Interpret the Calgary Flames’ deadline day moves with whichever lens you like.
Optimists will look at the modest additions of winger Chris (Streaky) Stewart via waivers and Nick (not Drew) Shore for a courtesy seventh-round pick and deduce general manager Brad Treliving has confidence his group can get it done as assembled and needed nothing but some minor depth additions to protect them from injury down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Pessimists will look at the lack of any sort of upgrading of a roster player either via rental or deal for a player with term like Mike Hoffman and Max Pacioretty as a sign that Treliving knows this is not really a year in his team’s ‘window’ to win the Stanley Cup, and he didn’t want to part with any valuable future assets in order to strengthen the lineup for what would be a miraculous run.
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, as it usually does.
While Western Conference heavyweights like the Vegas Golden Knights, Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators made splashes with their respective additions of Tomas Tatar, Paul Stastny and Ryan Hartman, some of the Flames’ closest competitors battling for a spot in the postseason such as the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings also tried to improve their lot — the Sharks landing the often deplorable Evander Kane for much less than the anticipated selling price.
Whichever view you take on the Flames, it’s now up to the guys in the room to take it as a compliment and do more than the GM expects. Let’s be honest, if he thought they were a Cup favourite, he would have made more of an effort to land a bigger fish. Then again, if he thought them completely incapable of coming together for a good finish, he might have looked to move out someone like Michael Stone.
So what’s next?
“You’ve got an opportunity now so make the most of where you’re at,” Treliving suggested to reporters in his post-deadline presser. “You come to the trade deadline and you have to read where you’re at. We looked at a lot of things today and nothing else made sense, in terms of improving our team for now or the future.
“But we’ve got a group here that’s capable of doing it, regardless of their age.”
Without a more consistent performance, especially at home, the rest of the way, the Flames will miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and take a step backward from their first-round exit last year.
If the cutoff for the playoffs is around 96 points in the Western Conference, the Flames will need to string together a record that brings in 23 more points to add to their current total of 73. With 19 games remaining, that means a record of 11-7-1, 10-5-3 or 9-3-5 to give themselves a reasonable shot.
That means a winning percentage of closer to 60 percent than the 50.8 percent they’ve managed through the first 63 games this season.
The bad news is that is quite the gap in performance and the deadline acquisitions aren’t likely to be game-changers.
Stewart has gone on stretches through his 10-year career that have seen him flirt with the 30-goal mark, but that was the better part of a decade ago.
He did start this season with six goals in his first six games playing a bigger role for an injury-decimated Minnesota Wild team, and that’s why the team is giving him his first tryout on the top line tonight in Dallas against the Stars.
“To get an opportunity to play with probably two of the best young hockey players in the league, it’s going to be fun and I look forward to the challenge,” Steward said after the morning skate.
With Micheal Ferland out for the road trip, the back-to-back segment against the Stars and Colorado Avalanche is Stewart’s chance to audition as an impact player, but he doesn’t see it as him having anything to prove.
“Being an athlete in the best league on earth, every day is a competition,” he said. “You’ve got to bring your best every day and that’s what I expect of myself. This is the best time of the year. I know what I’ve got to bring to the table.”
Outside of a motivated power forward at a position that was severely lacking, if there’s a silver lining for the Flames being able to string together their most consistent play of the season, it’s that they haven’t put every ingredient together yet and that there is still time to do so.
The defense struggled early in the season while the offense was flourishing. As their chemistry as a group improved, the scoring became more inconsistent. And currently, the goaltending is a major question mark with Mike Smith injured and David Rittich and Jon Gillies tending the twine in tandem.
If they can get the best out of each player down the stretch — including the newcomers and a sure-to-be-rusty Kris Versteeg whenever he finally gets a chance to return — they’ve got a chance of making the playoffs regardless how their fellow Western Conference clubs perform.
But it will take nearly six weeks of near perfection, and the improvements can only come from within.