Ditching Treliving would send the wrong message at the wrong time

Our dear friends at Sportsnet 960 The Fan had hockey information maven Elliotte Friedman on their station Monday morning for his regular hit and he reiterated a fairly interesting (and alarming) piece of information: Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving is in the final year of his contract. Friedman also noted that he’s “not 100% convinced” that Treliving will be back for the 2017-18 season.

All due respect to the people involving in the decision-making process, but ditching Treliving after just three seasons would send the absolute wrong message to the hockey world at the absolute wrong time.

I think it’s safe to say that the Flames were adrift during the Jay Feaster years. That’s not to judge anybody’s performance, but Feaster was tasked with keeping the team competitive during a time when the drafting short-comings from the Darryl Sutter years were coming home to roost. Not only were the Flames unable to really stock the bottom half of their roster with inexpensive internally-developed players, they didn’t really have any worthwhile assets to trade to get better players. They were stuck. When Feaster seemingly finally got the green light from ownership to clean house and begin a long-delayed rebuild, it was a relief because at least the team was beginning to address its underlying issues.

It turns out, one of those issues was how it signaled itself to the league via its management structure.

As noted on Sportsnet 960 (also on Monday morning) by morning host Dean “Boomer” Molberg, the Flames ownership has a reputation for being hands-on. I am not begrudging them that, because if I’m spending hundreds of millions of dollars of my money on anything, I want a say in its operations. These guys are all incredibly successful in their chosen fields so it’s an approach they’ve been conditioned to take. But in the hockey world, a hands-on ownership is a huge red flag to the marketplace (see: the Florida Panthers for a recent example of hockey navel-gazing) because it’s unclear where the final call is made.

In September 2013, the Flames seemingly did their best to put a stop to any whispering about decision-making when they announced Brian Burke as the team’s president of hockey operations. People in the hockey world respect Burke immensely for his tenure in the game, his willingness to put himself out there to defend his decisions and his willingness to talk tough to those above him when it’s needed. Hiring Burke effectively put a gigantic neon sign outside the Saddledome saying “Burke is in charge here.”

Right away, two things happened: whispering about meddling ownership quieted down considerably, only to be replaced with whispers that Burke would “bring his own guy in” to be general manager. By December, Feaster was sent packing. By the spring, Treliving was hired on. Again, whispers were Treliving would “bring his own guy in” to coach. Bob Hartley lasted about a year longer than anybody expected, but he was sent packing following the 2015-16 and replaced by Glen Gulutzan.

Now, the hockey world said, these guys can really be judged on how they do things, because they had finally finished the transition from the old pre-Burke regime (with the old GM and coach) to the new regime.

Punting Treliving basically a single year into the regime – and just as the bad money deals signed to get them through the painful rebuild transition are finally coming off the books – would basically begin the chattering once again. If Treliving’s gone, what happens with Burke? What happens with the head coach that they just hired? Moving to a new general manager would create more needless questions and annoying problems than it would solve.

It’s really tough to win in the NHL. Teams have to be patient and play a long term game when it comes to developing a winning culture and bringing in the right people. The Flames spent years getting the old people out and bringing the people they pronounced to be the right people to town. It’d be extremely troubling (and terribly short-sighted) if they changed course now.

  • Derzie

    This is a good argument Ryan. What I think would be good to have next is a list of all of his moves as GM. No small ask but you put it very nicely. Without doing that, I’ve concluded that the scale is leaning to the ‘fire him’ side. Now that his coach is in place the more urgent clock starts to tick. This is the ‘here is what you’ve built, let’s see what we’ve got’. The early returns are terrible. This season is lost so there is no value in mid-season firings of any kind. Nor is there license to make bad trades. Let the season play out while making a plan. If GG turned it around and had the majority of players excelling, I would be among the first to congratulate, just as I am among the first to call out something that appears to be failing miserably.

    • Kevin R

      A little soon don’t you think? Where did you expect this team, a contender?? This team has just acquired some good young assets that would be coveted by any team. My Lord, MT is 19,Benny is 20, Money 21 & Johnny is 23,as is Hammy. This team has just started the transition to being a consistent playoff team & hopefully a true contender. How in the world do you judge the job Tre has done this quick? Seems to me 2 years ago San Jose fired the coach, were way too old & were on the cusp of a major rebuild. Not so today. Even good teams crap the bed & good players have off years. This is not an industry where you have knee jerk reactions. You’ll be wiping off a lot of egg off your face.

      • Derzie

        San Jose firing their coach was good for San Jose. The players you mention were even younger last year and the year before but they performed well. The team lost but individuals, in general, got better. This year, only 3M got better. Everyone else is treading water or sinking. We are now closer to the end of the season than the beginning. We’ve have enough information to draw some conclusions. No one knows the future. No one. Not a soul. BUT, managers need to balance wait and see with let’s get to work. We are in the tail end years of our rebuild plan and things are trending down. Indicators are down as well (except Corsi but dump ins will raise that number artificially). Let the season play out. Do what it takes to get better. if the coach sucks, replace the coach. If the GM can explain what’s wrong and make a plan to fix it, maybe he gets a chance. If that plan is to let GG ride offensive skill into the ground, time to move on from the GM.

        • First Name Unidentified

          Couldn’t agree more. Right from day one I’ve been critical of the coach hiring and rightfully so, it continues to be our problem. You would never make Kane play with Chaisson would you? 17-18 minutes a night? I mean, Gaudreau is at least a point per game player in every league he’s played in including NHL (I said almost). What happened this season all of a sudden? Brodie is an elite skater under normal circumstances, not this season. Bennett has proven his offensive prowess at every level, not under this coach I guess. But we are too soft to call a spade a spade and say this is bad coaching and bad young player management. I can tell you the story – in another 3 years we will realise that this is not the coach we needed but by that time our young stars will be older by 3 years and you know the rest of the story. It happened just north of us!! Anybody paying attention?

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      “This season is lost”. Are you kidding me? We heard this drivel on here when we started 2-7-1, and still at 5-10-1. Then we won some games got back into a playoff spot and the rhetoric died down. Are you not aware we are currently still in play-off spot — season lost, cripes I can’t handle these fickle fans.

      All teams go through ebs and flows in a season. During our first losing streak we were actually winning the corsi battle but had terrible goaltending. Such is the case now.

      Treliving has sought to address holes within the lineup from year to year and has succeeded. Hamilton and Frolik have been much needed additions. The whole hockey world commended him on his goaltending additions – Elliot’s recent past would not suggest a fall of to the extent we have seen and Johnson is in a slump. I like others was dubious of the Brouwer signing, but his wins have outnumbered his losses. He’s smart and gets it. Getting rid of him is crazy talk.

  • Kevin R

    Totally agree Ryan. Yeah I haven’t liked every move Tre has made & I haven’t liked every draft pick he has made either. But when he has made a major move or trade, I’ve been onside each time he has made them. The arm chair hindsight people will tear him down. Whatever, any peon can do that.

  • Newbietwo

    You make a comment about punting Tre just as the big money are coming off the books I am somewhat bemused by!

    Let’s make it clear only Wideman remains from the big money still on the books from signings prior to Tre.. you have the Raymond situation, the Brouwer, Engelland and Bollig all decision by Tre himself

    Then you have the signings of Stajan who is making more that $3 million a year as a fourth line Centre!!

    Tre made good draft moves although some would ask how many of those are directly related to himself or if that is the team around him and it’s direction.. for example it wasn’t Tre who was adament with drafting Phillips who you indicated yesterday as possibly our top prospect.. Frankly some would argue it’s Tre signings and overpaying that limited the teams ability to actually make bold and identifiable moves..

    Then there is the management and handling of Johnny and Mony who were extended long term for too much and too quickly.. we had absolutely no risk of losing these guys by signing two year short term keep proving it contracts as we would still maintained their rights!!

    Then you have the coaching decision which adds to the overall question mark I am and have been befuddled on for two years which is “what team identity are you trying to create” Are we supposed to be big and gritty? No! Are we supposed to be fast and offensive? No! Def not due to paying Brouwer $4.5 million!!! Are we supposed to be tough defensively? No! Because we choose to pay an old undrafted player like a top in the league defender.. is Giordano a good number 2? Yes! Then why is he getting more than our number 1? What’s our team identify???

    Leadership means you clearly and definitely outline an identify, a brand and a direction!!!

    • King Quong

      Stajan was signed pre Treliving, Bollig was traded for so early in Tre’s tenure that I think it was burke (he also doesn’t make very much) Raymond was coming off a successful season and was dealt with, Engelland was an over pay yes but honestly July 1st is an auction and you gotta outbid some teams especially when you’re a team that is known to be starting a rebuild.

      When it comes to Johnny and Sean’s contract it’s still early in the deals from what info Treliving had on the two players you could easily expect them to keep improving this year and next year so if they signed them to a two year contract and they did put up improved numbers those contracts would cost you a hell of a lot more after the two years are up.

      I’m not a fan of Gulutzan and agree I wish this team had a more defined identity but honestly I dont think Treliving has screwed up enough not to be resigned.

      • Newbietwo

        No you are wrong!! Their contracts long term would have ended up cheaper!! Rule one of negotiations is you don’t come at it from a position of fear!!

        And the NHL leadership across the board sucks at it

        • King Quong

          There is only one situation that after signing a two year contract for Monahan and Gaudreau you sign them for cheap and that’s if they suck during those two years. Look at pk Subban for a reason as why bridge contracts are stupid.

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    Gulutzan – Treliving – Burke are the new Eakins – MacT – Lowe.

    Clean house and bring in some competent management and we might get back to meaningful BOAs… Choose not to, and that will keep us Oilers fans just as happy.

    This article has it all wrong.

  • Flaymin Frank

    Very few, if any team at all, can survive mediocre goaltending and until that position is solved on this club we will never get a full measure of what this team is about.

    We should be putting an emphasis on developing from within. At the rate we’re going the Tier 1 players who may be available thru free agency or trade are going to avoid YYC like a bad rash. That’s the situation the cOilers found themselves in til my Little McPony fell in their laps. Let’s not follow that path.

    If BT gets gassed, its not the end of the world. Maybe some fresh eyes on our situation is what we need despite Burkies’ omnipresence.


  • Crakupov

    It seems very premature to start firing the GM. The Flames are in playoff contention. They went on a tear after a slow start and could very well do so again and be in the playoffs for sure. After that who knows.

    The only real weak spot on the team is goaltending. Moneybags Gaudreau will start to perform eventually.

    If Elliot & Gaudreau can start to perform a bit better the flames will win a lot more games.

    I think the only reason there is any concern is that the Oilers have rebounded so well. If they hadn’t this conversation would not be taking place.

    All the drafts and moves by the GM have mostly been good.

  • Did we take off the training wheels too soon? We might be “adrift” right now. Johnny and Monny still need their Hudler. We only have a couple of true veterans left. I mean real team veterans… ones that have been with the Flames for longer than Monahan and our other younger players. Not rental veterans. None of these young guys are ready to step into leadership roles; that much is clear. Monny and Johnny are allegedly still into the coke and Bennett/Tkachuk are into the slewfoots…

    Gio proved he was a capable leader with a good supporting cast… but can he do it on his own? It didn’t look like it last night after his pathetic attempt to stick up for Johnny on the Komarov hit. We may have bigger problems on our hands than just management issues.

    • JoelOttosJock

      How has he proven he’s a leader? The last flames playoff appearance came because he buggered up his bicep and was out for theb2nd half of the season and other guys stepped up. Giordano is an over rated defenceman and an over rated leader. That attempt to fight Leo last night was a joke..he put Johnny in that bad spot waiting for a terrible pass, Giordano should be embarrassed for that play and that joke of an attempt of a fight. GG sat Sammy to send a message..well sit Giordano!

      • The Real Slim Brodie

        Giordano played 61 games that season which is 3\4 of the season. He also went with the team and everyone on the team rallied and fought tooth and nail that year because gio was their leader. He also scored 11 goals and 48 assists in that time and averaged over 25 min a night. It’s pretty clear giordano was so upset about the hit he was swinging for the fences with his punches and lost his balance. But your entitled to an opinion just as I am and I think your the joke…just my opinion

  • Dan the flames fan

    I have less issue with BT than I do with GG. Hartley was a motivator, and the one thing he stated was that win or lose, the Flames would produce entertaining hockey. That meant they would never quit on a game, they took offensive chances, and they allowed the players to be creative. GG is all about stats and more specifically-possession numbers. Now, our possession numbers are far better, but we are still losing games. GG is laid back, to the point of appearing apathetic and complacent. A movie I once saw had a player commenting on a team’s poor attitude. The response was “leadership reflects attitude”. In this case – coaches response reflects team response. GG demands a far more of a simple north/south game. In this case north/south has become predictable and easy to pressure.

  • Scary Gary

    Are we even discussing this? Other than giving Brower one year too many I think he’s been pretty good. We’re actually drafting decent players (Kylington, Andersson, etc.) and are getting something more often than not for depreciating or exiting assets; I mean look what he got for Russell and some of the value contracts he’s signed (Hamilton, Brodie).

  • Hometownoil

    Ownership was the biggetst problem in Edmonton. Only when the owner realized this did things change, however, it is not a quick fix. Say what you will about the billionaire Katz, he recognized that he was making bad choices, so he brought in Bob N. who then spent a year looking everything over. He then went back to Katz and said this is what needs to be done. Katz told him to go ahead and that was when we had meaningful change in Edmonton.

    The GM, the coach and the signings since are all what we havn’t seen in Edmonton in 20 years, never mind 10.

    The biggest change on the team is that the coaching staff has them playing good team defence. The goal differential has come down by huge numbers. The Oilers have got lots of offensive talent but that didn’t help. They needed to play as a team on a defensive system that they could execute and believe in.

    Thats why they have won so many 1 goal games. I don’t know what going on in Calgary and don’t pretend to give advice. I hope that Calgary is just going through a tough spell because the best hockey is Edmonton and Calgary beating the stuffing out each other in close games

  • BlueMoonNigel

    If GG is canned at the end of this season or before the midpoint of next season, then Tre should fall on his sword too because firing GG would be an admission of abject failure. Supposedly, this was not an off the rack hire, so if Tre got this one wrong and set the 5 year rebuild back another season or two, he has to walk the plank if the Flames hope to have any credibility as an NHL team and not the Islanders West.

  • Petzl

    Fickle fans holy smokes, 3 years is barely enough time to make any meaningful changes that impact the product oN the ice especiAlly if you’re dealing with a young team. Our core is young, has to learn a new system, and had a rough time doing it. They need time, stability and more talent.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      I believe the faithful are not reacting so much to Tre’s tenure as they are of the more than a generation of ineptness of the Flames of which Tre has overseen the last three years of it. Frequent disappoint that began in the last century is tainting a lot of the I Hate Tre comments we are seeing.

  • Howie Meeker

    This experiment with GG has gone sideways in a hurry and our crop of young studs has gone limp…he definitely isn’t pushing the right buttons and needs to be shipped out if the club wants to try to make the playoffs.

  • RKD

    Lots of people said Treliving is Burke’s puppet. Tre has made some good moves but also some really bad ones letting go of Paul Bryon, signing bad contracts such as Brouwer, Engelland, Raymond, and Hiller. Treliving’s biggest mistake this season was taking too long to hire a coach and then hiring Gulutzan and not addressing the situation of getting a top line RW to play on the top line. Burke who has the final say on all hockey ops is no better, he is just as guilty. Burke was fired from Vancouver, fired from Anaheim and fired from Toronto. Why we hired this guy his beyond me. If Burke becomes GM he will ruin this team for years.

  • Tundradog

    BT has for the most part been ok, but not great. Mistakes have been made, Gios term, Johnny’s deal, Monahan. There are some were good moves that just haven’t worked out so far – Elliott, Brouwer. He has got good value on the trade market.
    But where BT has failed is in firing Hartley and hiring GG. The whole mess of letting BH go 4 weeks too late after the season ended, missing out on the best available coaches because of how late they fired BH, and then settling on a guy (GG) that has proven he is not capable of producing a possession team should and will cost BT his job. And fortunately, when BT goes, so will GG.
    GG is the problem with this team. The young players have stopped progressing and are actually regressing under GG. It started early in the season when he put Stajan out with 3 minutes to play and the Flames down by 1. I knew then and there that GG was the wrong guy.
    The best players on the team are mediocre at best under GG. If it was one player underperforming, then it is the player, when it is the majority of the team that are underperforming, its the coach.

  • Tundradog

    Have they been bad enough in the last few weeks to fire GG? Sure hope so! Tonight is the night GG gets the pink slip – right? Outscored 9-1, really 9-0 in the last 2. Hoping the news is all good by morning!

  • KKisTHEproblem

    Why is KK getting off so easy? CEO of the flames since 2001! What have they accomplished since then other than a fluke run to the finals in 2004. It is a joke. Every GM hired is King except maybe BT but he hired Burke who hired BT. 16 years of almost complete failure. But a wealthy town that keeps buying tickets. Go on people, keep buying tickets and watch a sub par product and nothing will change….

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Kenny King is here to shepherd the building of the new arena. With his deep connections in the local business community and with civic and provincial politicians, he is the guy who is going to get the new rink built and make you, the suckers–I mean taxpayers–foot the bill.

  • John Wayne's Hat

    Agree with Ryan. It would be the wrong message and it would set things back. However, it has happened here before with Al Coates and Brian Sutter. The team was very young, learning then the Flames went to Button and Gilbert and the team was stalled until Darryl took over. I do not want to see that kind of knee jerk reaction again.