Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving appeared on Tuesday’s edition of “Flames Talk” on Sportsnet 960 for a lengthy conversation with Pat Steinberg and Matt Rose.
Treliving discussed the performance of the Flames’ top line, some of the top players on the Stockton Heat, and how he might look to upgrade his team in advance of next month’s trade deadline.
You can find the interview with Treliving here in its full duration. Here are some excerpts:
Answers have been lightly edited for clarity.
Calgary Flames forwards @Johnny Gaudreau, @Matthew Tkachuk, and @Elias Lindholm (first, second, and fourth from left) have formed one of the NHL’s most dominant lines this season. Photo credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports.
On how Calgary’s current top line (of @Johnny Gaudreau, @Elias Lindholm, and @Matthew Tkachuk) compares to some of the best units the Flames have had since he was hired as general manager in 2014:
You saw glimpses of it last year, at the tail-end of last year when they were put together, but they’ve really come out of the gate from day one playing a lot from the start of the year and they’ve been a dominant line. And, I think, when you look at all three players, I don’t think it’s a surprise to say that they would have offensive success, but I’ve really been encouraged, impressed, whatever description you want, by how they’ve played away from the puck.
They’ve been a real responsible line. They all kind of bring a little something different to the line and we’re going to need them to continue that way going forward.
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On the Flames’ performance over the first 42 games of the season:
Early on, I thought we played real strong to start the season. I thought we were really consistent in our start of the year, even on nights where we weren’t getting wins. I thought we were real good and real consistent. In the early part of December, the [middle] part of December, we came off it. It certainly coincided with the [COVID-19] outbreak we had, we went 19 days without a game, we went 10 days without a practice, we had guys in different stages of isolation coming in and out. Not using that as an excuse at all and, as you guys know, we had a lot of guys who were asymptomatic, we had guys that got sick with flu symptoms. I really thought we came off it there for a two-and-a-half, three-week stretch. The more we’ve looked at it, I think there’s been — although you may not get sick, there’s still time for recovery, and I think there was an effect there. I also think we came off it a little bit, we didn’t play as well as a group, we had individuals that were a little underwater.
I think in most recent times, the last eight games, I like where our game’s been at. I think the most encouraging sign for us is a lot of the foundation of our game, in terms of our five-on-five play, has been pretty consistent all year. Like I said, there’s been some dips. And to me, that’s a big, strong measure. You need specialty teams to have success, you need to be strong, but you can’t rely on them. They need to be — you’re going to use them to win games, for sure, but to have any type of sustained success, you need to be strong five-on-five. And I look, just, at a lot of our chance suppression, our chance creation, a lot of the play-driving we’ve done on a fairly regular basis throughout the year, those have been good.
We’ve created a lot, our finishing hasn’t been great. You look, I think our finishing metrics are in the bottom third of the league. So, those are certainly areas that we need to improve upon. But when I look, really breaking it down from a 10,000-foot view, I look at those three separate layers for the year: the start; sort of that December stretch, and most recently. So, coming off another break here now, we gotta get back to our game here as quickly as we can against a top opponent [on Wednesday] and sustain it.
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On how the Flames’ off-season additions have fit into the team’s locker room:
You hear it all the time, people talk about “how good of a group it is,” and, you know, I never hear anybody say, “well, we have a bad group.” So, it’s somewhat cliche, but it is a good group. We brought in some people here that, first of all, we think could fit some specific roles, but one of the things we look on is how we can mesh a group of individuals into a team, and it was a unique situation where, with your captain leaving, one of the things we talked a lot about is needing everybody, not just one or two guys or putting that responsibility on one or two guys, but needing everybody to sort of grab ahold of their part of it, here. Grab ahold of the dressing room and have a little bit more say in things.
A lot of the people we brought in are veteran people who’ve been around, with the exception of [backup goaltender Dan Vladar], a lot of those guys have been around in the league a long time. We’ve got people who have gone on long playoff runs, won Stanley Cups. You never know, at the end of the day, when you’re assembling a team, how all the personalities and whatnot are going to fit, but you certainly spend some time on doing a little bit of background — doing a lot of background — on how the personalities will fit. It’s a tight-knit locker room — when you have a little success on the ice, that always helps — but I think, certainly, the new players that have come in have fit well into the group, they’ve brought leadership, they’ve brought a strong voice, there’s some strong personalities. Thus far, it’s worked out well.
Like I said, we’re going to need all of these guys going down the stretch, but I’ve been real happy with how everybody’s connected.
@Matthew Phillips (pictured) leads the Stockton Heat with 18 goals and 37 points in 34 games this season. Linemate @Jakob Pelletier ranks second on the team with 14 goals and 36 points in 36 contests. Photo credit: Stockton Heat.
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On the performances of @Matthew Phillips and @Jakob Pelletier with the AHL’s Stockton Heat this season:
In Jakob’s case, his first year of pro, it’s a big adjustment. In my mind, it’s one of the biggest adjustments, going from junior hockey or collegiate hockey to the American Hockey League, and he’s done it seamlessly. He’s become a really important player for that team down there, has touched all parts of the game. And then Matthew, you know, Matty’s sort of done it now for a couple of years down there. […]
So, to answer the question, you bring guys up when you either have a need, whether it be injury or a positional need, or when you believe they’ve earned an opportunity. In both those cases there, in my mind, they’ve earned an opportunity here at some point. So, at the end of the day, you’re balancing: the coach is putting the lineup on the ice every night that he believes is going to give him the best chance to win, and you’re not in a position right now where you say, “OK, we’re going to go take 20 games to go test-drive people.” But certainly, those two guys — and we have others that are knocking on the door, now — whether that comes in the form of them getting their opportunity by just committing to it or through injury, I would hope here at some point in time we’re going to see those guys. They’ve just got to keep doing what they’re doing and continue to be real good players down there and wait for that opportunity, and hopefully we see them here at some point.
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On the level of chatter and activity around the league at this point before next month’s NHL trade deadline:
Yeah, I would say it’s normal, Pat. You have conversations throughout the year. You’re talking with everybody — for the most part, everybody now has, if they haven’t, they’re just now completing their pro [scouting] meetings, we went through those a few weeks ago. It’s an interesting season this year, not unlike what we’ve gone through the last couple of years, where there’s so much uncertainty almost on a day-to-day basis with COVID, right? You don’t know your lineup from day to day or how that’s going to affect things. We’ve now had the change in testing protocol but the COVID effect, if you will, is going to be felt right until the end of the year, mainly from a scheduling perspective. […]
In some cases, teams haven’t seen their full lineup for any extended period of time, so, I know, in talking to a lot of managers, they’re still sort of wondering what their team is, when they haven’t had everybody in the lineup at the same time for any extended stretch of time. So, I don’t think it’s going to be a whole lot different, Pat, than any other deadline, there’s certainly lots of discussions going on.
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On the Flames’ specific direction in the trade market:
Listen, as I said before, you take your cues from our team. Our team is, we’ve got lots of work to do, here. We’re not where we want to be, yet. We’ve certainly shown that we can be a real good team. […]
If our team’s trending the way I expect it to, we want to add to our team, and we’re having those discussions now. If we can find a fit, if we can find something to help move us along, we certainly want to do that. […]
It’s taken time, but I think we’ve built some organizational depth — you have to balance that, where could those people help you, but then also looking outside and looking into the marketplace, which we’ve been doing over the last little while, here, to see if there’s a deal out there that can help us. We’ll continue to look at that, and that would certainly be my preference, and my goal is to add to this group and give us some support as we move forward here.
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On the distinction between adding rentals or players with term ahead of the trade deadline:
Well, I haven’t necessarily been a big rental player, if you will, in the past. In a lot of cases, a lot of it’s price-dictated, giving up a lot of assets for players that you feel could be very short-term. There’s two ways to look at it, and I think sometimes people look at it and say, “well, we’re going to get into the rental market” — sometimes, when you add a rental player, you have a pretty good indication that you may be able to extend that player or there’s a chance that he could become more a long-term or become part of the group moving forward. In some cases, when you add a player, you know that he’s here for the balance of the season and he’s going to test the market or he’s going to go elsewhere.
In the past, I haven’t really been ultra aggressive to add rental pieces for prices that I thought were significant. Now, you look at the current marketplace, in a cap situation where we anticipate that you’re going to have small or minimal cap growth next year, knowing that we do have contracts that are needed for players on our team this year, you look at bringing in players that have term — we’ve modelled out a lot of different scenarios. So, I think we’d be open to, whether it be avenues for players with term — again, depending on how the deal works — or the rental market. We’ve investigated and have been nibbling in both markets at this particular time.
The other thing to keep in mind right now is, in a lot of ways, it’s still — I’m sure you guys do a lot of your prognosticating on who’s available and who should be going here and who should be going there — in a lot of cases, you’re just not sure yet. We may sit here and say, “Player XYZ, go get him,” because he’s a pending UFA — well, in some cases, they’ve got trade restrictions, and in some cases, teams haven’t determined whether they’re going to extend that player, so he may not be a player that’s available. So, all those things come into play right now, but we’re certainly having discussions in both markets, whether it be with players with term or players on expiring contracts. […]
Certainly, trying to add some more scoring to our team would be an area that we’re looking at. And like I said, that’s both internally — we’re starting to see some guys that, hopefully, they continue to trend in the right way and find the back of the net — but if there’s an area where we can help ourselves there, bringing in some offence and stick with our identity, here, that’s certainly something that we’re going to keep pounding the market on.

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