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Who is the best Calgary Flames general manager ever?

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
10 months ago
In the illustrious history of the Calgary Flames franchise, the club has been guided by seven permanent general managers. Some of them have fared better than others.
As we wait the installation of the eighth GM, let’s take a quick snapshot of the three gentlemen we feel have excelled the most at the position.

3. Al Coates

The first person hired by the club after they relocated to Calgary in 1980, Coates came into the job with a ton of institutional knowledge and worked in virtually every position by the time he inherited the big chair from Doug Risebrough. The club’s manager between 1995 and 2000 – initially on an interim basis and later made the full-time GM – Coates navigated the Flames through a really tumultuous set of circumstances, as economic pressures gradually squeezed the Flames and made it tough for them to hold onto their stars.
Coates may be best known for navigating the departures of long-time (and beloved) Flames players Joe Nieuwendyk and Theoren Fleury. The two swaps, just over three years apart, landed the Flames long-term foundational pieces in Jarome Iginla and Robyn Regehr. That said, the club’s drafting under Coates wasn’t spectacular – they had a few picks that were really solid, but they never really hit on a big-time pick the way some of the club’s other GMs have.
Drafting and the team’s lack of on-ice success keep him from rising higher on this list.

2. Brad Treliving

The GM between 2014 and 2023, Treliving spent the second-longest in the big chair in franchise history.
Under Treliving’s tenure, he had generally positive results, but he excelled at some things and struggled with others. The positives were pretty prominent:
  • Treliving was a whiz at trades for the most part. He was quite adept at swapping players for picks at the right times, and then using those picks to add key roster players. Sure, he overpaid for Travis Hamonic. But he was able to add key players like Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, Dougie Hamilton, Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli, and generally was able to use trades to make the team better.
  • While Treliving did engage in some deficit spending regarding draft picks, tending to swap them to upgrade the roster especially during his latter years, the Flames still managed to turn picks into roster players. Heck, the 2015 draft featured the Flames trading away four draft choices – adding Dougie Hamilton and trading up from the third round into the second – and they still produced regular roster players in Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington and Andrew Mangiapane.
However, Treliving’s performance with free agency hasn’t been as great. For every Chris Tanev or Michael Frolik home run signing, there’s been a Troy Brouwer or James Neal deal that hasn’t aged nearly as well.
The Flames were generally quite good during Treliving’s tenure. But in nine seasons, the team only won two playoff rounds. The processes were quite good, but the results just didn’t translate as well as you would have expected them to.

1. Cliff Fletcher

As if could have been anybody else…
The architect of the Atlanta Flames from their 1972 expansion draft to their 1980 relocation to Alberta, right through to their 1989 Stanley Cup triumph, Fletcher was somebody who constantly tinkered and managed to make the right moves more often than not.
Under Fletcher, the Flames were among the first teams to scout (and draft and sign) players from European and American college hockey. They drafted well. They made smart trades. They gradually built up a rag-tag expansion team into a powerhouse that was able to go toe-to-toe with the elite teams of the 1980s. The man known as “Trader Cliff” was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, in no small part due to the work he did with the Flames between 1972 and his departure in 1991.
Until another GM leads the Flames to a trophy and a parade, everybody else is playing second fiddle to Fletcher.
Who do you think is the best Flames’ GM of all-time? Let us know in the comments!

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