Calgary Flames

Taking a look at Brad Treliving’s history of acquiring forwards

If you had the Calgary Flames landing Jonathan Huberdeau on your 2022 offseason bingo card, you’re lying. The absolute blockbuster deal that brought the Hart contender to Calgary was without a doubt the biggest trade in Treliving’s time in Calgary.

It was also one of the first deals that he’s managed to bring in an impact forward. Throughout his eight years with the team, Treliving has mostly tried and failed to address the Flames scoring needs through both free agency and trades.

Let’s take a deeper look at the Flames’ lack of scoring since Treliving was hired, as well as the moves he’s made to try to fix those issues.

An inconsistent history of scoring

To say the Flames have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions under Treliving would be an understatement. The team has experienced massive success and massive failure in the regular season, with no consistent pattern to speak of.

From the day he was hired the Flames had a clear scoring and depth issue, and just when you think the problem is fixed, it rears its ugly head again. Let’s take a look at where the Flames have ranked in some major scoring categories since Treliving was hired.

Numbers are courtesy of

SeasonGoals ForExpected Goals For

A couple obvious things of note come out of looking at these ranks. First of all, the 2018–19 season was about as clear of an outlier as you can imagine. The season in which the Flames finished second in goals for (GF) is bookended by four seasons in which they finished in the bottom half of the league for goals for.

However, they’ve become one of the better teams in expected goals for (xGF) over a sizeable stretch of seasons. The problem now is that the Flames have had major finishing problems for nearly five years now.

Secondly, the Flames went from experiencing incredible luck in 2014–15 and then in 2015–16 and 2016–17 to transitioning to having terrible luck beginning in 2017–18. The difference between their actual goals for and expected goals for since 2017–18 tells a very clear story.

This most recent season in 2021–22 along with 2018–19 are the only two years where the Flames’ actual scoring and expected scoring actually line up. Every other season is either filled with bad luck or really good luck. Not all of that is on Treliving, but he certainly deserves some of the blame for the teams poor finishing in recent seasons.

Free agent forward additions

Since the day he was hired, the Flames’ biggest need has always been top-six scoring help, and yet Treliving seemingly failed to address this need until this most recent season. Instead of pulling the trigger on a big move, he continually tried to find cheap short-term solutions. It seems that recently however he has finally learned from that.

Take a look at his free agent forward signings since he was hired in 2014.

2014Mason Raymond3$3.15MBought out
2015Michael Frolik5$4.3MTraded
2016Troy Brouwer4$4.5MBought out
2017Kris Versteeg1$1.7MRe-signed
2018Austin Czarnik2$1.25MNot re-signed
2018James Neal5$5.75MTraded
2019Tobias Rieder1$700KNot re-signed
2020Dominik Simon1$700KNot re-signed
2020Josh Leivo1$700KNot re-signed
2020Brett Ritchie1$700KFree agent
2021Brad Richardson1$800KWaived
2021Blake Coleman6$4.9MCurrent Flame
2021Trevor Lewis1$800KRe-signed
2022Kevin Rooney2$2.6MCurrent Flame

Treliving has made a big swing to bolster his forward group through free agency four times since he was hired in the form of Michael Frolik, Troy Brouwer, James Neal, and most recently Blake Coleman. Only Frolik turned out to be a good signing, with Coleman still too early to call but trending in the right direction. The rest of his signings are depth, patchwork deals.

Brouwer was doomed to fall short of his contract from the start and looked like a massive mistake right away. He was 31 years old at the time and coming off a 39-point season, which certainly didn’t warrant the contract Treliving gave him. As expected, he was a bust in Calgary and was bought out just two years into his contract after failing to crack 30 points in both seasons for the Flames.

James Neal was handed a massive contract after coming off a 25-goal season, as well as scoring at least 20 in every season of his career. Despite the high AAV and term, the deal looked like it would provide solid value for the first half. Perhaps he should’ve done some more background work on Neal’s character and fit in the locker room though. Neal didn’t click at all in Calgary and was reportedly not liked in the locker room. He would score just seven goals for the Flames and was traded one year into his deal.

Every other name on this list are just depth signings or Hail Marys in an attempt to find a cheap fix to the teams scoring troubles. Unsurprisingly none of them stuck around long-term in Calgary or provided much value.

With some extra room to work with now and some impact forwards still available on the market, perhaps he can still make a splash through free agency this offseason and land a forward who will help the Flames.

Forward additions through trades

So how about going the trade route to find some help at forward? Well Treliving has historically struggled at that too.

2014Brandon Bollig2014 third-round pickNot re-signed
2016Hunter ShinkarukMarkus GranlundTraded
2016Alex ChiassonPatrick SieloffNot re-signed
2017Curtis LazarJyrki Jokipakka, second-round pickNot re-signed
2018Elias Lindholm
(+Noah Hanifin)
Dougie Hamilton, Michael Ferland,
Adam Fox
Current Flame
2019Milan Lucic
(+ third-round pick)
James NealCurrent Flame
2021Tyler Pitlick2022 fourth-round pickTraded
2022Tyler Toffoli2022 first-round pick, 2024 fifth-round pick, Emil HeinemanCurrent Flame
2022Calle Jarnkrok2022 second-round pick, 2023 third-round pick, 2024 seventh-round pickNot re-signed
2022Ryan Carpenter2024 fifth-round pickNot re-signed
2022Jonathan Huberdeau (+MacKenzie Weegar,
Cole Schwindt, first-round pick
Matthew TkachukCurrent Flame

If you thought his free agent signings are bad, his trades are somehow even worse. Up until this past season’s acquisitions of Toffoli, Jarnkrok, Treliving hadn’t made a single meaningful midseason addition at forward during his tenure in Calgary. Trading for Toffoli was the first major move Treliving made to address the team’s need at right wing, coming eight years after he was hired.

The only other trades of note where he acquired legitimate help at forward was first the Elias Lindholm trade, which wasn’t a direct trade to add at forward but rather just a part of a larger deal to offload Dougie Hamilton. To his credit it has worked out incredibly well as Lindholm has developed into a bonafide first line centre in Calgary.

Most recently of course he made the blockbuster Jonathan Huberdeau trade which was in essence a swap with Matthew Tkachuk and a trade he was forced into making. He made out incredibly well in this deal, however it was more of a one for one swap at forward out of necessity rather than an addition to the forward group. We’ll see if Cole Schwindt can change that in the future though. Huberdeau of course is also an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in a year, so that’s something to keep a close eye on.

All of his other acquisitions are low-end, Hail Mary attempts at fixing the team’s forward issues, similar to most of his free agent signings. The amount of draft picks he has traded for replacement level bottom-six forwards hurts to look at as he’s used a ton of draft capital on players that had little to no impact in Calgary in the end.

A history of near misses

In what has no become synonymous with Treliving’s tenure in Calgary, the Flames seemingly always end up as the runners up to the biggest forward names on the market. The Flames are always right there as a potential landing spot for big names on the market, but never the team that actually closes the deal.

Treliving has a long history of missing out on star players, and one can’t help but wonder how the Flames fortunes would’ve been different in recent years if he had landed at least one of those names. There are two obvious names that jump to mind immediately for every Flames fan. Mark Stone and Jack Eichel.

In both cases the Flames were one of the finalists to land the player, and in both cases their divisional rival the Vegas Golden Knights swooped in at the last minute and stole the player from the Flames. It’s quite the rare feat that the exact same scenario can play out twice, just two years apart but Treliving somehow managed it.

Mark Stone

In Mark Stone’s case, he was available prior to the 2019 trade deadline and the Flames were immediately listed as on of the favourites to land him. With the team fighting first first in the Western Conference and missing a top line right win, the fit was perfect. Not to mention Mark’s brother Michael also played for the Flames.

We all know how the story goes. In the end the Flames were unwilling to part with Ottawa’s ask of Juuso Valimaki who was the team’s top prospect at the time, and the Senators shipped him off to Vegas instead. Given how the rest of the 2018–19 season went for the Flames and Valimaki’s current spot in the organization, not pulling the trigger on the Stone deal was quite the blunder.

Jack Eichel

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice… As if Flames fans hadn’t suffered enough false hope, they got to experience another massive let down just this past year. With superstar centre Jack Eichel on the market, the Flames were of course one of the front runners to land him.

Listed as a contender to get Eichel for months, the Flames came so close and finished as the runner up as they did with Stone but in the end just couldn’t get past the finish line. To make matters even worse, it was once again the Vegas Golden Knights who came in at the last second and stole Eichel right under their nose.

Nazem Kadri/Taylor Hall/Jason Zucker

It doesn’t end there though. Treliving has tried to and come extremely close in the past to also acquiring the likes of Nazem Kadri, Taylor Hall, and Jason Zucker. All three of these near misses came right around 2019 after Treliving missed out on Stone.

The Flames had a deal in place with the Maple Leafs back during the 2019 offseason to bring Kadri and Conner Brown to Calgary for Mark Jankowski and TJ Brodie. however Kadri used his no-trade clause to nix the deal hoping to force the Maple Leafs into keeping him. Given the fact Brodie ended up in Toronto for free just a year later, this one hurts. There’s still a chance Kadri ends up in Calgary after all though.

After swinging and missing on Stone at the 2019 deadline, the Flames had a deal in place to send Michael Frolik and a first-round pick to the Minnesota Wild for Zucker. However the trade call didn’t get through in time and the deal was called off as it wasn’t able to be processed before the deadline.

As for Hall, he was an upcoming UFA during the 2019–20 season and with the Devils looking to offload him for futures, the Flames were of course one of the frontrunners to land the hometown kid. In the end though, the Flames finished second in the sweepstakes as the Devils took a prospect-laden deal from the Coyotes instead.

It was reported later that year that the Flames offer was Noah Hanifin and Sam Bennett for Hall and Sami Vatanen. Given how important Hanifin is to the current roster and the fact Hall has since never reached his point-per-game heights again, maybe it’s a good thing Treliving finished second this time.

Trending in the right directon

There’s no doubt that Treliving has struggled to find the right solution to the Flames’ inconsistent scoring over the years, as he’s made a ton of moves that in the end just didn’t pan out. His focus on short-term patchwork solutions instead of bonafide top-six players has hurt the Flames for years.

That said, over the past year he’s finally shown signs of forgoing that strategy and targeting impact players like Toffoli instead. With the Flames still in need of another middle-six forward, here’s hoping he isn’t finished his road to redemption just yet.

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