With a 0.438 points percentage, the Calgary Flames are in the midst of one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
Losers of four straight and just 2-8 in their last 10 games, the Flames sit in sixth place in the North Division eight points out of the final playoff spot currently held by the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal, however, has five games in hand heading into Wednesday night’s action.
Ahead of Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline, general manager Brad Treliving spoke with TSN about the team’s culture, roster untouchables, and his own job security.
It’s been a few weeks since Darryl Sutter was hired and it doesn’t seem like a ton has changed. Just how disappointing is this season and how the team has performed since the coaching change?
“Our season has been disappointing. If you look where we are in the standings, it’s not what we anticipated. You can come up with a whole lot of words…disappointment, frustration, a lot of things. To the point of nothing changing since Darryl has come in here, I would disagree with that. At the end of the day, the results aren’t there. We’re in a results-oriented business. What we have done, or what the results we have, are certainly not acceptable and not what we wanted to have happen, but I think there have been some changes that have come into our game, specifically on the defensive side, but the good things that have happened aren’t what we want to talk about. Ultimately, we’re in a results-oriented business. We’re not getting our results. We’ve got to find a way to get out of the funk that we’re in right now.”
So with the coaching change, is the onus now 100 per cent on the players?
“It’s on all of us. It starts with myself. I’m in charge of the hockey department so it starts with the manager and we all take our piece of it. When you are in the position that we’re in at this time of the year, we all have to own it and so it starts with myself, the players, everybody involved in the hockey department. You own what your record is and so like I said, I accept responsibility as well as everybody else within the hockey department. So this is where we’re at, and the focus is now [on] how to improve where we’re at and get out of this.”
There’s been talk about team culture and the need to change it. What does ‘team culture’ mean to you, and do you agree with that statement, that maybe it’s time for a culture change with this roster?
“Well I mean, anytime where you’re going through a bad stretch you’re going to have all sorts of, well I guess you’d have to explain to me what your definition of [team culture is]. Changing players is one thing from changing culture. Like I said, when you’re on a down cycle here, you will get all the bullets shot at you and deservedly so. Our focus right now is going to be, ‘How do we get our group of players performing to the level that they’re capable of.’ As far as changes, those are things that the manager and management staff look at all the time. ‘How do we make our team better?’ So we’re not going to be making any proclamations about who’s going where or what we’re going to do, but certainly we have to improve our team and you have to improve right now. This is the group of players we have and we have to find a way to maximize performance out of them and, like every other team, you’re going to look at how you can improve yourself and what changes you can make leading up not only to the deadline but beyond that. Certainly we look at that everyday but ultimately the group we have right now has underperformed and we’ve got to address that.”
So, as a manager, do you get a bit concerned about your own job security when a season has gone this way?
“Listen. I do my job everyday. That’s nothing I concern myself with. People will make those decisions above me. I concern myself with how we can get the team playing better and how we get ourselves back on track. So that’s where my focus is.”
Last off-season, the organization committed to goaltending with Jacob Markstrom and with the creation of a goaltending department. How would you assess that position thus far this season?
“Well, I think Jacob and David both I think if you look at the early part of the season, I thought Jacob was outstanding. Him like the rest of our team, certainly over the course of the last six weeks, have performed better. They’re capable of more. So we went in and we brought in Jacob over the summer. We think he’s a top goaltender in this league. I still believe that and both him and David right now, we’ve got to continue to work with them and [they’re] no different than any other player on the roster, finding ways to maximize performance. I haven’t lost any faith in Jacob. He’s a top-end goaltender, works hard, extremely dedicated to his craft. It’s up to him and us to work together to get him back on track and he’s no different than any other player on our team.”
And so, looking ahead, is the goal for next season to compete for a Stanley Cup, or is there any possibility of a rebuild or a reset here with Calgary?
“We’re going to go about [it]. We’ve got a trade deadline that’s upon us on Monday so we’ll look at seeing what if anything takes place there and then we continue to work at it every day. Like I said to you earlier, Salim, I’m not going to start making any big proclamations about the direction of the team. We’ve got 30 per cent of our schedule left here so that’s the focus, is on the ice right now. What we do behind the scenes, those are conversations that we continue to have everyday of how do we make our team better. In terms of making any proclamations on the direction of the team, we’ll save that for another day.”
Lastly, are there any untouchables on the roster right now?
“Well, we’ve got good players that are underperforming. Certainly any player can be moved. You hear that all the time in our business, but we certainly have players right now that we think are good players but are underperforming. Again, in terms of what moves we may or may not make, I think anybody that watches our team or knows our team knows who the top players are. We’re certainly not going to do things just out of emotion right now because the season hasn’t gone the way we intended it to go. I come back to it. We’ve got the rest of this season to work on getting our game to where we think it can be and then we’ll see where we go from there, but certainly we will look at any and every possible angle to make our team better.”