OTTAWA — Once Brian Burke decided Jay Feaster was not the right general manager for the Calgary Flames, he moved quickly to fire him Thursday. Why?
“There is another team conducting a search right now,” Burke said.
The other team looking for a GM, of course, is the Buffalo Sabres.
“If there’s any overlap on the candidates we want, today’s important,” Burke said during a news conference in Calgary. “Time could be of vital essence here.”
The Sabres have taken their time finding a replacement for Darcy Regier, who was fired Nov. 13. Pat LaFontaine, the president of hockey operations, has interviewed several candidates. Some of the same men have already popped up in Calgary’s rumor mill, including Jim Benning and Claude Loiselle, the assistant GMs for Boston and Toronto, respectively.
Burke said his choice must have expertise at how to handle a high draft pick since the Flames are 26th in the 30-team NHL.
“Other than that, either a young guy with great promise, maybe some experience, or just a young star that hasn’t been given a chance,” said Burke, who also is reportedly interesting in talking with former Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk.
Burke, hired as president of hockey operations in September, will serve as the acting GM until he finds Feaster’s replacement. The former general manager for Hartford, Vancouver, Anaheim and Toronto said he will not hire himself.
“I’m prepared for this role,” Burke said of his upper-management post. “I laughed when Buffalo opened up and somebody said, ‘Oh, Brian’s going to go after that job.’ I’m a Calgary Flame, and in this role I want to be a Calgary Flame for a long time.”
Feaster, who won a Stanley Cup as the GM of Tampa Bay, joined the Flames midway through the 2010-11 season. Burke evaluated Feaster’s trades, including the deal that sent Robyn Regehr to Buffalo for defenseman Chris Butler, forward Paul Byron and a second-round pick.
“My job when I came here was to assess the organization,” Burke said. “My conclusion was that we needed to make a change to get to the next level.”
The Sabres faced Ottawa on Thursday without their top-scoring center. Cody Hodgson sat with an undisclosed injury suffered during Tuesday’s home against the Senators.
“Cody Hodgson took a little bit of a banging last game,” said coach Ted Nolan, who expected the center to miss only one game.
The absence of Hodgson, who has eight goals and 18 points in 31 games, opened a lineup spot for Ville Leino. The forward was a healthy scratch Tuesday.
“Certain players with a certain skill set, they have to play to that level,” Nolan said. “You can’t ask somebody at an A level to play at a B level. He has to use the skill set that he has. The last few games he’s played OK but not quite good enough.”
Despite getting a two-game suspension, Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen wouldn’t change much about Tuesday’s hit on the Sabres’ Zemgus Girgensons.
“I’ll make that same hit over and over again,” Cowen said in Canadian Tire Centre. “I wouldn’t do anything differently. If I don’t make that hit, I don’t play and I don’t play well. It’s just that maybe I move a little to the left an inch or two. That’s the difference. That’s all that it was.”
Girgensons, clipped in the head near the blue line, isn’t holding a grudge against the 6-foot-5 Cowen for the blast.
“I definitely have made dirty hits in my life before, too, so it’s just how it is,” Girgensons said.
The 6-1 rookie charged at Cowen in anger but decided against fighting.
“I guess he was just faking it,” Cowen said of the desire for retribution.
“I could’ve gotten an instigator if something happened,” Girgensons said. “I think it was just better to leave it there.”