NHL

Feaster determined to end Flames' playoff drought

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TSN.ca Staff
7/8/2011 2:18:28 AM
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The Calgary Flames surprised a lot of NHL observers by being one of the last teams standing in the Brad Richards sweepstakes on July 1.

But Flames general manager Jay Feaster believes that when a talent like Richards becomes available, you have to pounce.

"Elite, number-one line centres are tough to come by and certainly very, very difficult to acquire by way of trade," Feaster told Steve Kouleas on That's Hockey on Thursday. "Brad was somebody that, obviously, I knew very well from our time together in Tampa and it made a lot of sense."

The move didn't end up working out in Calgary's favour, with Richards signing to join the Rangers on Broadway, but going all-in to lure him to Calgary was all part of Feaster's new strategy for turning the troubled team around.

"I think that it would have been an incredibly dynamic line that we could have put together here in Calgary," he said.

Creating a dynamic club is obviously a concern for Feaster, but getting the club back on track in the highly competitive Western Conference is at the top of his list. The club has failed to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, despite a pair of respectable, 90-point campaigns.

Feaster took over the reins as the club's general manager on December 28 of last year when long-time president and GM Darryl Sutter stepped down. Feaster was left with a team burdened by some hefty contracts.

Clearing some of that space would prove to be one of his first priorities as free agent season opened up. He would achieve his objective in one fell swoop, clearing more than $7 million by trading veteran blue-liner Robyn Regehr and forward Ales Kotalik to the Buffalo Sabres.

But Feaster is not concerned with filling the veteran void left by Regehr's departure.

"Obviously Robyn is a loss, but we do feel good about our blue-line," Feaster said. "We like the group that we have. We feel very, very good about Jay Bouwmeester and Mark Giordano – we think that they're two of the top defencemen in the league."

He also pointed to some of his recent acquisitions and prospects that are coming through the Flames' system and who could offset the void.

"We like the acquisition of Chris Butler, we like Anton Babchuk, we re-signed him and are pleased about that," he said. "We've seen some good things from some of our kids already at development camp this week. T.J. Brodie is a guy who was knocking on the door last year in camp."

And Feaster may not be done reloading the Flames to get over the playoff hump.

"I still think that there are going to be deals done and there are going to be trades that can be made as we move along here through the summer," he said.

But he also would not discount the possibility that the solution is already within the Flames' reach.

"What we've really talked about and we focused on here this week as we've had the staff together," he explained, "is the whole idea that we want to actually have some spots open for some of our young prospects when we go into training camp."

But in a difficult division that features the Stanley Cup finalists, and two teams quickly stockpiling elite young talent in Edmonton and Colorado, the Flames may have to work quickly if they hope to keep ahead of the pack.

Still, Feaster isn't afraid of making guarantees.

"We'll make the playoffs this year," he said.

Jarome Iginla Alex Tanguay (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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