Treliving’s 7-Year Flames Overhaul Finally Showing Results

On April 13, 2014, the Calgary Flames skated off the ice at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, suffering their 41st loss. The Canucks ended the Flames’ season with a 5-1 defeat, catapulting them into an offseason of unknowns. When we examine the roster’s makeup and statistics from the 2013-14 team, we can understand why they failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

Team president Brian Burke relieved Jay Feaser of his general manager (GM) duties on Dec. 13, 2002, and took over the role for the remainder of the season. Head coach Bob Hartley was not on the hot seat, so Burke focused on finding a new general manager who could make the necessary player changes and alter the franchise’s course. Burke hired Brad Treliving on April 28, 2014, who has served as the team’s GM ever since.

Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving
Treliving has been building the Flames into contenders since 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal)

As of Aug. 2022, Treliving has been in charge of the Flames for over eight years, serving as the second-longest GM in club history behind the legend Cliff Fletcher. Fletcher’s crowning achievement with the organization is the 1989 Stanley Cup championship, which has eluded Treliving in his time on the job. However, they are one step closer today than yesterday, and on the day he was named GM. As you will see, last year was a fantastic year for the franchise, and after Treliving went out and retooled the lineup this summer through high-profile acquisitions, they may just be getting started.

A Year to Forget: The 2013-14 Flames

The Flames finished the 2013-14 season with a 35-40-7 record and sixth place in the Pacific Division. The team scored 209 goals (ranked 22nd out of 30) and gave up 241 (23rd of 30). Based on the league averages for that season, the Flames were a below-average team in most statistical categories. Their 35 wins paled in comparison to the league average of 41. They also lost 40 contests while the rest of the league lost 31. The better teams collected 92 points while the Flames came within 15 points of that total with 77. Finally, their winning percentage (.470) was almost a hundred points lower than the NHL average of .562.

Related: New Flames GM Brad Treliving Heads Right To Work

The special teams posted respectable numbers, 15.66% on the power play (PP) and 81.70% on the penalty kill (PK), coming close to the average numbers of 17.89% (PP) and 82.11% (PK). Their goalies didn’t post outstanding numbers, earning a save percentage of .899 (SV%) compared to the league average of .911. They had a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.90, while the offense scored 2.46 goals a game.

The Flames’ leading scorer was Jiri Hudler, who finished with 54 points (17 goals and 37 assists). Two players scored more than 20 goals: Mike Cammalleri (26) and Sean Monahan (22). Only Chris Butler suited up for all 82 games, with the team employing 12 players who played in 10 or fewer contests. There were 44 players (including goalies) who played that season; however, only 12 of them had a positive plus/minus rating. Brian McGrattan was the team leader in penalties, collecting an even 100 minutes on the season. 

The Flames employed four goalies to get through 82 games, with Karri Ramo handling the bulk of the duties. He started 37 games, appeared in 40, and finished with a 17-15-4 record, giving up 97 goals, posting a .911 SV% with a 2.65 GAA. Reto Berra (29 games), Joey MacDonald (11), and Joni Ortio (9) also saw action in the crease.

Mark Giordano was the captain of this team when Treliving took control. The player with the second most played games in franchise history won the Norris Trophy in 2018-19 as the league’s best defenceman, but within a few seasons, he was exposed in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft and became their first-ever captain in 2021-22.

Calgary Flames Mark Giordano
Mark Giordano served as Flames captain for eight seasons. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

The Flames had 44 players play at least one contest that season, and five players were out of the organization before Treliving took over in April 2014. Before the new campaign (2014-15) started, 10 more players departed through free agency. Then during the season, he moved a few players through waivers and the trade deadline before letting a few more depart during the 2015 Free Agency period. By the time the puck dropped on the 2016-17 season, he swapped out another 10 players, leaving just eight from the 2013-14 team. Since late 2017, seven of those eight players have found a new home leaving Backlund as the lone member left, eight years into Treliving’s tenure. 

Flames Chase Franchise Records: 2021-22

The Flames started the Treliving era in 2014-15 by earning a playoff berth and producing a winning record of 45-30-7 for 97 points. They had some good years (2018-19) and some down years (2015-16) and never advanced past the first round of the playoffs. However, last season, the team had their best performance under Treliving.

In seven seasons, Treliving took an organization that finished sixth in their division and assisted in delivering their second Pacific Division title in four seasons. The 2021-22 Flames were the best team he assembled during his time in Calgary. The best part is that he may not have iced his best team yet after a summer filled with blockbuster moves. 

In 2021-22 the Flames had the sixth most points (111), ninth most wins (50), and fourth-fewest losses (21). Two of their players, Johnny Gaudreau (second) and Matthew Tkachuk (eighth), also finished in the top 10 in scoring. As a team, their 291 goals were sixth best in the league, while the goalies surrendered just 206 goals, which was the third lowest. The team scored 3.55 goals a game and had a stellar 2.51 GAA. 

The Flames were a better-than-average bunch of guys, exceeding all the averages in every critical category. They had more wins (50) than the league average (41), fewer losses (21) compared to the average (32), earned points in more overtime losses (11) compared to (9), and finished with more points (111) than the average team (91) did. Their winning percentage was .677 compared to the average of .555. The power-play unit clicked above average (20.61%) at 22.88%, and the penalty kill was good at 83.20%, compared to the average of 79.39%.

Elias Lindholm Calgary Flames
Lindholm had a career year in 2021-22 with help from his Flames teammates. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

The club had 30 players suited up for at least one game, with eight players dressing in all 82. Elias Lindholm and Thachuk led the way with 42 goals, and Gaudreau collected 40. Andrew Mangiapane scored 35 while six other teammates reached double digits. Four players collected over 40 assists, and two had over 100 points. A total of 18 players reached double digits for point totals, while only eight players finished the year with a negative plus/minus rating.

Jacob Markstrom was the star in the net, starting 63 games and producing a 37-15-9 record. He led the league with nine shutouts, earning a .922 SV% and 2.22 GAA. Daniel Vladar stepped in and played 23 games when Markstrom needed a night off. 

It was a magical season, the second-best regular season in franchise history. Fans of their rivals say they got lucky and that it won’t happen again, but the proof is in the numbers. Treliving built this team throughout his tenure, and for the first time in a long time, everything came together, giving Flames fans hope for things to come. 

Treliving Finds Success Through Patience

As mentioned, Treliving kept shocking the hockey world in the summer of 2022. First, he lost Gaudreau to free agency, then traded Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers for Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. When people thought the Flames had stumbled, he dragged them out of the dust. Everyone thought he had no more moves up his sleeve, but then he signed Nazem Kadri to a seven-year contract, and the Flames now look like they never missed a step. As a result, this upcoming season could be even better than the previous one.

For a professional sports team, building a roster takes time and patience. Rarely has a team found success overnight. Some GMs sign big-name free agents; however, most of the time, those deals never work out for the length they initially agreed to. The Flames are in win-now mode and have found the necessary pieces to stay in contention. 

Related: Flames Treliving Has Established Himself as an Elite NHL GM

Teams around them in the Western Conference have gotten stronger, while some have gotten weaker. Treliving has given the Flames all they need to be successful in the upcoming season, which is a far cry from the team he inherited in 2014. They say the game has changed since that time, and that may be true; however, there is no denying his ability to tear down and retool without the huge downward spiral most teams experience. There have been no first overall selections in Calgary for a long time, which speaks volumes about his ability to find success. No matter what happens this season, he will go down as one of the club’s best GMs when he steps away from the Flames organization.

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