Treliving’s future, Sutter’s influence, and more…five predictions for the Flames in 2023
‘Unexpected’ might be the perfect word to describe Calgary’s calendar 2022 year. They unexpectedly rose to the top of the NHL standings last season, culminating in a Pacific Division title and playoff series win. They unexpectedly lost both Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, and unexpectedly replaced the two with Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, and MacKenzie Weegar.
After that off-season, the Flames enter the new year with sky-high expectations. With the calendar flipping soon, here are five bold predictions for what lies ahead for the Calgary Flames franchise.
Maple Leafs target Brad Treliving to lead their hockey operations
Brad Treliving Calgary Flames
We’ll get the boldest prediction out of the way early on.
Anything can change with a phone call, but at this moment I don’t think Brad Treliving will be back as the team’s general manager, a post he’s held since 2014. Treliving is in the final season of his contract and has not put pen to paper on a new deal, despite Darryl Sutter inking a two-season extension at the start of the season.
The power dynamic in Calgary is different. Sutter is extremely tight with Murray Edwards, the team’s principal owner, and has far more influence on different areas of the organization than most people can imagine. It’s also fair to ask if Sutter and Treliving have been on the same page this season regarding player usage and integrating young players into the lineup.
This Flames group has gotten off to a bit slower of a start than expected and the roster has some flaws, but by and large Treliving has a very good reputation around the league as someone who works extremely hard and is unafraid of being bold on the trade market or in free agency. Treliving has never worked under an owner with the resources and mindset of MLSE, and the allure of building in the league’s biggest market will be tempting for him…even if Edwards does eventually make him a market-value offer.
Current Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is the final season of his deal as well and should the two sides move on, I think Treliving will immediately become Toronto’s top target as their next head of hockey operations.
Sutter formally gets final say on player personnel
Darryl Sutter Calgary Flames
If Treliving moves on, Darryl Sutter will effectively become the team’s general manager by having final say in player personnel matters. He might not be the one to execute trades and free agent signings, but he will be the one who signs off on them. Should Treliving not be back, the person who replaces him as general manager will have far less influence, even if they have the same title. It will be Darryl Sutter’s team from top to bottom.
New arena deal
With CAA Icon now heavily involved in negotiations, the city and Flames ownership come to an agreement on a new home for the Calgary Flames.
A player of significance is dealt
In what’s shaping up to be his final trade season at the helm of the Flames, Treliving will go out with one last splash on the trade market. Calgary’s played well for good parts of the season, but could use an injection of speed and finishing ability in a year where they’re expected to go on a deep playoff run. Like a lot of teams, they are capped out at the moment…so to get that quality forward or blueliner (someone more than just a depth piece), they’ll have to deal a player of real quality who’s currently on their roster.
Flames will make the playoffs and go on a run to the Western Conference Final
Calgary Flames Celebrate
For a group with such expectations, it’s a simple but elusive prediction for this franchise. Calgary has not won playoff series in back-to-back seasons since the 1987-88 and 88-89 seasons.
Much of the debate heading into the season was if this Flames squad was more talented than last season’s. While it’s evident now that during the regular season, last season’s group was better, the current team might be better-suited for the grind of the playoffs. They have plenty of Stanley Cup pedigree, competitiveness, and ability to manufacture goals in the different postseason environment where physicality and grit are valued that much more. The new additions (particularly Kadri) will shine in the spring.
Have a safe and healthy 2023, hockey fans!