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Can the Calgary Flames repeat the success of 2015 at the trade deadline?

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Photo credit:@NHLFlames on Twitter
Ryan Pike
2 months ago
Folks, the Calgary Flames were in a pretty precarious place when Brad Treliving was given the reins in April 2014. The Flames hadn’t made a playoff appearance in five seasons. While his predecessor Jay Feaster had done a good job “shovelling out the barn” (as Brian Burke phrased it), the club had some work to do in order to return to where they wanted to be.
The 2014-15 season was a really, really important period for the Flames. And they handled it quite well, for the most part.
The Flames were beginning to figure out their team concept and culture, with the leadership of Mark Giordano and the “us against the world” mentality that was starting to solidify following the Jan. 2014 line brawl with the Vancouver Canucks.
Treliving’s first off-season was spent doing a bit of evaluating of the team’s reserve list and adding a few players on contracts that would buy time for the club’s prospects to mature and become NHL-ready. (We’re looking at you, multi-year deals for Jonas Hiller, Deryk Engelland and Mason Raymond.)
The hope was that the Flames would be good enough to challenge for a playoff spot, maybe, if a few players were able to take steps or some youngsters surprised everybody. And both ended up happening.
In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, the Flames were actually good. Giordano was having a Norris Trophy calibre season. Jiri Hudler had found great chemistry with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau on the top line. The team’s goaltending was good enough. The team kept making improbable last-minute comebacks.
There were reasons for optimism about the club’s future.
But at the same time, there were reasons to employ what Feaster frequently touted during his tenure as GM: “intellectual honesty.” All that really means is being clear-eyed and honest about your goals and where you are relative to those goals.
In 2014-15, were the Flames close to pushing for a Stanley Cup? Nope. Heck, they weren’t guaranteed to even qualify for the playoffs. As the March 2, 2015 trade deadline approached, the Flames were battling Los Angeles and San Jose for the final Pacific Division playoff spot. The team also lost Giordano a bicep tear on Feb. 25 in New Jersey, though Giordano took warm-up the following game against the Islanders but didn’t play.
With nothing guaranteed, Treliving hedged his bets:
  • Rather than expend draft capital to fill Giordano’s spot, the Flames claimed blueliner David Schlemko off waivers.
  • Pending unrestricted free agent Curtis Glencross was traded to Washington for a pair of draft picks (a second-rounder and a third-rounder).
  • Pending restricted free agent Sven Baertschi (who had requested a trade) was traded to Vancouver for a second-round pick.
The Flames ended up making the post-season even after Treliving sold off Glencross and Baertschi. The team’s young players ended up gaining invaluable playoff experience in two series that spring, while the Flames managed to accumulate draft capital that led to one of their most successful draft weekends in decades.
This year, the Flames don’t seem destined to be a Stanley Cup contender. They’re still very much in the playoff conversation, despite a really rough first 10 games and general manager Craig Conroy focusing on asset management as he ships out pending UFAs.
The key phrase between now and the March 8, 2024 trade deadline should probably be “intellectual honesty.” The Flames aren’t guaranteed a playoff spot. They’re entering a self-professed “retool on the fly” period.
While not outright declared, their likely goal is to emerge from this retooling process as a contender when their new arena opens in 2027. While it would be great if they made the playoffs this spring, they need to be brutally honest with themselves about what the team is right now and what they want it to be. And the moves they make should be serving that ultimate goal.
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