NEW YORK — No, the Calgary Flames didn’t get any better at Monday’s trade deadline. But for those looking at that as a failure, perhaps it should be framed a different way: They certainly didn’t get any worse.
This year or next.
The team that has scored the third-most goals in the league to sit proudly atop the Western Conference with five wins in a row is still completely intact.
But the reality is the price tags were well beyond the means of a franchise in its first year of championship capabilities. Had the Flames bit on Stone, for example, the price would have been a second-rounder (which the Flames don’t have), a centre on the roster (are you comfy losing Mark Jankowski or Derek Ryan?) and Juuso Valimaki.
Hayes would have set ya’ back a first-rounder, a conditional fourth and a top, up-and-coming prospect like Dillon Dube. All for a rental.
Ask most Flames fans and they’ll tell you there isn’t a single Flames player on the active roster they’d be happy losing. The players, who’ve built something incredibly special in that Flames room, agree.
While not sexy amidst the hysteria of the deadline swap meet, the fact that Brad Treliving thinks enough of his prospects and current roster to not impede their growth and momentum should be a positive.
It was a calculated balancing act, as we all know Treliving certainly isn’t hesitant to roll the dice.
“Today, there is no mourning,” said Treliving in the lobby of the swanky Kimpton hotel in Midtown Manhattan. “The hearse is not driving by, and none of us are climbing in. We’re pretty excited about our team. The fact that we wake up and I’m going to have a cold beer right now and still have guys like Valimaki in our organization, that’s a pretty good day.
“So let’s all put it in perspective. We have a good hockey team.”
He worked the phone and every possible angle with his cohorts to add a second-line winger. Alas, the rental market was akin to the neighbourhood in which he stood Monday.
This team isn’t at that point yet.
“I said coming into this deadline, our goal was to try and help our team without taking off of our team,” he said. “But that caveat was always that we weren’t prepared to move Juuso Valimaki, we weren’t prepared to move Rasmus Andersson, we weren’t prepared to go deep into first-round picks. Those were the acquisition costs for a lot of people out there.
“It’s not frustrating at all. Emotion at this time of year — or any time — in this job can lead to irrational decisions. We stuck to a plan. We had a plan of saying, ‘We wanted to add if it didn’t involve certain things that we weren’t comfortable dealing.’ We weren’t able to do it.”
Yes, they added 27-year-old left-handed defenceman Oscar Fantenberg for a conditional fourth-rounder. Hardly the shiny object that moves anyone’s needle deadline day. The reality is he may not necessarily play much at all. The Flames have played nine different blueliners this year and all have proven capable of shouldering the load.
The former Kings defenceman is support staff with an upside, as he once played 41 minutes in a playoff game for the Kings after Drew Doughty left the game.
Treliving knows the big boys around him in the west beefed up. Prices were paid. Chemistry in those towns now needs to be developed. Either way, he said that can’t impact your mindset or the process.
“You’re aware what is going on around you, but because your next door neighbour can afford it, if you can’t afford it you don’t get the big car — that’s just the way it works.
“When you try to keep up with the Joneses just to keep up with the Joneses, the bank comes and takes it from ya’ at some point.”
The bank sure took it from the Dallas Stars Sunday when their rental blocked a shot and is out a month. A tough break and a reminder how much is riding on these pricey, late additions pulling through.
As much as Neal has struggled in red and gold, he was brought in as a proven playoff performer. He’ll be back in the top nine before April. So will Michael Stone and Valimaki, if need be, following injuries.
Curtis Lazar and Alan Quine have been ripping it up in the minors, while Austin Czarnik has goals in four of five, including three game-winners.
The top lines are lagging, the bottom-feeders are feasting, illustrating just how well-rounded a bunch these Flames are.
“Nobody was ready to put a guy on a boat and ship him out of here,” said Treliving. “They like the group. Now, every time, you want to give yourself the best chance if you can do it, but I don’t think anybody on our team is disappointed that nobody is getting on a plane here. You always weigh, too, that this is a group that, for large part, is in this position for the first time. They’re going through what they’re going to go through the next 20 games for the first time. And they’re going to get into a playoff run as a group for the first time.
“Sometimes, you need to have little battle scars as a group until you really find out who you are. And I’m prepared to go to battle with this group.”