According to Brad Treliving, Matthew Tkachuk and Brian Elliott have something crucial in common: character.
“I like the players we added today,” Treliving said, following a productive first round of the draft. “I like the makeup, the DNA of them, too. Those kind of guys help you win, and I think that’s important.”
It’s safe to say the Flames had a very good day.
Tkachuk was the Flames’ guy, and he’s got pretty much everything the Flames want. He’s smart, with great hockey sense. He’s competitive, and he’s won with that ambition. He can score, and he’ll go where he needs to to get those goals. He can excel with other incredible players; his elite line with the London Knights all fed off each other.
In fact, he’s kind of like Sam Bennett. “He is an absolute pain the rear end to play against,” Treliving said. “[He and Bennett are] hard-nosed guys; I call those guys they can play in April, May, and June when the rinks shorten up and there’s no space.” Tkachuk is already clearly a playoff performer: he’s won the Memorial Cup, which is one of the hardest trophies to win. And he had to work like hell for it, too.
A true warrior
In Tkachuk’s own media availability, he downplayed the injuries he played through in the Memorial Cup, simply brushing them off as things everyone has to go through in order to win. Treliving was far more willing to give him credit:
“To give you a little indication about what Matthew Tkachuk is all about, he had a bad ankle sprain, he had a banged up shoulder, he was getting stuff frozen to play every game in the playoffs, and he scores the game-winning goal in the Memorial Cup. A day later he’s at the combine. I think his summer lasted six or seven days. He’s already back training and working out in the Toronto area.”
A non-stop worker dedicated not only dedicated to winning, but with the talent to help a team to a championship? How can you not love the guy? He’s also a versatile forward, too – although he’s a left winger with a left shot, he played all three forward positions last year, and could potentially fit in anywhere in the lineup.
Worth waiting for
Tkachuk is very eager to get going with his NHL career, too. When he visited Treliving, he said, “You draft me, I’m going to make your team,” to which Treliving responded, “We’re not looking for the guy to make it the fastest – I’m looking for the guy who’s going to be the best when he gets here.” He’s driven – but he’s also young, and there are no spots guaranteed for him in the slightest. It may not be until the 2017-18 season we see him in the Flames’ lineup.
But he’s good, and exactly who the Flames wanted. They love his personality, and they love everything else about him, too.
“His hockey sense is, in my mind, elite,” said Treliving. “To go along with some good hands, a real bite to his game, and he’s just a dirty s.o.b. to play against. I love that combination.”
Elliott was the perfect fit for the Flames: a great goalie on a great contract that gives the team some major flexibility. He fits them now, and he might just fit them in the future, as a conditional third round pick was given up if he re-signs with the Flames – although they aren’t in any rush to extend him just yet.
Treliving recognized that Elliott may not be the most popular name; he certainly doesn’t get the fanfare others in the Flames’ goalie search have. But his cost to acquire was a reasonable one, and, as Treliving put it, “you dig into the numbers, this guy’s been one of the best goaltenders in the league for the last number of years.”
The Flames also believe Elliott is capable of grabbing the #1 mantle. He played 59 games this past season, including the playoffs, and posted fantastic numbers. Throw in the flexibility his currently short-term contract – $2.5 million for just one more season – gives, and the fact that he cost the 35th overall pick, and it’s a deal the Flames are extremely happy with. And they were able to get him because of the trades they made at the deadline, acquiring additional second round picks for Jiri Hudler and Kris Russell. “We don’t have extra second round picks, we’re not sitting with a goalie today,” Treliving said.
Good goalie, great person
The Flames love Brian Elliott the person.
“You go and talk to teammates, you go and talk to coaches that have been around. He is loved by people that he plays with,” Treliving said. “We think that’s a really important thing. He’ll drive your practice. Anybody you talk to – I was doing my research – said he’ll be the hardest worker you have in practice. … You start going out in the market, you start talking about Brian Elliott, and it’s hard to find people who said a bad word about him.”
Elliott is currently in Croatia, but Treliving talked to him earlier in the day, well before the trade went down. “When he knew there was a potential opportunity to come to Calgary he was excited. And like I said, we’re excited about the person too. This guy’s got some juice and he’s – apart from being a real good goalie, which is paramount – he’s a real good teammate.”
So, what about Joni Ortio’s status? Treliving confirmed that they still like him quite a bit, and while he had his fair share of negatives throughout the season, so did pretty much everyone on the Flames. He had a strong finish, though – and now, with a more experienced goalie in Elliott, the Flames have rounded out their goaltending age groups.
Treliving may or may not be committed to the idea of Elliott as a starter and Ortio a backup, but there’s still plenty of time before the Flames take to the ice again – and therefore, plenty of time before a decision has to be made.