Treliving rolls the dice by trading picks

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(Jerome Miron / USA Today Sports)

When Brad Treliving took the job as general manager of the Calgary Flames in the spring of 2014, the organization began an unabashed “accumulation phase.” More specifically, they tried to get younger and faster and attempted to do so by trading expiring contracts for prospects and draft picks.

In the run-up to the 2017 National Hockey League trade deadline, Treliving made a couple transactions that seemed to move in the opposite direction. The club added Michael Stone from Arizona last week for a 2017 third round selection and acquired Curtis Lazar on deadline day from Ottawa in exchange for a 2017 second round pick.

Speaking with the media following the trade deadline, Treliving indicated that the moves aren’t reflective of a change in organizational approach.

“Our record has shown since I’ve been here that we’ve accumulated a lot
of picks,” noted Treliving. “We gave up a pick today for a 22-year-old kid with a bright
future in the NHL. I don’t look at it as not accumulating assets. Every
once in a while you have to take a chance and put a pick in play here.”

Based on the standings on March 1, the Flames’ picks in the first four rounds would end up roughly at 17th, 48th, 79th and 110th overall. After their first round pick, the Flames now won’t hit the draft podium until the fourth round. Treliving defended the two swaps involving draft picks.

“This was a long-term play,” said Treliving. “People have talked about the
depth of this draft. I think there’s players in every draft. We felt we
had to make the move with Michael Stone to shore up our defense, to give
ourselves a chance this year. Michael is a young player, he’ll be
unrestricted at the end of the year and we’ll see where that goes. But
in both cases, obviously in Curtis’ case you control his rights for a
number of years, Michael you have the opportunity to see where things
go. I didn’t look at either one of those as pure rentals.”

Since Treliving arrived, the Flames have made six second round selections over three NHL Drafts: Mason McDonald and Hunter Smith in 2014, Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson in 2015, and Dillon Dube and Tyler Parsons in 2016. They’ve also leveraged second round picks to acquire Brian Elliott and (partially) Dougie Hamilton. This sets the bar pretty high for Lazar’s performance, but also speaks to how highly they value him and his potential.

In the past, Treliving has explained how highly he values draft picks. Heck, in past years he’s basically rubbed his hands together and proclaimed that he loves having picks – he came from a scouting background and seems to value having multiple kicks at the can in each draft. That approach seems to have born fruit from the 2015 and 2016 Drafts, as our prospect updates from Christian Tiberi regularly showcase players from those drafts.

On the other hand, the draft can be a crap-shoot, which was one of the defenses used when the Flames acquired Hamilton for three selections in the 2015 Draft. Regardless of how good a team’s scouting and development staff is, it still would take years before a 2015 draftee would become an NHLer of any repute. Hamilton stepped in and was good right away. While the Flames gave up the probable 48th overall pick (in what’s reputed to be a weak draft), they arguably have acquired more of a known quantity in Lazar that can immediately help them.

The difficulty with the Mystery Box vs. Boat analogy is that Lazar isn’t quite a boat yet, so appealing to the notion that they could have some nebulous player at 48th overall or Lazar is almost a fallacy because Lazar isn’t really anything yet at the NHL level. He has some boat-like qualities and when you extrapolate his performance as a junior player in the Western Hockey League, it’s possible to conclude that he could one day develop into a boat. But the problem is that he’s already had some challenges at the pro level and while he’s definitely closer to becoming a boat (or a full-time NHLer) than anybody the Flames would probably take at 48th overall, he’s also used up almost four full seasons of his runway to become one.

The deadline moves are calculated gambles, but the team’s recent successes in the draft – and in leveraging second and third round selections to upgrade parts of their team – sets a high bar for Lazar to clear in order for the deal to be a success.

“We looked at where we could fall, where that pick could fit, and some
of the names that our guys have been looking at for the last year or two
for this draft and compare them to the player we got back today. We felt it was the right move to make the deal,” said Treliving.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I wonder if one day is enough to temper the internet outrage. Lots of strong opinions on a guy most have never seen play.

    The trade is exactly a low risk, low reward endeavour. It’s time to step back and let the player speak for himself. Indicting him now is nothing less than premature.

    Next.

    GFG!

  • everton fc

    A 2nd round pick in a less-than-exceptional draft year? Of course, one could argue the same, about draft year 2013…

    I think Lazar will find his game here. Like Bartkowski seems to be, albeit different circumstances….

    That 2014 2nd round class BT and company gave us is pretty sad, though. They’ve certainly seem to have improved on that front. Parsons may turn out to be one of the biggest 2nd round steals in club history. And I think Dube will don the “Flaming C” at some point. But we do seem to have a log-jam of developing bottom 6 forwards in the cupboard.

  • cunning_linguist

    What I like about the DNA of this team is that we are adding in character players who bring functional value as well. Bennett, Tkachuk and Lazar are all extremely high character individuals with upside. Agreed that Lazar is quite a bit riskier than the other two, however, if he is able to become even a decent 3rd line option, Treliving is filling the meat of this team’s roster with the kind of guys who will go through a wall for their team someday in the playoffs etc…

  • McRib

    One issue I have with saying it’s “a less-than-exceptional draft year” is really outside of the top high end talent of the last couple years (McDavid, Eichel, Marner, Matthews, Laine, etc) this years draft really isn’t all that bad, but because the media doesn’t have those top end surefire superstars to hype the crap out of it’s seen as a “weak year”. Look at Nick Suzuki in Owen Sound (1.41 PPG) or Cody Glass in Portland (1.34 PPG), both are Top. 10 in their respectively leagues in scoring, but there is a chance one or both fall out of the Top. 10 picks in the draft (they shouldn’t).

    I mean to be honest at least from a WHL standpoint I like this year a heck of a lot more than the 2012 and 2013 draft years (a year we are now trying to get every single ex-first rounder from, Hahah), but its only seen as a weak year because we just had all that generational talent go through on the top end of the last few drafts. Even looking at players projected to go in the second or third round like Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Aleksi Heponeimi, Henri Jokiharju, Nick Henry, Josh Brook in the WHL there are years where they would be decent late first rounders.

    Putting aside the fact that I have always felt Curtis Lazar to be highly overrated (character only gets you so far in NHL with slightly above average skill). The main reason I dislike this move is Treliving has done an incredible job at the draft the last two years and if this was Sutter making this same move I wouldn’t have minded it because it would have been a better bet than one of his second rounders, but Teliving has just knocked picks out of the park left and right the last two years (don’t count his first year at the draft table because it’s obvious Burke still had some say). Anyway hopefully we knock the first rounder out of the park this year like the last few years (I have full faith) and as long as Treliving doesn’t make this a regular occurance of trading away Top. 90 picks (because he is so good at drafting) I can more than live with Lazar. I must admit this article puts to rest most of these concerns as it does sound like Treliving is a fan of the draft and won’t be doing this every year. Who knows it’s still early maybe we get another 2-3 rounder for this years draft leading up to the draft or trade up on draft day and make the draft more interesting.

    • everton fc

      I agree w/a lot of this…

      Of course, BT could pick up a 2nd in the summer to offset. But, as much as I hope BT is right about Lazar, and that he becomes more than another failed first rounder… It’s truly a dice-roll.

    • Kevin R

      I always value your posts & feel we have several common opinions. But I am a but surprised of the venom in your posts toward Lazar. Listening to Tre, they have done their research, they have projected where they may be picking in that 2nd round & you can bet their scouting staff have given him some pretty good intel as to what kind of players we will have available to us with that pick. Now I don’t scout these kids & follow all of their junior careers but it seems to me that this kid has had success at that level. If he did have mono to start the season, that’s a pretty draining illness magnified if you are a professional athlete. That just might, a tiny bit skew some of his results that many seem to want to paint the kid with.
      If we gave up our 1st in this deal, I would agree, why would we do that. Will he become anything? Who knows. 3 short years ago I remember a kid by the name of Kyle Turris, his team soured on him, weren’t happy with his play & he wound up being a holdout Drury style. He was sold for a prospect & a 2nd. It just took him a little longer & a fresh start & I think he’s looking pretty good with his current team. Ironically, many posters on this site wanted to ship Backlund out for a bag of pucks & if we could get Turris or a 2nd, they had Backlund on the next flight out. Look at Backlund now.

      A mid 2nd round pick, there were a lot of other deals Tre could have made that could have been way worse.

    • al rain

      I find it funny that you can be a fan of Treliving’s talent assessment acumen at the draft table but if the player is 22 years old you figure that you know more than him and all his scouts.

      Is Lazar’s potential higher than the average mid-2nd rounder? I can’t claim to know, but I suspect that it is.

      And I know for sure that Treliving has more sources than I do.

  • Fan the Flames

    Trading picks for good young assets that can enhance the core and improve the bottom six is a good direction . Trading picks to get Hamilton a young blue chip guy was being criticized until he got moved to play with Gio and now he looks like one of the best in the league . Lazar is only 22 his age fits well with the core , he can skate , he is competitive and he may look real good playing with Bennett. The Flames are knocking on the door of being one of the top teams and they need young players that are approaching their prime throughout the lineup rather than 4 or 5 young guys playing with 5 or 6 old declining guys and 5 or 6 good draft picks that are not ready yet. The Flames also have a few good players knocking on the door in Stockton.

  • mattyc

    A 2nd round pick isn’t that big a deal, but Lazar isn’t a guy who can “help us now”, heck I’ll be surprised if he’s better right now than anyone currently on the roster. I’d guess the odds of him being an effective NHLer is about on par with the odds of a late-2nd panning out. Certainly possible, but not a given. The perplexing part is what this does to our expansion protection list. This will be an absolute dumpster fire of a deal if it costs the flames someone like Ferland.

    • Greg

      If it costs us ferland it should cost BT his job.

      On the other hand, if it means Brouwer gets exposed and picked, it should earn him another 3 year extension 🙂

    • Danomitee

      Ferland is going to be protected, I see no way around that after his recent play. That would mean that we would expose Lazar and Brouwer on the forward front, and if I were Vegas and I had the choice of those two players I would take Brouwer. However if the GK are reading Flames Nation they might pick neither since there is a strong hatred for both these players right now

    • Greg

      If it costs us ferland, it should cost BT his job.

      On the other hand, if this means Brouwer gets exposed and picked, it should earn BT an extension for being able to undo a mistake.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I am pretty sure the organization has more loyalty to a player they have developed like Ferland over a player recently acquired like Lazar. Ferland has been one of the main reasons the Flames have turned their game around….so not protecting him should not be a consideration.

    • Stan

      Anyone ready to call Bennett a bust this early is a complete and utter idiot.

      I’d MUCH rather develop Bennett at centre and let him work through his struggles than do what EDM is doing with Drai – playing on Mcdavids wing which is HUGELY inflating his counting and advanced stats (this is a fact, not an opinion. Just look at his xGF and Corsi with and without Mcdavid).

      Have fun being in cap hell after backing up the brinks truck for both Mcdavid and Drai.

      Oh, and keep that rear view mirror dusted off, cause our Flames are right behind your Coilers and are coming on strong.

  • Alsal

    So Ryan Leslie says ” Wideman is sitting because a few teams are interested.”

    HAHAHAHA… nice try.

    Wideman is sitting because he sucks.

    Trade deadline don’t lie.

  • sathome

    I won’t pretend to be a draft expert, but the whole “weak draft” refrain doesn’t make much sense in this situation. Sure, it seems like there’s a lack of high end talent in the top 10. But there’s almost no way that trickles down to the middle of the second round. It’s too many players, and the draft is too much of a crap shoot.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I am a little perplexed with the “weak draft” statement as well but I recognize that the experts would be better at assessing talent. I will say that, based on my limited experience with high level sports, I have come to learn that the younger generation of athlete is far more equipped to make the jump to the next level.

      This can be sourced to improved coaching, facilities, training, diet, nutrition and many other variables. As well, young players have access to more training material and videos through the Internet which can lead to repetition and mastering a craft. It is not uncommon for some age groups to stand out more than some but the tools are there for the younger athletes to excel. There will continue to be generational players in every sport that serves as a benchmark for best in class.

      So, while I agree that the top end talent may not be as strong in given years, I would argue that is not a reflection of an entire graduating class since they have the benefit of so much more at their disposal to enhance development.

          • dontcryWOLF88

            True. Sorry bud!

            There are good players every year. No doubt there. But obviously not all drafts are the same caliber. Always hard to predict entierly. However, everywhere in the leaugue you hear “weak draft this year” . thats a toooon of people who get paid to pay attention to nothing else agreeing. Hard for me to question that.

          • ComeOn

            I just think the statements around draft quality of vastly oversimplified. Have we ever seen the pundits say, this is a deep draft but there are no McDavid’s (equivalents)?

            Rather, they latch onto the top 2 or 3 prospects, promote the hell out of it and state that numbers 4 through 8 are still great players.

            I just think the relative abundance or lack of potential star players is what people latch onto when it comes to draft quality.

          • dontcryWOLF88

            Deep drafts have amazing players that can alter the core of a team, even in late 1st or 2nd rounds, even 3rd or 4th sometimes.. Weak drafts have players who hardly make the nhl, even in the first round.

            Go look up the 2003 draft class, regarded often as the best of all time. Then, compare this to the 2000 draft class. After this tell me there is no such thing as a “strong” or “weak” draft.

  • everton fc

    We have to hope BT knows what he’s doing. The explanation above – of having a prospect NHL-ready versus a 2nd round pick who may or may not make it, and if the latter is the case, will take time to develop… Seems BT wants to win now. I do think it sends an odd, unusual message (perhaps) to the likes of Hathaway (maybe) but certainly Kilmchuk… Jankowski…

    • everton fc

      Actually… With Klimchuk being a LW… Not so much a bad sign. For Jankowski, a centre… Unless Jankowski and Lazar are seen as the future 3/4 centres after Stajan departs…

      Who knows? Let’s just see how it all pans out. I hope he surprises all of us. Then the 2nd is not an issue, and we may get it back this somehow, this summer.

  • For the curious, the Flames would draft around 17th in the first round this year and players projected to be available around that point would be Portland’s Cody Glass, Tri-City’s Juuso Valimaki (a Finnish D-man), gigantic OHL defender Nicolas Hague and QMJHL sniper Maxime Comtois.

  • ComeOn

    It’s a pretty simple formula, convert players that have no place in the organization into picks (due to logjams, lack of talent or drive, the point in their contract or career and/or character issues)

    Then leverage those picks into the best thing you can…trade deadline day and you see someone who can drive more value than the probability a that a pick plays out well(generally low).

    Plenty of players will get moved once Vegas’ dust settles this summer, we’ll acquire more picks…see a few players move on.

    Good move and strategy in my mind.

  • al rain

    Interesting bit from The Hockey News:

    TDL Loser #1: Sens. “But the real error, in this writer’s opinion, was dealing Curtis Lazar, who will flourish in Calgary after being almost ruined by the Senators.”

    Flourish. Yeah. This is what I like to think will happen.

  • BendingCorners

    Since mid-November the Flames have been one of the top five teams in the West. They quite possibly will make the playoffs and win a round, meaning they draft no higher than 24th (23rd plus one for Vegas). Curtis Lazar seems like a good bet to be at least as likely to succeed as pick number 55.
    They won’t protect him in the expansion draft because he is not a prime target. Our top nine will be protected or exempt (Matthew) or without a contract till after the draft (Kris). If the Flames extend qualifying offers to Alex and Curtis (and Sam but him they will protect) then Alex is going to Vegas. GFG

  • BendingCorners

    I expect most UFA this year will remain unsigned until after the expansion draft unless the team that signs them has room to protect them. That is I think what the Flames will do with Kris V. As for our AHL players they can still replace Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma if they are good enough, and climb to a higher line if they show enough skill. Right now none of them are ready.
    No worries about anything here. Looking forward to the playoffs, if they can survive the tough stretch in the final two weeks. GFG

  • dontcryWOLF88

    I got the impression tre has a plan for Lazar fitting into expansion plans. Well, more than an impression. Tre explicitly said he had a plan.

    BTW , if anyone else was curious how Lazar was able to be sent down to the minors for 13 games earlier this year, despite being waiver eligible:

    “A player who has been on IR or otherwise incapacitated (and the team must be able to demonstrate cause) can agree to be assigned to an affiliate for a conditioning stint that cannot last longer than 14 days. At the end of the 14 days, the player must either return to the NHL roster or be placed on waivers to remain with the affiliate.”

  • beloch

    Reasons why I’m optimistic about this trade:

    • Lazar contracted mononucleosis just in time for training camp this year. While it’s typical to take several weeks to recover from mono, it can take some people several months. Lazar had a good reason to have a bad start to this season.
    • Lazar’s junior record, the articles I’ve read about him, and his post-trade interview all indicate that this kid is leadership material. He captained Team Canada to gold at the WJC. He has a remarkably positive attitude for a guy going through what he’s currently going through. We tend to ignore contributions that don’t show up well on a stat-sheet, but this stuff is far from worthless. Lazar may take years to become a good hockey player, but he’ll be good in the room immediately.
    • While his results this season are out of line with expectations based on his junior pedigree, his first two seasons in the NHL were much better, in spite of the fact that Ottawa clearly rushed him into the league too soon. His point production, TOI, and possession stats were all better in his first two seasons. This suggests that his poor results this season are an anomalous blip.

    The biggest thing I don’t like about this trade is that Lazar is waiver-eligible. Lazar’s situation is comparable to Joe Colborne’s a couple of seasons ago. He’s not really good enough to make the team based on his own merits right now, but he’s stuck here because he’d probably be claimed off waivers were he reassigned to Stockton. Lazar needs to play games and get some confidence back but the Flames’ playoff berth is still in jeopardy and they need every man to pull his weight.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how much ice-time Lazar gets in the remainder of this season.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    After doing some reading on Lazar, I was pleased to read the scouting report written in his draft year. No surprise that they projected him to go in the middle of the 1st round.

    He was described as exceptionally quick skater with versatility to play all 3 forward positions. But what caught my attention was he was described as having an excellent shot with a quick release. His shot was described as pro- ready when he was 17 yrs old.

    If there is one thing the Flames are missing it is having enough good shooters. Monny stands out and most notably Ferland, as having above average shots. But not many other forwards on the current roster check this box. If you add, the incredible character and leadership he exhibits, you can easily see what the organization sees in him.