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Give It Up For Brad Treliving, Calgary

The Flames GM has built a machine and the Tyler Toffoli move was just the latest for a team that looks very dangerous now.
Brad Treliving

Well, well, well. Calgary fans woke up this morning knowing they were the envy of many NHL fan bases thanks to the acquisition of proven scorer and Stanley Cup champion Tyler Toffoli, who makes an already potent Flames offense even more difficult to game-plan against.

You've got Johnny Gaudreau operating at, perhaps, Hart Trophy level. You've got a defense corps that lost its captain (Mark Giordano) in the expansion draft to Seattle but now sits second-best in high-danger scoring chances against, plus a goaltender in Jacob Markstrom who boasts twice as many shutouts (eight) as anybody else in the league.

The common denominator in all this? GM Brad Treliving, someone whose future a number of fans and outsiders were contemplating last season when the Flames missed the post-season.

But look at what Treliving has put together in Calgary right now and you'll see an executive who was given the time to build a proper machine and do so without necessarily following the herd.

Think about it: Who hires Darryl Sutter in 2021? The last time we saw him, the John Deere fan was getting a Dear John letter from the Los Angeles Kings, who had tired of his old-school ways after two Cup titles - the only two in franchise history, mind you. And the NHL is constantly evolving, could Sutter evolve with it?

The answer has been a resounding 'yes,' even if the Flames have some of the same burly trademarks of those old Kings teams. You can argue about the past analytics of mammoth defensemen such as Erik Gudbranson and Nikita Zadorov, but both have excellent possession numbers in slightly-sheltered minutes this season while providing physicality, reach and fighting skills to Calgary. Sutter has them contributing, while the rest of the crew - Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, Rasmus Andersson and breakout revelation Oliver Kylington - bring their own specialties to the back end.

Overall, the Flames are one of the best possession teams in the NHL and are top-10 in both scoring and penalty-killing. Give Sutter a lot of credit for pulling it all together.

As for Gaudreau, his name has popped up in trade rumors several times in the past couple of years after a dip in his play, especially in the post-season. Compounding matters is the fact Gaudreau is set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer. Despite all that tension, Treliving has kept steady on Gaudreau and now the dynamic left winger is having one of his best campaigns ever. If the American star is looking for greener pastures this summer, he won't find many better situations than Calgary in terms of playoff aspirations and the trade that brought Toffoli to town will only give Gaudreau more space out there as opponents are forced to pick their poison in terms of match-ups.

And of course you have Markstrom, the free agent snapped up by Treliving in 2020 and signed for a very reasonable $6 million cap hit. Markstrom was OK last year, but now that he has found his footing in Calgary, he's been a Vezina-caliber monster and if there's one constant in the NHL these days, it's that you need solid goaltending if you want to go anywhere in the playoffs. Markstrom gives the Flames that confidence right now.

Oh, and speaking of playoffs - Treliving also brought in Blake Coleman, winner of the past two Cups as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

So the job is not done, as the Flames have to actually make a run in the post-season, but the table has been set: Treliving has given the team everything it needs to be a contender. Now imagine if ownership had done something rash and canned him. You would have had more turnover, a brand-new master plan pointed in a new direction and not necessarily better results. But the Flames stuck with Treliving and they were right to do so, because he's got Calgary looking like a team you do not want to face in a seven-game series right now.


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