So the Flames lost again. It’s their fourth loss in a row where they faced a deficit of 4-0. Things are bleak and terrible, and frankly, we’re all very sick of it.
Not to say that it’s over. The season still has 31 games left to play, and the Flames are still in a playoff battle. There’s plenty of time to right the ship and lock things down.
But if they end up falling just short, a frighteningly likely prospect, this stretch of games in January will be what people point to when explaining why the Flames didn’t make the playoffs. And that will come crashing down on Brad Treliving’s head, because he doesn’t have a contract and you get the feeling that it depends on whether or not the team makes the playoffs.
Of course, it’s all speculation right now. There’s plenty of time between now and the offseason, so something might be in the works. Something might just require a signature, who really knows. Hell, it may not even depend on whether the team makes the playoffs. Again, speculation.
But we’re nipping this in the bud. The fact that Treliving hasn’t been re-upped yet is concerning. The Flames have a competent GM for the first time in a long time, and they need to keep him around.
The man we know
This isn’t a love letter. Brad Treliving has his flaws.
Here’s some free-association complaints: he signed Troy Brouwer to a four-year contract that is already unbearable in the first six months, he extended Lance Bouma even though everything pointed to him never scoring 16 goals again (and waived Paul Byron as a result), traded for Brandon Bollig, signed post-apex Deryk Engelland, and he made a three goalie mess that pretty much sunk the season before.
He’s made some obvious mistakes! We know they’re obvious because we called it every time. He has his head-scratchers. You can argue that most of his mistakes are either water under the bridge, or will be by July 1, 2017, but an obvious mistake is still an obvious mistake. They’re still indicative of bad thinking that can drag the team behind as their competition leaps forward.
The flaw with Treliving is that he makes at least one unforced error per season, but that glosses over the good he’s done to bring this team from its lowest point ever three seasons ago to a team knocking on the door of the playoffs.
We can look at the him as the guy who traded just picks for Dougie Hamilton, the best defender on the team right now, and then drafted two defencemen with similar potential less than 24 hours later. You can look at him as the GM who locked up three keys parts of the core for under seven million each. Or the guy who flipped Curtis Glencross (who is no longer even in the league) for two top-100 picks, and did the same with Jiri Hudler the following year.
These are the strengths of Tre, and they’re absolutely crucial to the future of the team.
We have the trade deadline coming up in just over a month’s time. The Flames are currently in a position where they could be buying to get a leg up on their wild card competitors, but recent form suggests that they should be selling whatever they can.
But whatever the state of the team is on Feb. 28, they’ll be in good hands. Treliving seems to pay way less than expected for quality assets and get way more than he should for rental pieces. If the situation is the former, perhaps the Flames could pick up an exciting piece for pennies on the dollar. If it’s the latter, the team will walk away with enough draft capital to stock up for the future.
Being a draft nerd, I can assure you that the Flames haven’t seen such quality drafting since… well, forever. In 2015, he nabbed three incredibly promising prospects in Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, and Andrew Mangiapane. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, he walked away with an even bigger bounty this past offseason.
To start things off, he picked Matthew Tkachuk, who is already one of the better players on the team. With his next three picks, the team acquired three players who got into the WJC final. There’s also huge potential with Matthew Phillips, the pint-sized monster who is currently top three in WHL primary scoring at 5v5.
It’s picks like Phillips and Mangiapane that best sum up the whole of Treliving’s tenure. He has an uncanny ability to pay a low price for a potentially high return.
The future and final thoughts
The Flames, despite sitting in the thick of things for a playoff spot, are still a rebuilding franchise.
There’s a lot of big money crap on this team left over from previous administrations (and to be fair, his own) that is coming off the books this offseason. As other Christian wrote yesterday, this is a team just about to turn a corner and actually exit the rebuilding stage. Who else should you trust besides the man who got you most of the way here?
Starting the process all over again is a risky and dangerous move. We had no clue what Treliving was, and we struck gold. Don’t count on the organization to do it twice. Remember that after firing Jay Feaster in December of 2013, the likely candidate was Jim Benning.
There’s very few GMs in hockey that have a strong resume like Treliving. When you have to assemble a playoff team, you can’t do much better than him. If upper management is too dumb to realize this, then they deserve to wander the desert for an undetermined number of years.