GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s been an eventful two and a half weeks for general manager Brad Treliving and the Calgary Flames. Defenseman Dennis Wideman cross-checked a linesman on Jan. 27, he was suspended 20 games and he is now awaiting word on his appeal after a hearing this week in Toronto.
On Tuesday, forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were suspended one game (against Toronto) by the team after showing up late to practice on Monday.
On Thursday, starting goaltender Karri Ramo was injured when Sharks left wing Joonas Donskoi collided with him after Flames defenseman Mark Giordano hauled Donskoi down as he skated toward the net. Ramo was placed on injured reserve Friday with no timeline for his return.
“At least we’re not boring, if nothing else,” Treliving said by phone on Friday after arriving back in Calgary from a work-related trip to New York. “There has been a lot going on but I hope we can keep the focus where it needs to be because we dug ourselves a pretty good hole this season. We have to live in the present and try to dig ourselves out.”
Calgary’s efforts to do that stalled on Friday in Arizona, after they arrived at 3 a.m. following Thursday’s game in San Jose. Coyotes captain Shane Doan had two goals and an assist to become the franchise’s all-time leader in points and Arizona handed the Flames a 4-1 defeat, just Calgary’s second in six games since the All-Star break.
When play began on Saturday, the Flames still sat in sixth place in the Pacific Division, six points behind Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference and seven points behind Anaheim for third place (the final automatic playoff spot from the division) in the Pacific with 28 games left in their season.
The Flames are still paying for an 8-14-2 start over the first two months of the season. Treliving thinks they have been playing better for a long stretch, however, even if they have suffered some tough results like a 2-1 home loss to Columbus on Feb. 5 in which Calgary attempted 82 shots, held Columbus without any shots over the game’s final 16 minutes yet still came out “feeling lower than snake dung.”
Following a surprising playoff berth and a series win over Vancouver last season, it’s hard not to view this season as a step back for the Flames, but Treliving doesn’t view it that way.
“You have to remember how young we are,” he said. “A lot of our most important players are teenagers or in the their early 20s. You can’t rely on steady progress without any hiccups. It’s a process.”
When the Fames added defenseman Dougie Hamilton in the offseason (and also signed versatile forward Michael Frolik), some analysts wondered if they were close to challenging the West’s elite teams, but Treliving expected growing pains.
“Sometimes the summer moves don’t fall into place right away,” he said. “There was an adjustment period at the beginning of year and that was true of the whole group. We all looked a little lost.
“Dougie has taken some criticism but we’re very happy with where he’s at. He’s a really young, talented player who seems to add another layer with every new situation we put him in and he seems to grow in confidence each day. The numbers don’t tell the whole story because the numbers don’t tell you everything we’re asking him to do and they don’t always tell you what’s happening around him. He’s been terrific at both ends for a long stretch here.”
With the Feb. 29 trade deadline about two weeks away, Treliving still isn’t sure which direction he is headed.
“Very few teams can say they are dead and buried,” he said. “The first few months, you thought the Central (Division) was going to get five playoff teams which would limit the Pacific’s chances but a couple of those teams have come back to earth.
“We’re certainly not going to be adding any rental players for a short-term fix and we don’t intend you give up one of our young assets. We’re still in the second year of this process. We’re still in the growth stage. You always want to help team if there’s a chance but not at the expense of young assets and your overall plan.”
However it plays out, Treliving believes he has a much firmer grasp on the details of the job than he did in his rookie season, when he left his post as the Coyotes assistant GM to take over in April 2014.
“I’m much closer to it now,” he said. “Your first year, you’re really just learning the players and learning the people in the organization.
“Once you get to peek behind the curtain you see where maybe you overvalued, or in many cases undervalued people, so I have much more information this time than I did last year. I have a much greater feel for who we are, what we have and what we need to take this to the next level.”
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