April 29th, 2014 | Posted in Commentary
By: D'Arcy McGrath
A hockey fan in a Canadian city is around for the long haul.
They may threaten to give up their season tickets, they may tell everyone at the water cooler that they’re not tuning in next year, they may in the case of Edmontonians toss their jerseys on the ice in disgust and walk out.
But they haven’t. The won’t.
They just want hope, and a chance. The record on the ice, the placement in the standings, the banners in the rafters all matter, but when things aren’t going well, a rabid hockey fan just wants to know things will get better.
They want hope.
The Flames of late are doing a lot of the little things that fans want and desire to suggest better times are ahead.
When the team first starting missing the playoffs, back in the mid 1990s the financial situation of the Canadian dollar had a new heightened level of despair attached to being a Canadian hockey fan. You were bad, and even if you found good hockey players the team would be unlikely to keep them. It was hopeless.
The seasons preceding 2013-14 had a different kind of frustration. The team was bad, every fan knew it, but the team for whatever reason wouldn’t accept it. Management refused to jettison the veteran parts and rebuild when it was plain as sight to almost everyone outside of the group think that the Iginla era was over.
By hiring a sought after up and coming young hockey mind the Flames have added to a succession of moves that consistently suggest they now have it right. In Brad Treliving the Flames have a new voice from outside the organization to add to another veteran voice from outside the organization (Brian Burke) to steer what has quickly become an intriguing hockey team through its next steps.
The team is young, they have proven there is more in the prospect bin then many hockey experts have opined or as Treliving put it yesterday, “the cupboards aren’t bare but we have to add some more cans”, and the club has an identity that the city has embraced fully.
The Flames have never been in better hands.
When Craig Button was brought in as a young mind in 2000 they team didn’t have the support system, fan patience, nor economic climate to make things work. The internal power struggles that included favourite son Lanny MacDonald brought things to a screeching halt in just two and a half seasons.
Fresh minds, fresh ideas, talented and experienced hockey people.
They didn’t go out and hire a name …. a former GM like Dary Regier or recently let go George McPhee. They didn’t go down the path of the Oilers and now recently the Canucks by bringing back a former player to sell tickets and make the fan base happy. Calgary tried this once with Doug Risebrough, an era that saw the end of both Doug Gilmour and Joe Niewendyk’s time in Flames silks.
Going forward the Flames will have a war room full of sharp guys with strong opinions quarreling and cajoling each other into steering the franchise in the right direction. A hockey executive is a little bit like a commodity trader or a hitter in baseball; you’re not expected to get it right all the time – the aim is to get it right more often than not, and have the “right” ones be impact in developing a hockey team.
And when you have a concert of grey matter the chances of getting a “wrong” one really “wrong” is limited.
Heady times in Calgary for sure.
Welcome to the party Brad Treliving.