Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Season in review: Brad Treliving

Coming into the season with a contract extension and some extra powers, Brad Treliving was rearmed with confidence and autonomy to truly make the Calgary Flames the way he wanted to, without any obstruction.

In his first season of total freedom, it did not go as planned. Looking to build on a forgettable playoff appearance, Treliving’s team took a step backwards, and a pricey one at that.

Here’s a comprehensive review of everything Treliving had his fingerprints on this season.

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The draft

  • Juuso Valimaki – D, 16th overall
  • Adam Ruzicka – C, 109th overall
  • Zach Fischer – RW, 140th overall
  • D’Artagnan Joly – RW, 171st overall
  • Filip Sveningsson – LW, 202nd overall

As usual, Treliving’s major strength lies in drafting. With a limited number of picks, he picked up some really likeable players.

The Flames walked away like bandits from the 2017 draft. Valimaki appears to be ready to contribute sometime in the next two years, perhaps even next season. Ruzicka and Joly look like steals relative to their draft position, and Sveningsson is no slouch either. Perhaps Fischer was an odd pick given his career history, but a fifth rounder isn’t going to make or break the team (though it is a little odd that they would use a pick on a guy rather then just waiting it out and signing him – like Glenn Gawdin – if he performs above expectation). Getting promising players on four of five picks is pretty much all you can ask for.

The trades

  • June 17: traded the rights to Chad Johnson, Brandon Hickey, and a 2018 third round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Mike Smith.
  • June 24: traded a 2018 first round pick, a 2018 second round pick, and a 2019 second round pick to the New York Islanders for Travis Hamonic and a 2019 fourth round pick.
  • June 29: traded Keegan Kanzig and a 2019 sixth round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for Eddie Lack, Ryan Murphy, and a 2019 seventh round pick.
  • July 1: traded Tom McCollum to the Detroit Red Wings for a conditional seventh round pick (condition not met).
  • Dec. 30: traded Eddie Lack to the New Jersey Devils for Dalton Prout.
  • Feb. 26: traded a 2019 seventh round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Nick Shore.

Treliving went gambling leading up to the draft. Picking up Smith, an aging goalie with consistency issues, was going to be risky; but for the price of a backup goalie who wasn’t going to sign here, the fourth (at the time, fifth if he stuck around until Valimaki was drafted) best defensive prospect who also wasn’t going to sign here, and a third round pick, it turned out to be a great get. Until his injury, Smith was the guy who had pretty much put the Flames in a playoff spot. They got a starter for a handful of spare parts, which is much better and cheaper than previous attempts.

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The Hamonic trade was the opposite of that. The Flames paid a hefty price for a guy coming off of a disastrous season hoping that he would improve in a better situation. The logic behind the trade was certainly understandable: TJ Brodie struggled with bad partners and Hamonic struggled with an overall bad situation. They were once among the tops in the NHL before the 2016-17 season, so put them together and they’ll be good again. Bada boom, bada bing.

But there’s a lot to pick apart in that logic. Perhaps it was reasonable to assume that Hamonic was going to be a bounce back second pair defenceman, but why did he give up the same package he gave to get Dougie Hamilton, a burgeoning first pairing player at the time of that trade? Why did he not pay for the player Hamonic was last season prior to the trade instead of paying for the player he was three seasons ago? Hindsight being 20/20 and all, but it never crossed Treliving’s mind that Brodie might’ve been part of the problem, which is certainly more clear now. It seems that a lot of the potential failures involved in this deal were not addressed or given much thought.

With two years at a very reasonable cap hit left, it’s much too early to declare this trade a loss (Hamonic’s play away from Brodie has been promising), but even if Hamonic was a fine player throughout the season, Treliving overpaid at the draft. The damage has been mitigated by great drafting in recent years, but the Flames still gave up a lot of high end assets for a player that wasn’t worth them.

(An afterthought at this point, but it is certainly worth remembering that Treliving also didn’t lottery protect the first round pick. Twelfth overall in this draft isn’t much to get excited about, but it was a disaster that failed to materialize and one has to wonder if he really did give his team an honest assessment before making the trade. Did he really think the Flames were guaranteed to make the playoffs? Was Hamonic really going to be the guy to put them over the edge? Why wouldn’t he lottery protect the pick just in case the worst case scenario happened?)

Otherwise, Treliving addressed depth concerns for very cheap. Lack was worth a shot as a backup goalie, and they didn’t pay much of consequence to get him. When he didn’t work, they shipped him out. Shore is a very low risk deal for a player who is looking like handy 4C depth in the immediate future.

Signings and such

  • June 26: did not qualify RW Alex Chiasson, D Ryan Culkin, and D Kenney Morrison
  • Re-signings:
    • June 29: Kris Versteeg, one year x $1.75M
    • June 30: Michael Stone, three years x $3.5M AAV
    • July 13: Micheal Ferland, two years x $1.75M AAV
    • July 14: Curtis Lazar, two years x $950K AAV
    • July 20: Garnet Hathaway, one year x $650K
    • July 22: Jon Gillies, one year x $725K
    • July 22: David Rittich, one year x $725K
    • Aug. 28: Brett Kulak, one year x $650K
    • Sept. 5: Tyler Wotherspoon, one year x $650K
    • Sept. 6: Sam Bennett, two years x $1.95M
  • Signings
    • July 1: Marek Hrivik, one year x $650K
    • June 27: Spencer Foo, two years x $925K (ELC)
    • Oct. 3: Tanner Glass, one year x $650K
    • Oct. 4: Jaromir Jagr, one year x $1M
    • Nov. 16: Glenn Gawdin, three years x $775K (ELC)
    • Feb. 25: Cody Goloubef, one year x $650K
  • Extensions
    • Feb. 16: Mikael Backlund, six years x $5.35M AAV

Treliving got some great deals for re-signing players. Versteeg didn’t get a raise from his 2016-17 contract, and it would’ve again been a value contract had he not been injured for the majority of the season. Re-upping Ferland and Bennett for under $2M each was very shrewd business, affording the Flames some valuable cap space for next season while finding out what those two players are.

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For the most part, the rest of Treliving’s body of work is inoffensive. He didn’t splurge the cash on big name free agents and signed depth guys for depth money. Foo and Gawdin were two no-cost assets with high potential that addressed organizational needs. Perhaps one could complain that the entire Jagr experiment would’ve worked better had he been signed earlier and had the benefit of a full camp, but it’s nitpicking. Jagr was a fine fit for a team sorely lacking RW depth. Like Versteeg, it worked until he was injured, and it probably would’ve been a value contract that would’ve solved a lot of bottom six scoring issues had he stayed healthy.

Extending Backlund was Treliving’s major piece of business this year. All in all, it was a pretty fair deal, getting Backlund for just under market value. The contract may run pricey into Backlund’s later years, but Treliving locked up his lockdown centre for the next few years at a much cheaper rate than what he could’ve gotten had he tested the market. Losing Backlund would’ve left a hole in the roster that no one could currently fill.

The major issue is Stone’s contract. If you frame the re-signing as Stone being a stopgap for a prospect RHD like Rasmus Andersson, it doesn’t make sense why he gave Stone three years at that AAV. Stopgaps aren’t particularly necessary when you’re a competing team, and if they’re around for more than a season, they aren’t really a stopgap. Stone was the worst regular defender on the team and the Flames could’ve easily found another third pairing defender to hold down a spot for a year while prospects developed below (Ryan Murphy, a player the Flames traded for just to buy out, had half of Stone’s production in a quarter of the games played. He was also better from a possession perspective). Stone’s quality makes the contract very unlikely to be traded and Treliving may just have to use another buy out to open up a defensive spot for Andersson.

To a lesser extent, signing Glass was also a dumb move. The career fourth line fighter had a pretty good preseason – perhaps having something to do with him playing for his potentially last ever NHL contract – and was rewarded in spite of his entire career history, which would’ve been evidence enough that Glass had probably not turned a corner. He did not turn a corner and was a fourth line fighter during his entire time here. He only played 16 games for the team, but it was 16 games of nothing (all I can remember is him fighting Milan Lucic once) and you have to wonder if someone else could’ve done a better job.

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Odds and ends

  • June 30: bought out Lance Bouma
  • June 30: bought out Ryan Murphy
  • Feb. 26: claimed Chris Stewart off waivers
  • April 17: fired Glen Gulutzan, Dave Cameron, and Paul Jerrard
  • April 23: hired Bill Peters
  • May 31: hired Ryan Huska and Geoff Ward

Here’s all the other stuff that didn’t fit into other categories.

Buying out Bouma was Treliving making up for one of his early mistakes as a GM. Here’s hoping that he’s learned that players who have random shooting spikes aren’t deserving of big money contracts. Buying out Murphy was odd given that he made under $1M and was a right-shooting defenceman, but a very whatever move in the end. He figured to be fine defensive depth on a team that employed Matt Bartkowski.

Stewart was a fine piece of business. I don’t think anyone expected him to save the season, but he was free and an inoffensive pickup for the late season. Given that they probably didn’t want to (and absolutely shouldn’t have) sink more assets into a season that was heading off the tracks, Stewart was worth a shot.

Replacing the coaching staff was the punctuation mark to the disappointing season. Treliving didn’t go for a radical stylistic difference by picking up Peters, Huska, and Ward, but they’re at least looking like upgrades on the previous staff. We’ll see how it plays out.

The good and the bad

Treliving might’ve had his worst season as the Flames’ GM. It isn’t any particular move that causes me to give this assessment, but rather the entire mindset behind the 2017-18 Flames.

Treliving took a roster that barely cracked the playoffs last year, kept most of it the same, half-assed a few pretty major things, and paid a hefty price to do so. The 2016-17 Flames weren’t a perfect team by any stretch of the imagination, but with a few tweaks in the right places, they probably could’ve been much better.

The GM tinkered at the edges and didn’t see major improvements. Even on their best nights, the Flames didn’t look as good as the teams that eventually made the playoffs. They had a lot of bounces go against them this year, but the maxim that you make your own luck seems fitting. When things got tough, the Flames simply didn’t have a roster that was going to dig them out of the hole they were in.

The bottom six still couldn’t find the scoresheet. They still didn’t have a bona fide top six RW, relying on Ferland to shoot 20% on a night-in, night-out basis. The backup goalie situation worked until it absolutely all fell apart, which was not helped by Smith also falling apart. Those were all things that were obvious issues at the end of last season. This roster had its holes and they were Treliving’s responsibilities.

Not to say all is futile and that Treliving should be canned. He still assembled the major parts of the Flames core that will take them to the playoffs, but his mistake this past season was not actually adding to it in the right areas. He has the opportunity to right his wrongs and actually do that this offseason. The Flames will have some cap room to play with, some free spots to fill, quality prospects ready to play, and an entire new coaching staff. There’s really no excuse why this roster shouldn’t see major improvements.

  • Off the wall

    I know we’re all a bit frustrated with this teams results last season. We expected huge improvements, (I know I did) and we came up way short of expectations.
    Is that on Treliving? Since he’s the GM, he takes the rap for the results. But he would be the first to say so.

    I’m not saying Treliving did a poor job, however I’m with Skylardog, in that he failed to make proper assessments of our squad.

    Our defence, with the huge cost of Hamonic was touted as a game changer, only it didn’t translate into a better defensive game.

    I’m not so quick to say it’s all on Treliving. We vastly under-performed as a team and we can all appreciate GG’s inability to make adjustments in game settings was a HUGE disappointment.

    I’m sure Treliving wanted to make coaching changes earlier, but that’s not always possible, especially if you’re waiting for the right candidates to become available.

    This season will be a true test of Treliving’s GM duties.
    Personally, I believe he gets this right. He’s identified our players weaknesses and will make this team better.

    How he makes this happen is still to be determined, however I wouldn’t bet against him.
    He’s a student of the game and good students always improve their skills.

    Some may say Peters’ hiring is another poor judgement call by Treliving because of Peter’s record as a coach.
    This isn’t Gulutzan, this is an experienced coach. Rebar will create accountability, something that was missing for two straight years.

    Anyone who wants to label our Flames as a bust because of Treliving is welcome to their opinions, however when our team improves don’t hop on the bandwagon, because they’ll be no room for you!

    • Derzie

      You list problems very well then you say that next year will be great, and those who don’t think so are bandwagon jumpers. Wrong. Drinking kool aid is not a requirement to be a fan. Critical thinking is an important part of improvement. If your response to a problem is ‘I trust things will work out’ that is both optimism and ignorance. Tre has shown or done nothing to show that this team will be better next year. It might. It might not. The numbers and probabilities say it will not be better. The moves he has made (or not made) are all debatable. To be honest, letting the amateur scouting team do their job has been his strongest area. Getting Hamilton is another highlight but if the complainers get their way, he’ll be traded away for some less valuable forward & picks. Giving some asinine nickname to a coach that has done the square root of zero for the Flames is a surefire indicator that that kool aid has been chugged hard. Winning needs to come from people earning it, wanting it and not taking no for an answer. We need to have a similar attitude as fans if we want our team to perform.

  • Kevin R

    I heard the witch hunting drums pounding from this article before I even logged into my computer. Just want to make a few points:

    1/When we played Anaheim in the playoffs, we got swept but we had some horrible goaltending & the wrong end of a league wide trend of terrible officiating. So he got Smith for spare parts. I see no issue with this, in fact I like what Smith brings to our team. I hope he brings the same next year, we just need a coach to manage his starts & confidence in the back up.

    2/Hamonic was an overpay, but really, was it? Bonafide 2nd pairing known to have a more rugged style of play which was badly needed on our back end.
    At the time, he had 3 more years at an amazing cap hit. Leafs were dangling JVR & their 1st. NYI wanted more & felt the cap hit was worth the extra. Im sure there were other teams in the bidding. That’s what happens when you acquire the players at the draft, the currency is easier to send, especially when you dont want to relinquish a roster player. I agree the price in hindsight was way too high but hindsight sure is 20/20. In fact, the best way to learn from this is for Tre to get a bidding war on Brodie at the draft.

    3/Stone was only possible because of the acquisition of Hamonic & his incredible cap hit. Again hindsight says Tre spent too much on the backend & should have invested that 3.5mill on a forward & how do we know he didnt try. I totally disagree that Stone is a buyout. Why?? Just keep him to the Trade Deadline & move him at that time. He’ll be way easier to move than Brouwer.
    But maybe Tre just felt Stone gave the team some high end blue line depth because he felt this team was a playoff team. I certainly dont fault him for thinking that way.

    4/Coach being fired sooner, yeah maybe. But I agree with Here’s Johnny. It may take a lot of consumption of truth serum, but maybe Tre saw the situation in Carolina & knew he had his new coach at the end of the season. By the time things went sour & we fell out of the race, the injuries already happened & no interim coach could have prevented the season end we had.

    5/Backlund signing is fine. But I agree, to expect Backlund to suddenly be a 65-70 point centre is pie in the sky. Leaving Tkachuk on that line going forward will be a huge mistake. Bennett is a winger & Janko needs another full year in the NHL to make progress. That is where I hope the target will be.

    @Skylardog You say Peters hasnt won & it’s about proven winning mindset, well Peters did work under Babcock during the winning years in Detroit. Look at the teams & coaches this year in the final. Trotz had been labelled as being on his last hurrah in Washington, even after he beat Columbus & please tell me what Gallant has won as coach? His previous team made him take a cab to the bus station.

    • Skylardog

      Yes – he was a part of the Detroit teams, they declined while he was there, although, again, roster is a factor.
      102 points, 8th in the NHL, in year 1, out in 5 in the playoffs
      56 points, 14th in the NHL lockout shortened season. 7-7 in playoffs, out in round 2.
      93 points in season 3, 15th in the NHL. Out in 5 in the playoffs.

      Not exactly in the top echelon of the NHL while he was there but his mentor was darn good in those years. Still only 3 appearances in the playoffs in 7 years, none as the head coach. Only 1 playoff series won, none as HC, and a 9-15 record in playoff games.

        • Skylardog

          Lets talk about Gallant. Hired after the Panthers had only 9 wins and 25 points in 48 games during the lockout year, he took Florida to 91 points in year 1 and then to 103 points and a division title in his second year. He was fired with an 11-10-1 record, while in a playoff spot last season, and put in the cab as we all know. The Panthers then fell out of a playoff spot, missed the playoffs, and missed again this past season. Gallant was not the problem in Florida.

          The Florida cab thing had more to do with a sudden falling out between Dale Tallon and ownership, not a performance issue for Gallant. It was a MAJOR blunder for the Panthers.

          Trotz is well respected. He broke the record for most wins as an original hire by an expansion team, and was in Nashville for 16 seasons. You don’t stay that long if you are mediocre. He posted a .533 record with a team that started from nothing. He has 11 playoff appearances in 20 seasons as a head coach. When you consider Nashville was an expansion team, that is not too bad. He has been in the playoffs 11 of the last 14 seasons.

          Sorry – you didn’t see Trotz and Gallant taking their teams where they did this season? I, and WW were screaming for GG to be let go and Gallant hired here in November 2016. Gallant has shown he is even better than what I and WW anticipated.

          • Korcan

            Gallant also had Luongo in net. And now he has Fleury. I’m not saying Gallant isn’t a good coach, but having great goaltending doesn’t hurt. My money says GG would still be in town were either one of those two his goalie this past season. “Great goaltenders make great coaches”

          • Kevin R

            Soooo Gallant really didnt win anything prior to going to Vegas & lo & behold he is in the SC Final. Trotz actually makes my point, he did really well with Nashville & went to Washington & fell flat until this year. He’s been on the hot seat all year & comments even after the Pitt series that he still may be out if he doesnt win it all. These Stanley Cup runs are basically all the stars coming into alignment, kinda like 2004. Even more in a parity league. We need a coach that can consistently get us to the dance/playoffs. I have more confidence with Peters than GG. Deep down I was hoping we had a shot at getting Trotz because I think this team needed someone that will scare the performance out of these young guys. Trotz has that hitman stare thats for sure. & of note, Babcocks Leafs missed the playoffs in his first year. Leafs have some pretty nice forward pieces but Calgary have nicer pieces on the backend on both the active roster & in the pipeline. Amazing what a winning season next year will do for our culture.

        • Skylardog

          I am not against the hiring of Peters. It has the potential to work out great, especially now that Ward has been added. But sometimes you need to change the culture: The Flames are consistently outside of the playoffs looking in. Why would you not look at a coach with a proven history of making it into the playoffs? On a list of check boxes the Flames should have had in the hiring process, missing that box is an oversight (in my opinion and I am sure in the opinion of many others).

          BT’s choices always seem to involve a familiarity. Smith, Stone, Bartkowski. Peters, Grossman… Can he go outside of his close experiences to bring in personnel? He is showing an inability to do that.

          Babcock actually backs up my point. Here is a coach with a proven history of taking his team into the playoffs. He goes to the Leafs, one of the worst teams at making the playoffs, and has them there in his first 2 season. Yes, young players that they picked up from high draft positions are a part of that, but the D-core is a sponge. He still got them in and with room to spare. He has changed the culture in the room in just 2 seasons. They believe they can win. Not sure that culture is here in Calgary, at least not yet.

          I hope Peters can do the same as Babcock, but his track record says no. But I get it – he had no team and no budget to get them there in Carolina. I believe he has a roster here he can work with.

  • buts

    Tre waited on GG when it was obvious in December the team was going no where. An interim coach would have done better. Tre’s moves in the next 6-8 weeks will define his career here in Calgary because our core is ready to make the jump to contenders. Good drafting is the only positive I have for BT, poor trades, some poor FA signings and poor coach hires are red flags on his resume.

  • Mickey O

    The Michael Stone contract has been talked about before. It was 3 years or nothing – the player simply would not have taken a 2 year deal. Stone was signed on June 30th. Dollars to donuts there was a Russell $4M x 4yr deal waiting for him the next day. Whether Treliving should have signed Stone is a separate discussion altogether.

    To say that Treliving might have to buy out Stone to make room for Andersson is off the mark. Players get bought out when it appears that no GM will give you anything for them. Stone will still get you a 4th rounder, minimum, 3rd on a good day. RHS defencemen that can munch minutes are a rare breed, and you pay a premium for those guys.

    Treliving already has 2 buy-outs on the books this year, he can only use one more. I hope like hell that Troy Brouwer is the candidate this season; Stone shouldn’t even be in any buy-out conversation.

    • Then he should’ve just walked away. There was never any need to commit to Stone (especially when you had to give away another draft pick) and if someone else is going to make a mistake, let them make it.

      And no, no one is going to trade a third round pick for Stone. He’s a third pairing guy with no offensive upside besides a wildly powerful but equally inaccurate shot. The entire “premium for a RHD” thing is pretty false.

      • BendingCorners

        Not sure I agree, CT. Physical defencemen are a good thing to have and it was by no means clear last summer that Andersson was even close to being ready. He is basically Engelland’s replacement – third pair that can eat more minutes when necessary, good at knocking people down, not much offense. I do think 3.5MM was a bit high but unlike the Brouwer contract it isn’t way over.

        • Who cares if he’s physical if he’s routinely getting outshot and the team is getting outscored when he’s on the ice. He’s not a minutes muncher if he’s a liability every time he’s out there.

          You can find good defensive depth for very cheap, check out Brett Kulak. Depth is not something you pay for, that’s why it is depth.

      • Beer League Coach

        I made the same comment in another thread about a week ago about the timing of the Stone signing. I would have drawn the line at 2 yrs and a max of 2.5 m per yr. At $4 m per yr for 4 years he would look good with that oil drop on his chest. Also Tre could have saved a draft pick (albeit a low pick) if he had called Stone’s bluff and waited one more day.

  • Garry T

    The New York Rangers have 3 Firsts and 3 seconds in the 2018 draft. They would really like to get their hands on our recent draft pick, Fox. They are also said to be interested in Brodie. If we really need a big center then ask for Kevin Hayes and a second rounder in this draft for Brodie. If they want Fox, the ask is a 1 and 2 pick, earliest in the draft for all picks. Hayes goes to the wing if Johnny asks for him. He scores, makes plays and fights occasionally and is a very well liked leader on the Rangers. Do the deal on Brodie first then ask if there is an interest in Fox. They have two 3rd. Rounders as well and you could also ask for a 3rd. In either deal and see what happens. Brodie is worth the ask no matter what anyone says here and Fox has value escalating with every game he plays. It is time we received value for our guys.

    • FL?MES

      I’m not sure that we should give away Fox, who is trending upward and has value, for questionable lottery picks. Also, I thought that Hayes could have come here to play with JG but instead opted to stay close to home. Would Hayes want to come here?

      It’s an interesting idea given the number of high round picks that the Rangers have. However, assuming that Tre wants to make the postseason next year one would assume that he would rather have a few NHL caliber players over picks.

    • freethe flames

      I had suggested Zibby instead of Hayes for almost exactly the same thing awhile ago. Zibby is a RHS while Hayes is another LHS who plays RW and center. Zibby is signed and Hayes you would have to sign. Would I look at either absolutely and they are one of the number of teams that would benefit from a Brodie.

      • freethe flames

        That was 4 years ago and none of know why he decided NY, maybe he wanted to prove to himself he did not need Johnny. another factor to consider is he and Tkachuk are cousins; that might mkae him reconsider. Personally I still would prefer Zibby.

    • supra steve

      I can’t see anyone giving up a high first (#9) and high second round pick for a college D man with zero NHL games played.
      Cory Schneider, in 2013, was traded for a 9th overall pick. Schneider was a known commodity at that point, Fox is still an unknown at this level. Fox does not hold that kind of value, not yet anyway.

      • freethe flames

        In order to get something you value you usually have to give up something you value. For the Flames to acquire a significant forward they have to give up something someone else values. They will not be giving Fox away. For some on this site Fox is a worrisome asset as he might decide not to sign here; for me it’s a little early to worry about that. Like most I do not have an insider letting me if he has told the Flames his intentions.