So…Brian Burke is the new president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames. Now what? Here are five key challenges he’ll be facing in his new role:
Developing young talent
Burke said today he thought the Flames had the best draft of any team in 2013. Feel free to debate that, but Calgary did add three first-rounders in Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier, and Morgan Kllimchuk. They’ve also got a blue-chip prospect in Sven Baertschi, as well as their 2012 first-round pick, Mark Jankowski, plus others. Now, granted, Burke won’t be the main guy bringing these youngsters along; that responsibility will fall mainly on the coaching staff in Calgary and Abbotsford. But Burke will have a big say in how quickly the youngsters are called up to the NHL.
Adding to the prospect pool
The consensus opinion is that the Flames will have another high pick in the 2014 draft. Obviously, the club will need to choose wisely if it hopes to emerge from its rebuild as a contender. In his previous GM roles, Burke has used first-round picks on the likes of Chris Pronger, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Bobby Ryan, Jake Gardiner, and Nazem Kadri. His overall draft record, however, has been criticized. Burke, along with general manager Jay Feaster, can also turn to the college free-agent market for late-bloomers.
Calgary ownership has shown its willingness to spend to the cap in the past, and Burke said today ownership is still willing to do that. As it stands, the Flames should have a ton of cap room next summer to go shopping for free agents, though how many quality players will actually be available remains to be seen, as does the available ones’ willingness to sign with Calgary. Burke made a costly mistake early in his tenure in charge of the Maple Leafs when he signed Mike Komisarek to a five-year, $22.5 million contract in free agency.
Identifying the core
Is Mike Cammalleri a player the Flames want to keep long-term? How about Matt Stajan and Lee Stempniak? All three have just one year remaining on their contracts before they can become unrestricted free agents. Meanwhile, does it make sense to pay relatively big money to Dennis Wideman, David Jones, and Jiri Hudler for the next three or four years when the team is in rebuild mode? Feaster listed four “untouchable” Flames last April — Baertschi, Curtis Glencross, Mark Giordano, and T.J. Brodie. Does Burke concur there?
Working with Feaster
Both men today expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of working together (with Feaster reporting to Burke), but it’s unlikely they’ll see eye-to-eye on all issues. What will happen when they don’t? Remember, Burke wasn’t hired because Feaster was wildly successful as Flames GM.