Calgary Flames 2014: Moving Ahead

Brad Treliving has been named the new General Manager of the Calgary Flames. For the past seven season, Treliving was the Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Hockey Operations with the Phoenix Coyotes and General Manager of the AHL Portland Pirates.

Coyotes Asst GM Brad Treliving
GM Brad Treliving

Treliving was picked by Brian Burke, the team’s President of Hockey Operations, and together they face some important questions:

Who will be picked as Assistant General Manager? There are two candidates with ties with the organization: Craig Conroy, currently the Special Assistant to the General Manager with the Flames, and Kelly Kisio, President of Hockey Operations with the Calgary Hitmen. Treliving has a short list he wants to explore in the next month. “There’s some (candidates) out there who are currently employed, and there’s a process to go through,” he said. “There’s a lot of good people in our game. Between Brian and myself, we have a great network.”

Will Bob Hartley return as Head Coach of the Flames? It sure looks that way. Both Burke and Treliving are impressed with how competitive the team played under Hartley this past season. “This team had a will,” said Treliving. “It had an identity, and to me, that is solely due to the job of the coaching staff.”

Flames Resign Which Players?

Which UFA should the Flames resign? Winger Mike Cammalleri is not coming back after rejecting the team’s contract offer. Is goaltender Joey MacDonald the answer to backup Karri Ramo? Would resigning Chris Butler allow the team’s young prospects more time to develop and keep a veteran presence on defense? Is defenseman Chris Breen worth a longer look? Kevin Westgrath is a good bet to resign since he fits in Burke’s truculence world. Center Ben Street had a solid season in Abbotsford and might also be worth resigning. Blair Jones’ time with the Flames is likely over.

Which RFA should the Flames resign? Three players definitely should return: goaltender Joni Ortio and forwards Joe Colborne and Lance Bouma. All three players showed great improvement and each brings an important piece of the puzzle moving forward. Small but fast forward Paul Byron could be given another chance to prove he deserves to stay in the big league. The problem is whether college star Johnny Gaudreau is ready for the NHL or need more time in the AHL. Burke and Treliving will not keep too many small forwards. Forward TJ Galiardi had a rough season and one wonders if he is worth keeping around. Another forward, Ben Hanowski, will likely stay, especially given he was part of the Iginla trade. The Flames might let go of defensemen Chad Billins and Mark Cundari and goaltender Oliver Roy.

John Gaudreau at the post-game press conference. [photo: Josh Smith]
John Gaudreau at the post-game press conference. [photo: Josh Smith]
What to do with the college kids? More time needed for development. Gaudreau and linemate Bill Arnold, Hanowski and Kenny Agostino, the latter two part of the Iginla trade, are all unproven assets at the NHL level and need more time to develop. Big forward Bryce Van Brabant is also in the mix.

Who will the Flames draft with the fourth pick overall? The Flames will likely choose either Leon Draisaitl or Michael Dal Colle unless one of the top three (Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart or Samuel Bennett) falls down to the team’s pick.

Flames Look for 2014-15

Which young player might break into the Flames’ lineup in the fall? It depends on who the Flames resign or if the team brings in any free agents. Gaudreau had a great first game but that’s a long way from making the team full-time. Forwards Markus Granlund and Max Reinhart have improved tremendously in 2013-14 and are knocking on the door of the big club. Much-maligned speedy forward Sven Baertschi still possesses great upside and could make the final transition. Defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon fit surprisingly well in his first few games in Calgary.

Did the Flames overachieve in 2013-14? Yes, by working hard and never giving up. Some players had a great season; will there be a slump? Rookie sensation Sean Monahan became the first forward to score over 20 goals since that Iginla guy. TJ Brodie continued to improve skating alongside captain Mark Giordano. Center Mikael Backlund finally emerged as a consistent player on one of the top lines. Ramo took the reins of number one goaltender. Defenseman Kris Russell was a pleasant surprise.

Mark Giordano (Greg Thompson/Hammersmith Studios)
Mark Giordano (Greg Thompson/Hammersmith Studios)

How will the Flames do in 2014-15? The Flames could play hard and still finish near the bottom of the standings once again. The next step in the rebuilding phase will continue as the team finds a good mix of veterans and rookies. The cupboard is far from bare as the Flames keep adding solid prospects to their system. What it needs now is to find and develop top end talent – difference makers. The Chicago Blackhawks are a great example, led by captain Jonathan Toews, arguably the most complete player in the league, and skillful players like Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford to go with solid depth all around. The Flames are far from competing like the Blackhawks but have begun to build a solid foundation.

Within the next two or three years, the Flames will find out who will be part of the future and who failed to develop as well as hoped. In the meantime, the team works hard while entertaining the fans and giving hope that a return to the post-season is ahead.