No one has done more soul-searching during the Calgary Flames’ six-game faceplant than Brad Treliving, leading to an assessment he decided to share with the world Friday.
“It starts with the manager – the manager has been horses**t,” said the Flames GM, speaking publicly for the first time since his team’s horrific losing streak began.
“I’m responsible, so if there are fingers to point right now, let’s point them in the right direction and that should be at the person in charge and that’s me. So, the manager has underperformed and I take responsibility for the performance of the team.”
Fingers are indeed pointing everywhere around Southern Alberta these days, which is why the GM opted to face some of the wild speculation, suggestions and criticism with a few other pointed remarks.
“Last couple days I’ve been asked about changes,” said Treliving, whose club has been outscored 23-5 in its last half-dozen setbacks.
“The coaches aren’t going anywhere. Our top players aren’t going anywhere.
“In life, in general, you’re going to face difficult times. I met with the group today, and at the end of the day if a six-game losing streak is the most difficult thing you’re going to face in life you may have some issues. Let’s deal with it, let’s be honest with each other and let’s hold ourselves and each other accountable. We’re the ones who are going to get out of this. There are no saviours coming.”
In other words, Johnny Gaudreau isn’t getting swapped out as so many have suggested should be the case.
That discussion has been laughably premature, as his fate is far-better determined this summer when clear minds can take stock of whether the winger with two-and-a-half years left on his contract is capable of elevating his game when it matters most this spring.
(Yes, we’re aware there may not be a spring assessment if he doesn’t find his game sometime soon.)
Given how tight the Flames and so many other teams in the league are to the salary cap ceiling, changes of significance are hard to come by in season, never mind when the value of all your assets are grossly diminished.
“I believe in this group and believe when you go through difficult times you don’t throw bodies on the tarmac,” said Treliving.
“This is a good group that is underperforming. We’ve got to find a way to get back to being a good group that is performing. When you go through difficult stretches you learn a lot more about yourselves than when you go through good stretches.”
Treliving and the players are clinging to belief this early adversity will ultimately serve them well.
After all, every team goes through it, and there are still a mere 57 games left in the season.
Shut out in a franchise-record three straight road games, the Flames 5-0 drubbing in St. Louis Thursday was followed by airplane issues that prevented them from flying out to Philadelphia afterwards.
They’re getting it from every angle.
Injuries are mounting, as Andrew Mangiapane was the latest to leave a game early when he was rocked by Vince Dunn midway through another humiliating loss.
Ailments and those missing from the roster are no excuse as the core is still intact and the goaltending has been beyond competent.
It was the right time to reaffirm the obvious, that coach Bill Peters isn’t going anywhere.
This team has gone through far too many coaching changes over the years, which is something Treliving vowed to change when hiring Peters in 2018.
Peters immediately stabilized a team full of moving parts last season to bring the crew to the top of the west conference over 82 games.
He’s not part of the problem and certainly not to blame for the team’s woeful shooting percentage and penchant for mental lapses.
The Flames’ early gift-giving continued in St. Louis, as it has a team-record eight games in a row by surrendering the first goal.
Work ethic and other engagement issues were addressed by the players in a closed-door meeting following Thursday’s game. It was also discussed by the GM and his not-so-merry men Friday.
“I met with our leadership group and met with the team as a group afterwards and we’ll keep that in those four walls,” said Treliving who generally leaves dressing room talks to his coaches.
“There’s no ‘poor me.’ We are the ones who have to get out of this.”
As far as using the age-old tactic of falling on his own sword, Treliving most certainly failed to effect significant change to the group this summer.
Matthew Tkachuk’s contract situation handcuffed the GM to the point his only additions included adding a backup goalie, swapping out one bad contract (James Neal) for another (Milan Lucic) and signing a pair of depth charges here on PTOs (Tobias Rieder and Zac Rinaldo.)
A trade for Nazem Kadri that could have altered the face of the group was nixed by the former Leaf, frustrating the GM no end.
There was certainly an argument that little needed to be changed on a roster that finished second in the NHL in points and goals scored.
Alas, here we are.
Fact is, it’s early.
Despite low morale, high frustration and lop-sided losses, the 10-12-3 Flames are just three points out of a playoff spot with four months to go.
While it might not seem like it right now, this too shall pass.
And it will do so with the Flames core, coaches and GM in place.
As it should.