Having wrapped up his first three years on the job in Calgary -- the junior high phase of his front office career -- it's time to grade the performance of Flames general manager Brad Treliving.
Treliving's time working in management in the NHL has unfolded much like the linear path we followed when we went to school.
Starting off in Arizona as an assistant to Don Maloney, this was akin to being in elementary school. In the NHL for the first time, new to it all, there's lots to learn and he spent several years working in that role.
Hired by Calgary as GM on April 28, 2014, that was like switching to a new school. This meant it was off to grade 7 based on how it worked when I grew up. Now there was more responsibility, the stakes are higher, there is more homework.
With those three years in the books and with expectations for his hockey club now greater than ever, it's time for the 47-year-old native of Penticton, B.C., to move on to grade 10. Lying ahead is the high school phase of his career. His enrolment in high school was confirmed Monday when the Flames announced Treliving had agreed to a multi-year contract extension.
Now things get real serious. No longer can the Flames just be happy to be in the hunt for a playoff spot, now the expectation is to challenge for the Stanley Cup. As the team's architect, it's his job to get them there.
Exhale, Flames fans. Brad Treliving is sticking around. Multi-year contract extension announced.— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) May 1, 2017
But before we look forward, let's take a moment to look back. Before we pin this report card to the door of the refrigerator, it's time to review his performance in his first three years in Calgary. What have been his strongest subjects so far? What are his opportunities for improvement?
All in all, it's some pretty good marks. I think Treliving has definitely earned himself a trip to Dairy Queen.
Other picks looking like great finds so far include D Rasmus Andersson (2015, 2nd round, 54th), D Oliver Kylington (2015, 2nd round, 60th), LW Andrew Mangiapane (2015, 6th round), G Tyler Parsons (2016, 2nd round, 54th), C Dillon Dube (2016, 2nd round, 56th) and D Adam Fox (2016, 3rd round). Three later picks that pack a lot of intrigue are RW Eetu Tuulola (2016, 6th round), RW Matthew Phillips (2016, 6th round) and D Stepan Falkovsky (2016, 7th round).
The two biggest blemishes so far came in the second round in 2014 -- G Mason McDonald (34th) and RW Hunter Smith (54th). McDonald is rapidly tumbling down the Flames goalie depth chart. While it's no certainty the consensus No. 1 goalie that year -- Thatcher Demko -- will be an NHLer either, it's nonetheless looking like a squandered pick. A mountain of a man at 6-foot-7, Smith was another eyebrow-raising selection. It's as if truculence-seeking Brian Burke was influencing the personnel decisions still, which is actually a reasonable bet given at the time, Treliving had been with the organization for just two months.
D Brandon Hickey (2014, 3rd round) looked like a steal at one point and still has nice upside for a third rounder, but you do need to temper any optimism with the fact he's returning to Boston University for his senior year. Mark Jankowski went back for his senior season and signed after graduation, no problem, but you do fear when this happens that a player will opt instead to wait until August 15 and become a free agent.
3. Subject: Asset Management
While the players are the most visible 'hires' that a general manager makes, the most important hire he makes would be the coach and the staff that will run the NHL team. In addition to that, there are other roles in the front office, minor league staff, scouts, etc. Treliving's time at the helm has seen him transition from an inherited coach to picking his own coach. He has also surrounded himself with assistant GMs to help divide up the work and get things done.
While the assistants were more Gulutzan's hires, adding Dave Cameron (power play) and Paul Jerrard (penalty kill) obviously would have needed Treliving's blessing and each delivered in their area of specialty. It was in his first summer that he hired Ryan Huska out of Kelowna (WHL) to run the Flames AHL affiliate. Despite missing the playoffs his first two seasons, Treliving has spoke highly of Huska's work with the team's prospects.
Overall Grade: B+
When it comes to trades, often these will involve pending UFAs. To avoid overlap, those particular trades are captured above under Asset Management. The focus in this space will be the other types of transactions including those rare so-called hockey trades that are made.
Leveraging Jyrki Jokipakka -- found money from the Russell trade -- and a second round pick in a weak draft class to get a guy packed with upside like Curtis Lazar is another success. Alex Chiasson for Patrick Sieloff is yet another. Basically for free, Calgary brought in a decent bottom six player, who scored 12 goals and killed penalties. Paying a third round pick to rent Michael Stone for two months and strengthen the second pairing was also a worthwhile gamble. Didn't result in a long playoff run but could have.
Markus Granlund to the Canucks for Hunter Shinkaruk headlines this list because Granlund is producing in the NHL and we're still not sure on Shinkaruk. Granlund's 19 goals was second on the Canucks. He still can't win face-offs, which seemed to cost him his future in Calgary, but in a solution that the Flames didn't seem game to try, Vancouver is playing him on the right side -- his off wing -- and now face-offs aren't an issue yet you still have the same talented player. Trading a third round pick for Brandon Bollig got the Flames a tough fourth liner at about the same time as limited minutes, non-serviceable tough fourth lines were going out of style around the league. The final year of Bollig's contract this year has been spent buried in the minors.
Drew Shore, despite some hype when he arrived in a trade with Florida, never worked out but parting with Corban Knight to get him means that's a wash... Other pieces acquired in the Russell trade are non-factors. Jokipakka is already gone and Brett Pollock is playing in the ECHL but you were only going to get so much for a short-term rental of Russell. Plus, Jokipakka was leveraged to get Lazar.
Every year in June, it's decision time on numerous players in an organization. Some in the NHL, lots of guys in the minors, do you re-sign them or have you seen enough and it's time to cut bait? In many instances, we're not talking about guys costing a lot of money, but this isn't adult rec hockey either. If you don't envision a player having a chance at ever making the NHL team, it's time to move on and open rosters spots for players graduating from major junior or college that still have that potential. Last summer, Treliving cleared out way more bodies than I recall in recent memory and while the volume of guys cut loose was a surprise, looking back on it now, no real regrets among them,
Kenny Agostino, Bill Arnold and Joni Ortio were all once highly-touted RFAs that were cut loose with no regrets. Agostino looks more like a career AHLer than an NHLer. Ortio ended up in Sweden and Arnold retired. Some were surprised to see Freddie Hamilton kept around but in an organization thin on forward prospects ready to step into the NHL, he was a cheap source of realiable depth. Letting high-scoring minor leaguer Derek Grant go also looks like it was for the better.Treliving wasn't willing to offer a one-way and considering this season Grant had no goals again in 46 NHL games (now has no goals in 86 career NHL games), it's best that his deal that guaranteed him $450,000 even if in the minors, isn't on Calgary's books.
The one notable blunder was the handling of Bouma, which I already addressed in the Contract Extensions section. A lot of other RFA's have come and gone over the last few years but none of the decisions -- guys cut loose, or re-signed -- have backfired.
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Recent Flames Reading:
- Stockton Playoff Primer: Red-Hot Heat Seek Upset of Top Ranked San Jose - Doubling as a prospect update, it's my in-depth look at how the two teams stack up with comments from Ryan Huska, Mark Jankowski and Brett Kulak on the keys to success. (April 28, 2017)
- Pro Hockey Debut: Little Matthew Phillips Making a Big Impression in Stockton - Fresh off a 50-goal season in the WHL, 5-foot-6 Matthew Phillips is taking his act to the AHL. He talks about how his first couple games and how the adjustment has gone. (April 26, 2017)
- Change is the only Constant: Who Might be Back and Who Might Not in 2017-18 - The off-season begins for the Flames with a look at 12 names frequently mentioned in 'will they be back' debates. I examine what might unfold for each of them and why. (April 23, 2017)