In case you have not heard, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet and CBC has been floating around word that Brad Treliving’s contract as General Manager of the Calgary Flames is expiring following this season and Friedman is uncertain as to whether Treliving will be within the organization following this season. This was first mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada this past Saturday and was further elaborated on during Friedman’s appearance on Sportsnet 960 on Monday.
First, some perspective. Friedman said that he is not “100% certain” that Treliving will be back. So we should not blow this out of proportion. That just means Friedman is not definitively sure that Brad Treliving will continue to be the GM of the Calgary Flames moving forward, a fair assessment to make considering that he does not have a contract after this season. This does not mean however, that Brad Treliving’s departure from the Flames is imminent and a foregone conclusion. It is Friedman (and many others) careers to take something they hear and make a story out of it, make something that is often insignificant sound like a bigger deal than it is. Sure, sometimes there is substance but as we saw with the “Dougie Hamilton Saga” earlier this season, it is often just noise. A fine example of this would be the garbage proposal put forward by Nick Kypreos in the aforementioned segment this past Saturday, in which he tries to suggest that Sam Bennett might ask to be traded from the Flames because he is struggling to find his way in the NHL. Seriously, dude? That does not make even the slightest amount of sense.
Back to Treliving. In my personal opinion, Brad Treliving will be back as General Manager of the Calgary Flames for next season and the years moving forward. There is absolutely no publicly available reason as to why he should not be. Here are a few reasons why:
It is not his fault that the team has struggled the past couple of years.
When Brad Treliving took over, the Flames were still in the early stages of a rebuild, one which was quite rocky due to the mix of intelligent and questionable decisions made by former GM Jay Feaster. The first season that Treliving was GM, the team significantly overachieved, driven by a high PDO in the face of abysmal possession numbers. Undoubtedly, this made the team seem like it was in a better spot long-term than they actually were. As a result, that made this past season sting, as the team’s luck regressed and further suffered under the abhorrent play of every goaltender in the organization.
This season, with a new coach that Treliving hired himself, they have been a lot better. Their possession numbers are stronger and when the team is composed they can play with the best in the league (something we have not seen as of late). Unfortunately, the team has been held back by inconsistency, with uneven team play and unpredictable goaltending. Glen Gulutzan is a pretty good coach, definitely better than Hartley, but there was the rough transition period and now the current slump the team is mired in. Things would be a lot different if players like Bennett, Gaudreau, Monahan and Elliott played anywhere near the level that it was reasonable to expect of them heading into this season. However, the best players on the team are young players and growing pains often happen for teams on the way up. Not sure how any of the team’s struggles rest on Treliving’s shoulders.
The large majority of his transactions look very good and every GM makes mistakes.
Dougie Hamilton. Michael Frolik. Chad Johnson. Kris Versteeg. Those are a few of the additions to the team that Treliving has been responsible for, with all players currently playing significant roles for the team. In particular, Hamilton is arguably their best defenseman this year and will be in the near future, while Michael Frolik has been one of the saving graces on the team while others have struggled. Johnson and Versteeg are on terrific value contracts; both have contributed to a number of wins for the club.
The jury is still out on Brian Elliott, but you absolutely cannot fault the decision at the time. Other moves, such as the first year of Jonas Hiller’s deal, have had merit. The trades of Curtis Glencross, Jiri Hudler and Kris Russell all netted strong returns for diminishing assets. The worst moves? Signing Ramo to make the 3-goalie situation a reality, overpaying for Lance Bouma and Deryk Engellend, having the Mason Raymond deal not pan out as hoped for and overpaying Troy Brouwer. None of those moves were or are catastrophic and the worst move was probably signing Troy Brouwer. If you went around the league, you could find a lot of teams who have done much worse.
He has done quite well managing the salary cap within significant negotiations.
Probably the worst deal in terms of long-term implications is the contract for Mark Giordano, at $6.75 million a season for the next 5 seasons after this one. That will likely sting one day, but it definitely is not yet and that deal has provided other benefits. The internal cap structure of “nobody makes more than the captain” led to Johnny Gaudreau signing below market value for 6 years at $6.75 million. Sean Monahan signed long-term for a reasonable rate considering his track record of putting up points. He signed T.J. Brodie long-term before his breakout season took place, way below what he would have had to pay him if he waited on signing him until after that season. Mikael Backlund was signed for 3 years at just over $3 million per. Dougie Hamilton has 4 more years at less than $6 million a season. He avoided dangerous contracts like signing Kris Russell or Joe Colborne long-term. The Flames are set to be able to contend in the future and have money for players like Bennett and Tkachuk down the pipeline.
Look at the accumulation of quality prospects in the organization since he took over.
Before Brad Treliving was GM, the top prospects of the team were Johnny Gaudreau (who was essentially already an NHL player), Sven Baertschi (who Burke and Hartley ran out of town), Mark Jankowski, Jon Gillies, Markus Granlund, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk. Tyler Wotherspoon was the best defensive prospect in the organization at the time and that is sad.
The prospects who Treliving has acquired in the past 3 years through the draft, free agency and trade include: Sam Bennett (graduated), Brandon Hickey, Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, Andrew Mangiapane, Hunter Shinkaruk, Daniel Pribyl, David Rittich, Matthew Tkachuk (graduated), Dillon Dube, Tyler Parsons, Adam Fox and Matthew Phillips. Tkachuk is an elite talent who is already excelling, while although Bennett is struggling, he has the potential to be a great player in the future. Those guys were top picks, so you should be getting quality players in those slots. But it is the value of where some of these other guys were selected that really stands out. Kylington, Andersson and Fox are all highly regarded prospects on defense that were drafted between picks 52 and 66 in the past couple of drafts. Andrew Mangiapane is having a great rookie season in the AHL, while Matthew Phillips is a goal scoring machine in the WHL. He selected both of those guys with the 166th pick in each of the past two drafts. Parsons and Dube look like potential future NHLers, while Shinkaruk, Pribyl and Rittich were solid value pick ups. To add that much to the talent pool in such a short span of time is impressive, much more so when you consider that they traded a first round pick and two second round picks for Dougie Hamilton in 2015.
Who would the Flames bring in that would be unquestionably better as a new GM?
That is what I would really like to know. If they know somebody who will give the Flames a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup, then by all means, let go of Brad Treliving. However, I have some doubts that somebody is out there, or that if they are willing to let go of Treliving, that they would make the right replacement choice.
It is tough to really find anything significant that stands out as glaring, unforgivable mistakes that were made by Treliving. Feaster was let go for exactly those sorts of reasons: poor trades, weird drafting decisions and the Ryan O’Reilly offer sheet fiasco. Treliving’s worst mistakes were the 3 goalie situation and signing Troy Brouwer (which I do not believe the front office actually thinks is a mistake). Teams I can think of off the top of my head that have made bigger mistakes than the Flames in the time Treliving was GM: Vancouver (thinking they can still contend), Los Angeles (their cap management), Chicago (Seabrook), Edmonton (Griffin Reinhart, trading Hall for Larsson, Lucic), Dallas (their goalie situation), Tampa (Ryan Callahan, their D), Florida (letting go of Brian Campbell), Ottawa (if they really did turn down Drouin to keep Ceci), Montreal (trading Subban for Weber), the Islanders (a lot of stuff), Boston (Dougie Hamilton trade), Anaheim (they gave Kevin Bieksa a long-term deal with a no-movement clause), Detroit (what are they trying to do?) the list goes on. General Managers make mistakes and it is hard to think that Brad Treliving is anywhere close to the worst culprit.
If the Flames let go of Brad Treliving, I am not sure how much I believe in the team’s future.
Letting go of Brad Treliving would send off some pretty poor signals. First, it seems like a decision that would be hard to justify based on logic, looking at his body of work within the scope of the bigger picture. Secondly, it is questionable as to how they would replace him with anyone who would be better than him, it is more likely that they would go with a worse candidate. If the result is that Brian Burke ends up back in the GM seat when all is said and done, God help us all.
Letting go of Treliving while the rebuild is coming to a close would not allow the guy to finish off what he has started. He has a vision and from a lot of what we can see, the team looks so much better than it did before he arrived. The team has the assets to build something special, so maybe they should leave the power with someone who has consistently shown to be a competent manager.