Yesterday afternoon, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving held court with local media in his last availability prior to jumping on a series of planes for the next few weeks. FlamesNation was in attendance.
Here’s what we found out about the Flames, the draft, and many other things.
Treliving’s headed to Las Vegas on Monday night for Tuesday’s GM meetings, then off to Florida for the Draft (so he won’t be in Vegas for the NHL Awards themselves). He feels Wednesday is a big night for the franchise given they’re up for four awards.
In the first round, they plan on drafting the best player available rather than trying to handle a specific positional need: “When you start trying to align you immediate needs with drafting 17, 18 year olds, you make mistakes. We’ll take best player available, and in a perfect world you hope that aligns with your needs, but we’ll see.”
The Flames feel they’re popular right now because there are six teams (Chicago, St. Louis, the Islanders, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and the Rangers) without a first round pick and a bunch (Montreal, Vancouver, Washington, Anaheim, the Islanders, Toronto, Florida, and Detroit) without a second round pick. With as many picks as Calgary has early-on, they’re popular.
Treliving noted that there’s more depth at the forward position than at defense, “especially early-on.” Later in the draft, the depth begins to emerge in terms of defensemen. He indicated that he feels that it’s a deep draft and they think they’re going to get a good player at 15. In terms of projecting, they have 14 players ranked ahead of where they’re picking and they’re trying to determine who (if any) of those players could drop down to them at 15. “I can sit here and tell you, there’s a good chance we’re going to get somebody higher than what we have at 15 on our board right now, I suspect, because that’s usually what happens.”
In terms of how the Flames evaluate players, foot-speed, skill and size were noted as important physical attributes. “The internal attributes, the character, the compete, a lot of times drive how well that person is going to use those physical attributes.” So for them, it’s a manner of trying to evaluate the two aspects – the physical and the internal – to determine where a player fits on their list, it seems.
There’s lots of trade talk right now (he emphasized the word talk), but nobody’s 100% sure what the cap will be for next season yet.
On the importance of picks: “As you’re building an organization, those picks turn into prospects that are either going to be players for you that but it gives you those assets when you do go out and make those deals, you’re not robbing Peter to pay Paul.” He noted they need to add depth before they can “take cans from the cupboard and send them out the door.” He emphasized that he really likes draft picks, particularly since the current system puts added importance on developing young players and putting them in your team’s line-up.
As they get deeper in the draft, they do start factoring in positional need or mixing up the style or type of player they’re selecting. But they do try to balance it with best player available, so they’re not going really far down their list in order to draft a particular perceived “need.”
The Flames brought in five or six players after the combine for more lengthy meetings than they were able to have at the combine. They did do some psychological testing and following up on other stuff, but Treliving noted a lot of it was just so he can spend more time with the particular players and get to know them a bit more.
Treliving downplayed the “Russian Factor,” noting that factors like a player’s background, size, or potential availability are “subplot” compared to their abilities and where the team thinks they can get to as a hockey player (which are the main factors regarding how the team “slots” its drafting list).
In terms of goaltending next season, Treliving noted that they have more than one plan “depending how things go.” He explained that things flow into other things, rather cryptically, but he noted that “there’s an opportunity for us in goal, whether that gets sorted out for us in the next nine days.” I was left with the impression that they’re working on some things, but he did note that they have until October to get things in order.
Treliving indicated that some of the team’s restricted free agents won’t be qualified. He declined to name which players, though, but his phrasing made it seem that there’s more than one that won’t be retained. For the curious, the RFAs are: forwards Mikael Backlund, Lance Bouma, Paul Byron, Josh Jooris, Drew Shore, David Wolf, Micheal Ferland, Ben Hanowski, Max Reinhart, Kenny Agostino, Bill Arnold and Turner Elson (and Bryce van Brabant), and defensemen Sena Acolatse and John Ramage. The deadline for qualifying offers is the Monday after the draft.
Treliving feels much more comfortable at this year’s draft given that he’s spent a year familiarizing himself with the team’s players.
Treliving feels that “you don’t build a team through free agency.” He thinks it’s a recipe for a lot of “bad things to happen.” That said, there may be a few players on the market that could be fits in Calgary, but it’ll come down to term and cost “and those types of things.”
The remainder of Bob Hartley’s coaching staff haven’t finalized their contract extensions yet, but they are close to being done. Presumably they’ll be finished up after the draft and free agency settle down.
The Flames will be involved in the hockey operations with the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder next season, but Craig Conroy and Brad Pascall’s focus will be more on the Stockton Heat.
Joe Colborne, Josh Jooris (and Paul Byron, as added on Sportsnet 960 The Fan) had wrist procedures done in the off-season and Brandon Bollig “had his noise straightened,” but none are expected to be onerous recoveries. When speaking with media following the main press conference, Treliving noted that they don’t have a timeline for Ladislav Smid but that concerns about his injury being career-threatening are unfounded right now. Smid’s a few months into recovery for a surgery that has a pretty lengthy recovery time, so it’s likely a case where he’s not far enough through the recovery process for the medical staff to be able to definitively project anything regarding his progress. Treliving did note that so far, he’s progressing well.
Other notes: expect about 36 or 37 players at development camp in early July. Jakub Nakladal will attend, if only to get familiar with the Flames staff (similar to how Reto Berra attended the same camp years back) and Adam Ollas Mattsson will be there, but no Rushan Rafikov, likely due to visa issues. The format will change a bit, with more emphasis on skills development and less on scrimmages.