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TRELIVING LOOKING AHEAD TO 2017-18

A day after the Flames' postseason run came to an end, Brad Treliving is preparing for next season

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

After finally getting home in the wee small hours of Thursday morning, sleep, understandably, was difficult in arriving for Brad Treliving.

So he trooped outside for a long, 3 a.m. walk with the family's golden retriever, Maddy, for company.

"It's true what they say about dogs being man's best friend,'' he reports.

"It was a three-beer walk. By that, I mean I took three beer with me and they were empty by the time I got back."

A playoff loss can do that a fella.

"It's still pretty raw,'' admits the Flames' general manager. "You go through all the stages. Denial. Grieving. The difficulty with the playoffs is it just … ends.

"Like running a 100-yard dash in an 80-yard gym.

"Suddenly, you just hit a wall."

Splat!

Shunted to the postseason sidelines in the minimum amount of games despite pushing the built-to-go-the-distance Anaheim Ducks to the limit in each of four outings, architect Treliving's next order of business is to take stock - step back, dispassionately, and assess what needs to be done.

"Today,'' he reports, "there was lots of mad. You need to work through that. Glen (Gulutzan) and I locked ourselves in a room and talked over everything.

"You lose and it's like a funeral, right? You cry, then you think of a few good stories and you laugh. Then you remember what's happened and you cry again and throw something at the wall."

There are number of issues to be addressed as the organization begins planning and plotting for September, with an eye to qualifying for the Elite 8 again and burrowing further into April, early May and hopefully further.

First and foremost, the future of the general manager, without a contract heading into the 2017-2018 campaign.

"Tomorrow,'' Treliving says, "is a players' day. Next week we'll think about my situation.

"Look, I love this team. And this sounds so goofy but I haven't really spent a whole lot of time thinking about me. Honestly.

"You're so invested in what's happening the last eight days. Until that thing" - Ryan Getzlaf's goal with 6.7 seconds left to seal the deal, and the series, for Anaheim - "went into the empty net, our focus was tying it up, winning the game, getting back on a plane and all that.

"There are two sides to this, we all get to talk and see where we go.

"It's like my taxes. I don't do my taxes until the day before I have to file them."

The Flames improved 17 points this season, returned to the playoffs for the second time over a three-springtime span, got their two keynote offensive players nailed down long-term and showed off an enviable collection of emerging young talent. 

"If you look at it, a lot of good has happened this season,'' Treliving points out. "I said it three years ago when I got here: You can make trades and signings to help, sure, but if you look at good teams, they get better from within.

"I thought we saw some real growth in that area. In a lot of cases - and it's real difficult to say when you're out in four games - but a lot of those people showed growth in these playoffs.

"I don't like to live in perception. I prefer to deal in reality. And the reality, as I see it, is this team is not far away.

"Having said that, you don't get back to the dance simply because you don't think you're that far away, just because the calendar turns over and everybody's a year older."

Friday, the players arrive back at the Scotiabank Saddledome for exit interviews. Honesty, welcome or otherwise, will be the order of the exercise.

"It's a brutal day,'' adjudges Treliving, "but really, really important. To get the right message to the players of the next three or four months being so critical in our continuing to improve.

"You have to get by the emotion, for each guy: What is the message? Because what they do in the summer is going a long way in setting up how this team will perform next year.

"That's what Glen and I did today.

"So, today was a s--y day, yeah. But it can't be a wasted day."

While progress has been made, upgrades are obviously essential.

"It's still early to make judgments but I'll never be convinced that the middle of the ice isn't where the championship teams are built. We're getting there by putting it on the backs of young guys in key roles."

One area already the topic of intense discussion is goaltending. Both puck-repellers brought in to plug the dike - Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson - are UFAs come July 1st. In the wake of a blazing run-in to post-season, Elliott faltered at incisive moments during the Anaheim disappointment.

"We can all talk about what happened over the last eight days,'' reminds Treliving, "but we aren't talking about a series against Anaheim in the first place if our goaltenders don't play they way they did at different times of the year.

"And the idea that we lost this series because of one player, well, that just isn't fair.

"Now we've just got to take a deep breath. You've got to get by the 'If we did this in Game 3 …' or 'If that happened in Game 4 …' thing.

"You take the body of work into perspective and get a little outside from our scouts who watch us on a regular basis.

"The encouraging thing for me, and I think for anybody who follows us, is that this team is close.

"Close to being a really, really competitive team on a regular basis."

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