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Looking towards to the future

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- On Thursday night, Calgary Flames president and CEO Ken King and acting general manager Jay Feaster took to the stage at Flames Central to take part in a Q&A with

Acting general manager Jay Feaster listens to a question at Thursday's Flames Fan Forum.

season ticket holders about the club's season thus far.

While some questions did revolve around the Flames 2010-11 campaign, the majority of inquires were about the team's future.

Feaster was adament in his philosophy that the team needs to identify the players it wants to grow around and build around that group.

"We have to be very, very honest in evaluating who our core players are," Feaster told the crowd. "I think that the strength of the hockey club - and maybe he hasn't shown it necessarily of late - is that we have a world class goaltender in Kipper.

I think that three of our defencemen are as any three of a top four in the league in Regeher and Bouwmeester and Giordano ... And obviously at the same time, you have a player like Jarome."

Questions surrounding possibly trading the Flames captain were quelled by both Feaster and King, saying the organization believes structuring the team around their current leader was the best way to move forward.

"When we put the right pieces around him, he is still an elite player at a high enough level that he'll be part of it when we win."

The Abbotsford Heat, who are currently sitting 12th in the Western Conference of the American Hockey League, were also a hot topic.

"We like to say that the cupboards are bare and there is no one in the pipeline," Feaster smiled. "I don't believe that is true. One player who may have seen quite of a bit of recently because he played in the World Juniors, Tim Erixon, the defenceman - that is a guy we think is knocking on the door in terms of being NHL-ready.

"Our plan is to get him signed this summer."

Feaster also pointed out another player who could potentially have a major impact on the defence corps in coming years.

"When you look at T.J. Brodie, another player who had a great start with us, and then kind of disappointed for a little bit. He went to the American League and I think that because he had success on a limited run at the NHL level, that he didn't have to respect that league.

"The American Hockey League is a very good league and you see a lot of players make that mistake, that they don't respect it the way they need to. Brent and I just went in to see the team play in Abbotsford a couple of weeks ago ... T.J. has taken some strides. He's much better than he was when he was first assigned there."

Feaster also singled out forwards Lance Bouma and Greg Nemisz as possible callups this season due to their growth this year.

Feaster's first big test in his new role will be on Feb. 28, the NHL trade deadline. When asked if he was planning on making headlines like his predecessor Darryl Sutter, he could only laugh.

"Either way, we'll make headlines. I promise you that. Because if nothing happens, that will be the headline - 'Feaster Does Nothing, Rome Burns.'", he smiled. "In terms of how I see it going, we're going to be active. I'm active right now."

Does he feel pressured to wait until the trade deadline to make moves?

"Absolutely not," he stated. "If there were deals to be done right now that improved our hockey club, we'd do them. We're going to continue to look at those and continue to monitor where we are in the standings, relative to the playoff race, and we'll make decisions based on those things."

In his role as the general manager in Tampa Bay, Feaster's best draft acquisition is undoubtedly Steven Stamkos. The 20 year-old is lighting it up in Florida with 37 goals and 65 points, just a single point behind NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby.

However, not all of his draft picks during his tenure in Tampa have panned out and fans were curious as to his philosophy in this year's entry draft.

"It's not so much position as much as it is priority," was his response when asked if he would be choosing players based on their overall skill or the position they play. "What I would to the scouts is that if it's a tie, if you can't necessarily tell me that player A is better is player B, then why don't we look at wherever we have the weakness.

"But certainly we're not going to go off the board and say 'Well, we really need someone at center ice, there are three great defencemen stlll on the board and we'll pass on them because we have defence.' We'll take the best player that's still there and on our list."

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