On this week’s episode of 31 Thoughts the Podcast with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek, Friedman spoke about an unnamed GM on a team that underperformed about how to properly evaluate this season. Given the way that he spoke about his team, it is likely that this GM was Brad Treliving of the Calgary Flames. Here’s the quote
I was talking about [how to evaluate your team after this year] with another GM the other day, and… this was a team that kinda had a disappointing year, and what he said to me was we’re looking at how a player was doing before this year. Like for example, if this was a player who was trending upwards and they had a really bad year, what we’re discussing is ok, was this a bad year because he was on a downward trend or a bad year because this year was not conducive to having a good year. And he said there was one player in his organization… who was trending downwards and had a good year. And he said they were kinda looking at him in a new way because it would have been easy to continue to trend downward.Elliotte Friedman: 31 Thoughts the Podcast May 7, 2021
Given the way he spoke about this his team and their performances, it makes a lot of sense that this was GM Brad Treliving. Let’s break it down:
Players who underperformed this season
The GM in questioned mentioned that the way they were going to evaluate their players this year was to look at the trend from the last few years. If it was a player that had been trending up in past seasons but took a downward turn this season, they would look at whether the circumstances of the season were the reason for the downturn.
While NHL players are paid millions of dollars to perform on the ice, they do not live in isolation. Players have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic in the same way most of us have. From worries about getting sick, to their families and beyond, this pandemic has been a major weight on many, and could be the reason for poor performances on the ice. For this GM, understanding the role that the pandemic played on their players is a major factor in how you evaluate them.
In Calgary this season, a number of players had especially rough years. Rasmus Andersson and Matthew Tkachuk in particular are two players who went from having record years last season to chronically underperforming on the ice. Is now the time to try to get rid of them after one season? If this GM was Treliving, the answer is likely no. If the reason for their underperformance was the pandemic, then getting rid of them after a down year when their value is low does not make any sense. The view of this GM is very sensible.
One player who had a great year
Conversely, this GM noted that there was one player on his team that were trending downwards but actually improved quite substantially, and this change has forced the team to re-evaluate how they thought of that player. “We are looking at him in a new way because it would have been easy to continue to trend downwards,” said Friedman quoting the GM in question.
For the Flames, this could easily be Noah Hanifin, who was trending towards being an okay second pairing defenceman. Instead, he really elevated his game this season, despite the ongoing pandemic. It’s hard to take a step forward when you are in the toughest league in the world and in the midst of a global pandemic, but Hanifin did that this year. Whether this GM was Treliving or not, this is absolutely something any GM would admire.
What does this mean for the Flames?
This GM seemed to be cautious in how much he was taking away from this season, even though the team that he manages underperformed this season. The key here was to take things in perspective as part of a broader trend, with this year being more of an anomaly as opposed to a regularity.
If this GM is in fact Treliving, do not expect major wholesale changes to the team. The Flames have major questions to answer this off-season, but if this GM in question is Treliving, do not expect that they will blow it all up. This discussion just adds fuel to the speculation that the Flames are not going to rebuild this off-season. Both from a financial perspective as well as given the Flames have just brought in a Stanley Cup Winning Coach in Darryl Sutter with unfinished business, this path would not make sense. Expect the Flames to take their time in evaluating this season and their players in order to decide their next steps.
This off-season is probably going to be the most interesting to watch in a long time. The team is at a key point in their growth cycle, but have underperformed quite substantially this year. With what will likely be a very high draft pick as well as a number of holes to fill in the lineup, this is going to be a summer to watch for Flames fans.