What we learned in 2015: Brad Treliving did a lot

treliving

The hype surrounding Brad Treliving and his forward-thinking ideologies took hold of the Calgary Flames this calendar year. The former Arizona assistant GM’s first full year running an NHL organization of his own yielded many positives, though a few nagging underlying issues still exist.

All management is capable of fault, but the improvements made by Treliving in 2015 definitely outweigh the existing negatives. Now, as 2016 approaches, the Flames brass led by Treliving will have a new assortment of hurdles to navigate as the Flames continue to try and build off this calendar year’s success.

A TIMELINE OF 2015 FOR BRAD TRELIVING AND COMPANY

As part of content growth that FlamesNation has been working on, we’re happy to unveil the first of many new infographics.

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Below is a brief timeline of the major transactions and decisions that Treliving had a hand in. You can click here for a full high-resolution image of it. You can also check out a detailed list of all transactions with the Flames in 2015 here.

timeline2015

THE GREAT

The acquisition and subsequent extension of Dougie Hamilton surprised the entire hockey landscape. This would be one of many mic drops Treliving delivered this past year as he snagged Hamilton for three picks (15th, 45th, and 52nd in 2015).

Calgary graciously ensured Hamilton was locked up for the foreseeable future with a six-year deal at $5.75M AAV days after being acquired.

Signing free agent Michael Frolik to a five-year contract at $4.3M AAV started off the free-agent frenzy of July 1st for the Flames. Frolik, coming off two strong seasons in Winnipeg, was exactly what the Flames were looking for in RW depth.

In his 30 GP this season (prior to injury), Frolik has been everything as advertised. His 16 points may not seem like much, but the added boost in the RW position was sorely lacking in the organization. (Besides, he’s still tied for seventh in team scoring despite those games lost to injury.)

The 2015 NHL Draft alone was one giant mic drop after another by the Flames. No first-round pick, no problem. Rasmus Andersson, followed by Oliver Kylington, Pavel Karnaukhov, Andrew Mangiapane, and finally behemoth Riley Bruce might have been Calgary’s strongest showing in decades. Kylington was particularly impressive, seeing as how he snagged a projected first rounder at 60th overall.

The future of the Calgary Flames net may lie square on Jon Gillies’ shoulders in a few years time. And Treliving, seeing the body of work Gillies displayed in the NCAA, signed the 2012 third-round pick to a three-year ELC. Unfortunately his first professional season was cut short due to a hip injury which required surgery.

Still, there is legitimate optimism for goaltending in this franchise if Gillies’ recovery and trajectory continue in the direction we have already seen being taken.

THE GOOD

Small but calculated decisions:

  • Re-signing depth for Stockton like Bill Arnold, Bryce Van Brabant, Drew Shore, and Kenny Agostino all to one-year contracts. It might not seem like much but keeping depth on short contracts definitely adds increased cap flexibility to the team in both the short and long term.
  • Micheal Ferland’s two-year extension that may be the start of something great for the punishing winger after a decent rookie campaign earned him a roster spot, a contract, and the opportunity to prove the league he is here to stay.
  • Claiming David Schlemko from Dallas. Easily one of the best depth options for a third-pairing and/or seventh defenseman. Though he wasn’t re-signed at the end of 2014-15, Schlemmers provided fans with a highlight-reel goal and capable depth down the stretch. Depth, but more importantly capable and cheap depth is at a premium these days. Schlemko was later signed by New Jersey in the summer.
Long-term planning:

  • Mikael Backlund’s three-year extension is beloved by one group of fans, maligned by another. He doesn’t produce elite offense but he drives play and can play above-capable two-way hockey, too. As Monahan and Bennett are likely to be the future 1-2 combo of the future, this contract gives the team a legitimate centre who can shutdown the opposition on the third line.
  • Low-risk, potentially rewarding entry-level contracts on Austin Carroll, Kenney Morrison, and Garnet Hathaway may look to be added depth down the road providing they pan out at the pro-level in Stockton.
  • The signing of future integral parts of the Calgary Flames’ future such as Andersson, Kylington, Mason McDonald, and Hunter Smith. All four, in some way shape or form, hopefully will have an impact in some way in the organization.

STILL UP IN THE AIR

One of the biggest question marks in the summer was determining the value of captain Mark Giordano. There was a reported $72M over eight years ask that made the fanbase tense. Coming off a season-ending bicep injury and at the age of 32, last season looked to be a potential Norris trophy again, but who knew if his level of play could be repeated?

When his new extension kicks in, Giordano will be 33 and there is already valid concern over his decline so far this season. In the last few weeks his game has returned to form, but it still creates legitimate questions over when his descent from top-pairing to depth will transpire. With the Flames currently on the hook for $6.75M until 2022, it’s easy to see why there is worry over this possible risk on the salary cap in years to come.

Lance Bouma’s extension was inevitable and there is a lot of misguided faith he can repeat, to some degree, what he did last season. Bouma capitalized with a three-year contract worth $2.2M AAV from an incredibly inflated SH%. Whereas many find ways of praising his penalty killing prowess, on the contrary it’s much more negative than positive.

If he can repeat a reasonable sum of goals and justifiably provide a positive impact on the PK then maybe the value exists. Fortunately if the contract ends up being a problem if results don’t justify the dollars, it’s still capable of being buried. Factor in being injured for 30 games and it shrinks the window of producing even further.

THE MISSES

The goalie situation in Calgary looked to be all but settled at the end of the 2014-15 season. It looked to clearly be Hiller/Ortio moving forward, at least until Karri Ramo was re-signed on July 1. From there on, it took an even more radical turn as both Hiller and Ramo played like hot garbage to start the season. Rather than solve the situation correctly (waiving Ortio), Ramo was waived first.

An injury to Jonas Hiller gave Ramo the chance to redeem himself. Since then, he’s started nearly every game while Hiller has struggled on ice and with illness. Ortio was waived (despite cries from fans) and has subsequently struggled in Stockton.

Coupled with the goalie fiasco, the decision to waive tiny human Paul Byron and lose him on waivers to Montreal was a miss. Byron, known for being an effective forward on the PK, has been relatively successful in Montreal this season. His impact on the PK in Calgary: missed, and it’s very apparent.

That’s not to say he would have fixed everything, but there is significant evidence to support he was one, if not the best forward on the PK in 2014-15. His three shorthanded goals with Montreal add more salt to the wound that is the Flames’ current penalty kill.

WHAT LIES AHEAD IN 2016

As a calendar year, 2016 may be one of the most interesting years to come, more so than we could have expected. We know that there is an abundance of question marks, like what to do with Jiri Hudler, Kris Russell, and David Jones.

All of who may be victims of the pending contracts for Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Which is fine, as all three have some value as the trade deadline approaches. Even though 2015 was an incredible season relative to recent years past, 2016 makes for one of the most interesting for the Flames and fans alike.

  • mattyc

    If Jonas Hiller had come out of the gate and stopped pucks at his career rate (or last year’s rate), I’m skeptical we would be so negative on his goalie management. At the end of the day, we still have Ortio in the system (for better or worse), as well as two goalies who are better than him currently in Ramo and Hiller.

  • KiLLKiND

    I think the overall body of work is pretty good.

    In defense of the goalie situation, BT recognized we needed an upgrade, he just couldn’t get anything done. I believe he wanted Hiller gone, but things just didn’t work. Our present goalie situation should have been average based on the previous year. In hindsight, he probably suspected things might go south, hence all the interest in bringing in a goalie over the off season.

    The Byron situation is very unfortunate. Management was unwilling to admit the mistakes they had made on previous signings and consequently made things worse because of that. Oh well, everyone is guilty of falling in love with a bad poker hand.

    Overall, pretty good work though. Let’s hope Brad continues the good work he has done.

    Happy New Year to all!

  • Plumsrus

    Brad in this last draft did a bang up job drafting two potential young studs on the back end. this years draft don’t be surprised if we dont go after a number of right wingers as it looks like Poirier is not looking so hot these days. Frolik has helped stop the bleeding on the right side.

    Maybe with the option to move, Hudler, Jones, and or Russel at the trade dead line this year, we will see additions to the right side.

    Dont go after that Johanson kid in Columbus. He may have the tools and size, but you must ask yourself. What else comes along with that? In my books it looks like the kid has attitude issues, and that can do havoc on a room. Granted his coach now is crazy torts, but i think there was issue with his previous coach and management team with his contract?

  • Kevin R

    First on Tre’s agenda in the New Year should be to sign Ramo to a 2 year extension….why? Hiller is a bust and we have no one in the system ready. Then sign a UFA backup in the off season.

    • KiLLKiND

      Why sign either before the season’s over? Hiller hasn’t gotten time sine returnging from injury other than his flu games. I personally disregard the flu games and still believe if he is given 11 games in a row like Ramo was he can get his game back too. Hopefully he does and we can trade one of the two if possible and sign a FA or see what blockbuster trade Trelving can pull off next. The lightning have to trade one of their goalies at some point and all three look really solid. we can let Ortio, Gilles, Poulin, and Simpson battle it out for backup.

      If he can’t get one of the Lightnings trio I’m sure a goalie will be available for trade their usually is one or two on the market, that can play their way into looking like a decent signing like Ramo did at the end of last year. Ramo may even do it again this year but signing Ramo now completely takes Hiller out of the equation and we will probably need him to play a few games this year.

      • Tomas Oppolzer

        I still want to see Bernier in a Flames uniform. This is probably unpopular with a ton of people, but Bernier has been an above-average netminder every year except this year and could probably be had pretty cheap.

        • DestroDertell

          Since January 1st 2014, Bernier has a below average .910 raw Save% (.9185 at even strength, .9173 adjusted). He has been a mediocre goalie all his career aside of an hot streak a long time ago.

  • ClayBort

    BT is a very good GM in my opinion. A few of the reasons are not the big swings he’s taken, but rather his willingness to admit mistakes. I’m willing to bet that he felt Byron would skate through waivers as he had every year prior, and buy him roster flexibility. He was wrong there.

    When he waived Ramo was probably the best example. He could have stood behind a bad decision (one that appeared to be influenced by Hartley, FWIW), but he didn’t. Obviously injuries forced Ramo back into the fray, but it takes courage to walk away from a bad decision. There is a team up north that is still trying to convince itself that Justin Schultz is an NHLer years after acquiring him, in contrast.

    I hope the next mistake he rectifies involves turfing Hartley this summer.

      • ClayBort

        To be completely fair, if Bennett becomes the NHLer we all expect, and Hickey makes it, that’s an above average draft for any team. Now that many see Hickey as a potential top 4 dman for many years, that draft class is potentially a grand slam (before even considering if any of the other players have any sort of pro tenure). It’s unlikely for a team to find a regular NHLer in rounds 2-7 from each draft class.

        As reference, expectations of draft picks after the 1st round tend to be too high. http://www.tsn.ca/playing-the-percentages-in-the-nhl-draft-1.206144

        • SmellOfVictory

          For sure, I know the odds of a non-1st rounder making the NHL are quite low, but the types of players picked with the Flames’ other picks (specifically the 2nd round picks and the one traded for Brandon Bollig) were perplexing to me. He took the 2nd most intriguing goalie in the draft (ahead of the most intriguing) too high in the 2nd round, then took a guy with a bottom 6 ceiling and skating issues, followed by completely wasting a 3rd rounder acquiring an overpaid 4th line plug.

          • ClayBort

            As Mike’s point above illustrates however, Treliving was just hired, and those may not have been his decisions just yet.

            As far as the draft goes, the buck stops with Todd Button.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            I agree, BT was hired just before Engelland was singed and Bollig was traded for. Those deals, the trade for ex-Leaf Colburne and picking up ex-Leaf Orr smell too much like Brian Burke for me to credit Trelliving with. Take each of those away and you’re left with losing Paul Byron as Trelliving’s only mistep of note.

            Pure conjecture to say the least, but these are 2 sets of very different strategies. And everybody knows Burke’s well documented preference for big boys.

          • Kevin R

            Easy to criticize for a “Byron mistep” but really he played 57 games, shooting percentage had dropped significantly & was a fringe depth player at best. Sometimes you roll the dice & hope they clear. He didn’t, move on, personally I think we already have younger version Paul Byrons in our system already.

            I think we see Tre make a play on a #1 goalie this summer. Would like to see him go after a soulmate for Bennett as well. Nichushkin would be nice.

          • ClayBort

            As Mike’s point above illustrates however, Treliving was just hired, and those may not have been his decisions just yet.

            As far as the draft goes, the buck stops with Todd Button.

  • RKD

    BT has done some good things but he needs to address the goaltending situations and do it in a impactful way. It’s not always easy, but there are better goalies out there. If the organization never envisioned Ramo as a starter, what was their plan B. I wasn’t a fan of letting Paul Bryon go, but he is not going to make or break the Flames rebuild. I still need to see what BT does with the goalie situation, if he trades guys like Hudler, Wideman, Russell and what kind of return he can get back. The Gaudreau and Monahan extensions are no brainers but they should be done intelligently with room for Bennett’s deal but not handcuffing them down the road.

  • DestroDertell

    You Flames must be very proud of yourselves making a 6 year old fan cry with your violence for no reason mentality against Anaheim. Good for you clowns.