June 3, 2018 | 11:03am ET
By Anthony Di Marco, The Fourth Period
TIME IS NOW FOR TRELIVING, FLAMES
Brad Treliving, GM
MONTREAL, QC -- It was clear that expectations were high from Calgary’s front office this year. Following a season that saw them swept in convincing fashion by the Anaheim Ducks, Flames General Manager Brad Treliving went to work last summer to sure up any points of weakness on his roster.
The club acquired 35-year-old Mike Smith, the best available goaltender after Ben Bishop signed with Dallas, to bolster the position that has doomed them since the retirement of Miikka Kiprusoff.
Additionally, Treliving gave up a king’s ransom (including an unprotected 2018 first-round pick) to the New York Islanders to acquire defenseman Travis Hamonic. Hamonic’s addition figured to elevate Calgary’s defense to one of the best in the entire NHL, with Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton already on the team.
But despite all the high expectations, the season was anything but a success for the Flames, who missed the playoffs for the second time in four seasons during the Treliving era. As a result, the Flames relieved Head Coach Glenn Gulutzan and assistant coaches Dave Cameron and Paul Jerrard of their duties.
“I think having experience in this league is critical,” Treliving said at the time in regards to the vacant coaching position.
Sticking with this motto, Treliving turned to former Carolina Hurricanes Head Coach Bill Peters to be the next bench boss in Calgary. Peters, who coached full four seasons in Carolina, made the switch to Calgary less than two weeks after leaving the Hurricanes.
Although some of the blame is due to coaching, it’d be naive to assume that is the sole point of concern. After all, Calgary has never been a team to give its coaches a long leash. Per TSN, since the Flames’ 1989 Stanley Cup Championship, Gulutzan is the 11th out of 12 coaches to not make it beyond three seasons behind the bench for the organization.
When Treliving took over the Flames in April of 2014, the club was in a transition. It was moving on from its previous core that was anchored by Kiprusoff, Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester, hoping that Treliving (guided by recently departed club President Brian Burke) could rebuild the roster. Treliving inherited a team that already had young forwards Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, along with seasoned defensemen Brodie and Giordano.
Fast forward four years, and the search for sustainability in Calgary is ongoing.
Burke is not a patient executive as far as losing goes, and it’s clear that Treliving was given marching orders to make the Flames a contender sooner rather than later. This was evident in numerous transactions the club has made over the last four seasons, in which they shelled out big dollars to free agent forwards Troy Brouwer and Michael Frolik, while giving up a ton of assets to acquire defensemen Hamilton and Hamonic.
The Flames do not have a bad roster by any means, as any team that features Monahan, Gaudreau and Giordano should be a good one, but the expectations need to be tempered from the front office.
Hamonic’s impact was grossly overvalued, as his pairing with Brodie was a major let down. Hamonic finished the year with one goal, 10 assists and a minus-9 rating, a disappointing start to his Flames’ career.
Smith’s arrival between the pipes was as hoped; posting a .915 save percentage, but due to injuries, his season was derailed. The Eddie Lack experiment did not last long, as he was run out of town in less than two months. This left the Flames with two rookies in net for the majority of the year, which was not an ideal situation. Jon Gillies (2.88 GAA, .896 save percentage) and David Rittich (2.92 GAA, .904 save percentage) shared time in Smith’s absent, and while neither played horribly, it was not good enough goaltending for a team hoping to make the playoffs.
Beyond Monahan (64 points), Gaudreau (84 points) and youngster Matthew Tkachuk (49 points), the team struggled to get consistent offense from its forwards. Sam Bennett (26 points), Brouwer (22 points) and Frolik (25 points) underperformed this year, and the Flames’ secondary scoring is a cause for concern if they are unable to turn it around.
Heading into this off-season, Treliving has his work cut out for him. The Flames do not have a single draft pick in the first three rounds in this year’s NHL Draft, having two fourths, a sixth and a seventh. The lack of draft picks gives management little leverage in trades and next to no options at the draft table.
The depth scoring needs a boost, the defense needs to be re-evaluated and a solution beyond Smith needs to be had between the pipes.
The Flames have won only one playoff series since their Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2004, and the fans are starting to get restless. Coaching change aside, it’s up to Treliving to turn this club around and this off-season will play a big part in the future success of the franchise.