CALGARY – Where there’s smoke, there’s a fire to put out.
Judging by GM Brad Treliving’s denial, coach Glen Gulutzan’s laughter, and president Brian Burke’s threat to reveal the name of one “idiot” front-office employee from an opposing team that started the rumour, we’ve gleaned this:
Even though the Flames aren’t getting the level of goal scoring they desperately need to support goaltender Chad Johnson. Even though the Leafs are flush with skilled forwards and deficient in Vitamin D. Even though William Nylander is skating on the fourth line this week, and he’s widely viewed as the most expendable Leafs rookie of the three first-round picks trying to stalk down Patrik Laine in the freshman scoring race.
Carolina Hurricanes’ Viktor Stalberg, right, from Sweden, is checked by Calgary Flames’ Dougie Hamilton during second period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.(Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Burke isn’t faulting the Leafs (his former employer) or the evil Toronto media (of which he once was a member) on this one.
“We think it was a GM of a team. He will remain nameless for now, but at some point I’m probably going to identify him and say, ‘This whole thing started with this one idiot making one phone call,’ ” Burke told Andrew Walker on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Wednesday.
That anonymous GM called Treliving and asked if he’d move Hamilton for X.
Treliving’s response, according to Burke: “No. And by the way, next time you have a stupid idea like that, just save the quarter. Don’t call.”
The opposing general manager then told a second GM he’d made an offer, so the second GM calls to see if the Flames are listening to offers on the ninth-overall pick of the 2011 draft.
“We move heaven and earth to beat out about 12 other teams to get this player [from Boston in 2015]. We expend three very high draft picks to get him [one first-rounder and two seconds],” Burke said on air. Then they signed him to a six-year, $34.5-million contract. “Clearly covet the player. He’s 6-foot-5, he’s 237 pounds, he’s a right shot, he’s a great kid, he skates like a deer, he can shoot the puck.”
“It’s just absurd.”
Treliving said his appearance at a game in Toronto fuelled speculation.
“I wouldn’t read anything into that. I go to a lot of games. I went to a couple other rinks after that. Don’t believe all that you hear,” Treliving said.
“Dougie’s an important part of this team. It’s hard to find players of his ilk. So I don’t put a whole lot of stock into those comments. We always look to improve this team.
“Comments that we’re shopping a particular individual is completely false.”
Hamilton, a Toronto area native, appeared rightfully annoyed yet dutifully polite as he stood under the lights and answered a half-dozen questions about a trade that won’t happen.
“I’ve definitely heard all of it. I’m pretty used to it by now,” Hamilton said. He didn’t look used to it. “There’s rumours everywhere. My friends hear about it and stuff because they’re in the Toronto area. It doesn’t really matter.
“The Toronto market catches on to it and it blows up.”
Hamilton is only 23, hardly the peak development age for blueliners. He’s already been traded once. He registered a career-best 43 points in Calgary last season but has been a minus-20 since impressing in the Bruins’ 2014 post-season.
The noise, he insists, doesn’t affect him much. He’s heard it since minor hockey. It started when he began wondering when and where he’d be selected in the Ontario Hockey League draft.
How does he ignore it? “Just play and whatever,” he says.
As with most Flames, Hamilton got off to rocky start this season. Over the last couple of weeks, he’s embraced a reunion with captain Mark Girodano on the club’s top pair and embraced the challenge of shutting down the NHL’s best forwards.
Wednesday night he’ll try to cover Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews as well as the national media does.
“I read lots about the team across the hall,” said Gulutzan, laughing off the rumour. “Dougie’s a big part of our group, and we really like the way he’s playing.”
“Him and Gio have solidified us. He’s played big minutes against some heavy guys. I just really like that pair. They’ve really come into their own.”
Sounds like the perfect time to sell high.