Even the most generous reading of Brad Treliving’s time with the Calgary Flames would have to admit that it was a bit of a mixed bag.
With the Flames taking on Treliving’s new club — the Toronto Maple Leafs — on Friday night, it’s as good a time as any to look back on the pros and the cons.
Coming to any meaningful conclusions about his tenure, though, isn’t easy.
On the positive side, he guided the team out of its post-Jarome Iginla slide and built a squad that won the franchise’s first playoff series since 2004.
The trade with the Carolina Hurricanes that brought Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to Calgary in exchange for Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and the rights to Adam Fox worked out pretty well.
Picking Dillon Dube, Andrew Mangiapane, Adam Ruzicka and Rasmus Andersson outside of the first round of the NHL draft helped bolster the team’s depth — and Andersson has emerged as the Flames’ No. 1 defenceman.
On the negative, there are the signings of Troy Brouwer and James Neal. There was the decision to put Juuso Valimaki on waivers, which cost them their former first-round pick. Signing Jonathan Huberdeau to a long-term, massive-money contract looks like a questionable move.
Even though the Flames believed they had Johnny Gaudreau committed to a long-term deal in the summer of 2022, that proved to be a costly miscalculation when he walked away in free agency and they got nothing in return.
And, ultimately, when Treliving left the Flames for the supposedly greener grass of the Leafs GM job this past spring, the organization was saddled with a number of expensive contracts for players who will be well into their late 30s by the time they’re off the books.
There were also seven key guys set to become free agents next summer.
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With the Flames set to take on the Leafs for the first time since Treliving jumped ship, he has wisely chosen to avoid speaking about his former employer in the lead-up to the game.
“I’m not going to comment on the situation other than this: There are very good people in that organization as well as good players,” Treliving told NHL.com’s Mike Zeisberger this week. “I know they’ve struggled a bit to start, but I’m confident they have the ingredients to turn it around.”
Ultimately, Treliving will build a new legacy in Toronto. Leafs fans definitely won’t care what he did in Calgary if he somehow gets their team over the hump and to the promised land of winning a Stanley Cup. If he fails, hockey fans in southern Ontario won’t be praising him for the good things he did during his time in Alberta, either.
And, in Calgary, the debate will likely rage on about how his time with the Flames should be remembered.
Did he skip town without cleaning up a mess he himself created? Does that really matter? What’s important now is what new Flames GM Craig Conroy does with the hand he was dealt when he was hired, right?
Because, in a lot of ways, it still feels like the Flames are the team Treliving built. Conroy’s only major move this summer was dealing Tyler Toffoli to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Yegor Sharangovich and a pick.
After the first couple games of the season, that looked like a steal for the Devils. But Sharangovich has been getting better by the game and has settled in nicely on a line with Nazem Kadri and Connor Zary.
You can’t grade a trade after 12 games, especially when the reason they traded Toffoli was they balked at his request for a long-term contract.
What Conroy does with the Flames’ remaining 2024 free agents will define his term as GM. It has been reported that there has been a pause placed on contract talks as the Flames try to get a better grip on where they are and what their future should look like.
That future will belong to Conroy, even if it feels like the present remains defined by Treliving’s tenure.
And perceptions of the former GM’s moves can change, even now. Consider the impact that Zary and Martin Pospisil already have had on this Flames team. Remember, too, that they were Treliving draft picks. He deserves credit for that, just like he deserves criticism for his mistakes.
The Flames were in win-now mode for the past couple seasons. They believed themselves to be contenders.
Should they have looked for youth when they dealt Matthew Tkachuk? Maybe, but it’s not as if Treliving was the only person who felt he had kept the Flames in the Stanley Cup mix when he dealt the winger to the Florida Panthers and got Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and Cole Schwindt in return.
And was there pressure from up top to keep the Flames competitive? Did hiring Darryl Sutter put Treliving in a position where any sort of youth movement was impossible?
That doesn’t exactly absolve Treliving of responsibility, given that it was his decision to bring Sutter back to the Saddledome in the first place.
The former GM’s legacy in Calgary is complicated, but whose isn’t?
He had nine years to build a winner. They got out of the first round once.
To be fair, that’s better than a lot of GMs have managed in Calgary over the past 33 years. On the other hand, it would fall short of a passing grade in most markets.
So, what do we make of Treliving’s time as Flames GM? There’s good and there’s bad. A mixed bag.
Fans in Toronto can determine for themselves what they make of him as a wheeler-and-dealer.
In Calgary, the only thing that matters is what Conroy does now.
Wes Gilbertson and Danny Austin have been covering the Flames for years and know what makes the team tick. Have questions? They have the answers – or the contacts to track them down. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org