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Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving speaks to media during fitness testing day for the NHL team held at WInsport on Thursday, September 12. Jim Wells/Postmedia
NHL standings before Wednesday, Feb. 19’s action. Via NHL.com.
Calgary Flames Mark Giordano during warm-up before facing the Montreal Canadiens during NHL hockey in Calgary on Thursday December 19, 2019. Al Charest / Postmedia
Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau lines up a shot on Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros during NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Saturday December 8, 2018. Gavin Young/Postmedia
In his half-dozen campaigns as general manager of the Calgary Flames, Brad Treliving has repeated countless times in the leadup to the NHL’s annual trade deadline that you “take your cue from your team.”
In fact, he said so again Wednesday.
In this case, he might be taking his cues from five.
The Pacific Division certainly won’t be confused for what soccer fans refer to as the Group of Death.
Thing is, though, there’s a really good chance that one of those so-so squads will be skating in the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring — and they must all, despite their warts, feel like they have a legitimate crack at it.
Why wouldn’t they?
When the sun came up on Wednesday morning, the top five outfits in the Pacific Division standings were separated by all of two points — the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights leading the way with 70 apiece, the Vancouver Canucks just one back at 69 and the Flames and Arizona Coyotes sitting in the wildcard spots with 68 each.
It doesn’t matter that 70 points would be good for seventh slot in the Metropolitan Division. That’s not how the NHL’s playoff format works.
So opportunity knocks. If you finish among the top three in the Pacific, you could play a full month of playoff hockey without running into any sort of juggernaut.
Monday’s trade deadline — the fax-machine will be switched off at 1 p.m. MT — is the last chance for Treliving and his counterparts to answer with a significant acquisition or a roster shakeup.
“We’ll do what we always do, which is try to be real aggressive in seeing what’s available, seeing what those prices are, seeing if it makes sense,” Treliving said Wednesday. “If it does and we can get something done that makes sense, we’ll certainly do it. If we can’t, then we won’t.
“If we’re waiting for the cavalry to arrive by Monday, well, that’s probably not going to be the case.”
Treliving has a reputation as a guy who calls about everybody.
It’s no secret the Flames would like to add another scoring threat, preferably on the right side, so you can bet he’ll inquire about New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, Florida’s Mike Hoffman and Vincent Trocheck and others. If it’s true that the Columbus Blue Jackets might listen to offers on Josh Anderson or that the Montreal Canadiens won’t hang up when Max Domi’s name is mentioned, he’ll also check those price tags.
With two of the Flames’ best blue-liners currently injured , Treliving will kick tires on depth defencemen, too. He’s probably looking in the bargain bin, but could perhaps try to pry local lad Matt Dumba — with three more seasons on his contract — out of Minnesota.
“There are some very good players (available) — you hear names all the time,” Treliving said. “The teams that have them know they’re really good players, and usually they’re not giving them away.”
Which is why Treliving must count mostly on the gents already on the Saddledome payroll to be the difference-makers.
“You’re always looking. The manager’s job is to help the team,” he said. “But I don’t see a lot outside that is going to come in and dramatically change everything. You’re not going to blow up your team and rebuild it at the trade deadline. Are there support pieces or other things? Sure. But ultimately, and this doesn’t just go for us, it goes for every team — the teams that are going to get in, the core people get you in. What we need, as everybody talks about, is we need our group to play to the level that we’re capable of. If our group plays to the level that we’re capable of on a consistent basis, and we’ve seen stretches, then we’re going to have as good a chance as anybody.
“Can you help that? If it makes sense at the right cost, we’re going to try our best. But ultimately, you can’t look for outside saviours, and I think our group understands that. We have some really good people here, really good players here. We need everybody to get to the level they’re capable of and if we have that, we’re going to give ourselves every chance to get in.”
This current cast of Flames has undoubtedly caused plenty of sleepless nights for Treliving, and that was even before two of their top defenders — Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic — landed on injured reserve. (The good news is that Giordano has skated the past couple of days after being off his blades for nearly two weeks.)
He must be worried about what he’s seen, or what he hasn’t seen, from Johnny Gaudreau, who has piled up eight assists in a six-game stretch but still doesn’t look nearly as dangerous as usual.
He must be somewhat nervous about David Rittich’s history as a guy who hasn’t been quite as sharp in the second half of his two previous seasons, especially since the go-to goaltender has already logged a career-high 43 starts.
He must be fretting about how the defensive depth will hold up until Giordano and Hamonic are ready to return.
When he is lying awake, however, the Flames’ general manager likely isn’t thinking there’s any Pacific Division posse that his team couldn’t beat in a seven-game series. (And that’s not an insult to the others — they probably feel the same way about the crew from Calgary.)
Moreover, Treliving’s trigger-finger must be itchy after some of the rivals have already made moves.
The Canucks jumped — and perhaps jump-started — the market with a Family Day swap for right-winger Tyler Toffoli, although they also revealed Brock Boeser could be shelved for the remainder of the season due to a rib cartilage injury.
The Golden Knights bolstered their back-end Wednesday with the addition of Alec Martinez, who like Toffoli won a pair of rings with the Los Angeles Kings.
The Oilers, who have both the best player in the world in the now-injured Connor McDavid AND the current Hart Trophy frontrunner in Leon Draisaitl, were reportedly hot n’ heavy on Blake Coleman before he was shipped from New Jersey to Tampa Bay.
And the Coyotes? Don’t forget they made the biggest trade of the season back in December, welcoming Taylor Hall to the desert.
Your move, Brad.
“I looked at something the other day — I think since Nov. 20, we had the eighth-best record in the league, second in the West,” Treliving said. “So as much as there has been a lot of talk about inconsistency, and there has been a lot of that, we’re still in a position where it’s right there for us.
“But you have to measure that with what really is available, what can make an impact, what does it do your team and what’s the cost of doing that? You keep making calls and you keep fielding calls and you keep seeing if there is a fit there to help you. But emptying the clip for something that may or may not have an impact on your team, certainly I don’t think that’s the plan that we want to undertake.”
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