Watching something in its death throes and not being able to do a thing about it really does suck. But it’s not like the Flames will never be back. In sports, every single new season is a second chance, over and over and over again.
There’s a lot of ire to go about right now. The players aren’t even trying. The coach is maybe on his last legs. The general manager spent a summer wheeling and dealing and has negative net value to show for it. Just about everything that possibly could have gone wrong did, a complete, near-uninterrupted unravelling since about mid-January.
It would have been a panic move to make any major change then, and it’s completely pointless to make any major change now.
When it comes to trading any players, the handicap is obvious: 16 teams will still have a postseason to play out. They aren’t thinking about how to improve their club for next season at all; they’re focused on winning in the immediate. To try to make any major deals at this stage, before everyone is done playing hockey, would be to eliminate a broad pool of trade partners and, with them, the potential for better deals.
If there are deals to be made that are fair and not an overreaction. The Flames still have an Art Ross contender signed long-term who will be 25 next season (Johnny Gaudreau). Same for a top-scoring defenceman (Dougie Hamilton). Same for a relatively consistent sniper (Sean Monahan). Same for an elite shutdown centre (Mikael Backlund). We’re still waiting on Matthew Tkachuk to get a long-term deal of his own but he’ll be in that group as well, easily. The Flames still have a lot of high end talent in place and just because in one season everything went wrong is no excuse to make a hasty move and ruin the top end core that has been built.
As much vitriol as the coach may presently be getting, and as much as some of it is deserved, it would be a purely emotional move to drop him before the final games of the season have been played. Is Glen Gulutzan really doing much of anything right now? Well, Tanner Glass has been playing, so… no. Is the season toast? In every way but officially, yeah. We’re all wasting our time here, but firing someone won’t make it pass any faster.
In fact, firing a coach with under 10 games to go in the season would probably be roughly akin to shooting oneself in the foot. I’m sure it relieves some emotional stress and/or frustrations on some level, but in the end, you’ve still just hurt yourself. Let’s say, totally hypothetically, that Joel Quenneville is available in the offseason. Has won a ton of games at the NHL level as a coach, has a bunch of Stanley Cups to his name. You really think he’d entertain coming to a franchise that just unceremoniously booted its previous head coach out on his ass, without even the courtesy of exit interviews? You think any coach worth his salt is going to see that and think, “Ah, yes, that’s who I want to work for.” Sure, an argument can be made that it was clearly coming for Gulutzan and he deserved it, but nobody looking for a job is going to think of it that way. They’re going to think, “If anything goes wrong, that’s going to happen to me, too.” And then they’re going to pass on the opportunity.
Brad Treliving, meanwhile, isn’t even a year into his extension with the Flames. The most recent offseason has ultimately proved to be poor – maybe half-assed is the better word for it – but nothing so disastrous has happened that it should call for the organization to wipe its entire slate clean. It’s been a bad year. It shouldn’t have gotten this bad. It did. But this is still a general manager who has advanced the Flames to the point we were right to have raised expectations, and just because they came crashing down one year does not mean it’s a good idea to clean house and start over.
If anything, hope for a learning opportunity.
And for the next two weeks to go quickly, so then everyone can be put out of their misery. Because absolutely nothing is going to happen before then, nor should it.