Jay Feaster helped build the Lightning's Stanley Cup championship team in 2004. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
They won’t have Jay Feaster to kick around in Tampa Bay anymore, after Lightning ownership and the now-former GM came to terms Friday on his departure from the franchise.
But the drawn-out, ugly end to Feaster’s reign over the Bolts shouldn’t take away from the great players, memories, and 2004 Stanley Cup championship he provided for the team’s fans. Neither, for that matter, should THN’s recent ranking of NHL GMs, in which Feaster finished last overall.
Yes, Feaster’s salary cap management – that led to Brad Richards’ trade to Dallas in February – left much to be desired. And yes, Tampa Bay never could replicate the success of their Cup-winning season in the post-lockout world. However, look at the hand the man was dealt:
Above him was an owner (Bill Davidson) who, while supportive enough, never made the Bolts his primary focus and thought so much of the business he extended a huge loan to the new ownership group that has pushed Feaster out of the organization.
Below him was a coach (John Tortorella) who routinely tore into his players as if he received a paid bonus for each newly ripped hole, and whose relationship with Feaster became strained as the Lightning’s losses piled up.
Being saddled with those two situations may not have entirely tied Feaster’s hands behind his back in recent years, but it certainly didn’t help matters, either.
Once new owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie bought the team, it was but a matter of time until Feaster – a well-known nice guy who proved it by blogging for THN.com, free of charge, even after our not-so-complimentary ranking of his services – was shown the door.
It’s a credit to him that he handled the Lightning’s recent flurry of acquisitions and signings (none of which were his own doing) with dignity and grace. More importantly, the on-ice achievements of his teams were an even bigger accomplishment when you consider just who Feaster was and is: a hockey outsider, a lawyer prior to joining the hockey world, a still-young man operating in an old boy’s network.
This was not somebody’s brother, or someone’s former teammate, or a retired star NHLer whose only previous front office experience was stepping into it to make contract demands.
Everything Jay Feaster has today, he earned every last iota of. And that’s more than you can say for guys who’ve spent their entire lives in the game. Here’s hoping one of the other 29 teams wises up and takes him off the unemployment line.
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