Q&A: Flames' Treliving on team's 2021 collapse, trade deadline approach

Eric Francis and Ryan Leslie discuss the Flames’ struggles as of late and the long week awaiting the team as they are mired in a slump.

The core of the Calgary Flames is taking a beating in the court of public opinion, as everyone chips in with theories on who needs to go.

Deservedly so.

In other news, the sun rose out of the east, dogs hate cats and pandemics suck. Nothing new here.

The question is whether GM Brad Treliving still believes in a core that has been maligned for years after failing to excel when the games matter most.

A handful of days before the NHL trade deadline could theoretically start the retooling of a franchise in free-fall, Sportsnet hooked up with Treliving for a Q&A that focused on the shocking demise of a squad that has lost eight of its last nine.

SPORTSNET: Do you still believe in the core of this team?

TRELIVING: I think we’ve got good players that have underperformed. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. We’ve underperformed.

Today is not the day to come out with big statements about what we are or aren’t going to do.

We’ve got to get our players feeling better about themselves and start playing better.

We look at it every day. But today isn’t the day for me to start making grandiose statements about the core of the team or what we’re going to do. I know everybody wants action and a head on a stick right now when the team isn’t playing the way we think they’re capable of playing. We’ve underperformed as a team and we’ve got to own it.

As a management staff we’ve got to look at how we best move forward and that’s what we’re doing.

SN: You’ve always talked about the importance of taking cues from your players. What are they telling you right now?

TRELIVING: Well, we’re in a struggle right now. I think anybody that watches our team can see we’re in a downward cycle at this point. Nobody wants to hear about the parts of our game we’ve improved in. We don’t give up many chances, but we’re having real difficulty scoring right now. The mistakes we make are fatal mistakes that end up costing us.

We’re obviously in a situation where we’ve had a tough stretch here. We’ve got to find a way to work our way out of it. Not necessarily focusing on the big picture, for me now it’s focusing on working your way out of this funk right now. That’s the focus of the team right now, trying to get back to feeling good about themselves and finding a way to create more offence and ultimately finish.

That’s our biggest trouble right now. It’s tough to win games when you’re scoring one and two goals a game.

We’re trying to get through the frustration.

SN: Is 'shocked' the best word to describe what’s happened this season?

TRELIVING: You could probably use a bunch of them. Certainly not what we anticipated.

Lots of disappointment. I’m not going to start doing autopsies yet, we have 30 per cent of our season left. But certainly from where we sit today and our expectation, certainly very, very disappointing. Not where we anticipated we’d be.

SN: Can you talk about your approach to next week’s trade deadline?

TRELIVING: I’m not a big deadline guy. I think you do a lot of building of your team in the summer. There’s certainly times you look to add people and we have. We’re approaching the deadline here that it’s another opportunity to improve your team.

Having said that, as we sit here today we’re probably not going to be chasing rental players or expiring contracts or anything like that, but it still gives you an opportunity to improve your team.

SN: Do you expect it to be busy?

TRELIVING: I think there’s a lot of discussion now, but there’s a couple different layers here which leads me to believe the majority of transactions will be rental transactions where people aren’t taking on contracts for next year.

Certainly teams that are in a good position will try helping themselves, but I’ll think they’ll do it without taking on extra years on contracts or where they’ll create expansion issues. If there are hockey trades it has got to work for both teams where you satisfy expansion questions.

SN: Was Darryl Sutter hired with an eye on turning this season around or for the long term?

TRELIVING: Both. We signed Darryl beyond this year (two more years after this one), so it wasn’t just a 30-game hire. It was for today and tomorrow.

I felt we needed to make a change there. Our team was underperforming and we needed to address it and make a change.

SN: Does it bother you when your coach publicly calls out individual players?

TRELIVING: I think a lot gets blown out of proportion. Darryl is a very honest, straightforward guy. I don’t look at it like he’s calling people out. I don’t look at it like he’s saying, ‘This guy is no good.’ His style is, he’s asked a question about a player and he’ll give his honest opinion. Some of it you have to look at the motive behind it, to push people and motivate people. I don’t look at it as devaluing people or really as being derogatory towards a player.

Some of it gets blown up a little more. I know he made a comment about Johnny’s 500th game. I think his comment was. ‘Johnny didn’t have a lot of energy in Game 499.’ Is that calling a guy out? I think it got played up for two weeks. It makes for good headlines, but is that really calling a guy out? He’s saying he didn’t have a lot of energy, maybe because we’ve played a lot of games.

I think Johnny has been really good of late in terms of having a lot more juice to his game.

Listen, every coach uses all sorts of different tactics, but I don’t think he crosses the line in terms of going at people.

Sometime when he’s asked if a player was good tonight a lot of the time he’ll say, ‘He could be better.’ Everything that Darryl does is to try to push people towards maximum performance.

I don’t think he ever goes in there and turns it into a personal attack on a player. I just think some of it gets a little bit more play, and the story gets bigger than actually the comment was.

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