Not one to obfuscate and quick with a quip, Brad Treliving parachuted into Toronto on Thursday for his first appearance as general manager of the Maple Leafs. He noticed right away that he wasn’t in Calgary – the gathering in the media lounge at Scotiabank Arena nearly spilled out the door.
With team president Brendan Shanahan beside him and wife, Julie, and daughters Ryann and Reese in the front row, he showed no nervousness and was anything but tight-lipped. It looked as though the moment was not too big for him – and that is important for a newly minted executive in a place that eats the weak.
Treliving spent the past nine years running the Flames with so-so results but came on as a fellow who will be very much in charge.
“There are a lot of priorities – contract issues to deal with, the coach’s situation, a draft to prepare for – and we will go pedal-down here real quickly,” Treliving said. “There is a lot to do and the clock is ticking.”
Barely had he taken a seat when he was asked about re-signing star centre Auston Matthews, whose contract can be extended on July 1.
“I’m glad we waited so long to get to that,” Treliving said wryly.
He has already communicated with Matthews via text messages and will soon travel to Arizona to meet him.
“We are not going to get into discourse about players’ contracts but getting to Auston is a priority,” Treliving said.
He will explore anything to make the team better – perhaps even trade someone within the core. Or not. Mitch Marner and William Nylander have no-movement clauses that go into effect on July 1, and John Tavares already has one.
“You can throw a body on the tarmac, but the question is are you getting any better,” Treliving said. “It’s not about the four, it is about the Toronto Maple Leafs. The success of this team isn’t built around one or four players. It’s about the group.”
He doesn’t know Sheldon Keefe but spoke with the current head coach briefly and is eager to sit down with him. He didn’t tip his hand over whether he will retain him or install someone of his choosing.
“It’s a unique situation,” Treliving said. “With an outside lens I look at Sheldon and see that the team had 115 and 111 points in the last two years and think he is a really good coach. I come in with no preconceived notions.”
Treliving will be restricted from participating in the draft later this month. The NHL made that a parameter of his hiring, because he just left Calgary and would have already had discussions about the draft with its management.
Teams he constructed reached the playoffs in five of nine years and never advanced beyond the second round. The Flames won the Pacific Division twice during his reign.
Shanahan has known Treliving for a long time.
“He is a smart hockey person and a good manager of people,” Shanahan said. “We are really excited to have him come here. We felt he would be an excellent fit for Toronto and will help us get to the next level.”
A half-hour before Treliving was introduced, Pittsburgh announced the recently deposed Kyle Dubas had been appointed its president of hockey operations. Dubas’s Maple Leafs teams did well during the regular season but won just one playoff round in five years.
Ultimately that wasn’t good enough.
“I know there has been heartache and frustration,” Treliving said. “My job is to put ourselves in position to keep knocking on the door.”
Treliving had kind words for Calgary and the Flames organization.
“We raised our kids there,” he said. “It was a special place and will always have a place in our heart.”
To some people, to manage the hockey team in Toronto looks like a dream and becomes a nightmare. The list of cadavers is too lengthy to go through – but there is always another waiting.
“We kept coming back to, ‘It’s the Leafs,’” Treliving said of his family’s move east. “It means something. I’m excited but I know it’s a great responsibility.
“You don’t manage from an office in a building any more. You go shoulder to shoulder.”
He is the 18th general manager in Maple Leafs history and will be greeted here by at least two friendly faces. T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano played under him for a number of years in Calgary. The latter is 39 and the oldest skater in the NHL.
“It’s good to see him still playing at 75,” Treliving joked.
He is comfortable in his own shoes.
Toronto Maple Leafs' president Brendan Shanahan says he's known new general manager Brad Treliving for a while from afar, and he's excited to have join the team. Treliving says he knows there has been heartache and frustration over the team's playoff performance.
The Canadian Press