Tampa Bay Lightning, 2002-2008
Calgary Flames, 2010-present
Playoff Appearances: 2003-2004, 2006-2007
Stanley Cup Finals Appearance: 2004
Stanley Cup Victory: 2004
Jay Feaster is part of a new wave of sports general managers who come not from the playing or coaching ranks but from the legal world. According to my rating system Feaster is ranked 14th among active NHL GMs in career value between Buffalo’s Darcy Regier and Toronto’s Brian Burke; and 11th in Average Seasonal Rating between Washington’s George McPhee and Florida’s Steve Yzerman. (Actually Feaster’s ASR rating has suffered during his last three seasons as a GM. At the end of the 2006/07 season his ASR was a splendid 6.200 but three-seasons of failing to make the playoffs has caused his stock to go into a slow decline from a 6.200 to 3.000).
Feaster was born and raised in Pennsylvania and went to college there before he attended law school at Georgetown University where he got his law degree with honors. He returned to Pennsylvania and practiced law there at the state capitol in Harrisburg. One of the clients at his law firm was Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company (HERCO) which controlled the Hershey Bears AHL team. Feaster was assigned to handle HERCO’s legal matters—a task that rapidly held great charm for him. Not content to deal solely with legal matters, Feaster joined the Hershey Bears, rose through their front office ranks to become the team’s GM in 1990: a post he held for eight years.
The Bears were competitive during Feaster’s tenure, earning six playoff slots and winning the Calder Cup in 1997. (Bob Hartley was the head coach of the team during that championship season).
It was then Feaster drew the attention of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In 1998 he accepted a position as assistant general manager where he handled the team’s contractual, collective bargaining, and NHL legal issues. In addition he ran the team’s scouting department and its AHL and ECHL affiliates for both Jacques Demers and Rick Dudley.
In 2002 Feaster’s time finally came when he succeeded Dudley as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The team that eventually won the 2004 Stanley Cup was already in place when Feaster took over. The spade work had been done by Jacques Demers and Rich Dudley in terms of player recruitment. The highly talented John Tortorella was also onboard as head coach when Feaster became the Lightning GM. Feaster’s task was to hold the team together.
After a slow start in 2001/02, the Lightning began scorching the ice in the NHL. During the next two seasons Tampa Bay fulfilled its potential earning 28 of Feaster’s 38 plus points. The team’s triumphal march to the 2004 Stanley Cup represents the summit of Feaster’s managerial career. He has yet to equal what the Lightning accomplished in 2004.
After the lockout, Tampa failed to repeat as world champions yet they remained competitive. Still the Lightning slowly lost power. When it came to drafting young talent, Feaster, for the most part, did not possess a good eye for amateur talent. The one exception was during his last draft with Tampa in 2008 when the Lightning selected top gun Steven Stamkos.
Ironically Feaster would not stay long to see Stamkos fulfill his great promise. Tampa had endured a last place finish in the 2007/2008 season; also Feaster had clashed with the new ownership of the Lightning—claiming owner interference. One month following the 2008 draft he resigned as general manager of the Lightning.
Feaster remained in limbo for two years. He applied for the GM positions in Minnesota and Florida but was denied both times.
He was rescued in 2010 when Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter hired him to be his assistant GM. Before the year was over Feaster had taken over as Flames GM—where he remains today.
Feaster has been treading water in terms of managerial success. His Flames teams have won but have failed to make the playoffs since he has taken over. Feaster and the Flames are at a crossroads metaphorically speaking. A victory is essential for the future progress of both Feaster and the Flames.
The Flames haven’t had a chance at glory since they lost the 2004 Stanley Cup finals against Jay Feaster’s Tampa Bay Lightning. Their mainstays: Jerome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff are both graybeards nearing the final buzzer of their proud NHL careers.
(My next column will feature former Red Wings GM Jim Devellano.)