The best trade the Oilers never made

Feb 3, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) and his son Sergei with former defensemen PK Subban and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the 2023 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 3, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) and his son Sergei with former defensemen PK Subban and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the 2023 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

I don’t know about you, but the Calgary Flames make me laugh these days.  A lot.  Like a lot, a lot.

They’re like a soap opera mixed with a sitcom and have turned themselves into one of the laughingstocks of the league in short order. If it weren’t for Vancouver, Toronto, and Arizona they’d probably be the biggest laughingstocks of the league.

I recently watched a very enlightening YouTube video of Flames podcasters, and the content is truly hilarious.

After watching this video we can now point the finger squarely at the four old rich white guys who own the Flames, for they are proving themselves incredibly inept as NHL owners and will go down as dubious legends of terrible owners, just like Harold Ballard and Bill Wirtz did years ago, or Eugene Melnyk was in more modern times.

Days of the Flames

Let’s go through all the players and the comedy of errors they’ve made, and we’ll start with ownership. Per the video I’ve linked to, ownership has proven themselves to be very tone-deaf in determining the state of their franchise as they have completely ruled out a rebuild. Why? Your team has shown it’s very much crying out for a rebuild – it’s in dire need of a new GM, head coach, and scouting staff, not to mention a few new players too.

All they have to do is look north to Edmonton as an example. Our rebuild sucked, but look at us now? We’re one of the best teams in the league and have been crowned as a Cup favourite by many. The Flames are nowhere near that status unless you count beer cups, then I agree they are a cup favourite.  🙂

You’d think they’d want to learn from our example and put the team in a place where they’d earn a lot more in playoff gate receipts, but apparently, the Flames owners are content simply to count the money and keep icing a subpar to the mediocre team every year that has no chance whatsoever at any real – or even sustained – success from year to year.

Buckle up and embrace failure, Flames fans, because you’re in for a lot of it until your owners either a) wise up b) die or c) sell the team. If I were one of you I’d put my money on B, that’s probably the option that’s going to happen first.

There’s also the fact that they can’t even get a new arena built in their city, and have ignored all the recent precedence of US cities no longer wanting to foot the bill for new stadiums, which is what they always held over the heads of local governments in Canadian cities along with the threat of moving to the US city du jour.

Then there’s the fact that they actually wanted to extend Treliving’s contract past this season, but he refused because there was too much friction between him and Sutter. What kind of oblivious crackheads that own a hockey would want to keep a GM whose best results in almost 10 years at the helm were a couple of appearances in the second round of the playoffs? Wouldn’t it make more sense to shoot for a Stanley Cup and get a GM who is actually capable of getting you there? Maybe Flames ownership forgot their Metamucil and adult diapers one day or something because this was the worst possible move you could’ve made. Incredibly tone deaf.

It appears Treliving’s voluntary leaving will force the Flames in a new direction in spite of themselves, rather than realizing it’s the right thing to do.

Speaking of Treliving, let’s talk about him. First of all, when he “mutually agreed to part ways” with the organization, that’s code for him seeing the writing on the wall and leaving before they could fire him. The video I linked to above paints Treliving as a “nice guy” but being a nice guy doesn’t make you a good GM, and Treliving’s fingerprints of failure are all over this roster.

Clearly, the Oilers beat you in the Lucic-Neal trade, as Lucic’s contract will be mercifully coming to an end this season. Yeah, James Neal was a failure after the first year, but at least his contract wasn’t buyout proof. Lucic’s contract was mostly composed of a signing bonus – take a look at the breakdown here. Seriously, I’m not making this up – in the first two seasons, 67% of the cap hit was a signing bonus. You can’t buy out a signing bonus.

Aside – As an Oilers fan I will be forever grateful to the Flames for gifting us the exodus of Lucic from the Oilers roster, but from a purely transactional standpoint Treliving needs to own a bad decision here.

There is also the questionable decision to sign Blake Coleman to a cap hit of almost $5 million a year. What were you thinking, Treliving? Yes, the guy was a solid bottom-six forward on a cup-winning team, so you took a flyer on him thinking he might be ready for a promotion to the top six. I get the logic, but in that case, why not pay the guy $2-3 million in base salary and then make the rest performance bonuses, with bonuses for things like scoring 20 goals or posting 50 points, something like that? But instead, you chose to give almost $5 million to a player who was unproven as a top-six forward.

Why? It makes no sense. Needless to say, he’s the poster boy for the entire roster underachieving. I mean, Kailer Yamamoto and Evander Kane were the only two top-six forwards for the Oilers who didn’t have 80+ points, and they both went through multiple injuries this season. And yet, a healthy Coleman only produced at a modest 0.46 PPG pace, which shouldn’t be good enough to be in the top six but it is in Calgary. Kane produced 0.68 PPG this season and his wrist got sliced open. Yamo was only .03 PPG off your pace at 0.43 and he’s struggled with injuries as the weak spot in the top six. Coleman should be able to produce more than that as a healthy top-six forward, but he didn’t. Treliving signed him to that contract.

And then there’s Jacob Markstrom, an even bigger boat anchor contract, and one that Ken Holland wisely balked at because of you and your overpayment for his services. How did you not look up his career stats before signing him to a ridiculous contract? He has been and always will be, an average goaltender. He had one good year last season, which was obviously a fluke (unless you count the seven games he played for Florida in 2011-12) and then predictably fell to earth this season. Enjoy paying an average goalie elite money for another three seasons after this one. I know it’s free agency, but that’s just ridiculous. That was your contract too, Brad. Own your failure.

And then there’s the scouting. Your scouting has been very bad – a problem that, to be fair, long predates Treliving as GM, but a problem that still exists nonetheless. How do you not take a look at your division rivals and realize that the Oilers and Kings have almost as many of their homegrown draft picks at forward alone as you do on your entire roster? How are you satisfied with that drafting record? You had almost a decade to clean house of the scouting staff and you didn’t. Why not? The Oilers did, and look where they are now. They may have lucked into Mcdavid and Draisaitl but there’s more than that on the Oilers in terms of homegrown organizational talent. In fact, our rookie goaltender has been spanking your veteran goaltender all season. If that doesn’t alarm you I don’t know what will.

And yet never a peep from you on this – you had ample time to tear down and rebuild your scouting staff but you never did. That is a failure you must own now.

And your backup is no prize pick either – he was almost as bad as Markstrom, and you went and gave him a raise for the next two seasons – why? What has his play done to merit that raise? Now all you’ll be doing for the next two seasons is paying over $8 million a year for two mediocre goaltenders. You better hope Dustin Wolf makes the team next season so you have an excuse to put Vladar on waivers and staple Markstrom to the bench more often than not, otherwise there is literally no hope that your goaltending will improve.

I’m starting to think that the threat of players leaving suckers you into signing them to inflated contracts out of fear. That’s a really bad way to run a team.

And that brings us to Darry Sutter, the dinosaur with human skin you’re currently employing as your head coach. The funniest part of your misery is the ineptitude surrounding Darryl Sutter. He never changed his strategy all season despite it clearly not working. Multiple players have said behind closed doors they will ask for trades if you’re still the coach next season. Mikael Backlund, whose contract ends after next season, already did.

Then, after a season in which you coached the Flames to a sideshow in the league, you had the gall to say that you don’t want to coach anymore and that you want a promotion to GM. But what has Sutter done to deserve a promotion? His first stint as your GM didn’t result in a Cup or any sort of meaningful result, and he’s the same guy who just coached this team out of the playoffs and pissed off a lot of players in the process, so why would you give that guy a promotion?

With all of this bad press and rumours of dressing room mal-contentment around so many players, why would ownership even keep you on staff? Oh right, because they suck and are meddlesome, stupid question. Apparently “he still has $8 million left on his contract” so ownership is once again meddling where they shouldn’t.

The guy should be fired, or at the very least given new responsibilities as an “advisor” or some such title, but there’s no sense of responsibility in Flames ownership so they probably won’t do it and won’t allow interim GM Don Maloney or whoever the new GM is to fire Sutter, despite the fact it’s what the ranks of the coaching staff sorely needs. Money shouldn’t determine who coaches your team, results should. If a coach isn’t working out, bite the bullet and walk away, it’s that simple.

Sutter is the only hard-nosed dinosaur coach left in the game – there’s a reason Mike Keenan and Mike Babcock can’t get NHL jobs anymore and there’s a reason why John Tortorella obviously took anger management and PR classes. The time for hard-nosed coaches is over, the players simply don’t respond anymore and will just quit on him if they get too ticked off. Rumours in the posted YouTube video are that Sutter also has a bad habit of going above Treliving’s head to get what he wants. No wonder Treliving wouldn’t sign an extension, I’d bet ownership probably wouldn’t let him fire Sutter.

And then there’s the fact that he refuses to play the young guys the way they should be and favours veterans even when they don’t produce. That’s not how the modern NHL works. The Oilers had a coach like that in Dave Tippett and we fired him, and look at how the Oilers have been doing under Jay Woodcroft ever since. We’re still playing and you’re not.

A good NHL team would realize the expiration date of their coach has been reached and fire him, but of course, the Flames are not a good NHL team and are only in existence to line the pockets of the owners.

If I were a Flames fan my money would be on the GM search being a charade and Sutter or Craig Conroy will become the next Flames GM because ownership is cozy with them. But that’s just me.

And then there are the players, who look right on the cusp of quitting on Sutter to get him fired or sitting out the season. Huberdeau and Weegar signed big money extensions, and both look right on the edge of asking for a trade out. Kadri has been the most vocal about Sutter’s coaching so I would expect he’ll ask for a trade in short order too unless Sutter is fired.

Expect the team to quit on Sutter if he’s still the coach next season, which at this point it looks like he will be because he sucks up to ownership.

This is quite the soap opera going down south.

Epilogue – As an Oilers fan I say keep sucking Calgary, you’re providing me with endless bonus material for my blog and for a properly run team in Edmonton to run roughshod over you for the next few seasons at least.  Keep it up.  🙂