- Craig Custance
Which cities make the best destinations for NHL expansion teams? What will the league do to avoid another episode like the Penguins-Bruins debacle? What is the top line in the league this season? Craig Custance answers those questions and more in this week's mailbag. But first he examines what the Flames are going to do about the GM opening that was created with the firing of Jay Feaster on Thursday:
There's no doubt Brian Burke would have wanted to time this up differently. He's the guy with the self-imposed no-trade window that gives his players the comfort of knowing they won't get dealt over Christmas.
But with the Sabres also on the prowl for a new general manager, once Burke came to the conclusion that Jay Feaster had to go, he couldn't wait. Not if it meant another team might end up with the best candidate for the job.
"I've been at this a long time. I think I know what I'm doing. Today was necessary," Burke said during Thursday's press conference. "There never is a good time of year to fire people."
So what does that best candidate look like? Because of his Calgary connections, and the fact that he's someone Burke knows well, Joe Nieuwendyk will be a candidate. But as a high-profile candidate with GM experience -- shaping a Stars team with ESPN Insider Frank Provenzano that remained competitive despite serious ownership limitations -- Nieuwendyk might be leery of joining a Calgary franchise with layers above him in the form of Burke and CEO Ken King. Feaster is as classy as they come and will likely never say so publicly, but you can’t help but wonder just how tied his hands were during his tenure as GM in Calgary.
During his press conference, Burke said that previous GM experience wasn't a must during his search. His focus will be on bringing in a guy experienced in drafting and player development. Burke's history also shows that he's not afraid of having a large front-office group, so he may be able to complement whatever skills his eventual GM might lack with some other hires. There are still leftovers from his tenure in Toronto, and tapping into that front office is certainly a possibility.
There will also likely be some overlap with the candidates for the gig in Buffalo. Guys like Phoenix assistant GM Brad Treliving, Boston assistant GM Jim Benning and Nashville assistant GM Paul Fenton are all highly skilled talent evaluators and are likely getting hard looks from both franchises. The Sabres or Flames would do well to hire any of those three.
Now on to the weekly mailbag, and remember, if you want to be featured in next week’s mailbag, send your questions, hockey ideas and observations in here:
Expansion chatter had me thinking: If two teams are born, where do they go? My feeling: One in Quebec and one more for Toronto. What are your thoughts?
Miller, Arlington, VA