Button: Burke/Feaster tandem can work in Calgary

by Brian Compton / NHL.com

Some may have been surprised by the Calgary Flames' hiring of Brian Burke to be the team's president of hockey operations on Thursday. After all, the Flames already have general manager Jay Feaster in place.

But it's a model that's been used in a few markets around the NHL, especially in Alberta.

Calgary's biggest foe, the Edmonton Oilers, put a similar system in place in 2008 when Kevin Lowe moved up in the front office from general manager to president of hockey operations. The Oilers are entering their first full season with Lowe and Craig MacTavish, who was hired as GM in April.

So with the Flames front office being led by two Stanley Cup winners, NHL Network analyst and former Flames GM Craig Button said he believes the Burke/Feaster combination could prove to be a winning one in Calgary.


"Is it much different than when Kevin Lowe became the president of the Edmonton Oilers? Kevin was an in-the-guts-of-the-action guy," Button said. "As a player he was that, as a coach he was that, and as a manager he was like that. But when things moved along and Kevin decided to take on a different role, it didn't become a lesser role. It just became a different role and it became a really important role as the team was moving forward.

"Working in all the different areas that impact the hockey operations, Brian understands that having been in Toronto and Vancouver, and he's another guy that is an in-the-guts-of-the-action guy. I'd rather have guys that want to be in the guts of the action than guys that want to be on the periphery.

"Brian has done it Vancouver and he's done it in Toronto. He understands the Canadian market. He's an upfront guy, he's a take-charge guy. At the end of the day, they've reached the point here where this is the path that they want to go on. So now I think it's incumbent upon Jay and Brian to now work together. It's one thing to have all the right intentions, but now you have to put it into practice. Is it a model that can work? I don't think there's any question."

The Flames struggled last season and finished 13th in the Western Conference, 13 points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot. Going into full rebuild mode, Feaster dealt captain Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline. The chances of Calgary making the playoffs this season appear slim, which may have some believing that a slow start could lead to Burke ultimately becoming GM in a matter of months. But Button said he believes Feaster, who won a Stanley Cup as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning (2003-04), is comfortable with this move.

"If it wasn't something that Jay believed would work, I don't think that he would be ready to embrace it," Button said. "I think he would have said, 'OK, why do I have to be worried about getting off to a good start?' If he's worried about that now, then we wouldn't have gotten to this point.

"Jay knows Brian very well. Jay has had success. I don't think Jay lacks any confidence. I think for Jay to step up and say, 'OK, let's figure out a way to make this work for all of us,' I think Jay's on board with that. I really do."

Calgary's passionate fan base surely knows that more tough times could be ahead this season, but the rebuild could be accelerated with another knowledgeable hockey mind in the front office.

"I don't think fans are negative towards where a team is at. They just want to know that their team is moving in the right direction and there's brighter days ahead," said Button, who was GM of the Flames from 2000-03. "I think you look at it and you see Jay has won, Brian has won, [coach Bob] Hartley has won and you say, 'OK, the pieces are coming together.' I think it instills some confidence in the fan base."

It will be up to Burke and Feaster to put a plan in place that will help the Flames return to prominence. There are some talented young players on the horizon, including left wing Sven Baertschi and center Sean Monahan. If Burke, a Cup winner as GM of the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, can develop a solid, working relationship with Feaster, there should be plenty of good times ahead in Calgary.

"I thought Brian made an interesting comment [Thursday]: 'It can work if we both want it to work,'" Button said. "To me, these were things that I expect had been discussed ahead of time. What the Flames were looking for, interest from other people, would Brian be able to do that, how does Jay feel about it … and then you move forward.

"I don't think you get to this day without contemplating what it means and understanding what it means. Brian Burke has won a Stanley Cup in Anaheim, Jay Feaster's won a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay. Their qualifications are exemplary in terms of success."