Calgary Flames Step Up, Snap Streak
By Josh Brewster, Buffalo Sports Page
A 2-0 shutout victory powered by a stellar 43-save effort by Mike Smith was not your run-of-the-mill Calgary Flames road victory. This one had teeth as the Flames defeated the Anaheim Ducks to overcome a 25-game road losing streak against a single opponent, the longest in NHL history.
For General Manager Brad Treliving this one was sweet relief as the Flames had not won at Honda Center since 2004! A playoff sweep last spring at the hands of their Pacific Division rival made the victory even more poignant.
With certain Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr grabbing headlines as he prepares to join his new teammates, the Flames’ homegrown identity came to the fore with a bunch of draftees stamping their mark on the franchise. Young forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan, Michael Ferland and defenseman T.J. Brodie represent a long line of smart picks over the past decade.
“It’s critical, I think, to win in this league you’ve got to draft, develop and grow your own,” Treliving told Buffalo Sports Page. “You look for many ways that you can add players, but in today’s world and in a salary cap system you have to draft and develop, and you have to rely heavily on homegrown talent and we still rely very heavily on a lot of young players.”
Monday night Monahan scored a power play goal off a Kris Versteeg offensive zone feed, while Backlund sniped a disk to the top corner past John Gibson to seal the deal.
While many clubs have leaned heavily on free agents and trades, Treliving and President Brian Burke (who built the Ducks into 2007 Cup champs) have played the long game. A tough division is getting tougher with the maturity of Calgary’s youngsters.
“They are now entering that time in their career (where they’re) not first- or second-year guys, they’re entering third, fourth, or fifth years of their careers,” says Treliving, “So we not only lean on them for production, but we lean on them for leadership, to start taking over the team in terms of the direction they want to go with us. So, we’re fortunate. We’ve got some real good young players, we’ve got some real good young people. And we’re going to lean on them heavily.”
One of the NHL’s smartest additions over the summer was that of longtime Arizona Coyote goaltender Mike Smith, who took over from Brian Elliott. Smith started strong, playing well despite a Connor McDavid hat trick in Calgary’s 3-0 loss at Edmonton. Over three games, Smith (2-1-0) has recorded 110 saves on 115 shots (.957SV%; 1.68GAA). It’s a major upgrade since Elliott fizzled in a Round 1 sweep last April.
“Mike’s a guy I know quite well from my time in Arizona,” said Treliving, who served as assistant GM under Don Maloney, who now works alongside him as a pro scout.
“Mike’s a big, athletic goaltender. In our time in Phoenix he’s moved on through a lot of turmoil there. We relied on Mike on a lot of nights to keep us in games, and he’s a real competitive individual. I think he’s really embracing this opportunity, it being a Canadian market and he’s excited about it. We’re excited to have him, we’re going to be needing him a lot this year.”
As for flash, it should be coming any day in the form of certain Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, who stands second all time in points (1711GP: 765-1149=1914) behind only Wayne Gretzky. Sure, he’s 45 years of age, but can still get to the right areas of the ice, as evidenced by his 16 goals and 40 assists on a poor Florida club last season.
“I know the story that follows,” smiles Treliving, “But really, we went and signed Jaromir because of the player. We think he can help us. It’s a little difficult for him right now, missing training camp and we’re trying to get him up to speed as quickly as possible but you can just see in the short time he’s been with us, his resume speaks for itself. He’s a big body, he’s still got the ability to make plays and from the top of the circles down he’s a big load to handle, so we’re hopeful we can get him up to speed here soon and we think he can help us.”