SBD/September 6, 2013/Franchises

Flames' Brian Burke Insists He Can Coexist With GM Jay Feaster, President Ken King

Burke will take on a more behind-the-scenes role than he is used to
The Flames on Thursday introduced Brian Burke as President of Hockey Operations after he initially "declined the offer" because it was "not a general manager's role," according to Kristen Odland of the CALGARY HERALD. Burke said, "This is a different job and I talked to my guys in the other sports that have pondered this scenario and watched it work." Flames GM Jay Feaster remains in his position, reports to Burke and "consults him on any hockey-related matters." Burke reports to President & CEO Ken King and "consults with him and Feaster on any hockey-related matters." Burke's position is an "idea and role the Flames have mulled over all summer which, at one point, included the courtship" of NHL VP/Player Safety & Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan, who "politely declined." Feaster said, "I love the concept, that's what I've said to Ken from the very beginning. I think the devil is in the detail and getting the right person." Burke stressed the "team aspect of the position and the behind-the-scenes role he accepted despite his reputation as being a bus-driver." The plan is for Burke and Feaster "to collaborate daily, pooling their expertise." Burke's "first official day on the job is Monday" (CALGARY HERALD, 9/6).

RIGHT MAN FOR THE RIGHT TIME
: The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes with Burke's hire, "credibility of a kind was restored" to the Flames. Burke has a "stature and prominence the Flames can really use right now." He "struck all the right notes at his introductory press conference" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/6). In Calgary, Wes Gilbertson writes it is "no surprise Burke and Feaster said all the right things" during Thursday’s news conference. Burke insisted that he has "already wrapped his head around the idea of not having autonomy over the hockey operations in Calgary." Feaster insisted that he was "thrilled to have a guy he referred to as a 'mentor' on his side" (CALGARY SUN, 9/6).

CHALLENGES AHEAD: In Toronto, Damien Cox writes, "You can make a strong argument that in Calgary, Burke inherits a better situation" than he did with the Maple Leafs. So what are the "conditions that might make Burke fail?" The setup with King and Feaster "appears fraught with peril, or at least unlikely to work." Given that Burke already has "made it clear Feaster will need his approval to make moves, this could get a bit uncomfortable in a hurry" (TORONTO STAR, 9/6). In Calgary, George Johnson writes, "Neither man can fail to grasp that Burke's presence in the organization is, from the outside, viewed as a rather sinister omen for Feaster's long-term security." But Feaster "doesn't seem the least deterred." Burke said, "Jay is going to be the general manager of this team. He is going to be in charge, but with my guidance." Johnson writes Burke will be "adding his voice of experience -- along with the voices of Feaster and assistant GM John Weisbrod -- to the reinvention, as quickly as possible, of a franchise that is in essence starting from scratch, from Ground Zero" (CALGARY HERALD, 9/6).

A CHANGED MAN? The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur writes Burke on Thursday was "like a shadow of the man who was introduced as president and general manager in Toronto five years ago, in every way." He was "less pugnacious, less bombastic, quieter." Burke was "acting like he had changed, while insisting he had not." Not being the man "with both hands on the steering wheel goes against most of the instincts Burke has cultivated over his professional life." But on his "first day, Burke was muted" (NATIONAL POST, 9/6). The CALGARY HERALD's Johnson writes, "You don't hire Brian Burke to be contrite, silent, obscured by shadow." Burke said, "I know people think I need to be driving the bus all the time. Well, I'm actually a pretty good teammate, too. ... So, no, I don't intend to be front and centre. Actually, it'll be a nice break after being front and centre, getting in a lot of little scraps with the media" (CALGARY HERALD, 9/6). Oilers President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe said Burke's hiring "will be great" for the rivalry between the clubs. The CP noted the rivalry has "cooled over the past two decades" as the teams "struggled to retain high-priced free agents in the pre-salary-cap era and saw their on-ice and financial fortunes dip." Burke has "feuded with Lowe in the past" (CP, 9/5).

READY FOR BUSINESS: The CALGARY HERALD's Odland reported the Scotiabank Saddledome will "officially be back in business" on Sept. 14 when the Flames host the Oilers. There will be "new seats ... new glass." There are "things that still have the wrapper on." Every piece of equipment "below decks here is brand new." The entire building 75 days ago had "been under 10 feet of water." The renovation "equated to 69 days straight of two shifts of 12 hours," with "300-400 workers during the day; 150-200 at night" (CALGARY HERALD, 9/5).
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