In one sense, it seems like ages ago president of hockey operations Brian Burke tabbed Brad Treliving as the next general manager of the Calgary Flames.
In another, it feels like only yesterday for the now not-so-newcomer.
“It’s doesn’t feel like it’s been 16 months or whatever it’s been but we’re excited to get the season started,” Treliving told CalgaryFlames.com. “It was a long summer in terms of planning and those things and now it’s time to start playing games for real.”
Treliving’s first season at the helm of the Flames was nothing short of a surprising success.
Calgary posted a 20-point increase year-over-year in total points, the highest in the Western Conference and third-best league-wide. A 45-30-7 record vaulted the Flames into third in the Pacific Division and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009. A first round win against the Vancouver Canucks gave Calgary their first playoff series victory since 2004.
And the expectations don’t diminish in Treliving’s second year.
With a deeper hockey club, the bar has been raised for 2015-16.
“Our motto around here is to get better every day and I think we’ve slowly picking away at that. I think we’ve improved our team,” he said. “One of the ways we wanted to improve was to create depth at each position and I think we see that. That’s how a team grows. Create depth, create that internal competition, know that you’re going to have injuries, know that you’re going to go through some tough times and if you can have some depth throughout your organization it gives you a better chance at success and I think we’re starting to see that.”
CalgaryFlames.com had the opportunity to sit down with Treliving and discuss his thoughts on training camp, the heightened expectations on his club, and what’s to come for the 2015-16 season:
CF.com: What Flames prospects have impressed you in training camp?
BT: It’s been a good camp in the sense that there’s not a lot of disappointments. As you move on in camp and decisions become more difficult -- if you think, 'We’ve got two chairs and four names,' that’s good. Going back to rookie camp with the young prospects, I think they’ve all shown well. The group of draftees from this year; Karnaukhov, Mangiapane, obviously the two defenceman -- Andersson and Kylington -- and even Riley Bruce came in and played well. I thought it was a really good showing by first year guys. It was their first camps and they’re 18-year-old kids. Then you get into the group that’s been here before. I think there’s been a step and a progression in most, if not all of them. You look at a guy like Kulak, he’s come in and been impressive. Even a guy like Klimchuk has looked good. Hathaway and Wotherspoon … Lots of good stories.
CF.com: What veterans have surprised you in training camp?
BT: I wouldn’t say surprised. You’re always hopeful that they come in and are ready. I don’t worry about our veteran players too much in that they’re always prepared. Our fitness testing and levels were exceptional. I think in terms of just this camp, Matt Stajan is a guy that has really been good. He’s been a leader, as he always is. You can even see it, I think he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. He’s moving better. There is a real assertiveness and seriousness about his game right now. There’s been a lot of guys that have played well but Matt just jumps out for me. He’s made sure he has come in physically and mentally prepared and it’s showing.
CF.com: How do you view the competition in training camp with the limited number of roster spots available?
BT: People always say, ‘Do you have too many forwards?' I don’t think you can ever have too many good players. I don’t think you can ever have too many of a good thing. We have more players that can play here than we have spots available. What that does is it creates competition and I think smart players and even veteran players recognize the situation. There’s young players that have taken a step. You look at our centre ice position, depending on how you cut it, there’s seven or eight guys there that can play in the middle.
CF.com: How do you manage getting down to the 23-man roster with all the competition at training camp?
BT: It’s just sort of a process, you let it play out. I remember last year we made some decisions and people are always focused on the opening day roster – that’s what you start with. Last year was a pretty good example of people that were’t here on opening day that played significant roles. We play 82 games and we’re going to need more than 20 players for those 82 games. We’ll start a certain way but there’s going to be players that aren’t here on opening night that will play a significant role. We’ve got difficult decisions ahead but that certainly beats the alternative of not having difficult decisions. This is a good thing.
CF.com: How do you manage expectations moving into the season?
BT: We have high expectations of how we want to play and how we expect to play. The work that we expect to put in. We know how hard it is. We know how hard it is. The group that went through, we talked about how the commitment it takes to have success in the league. We don’t spend a whole lot of time worried about what is said outside of our room. We expect a lot of ourselves, we expect a lot from each other. The internal expectations will always far out-weigh anything outside of our room. We know how hard the league is, we want to be a playoff team and we have to earn our way to that. We’ll get our numbers to a point where we get our group to start that next week.
CF.com: How have expectations changed from a year ago?
BT: From our perspective, we know each other a little more. We’re a year older, a year wiser. I know it probably doesn’t sound believable but we had an expectation with the group that we wanted to be a playoff team last year at this time. We’re a year older. Our young players are a year older, wiser, stronger. We’ve added some new players. I think our team is one more year down the development path but we’ll always have high expectations. For me, I know this team better. Last year was just an outside view. Until you’re around them every day and see them play. I feel a lot more comfortable about not only the players but the people we have.
CF.com: You must feel pretty comfortable with the options Bob Hartley has to deploy for 3-on-3 overtime?
BT: We talked a lot about it when the rule came in. We talked a lot about personnel. We’ve had two of them now but they haven’t gone very long – a minute of two, I guess. I think we’ve got options. What I think is unique is we’ve got a lot of defenceman that can play in it and I’m not sure how many defenceman league-wide can play but we’ve got the Giordano’s, the Russell’s, the Brodie’s, the Hamilton’s, the Wideman’s. There’s players that are built for it. And then you get into the forward group. The coaches will come up with a strategy and some groupings of players but I think we’ve got some options to play with.