The start to the 2015-16 season has really not gone Brad Treliving’s way. Still in his general manager infancy, Treliving wowed the hockey world with his offseason moves: none bigger than trading for Dougie Hamilton, and giving up very little in return.
So far, that trade – along with pretty much everything else early into this Flames season – has not panned out as expected.
Was some regression expected? Sure, it’s still a rebuilding club. But to this extent?
“We know that we’ve got a better team than what our record has shown,” Treliving told TSN 1200 in Ottawa.
The Flames core is young
When Treliving says he trusts the group that he has, he has very good reason to. After all, most of the Flames’ most important players are in just their early 20s. The NHL is a difficult league, and to be able to play in it at such a young age is extraordinary, not the norm.
“A lot of our top players are still very young players,” Treliving said. “We’re not out there trying to blow up our team. At the end of the day, we’ve got a really good group here.”
So that pretty much rules out a big trade. So long, Steven Stamkos rumours, we hardly knew yes (and you were unrealistic to begin with).
As Treliving noted in the interview, it’s simply not realistic to expect to be able to trade your way out of a slump. Remember how well the Dion Phaneuf trade went? Sure, the Flames got Matt Stajan, Playoff Hero out of it, but it did absolutely nothing to fix the team, or get them back in the playoffs.
The Flames have not been off to the best start, and the blame falls on pretty much everybody. You aren’t going to solve an everybody problem by dealing one or two bodies away, you’re going to solve it by sticking with your group, and working with them to have better, more consistent play.
When things are going badly, it feels as though everything is going against you: pretty much the exact opposite of how things were last season. Adversity is always going to crop up in hockey, though. And the Flames’ young core is going to have to learn to battle their way through it – and they will.
So that includes Dougie Hamilton?
Treliving still rather likes Hamilton, actually. He recognizes that there are going to be growing pains. After all, even though Hamilton has already played three seasons in the NHL, he’s only just 22 years old. He’s still growing, still developing. And now, he’s in a brand new city, brand new conference. That means there’s going to be an adjustment period.
An adjustment period that has not gone well, in part due to Hamilton’s play – and in part due to the overall play of the team. After all, you can’t pin the Flames’ poor start all on one player. “[Hamilton’s] in a big group right now of players that are capable of doing more,” Treliving said.
When everybody is failing, to blame it all on the 22-year-old newcomer is a bit much.
“Dougie is a terrific young player. His play, as well as our team’s, is going to improve, and he’s going to be a good player for us for a long time.”
Don’t expect Hamilton to go anywhere just yet. He knows he’ll have to be better, and he’ll get there.
But what about the goaltending?
Again, goaltending is part of the problem, but it’s not the only problem.
For example: the Flames have scored one goal in their last two games. How is goaltending supposed to work with that? Treliving discussed just how mental goaltending is, and how easily it can mess with you.
For example, if the team in front of you isn’t scoring, then you have to be perfect in order to win. Most times, that isn’t going to happen. And indeed, it’s something we saw in Joni Ortio’s first start. He was playing perfectly through two periods, one powerplay goal he couldn’t help aside… and then everything went off the rails in the third.
Besides, Treliving views blaming the goaltending as an easy scapegoat.
“When your team underperforms, the natural reaction is to look at the goaltending,” he told TSN 1200. “But when you really analyze the game, there are other areas we can do a better job in supporting the goaltending.”
Not only have the Flames not given their goalies any offensive support, but they’ve been doing a poor job of limiting the chances against. So sure, the goalies could make that extra save or two, but it’s not going to make a difference if they’re being bombarded with chances while the skaters in front of them fail to generate any of their own.
Just like with Hamilton, the blame lays far beyond just one or two players.
Win as a team, lose as a team
Treliving still plans on winning with this team. But it’s a young team, and it’s a team that needs to learn and grow and adjust.
And it’s a team that will do that. Expectations were perhaps unfairly raised as a result of the 2014-15 season. This hard a crash back to reality is new to many of them. But it’s important to remember: this is still very much a rebuilding team.
There are no quick fixes, and it’s a good thing the Flames’ GM understands that.