Welcome back! We're wrapping this series up here, with some looks at all the other stuff that didn't fit in earlier on. You can get caught up on the other parts here: I, II, III
TJ Brodie Extension
Treliving’s main attribute, as previously noted, is his ability to correctly judge the current situation. Extending Brodie for five years was well overdue, but much appreciated. With Mark Giordano, they become the best defensive pairing in the league. He deserves every dollar for trying to salvage the wreck that is Deryk Engelland. Did I mention he is just 24?
The extension is both well worked in term and money. It's rare you get to tie down an elite defenceman to five years with an AAV of $4.65M. For reference, there are 31 (32 if you count Chris Pronger, who the Flyers still have to pay for two more hilarious years) defencemen that rank higher than Brodie in that regard. Let's take a peek at the usage charts.
It's a bit cluttered, but you can see TJ at the top left corner, which is the best part to be in. This means he faces the toughest competition with the worst zone starts and still manages to be a good corsi player with major ice time. If you look closely, his stats are similar to those of Zdeno Chara, not a bad comparison. Consider that Chara will make two million more than Brodie does, it becomes apparent how much of a steal the extension really is.
Another caveat to the chart is that this includes post-Giordano injury stats. Even with Deryk Engelland dragging him down for the last 20 games of the season, Brodie still stays up among the elites. This extension will be one of the best contracts moving forward not just for the Flames, but for the entire NHL.
Once again buried because of Bob Hartley’s inexplicable belief in Deryk Engelland, Schlemko was a treasure to find on the waiver wire. Picked up the same day Mark Giordano officially went to the IR, Schlemko immediately made noise because of this:
It’s so beautiful.
Proving that he wasn’t just a one-shot wonder, Schlemko became another one of the quiet possession drivers, especially when paired with Diaz. He led the way in corsi for Flames defenceman throughout the playoffs, but was still reduced to little ice time.
Whether paired with Tyler Wotherspoon, Potter, or Diaz, Schlemko improved their play. He’s probably one of the best candidates for a solid third defensive pairing, assuming we send Deryk Engelland on a worldwide submarine trip for next season.
Bob Hartley extension
It’s hard to judge whether this was Burke's idea or Treliving's idea. From BT’s other moves, we can see a calm, patient, and calculated approach to personnel decisions. Even with the improved record, Hartley does have some serious drawbacks as a coach, as highlighted in this series.
Despite all the shiny, new toys Treliving gave him, Hartley still opted to play bad players (I’ve already named them enough in this series, typing their names one more time will cause carpal-tunnel syndrome). Even when he did give the new guys a chance, he did as much as he could to make sure they never saw the ice.
While I will concede that maybe the coach who is around all the players does know best, it is hard to understand some decisions, mostly those made during the playoffs. When the Flames truly complete the rebuild and the stakes are raised, these issues will become even more costly.
Hartley’s extension was a very spontaneous, PDO-driven contract, and if times get rough (which could very well happen) it will be an inexplicable one.
Burning Sam Bennett’s first ELC year
When the Frontenacs were eliminated from the OHL playoffs, I wrote an article discussing the pros and cons of bringing Bennett up to the big team. To summarize, I felt that it would be a waste of a year of a cheap contract to try and chase the impossible. There was no way the Flames were ever going to get out of the Western Conference, even if they had managed to escape the first two rounds. Sam Bennett was not a world-beater just yet, and he wasn’t going to solve the issues preventing the Flames from moving forward in the playoffs. It was just not worth it.
I still feel that today. Bennett did dazzle in his limited appearances, but it came at the cost of a year of his contract. While Bennett was held out until the final, pointless game against the Winnipeg Jets, the playoffs dragged on long enough to pass the 10-game limit.
It became even more pointless when Bennett was demoted to fourth line duty. If he wasn’t going to be used extensively – especially with a struggling first line – why do it? Why not dress one of the many call ups waiting in the press box (Shore, Granlund, Reinhart, Jooris) instead of leaving Bennett out there in a series that was never going to be won by the Flames?
This begs the chain-of-command question. Was this Treliving’s fault, or Hartley’s fault? Obviously, both want the best for the team, but there must be a bit of realism added in here. If Bennett was not going to be used in the proper setting, why put him out there when you could easily place one of the other reliable centres in his spot? If he wasn’t performing well, why not healthy scratch him, like Hartley does oh-so often?
There was no reason to do this. While it was fun to watch him play, it didn't make sense in the long run.
Treliving’s work to restock and rebuild the Flames this season has paid dividends, but the real test for him will be avoiding disaster next season. He already has some pretty important RFAs with Backlund, Bouma, Jooris, Ferland, and Shore, and will have to make tough decisions regarding the defensive end. A good chunk of the prospect pool is up for re-signing, including Bill Arnold, David Wolf, Ben Hanowski, Kenny Agostino, and Max Reinhart.
Not to mention the draft and Free Agent Frenzy. If the Flames want to sustain this success, Treliving is going to be the man to lead the way, and his moves have to be careful and precise. His press conference, which kind-of kicked off this whole series, was a positive and reassuring glance into the future. The realistic view and pragmatic approach he talked about is the right direction for the Flames to go. It's now up to him to follow through.