If the Curtis Glencross trade on Sunday tells us anything of long-term import about the Calgary Flames organization, it tells us that they’re keeping their surprising success in perspective.
Little was expected of the rebuilding Flames this season. They were widely regarded as a team that was too limited up front to hang with the big three from California, or even the aging Vancouver Canucks, in the tough Pacific Division. Instead, with 20 games to play, the Flames are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
It’s perhaps somewhat surprising to see a team that could sensibly have been looking to buy at the trade deadline, instead turn around and sell a still useful veteran piece like Glencross. Brad Treliving has a plan, it would appear, and he’s sticking to it.
In his media availability on Sunday, Treliving didn’t entirely write off the idea of making a short-term move ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline. He did downplay the possibility though and suggested that recent moves to acquire Drew Shore from the Florida Panthers and claim David Schlemko off of waivers, were examples of moves designed to bolster the club’s depth in the immediate future.
“We think we’ve got deeper at key positions… (and) we want to continue down that path, but we’re also investigating ways we can get better today,” Treliving told reporters.
“We’re trying to navigate parallel paths,” Treliving continued. “We’re not going to impact the long-term future of this franchise, but you also want to recognize what the players have done to put us in the position we’re in today.”
The idea of navigating ‘parallel paths’ is a fascinating and well articulated one, particularly because the short- and long-term interests of NHL clubs are often in conflict when it comes to their behaviour ahead of the NHL trade deadline. For the Flames for example, losing Glencross will hurt in the short-term.
Treliving knows this, and though he expressed confidence that young players already in the organization will be good enough to step into Glencross’ shoes without the club missing a beat, he reiterated that this move was made with his eyes squarely on the long-term fortunes of the franchise.
“Are they going to replace Curtis tomorrow?” Treliving asked rhetorically of young players like Sven Baertschi. “No. We’re not heaping expectations (on them), but we think we’ve got some depth up front to fill (the) hole created by Curtis, and we think it allows us to put some assets in the bank.
“Whether those are players that are picked, whether (the picks are) used for other things, just with (a player who is on the last year of his deal) and where we are at an organization, we just thought this was prudent.”
So in navigating his parallel paths, Treliving opted to give precedence to the future. Considering what, say, the underlying numbers would suggest about the Flames’ season that’s a wise move. Even without Calgary’s ugly shot-attempt differential, it’s still a wise move if the goal is winning a Stanley Cup rather than simply generating playoff revenue…
On multiple occasions on Sunday, Treliving hinted that, in his view, the picks he got back for Glencross are assets that could be moved rather than used to draft prospects. In particular, he suggested that the picks could be useful in making trades with clubs that are pressed up against the salary cap this summer.
“There’s some (cap uncertainty) when you do your forecasting of where teams will be at from a cap perspective,” Treliving explained. “There may be an opportunity to use those picks to get NHL players. So it opens up possibilities, not the least of which is using those picks.”
That could be a smart play, especially considering how clubs like the Chicago Blackhawks will be looking to shed salary this summer.
How the Flames use the picks and other assets that Treliving has accumulated remains to be seen, but one thing seems certain: in spite of their surprising success this season, Treliving’s Flames have their sight firmly set on the future.