Our pal Pat Steinberg had Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving on Flames Talk on Wednesday, where they had a really good, broad conversation about how the hockey club is performing through 22 games. (The whole thing is well worth your time.)
One of the most interesting elements of their conversation: Treliving went into a good amount of detail regarding the club’s internal options and how it’s decided when a player is promoted from within their system to the NHL level.
The topic was broached after Pat asked how the trade market is looking at this point of the season, which led to Treliving discussing “internal” options.
Treliving: …and when I say not just look at external options. We have to be very diligent looking at internal options. Whether that be, you see an Adam Ruzicka that’s come in and primarily most recently has had some success at the wing. So those are opportunities we have to continue to look at.
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You look at the players that we have in our own organization, with the Wranglers. We have a Wrangler team that’s playing very well. You talk about an adjustment, I think there was a little bit of an adjustment for them at the beginning of the year, but that was a top team in the American League a year ago and has been one of the best teams in the last month. And players playing very well down there. And those are things we have to be open to, and we have to look at providing opportunities for players (a) when they’re deserving and (b) when there’s a fit. So those are things, when I talk about continuing to try to help ourselves, number one is the most important thing, to try to build from within and grow your own, and there are players within the organization that are showing they’re in need or deserving of an opportunity, and that’s something we push and talk about each day…
(Treliving looped back to discussing the trade market.)
Pat: I just want to pick up on that internal part of the conversation. Whether it’s Matty Phillips or Jakob Pelletier or Connor Zary, some of the players that you have having really nice years and really productive years with the Wranglers, when is the right time to say ‘now’s the time to give player A that opportunity to see what he can do at the NHL level.’ And I’m curious as to how you go about making that call?
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Treliving: There’s no perfect time. If you’re waiting for the perfect time, those things are never going to happen. It’s one thing just to look at statistics, right? And some people look at statistics and they tell a story. But you also want to make sure players are ready for that opportunity, that they’re the most confident they are. And what I’ve found is that players who have a chance to succeed at this level are players that are dominant. And when I say dominant, that doesn’t necessarily mean statistically dominant, right? But they’re very good in whatever role that is that you envision them playing at the NHL level. It may be in a checking role. It may be in a bottom six role or a checking role. It may be an offensive role. It may not necessarily be a player that’s a top line player in the American Hockey League coming in and being a top line player here. But you want to put them in positions to succeed. If you’re an offensive player, when you get an opportunity in the NHL it only makes sense that you would be playing with offensive players. There’s never the perfect time to say, you’ve got to check all these 10 boxes.
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Ultimately, when a player is producing, when I say producing, it’s showing that they’re ready for an opportunity. They’re doing all of the things that you want them to do at the American Hockey League level, and that you have a need or a position to fill, then you have to do it. Ultimately, the staff has to be comfortable, the coaching staff has to be comfortable in the positions they’re going to put people in. There’s got to be a fit within your lineup. But at the end of the day, there’s never the perfect time. It’s just when you have an opening or a need, and a player or players are at that stage where they deserve an opportunity. Certainly, I think we’ve got some players that are doing a really good job down there. They’re working, they’re being patient, and at some point here there’s going to be opportunities for those players to see if they can help us.
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So far this season, there have been two injury-related call-ups from the Wranglers, with blueliners Dennis Gilbert and Nick DeSimone being recalled due to injuries to Chris Tanev and Michael Stone. Among the Wranglers’ forwards, Matthew Phillips (26 points) leads the AHL in scoring, with Jakob Pelletier (21 points, 9th) and Connor Zary (18 points, tied for 18th).
The Wranglers are in second place in the AHL’s Pacific Division, with a 11-6-1 record through 18 games. They’re in San Diego for the weekend for a pair of games with the Gulls, Anaheim’s farm team.
The Flames are back in action on Thursday night when they host the Montreal Canadiens.