the grind of the season, you need to be thinking about and looking for the positives, because they're there," he said. "Sometimes you get lost in the battles, the heat of the moment as you're not winning. The biggest thing as far as the attitude change was we're going to look for the positives and be an optimistic group. That's easy when you're winning, it's harder when times aren't as good."