Flames’ Treliving sees controversy over Lucic remarks as ‘totally ridiculous’

Milan Lucic comments ahead on what he's planning to do to be successful this season with the Calgary Flames.

When the Calgary Flames acquired Milan Lucic, few could have envisioned anyone would have to step in to defend the rugged winger.

However, that’s exactly what Flames GM Brad Treliving did upon hearing that Lucic’s innocuous comments at the team’s golf tourney had riled up Oilers faithful.

Lucic said Wednesday he put too much pressure on himself "to overachieve" in Edmonton, and felt being surrounded by veterans in Calgary would allow him be more comfortable and successful.

"Your captain and your leader is in his thirties and he’s an older guy and I had a lot of experience with that with Zdeno Chara in Boston, and that seemed to obviously work out really well," said the former Oiler, alluding to Flames captain Mark Giordano.

The comments infuriated fans of his former team in Edmonton who saw it as a direct swipe at their 22-year-old captain, Connor McDavid.

"Totally ridiculous," said Treliving of the insinuation Thursday.

"I know he’s close with Connor. I know what he thinks of him as a player and a person. I don’t see him taking a swipe at Connor – no way."

The online backlash from Oilers fans is representative of the frustration they had with the rugged veteran who had just six goals and 20 points last season despite being in year three of a seven-year contract paying him $6 million US annually.

They were happy to see him and his contract go, albeit in exchange for another significant refurbishing project in James Neal.

The fan fury is also symbolic of just how vexing Edmonton fans find all things Flames.

That isn’t about to change.

"You’ve got two teams in a rivalry that made a deal, so everything they say will be sort of put under a microscope," said Treliving, who swapped Neal for Lucic in July with an eye on both teams trying to turn the fortunes of the former 30-goal scorers.

"I think every word guys say gets sliced and diced 100 ways to Sunday. Sometimes words get twisted around.

"In my mind there’d be no way he’s taking any shots at anybody, other than to just talk about Gio, who he is just getting to know."

Sign up for NHL newsletters
Get the best of our NHL coverage and exclusives delivered directly to your inbox!

NHL Newsletter

*I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.

Treliving knows the provincial rivalry will be even juicier this year thanks to the Neal/Lucic swap, as well as the fact former Flames goalie Mike Smith signed up north and former Oiler, Cam Talbot, will tend twine for the Flames.

The Flames have also signed former Oiler Brandon Davidson and extended Tobias Rieder a training camp tryout.

However, given how relatively inactive the Flames were this summer due to their salary cap constraints, Lucic has been all the talk in Calgary since his acquisition.

That talk heightened Wednesday when Flames die-hards participating in the team’s 39th annual charity golf tournament got a glimpse of the 6-foot-3, 231-pound Lucic first-hand.

"There are guys in different walks of life that have that presence when you walk in a room – you’re aware when he’s there," said Treliving of the hulking winger who is arguably the toughest in today’s game.

"He’s a presence."

That presence will clearly be felt by teammates who no longer have to count on Sam Bennett or Travis Hamonic to be the first to come to their aid when the temperature of games rises.

Lucic is now that guy, and while engagement has been an issue for him the last few years, Treliving is counting on a change of scenery being a shot in the arm.

Oilers GM Ken Holland is hoping the same for Neal, who posted similar numbers to Lucic’s last year despite landing a similarly bloated contract at $5.75 million annually.

Despite being a third or fourth liner, you get the feeling Lucic will be a lightning rod for controversy due to his contract, style of play and frank, open approach with the media.

Yet another intriguing addition to the Battle of Alberta.

While it’s a shame these two teams don’t meet until two days after Christmas, they do face off against one another in exhibition play Sep. 20 and 28, which could make for interesting previews.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.