It’s that time of year again. Calgary enters the 2019 Christmas break well behind pace from one year ago, but we’ve seen signs of improvement over the last month. With Christmas upon us, general manager Brad Treliving leads the list of Flames names on Santa’a list of goodies.

Brad Treliving: more trading luck

Since taking over in the summer of 2014, the general manager has proven he’s not afraid to make big moves. That hasn’t changed in recent months, but unfortunately, the calendar year of 2019 hasn’t been kind to Treliving in the trade department. On at least two occasions, matters out of Treliving’s control have thwarted efforts of completing an impactful trade.

Calgary had a deal agreed upon in principle with the Minnesota Wild just ahead of February’s trade deadline that would have seen them acquire Jason Zucker. However, things got tied up after Treliving signed off on a deal that reportedly would have sent Michael Frolik and a first round pick to Minnesota. In doing some digging on both sides, my understanding is things bogged down once Treliving sent the deal up the food chain. I’m not sure if it was a money issue, an issue with giving up a first rounder, or something else, but it truly was out of his hands.

Treliving ran into bad luck again a few months later. The Flames reportedly had a summer deal in place to acquire Nazem Kadri and Connor Brown from Toronto in exchange for TJ Brodie and Mark Jankowski. This time the other side of the trade prevented it from coming to fruition. As part of a contract clause, Calgary was on Kadri’s list of teams he wouldn’t accept a trade. Despite a concerted Flames effort to convince him to change course, Kadri exercised his right to block and ended up in Colorado shortly thereafter.

All of this is to say Treliving is due for something to go his way on the trade front. No one would be surprised if Calgary aggressively looked to improve prior to the deadline. If/when Treliving goes down that road, it would be nice if forces didn’t conspire against him to prevent something big from happening.

Dillon Dube: a permanent home in Calgary

I know the offence has dried up a little bit in recent games, and I also know he was healthy scratched Sunday night in Dallas, but Dillon Dube still very much belongs in the NHL. Sending the second-year pro back to AHL Stockton is an “easy” move to make because he’s not waiver eligible, but it doesn’t mean it’s the right decision. Through 16 games with the Flames, Dube remains one of the team’s most productive players at five-on-five. Scoring rates courtesy Natural Stat Trick.

G/60 Rank A/60 Rank P/60 Rank
0.95 1st 0.95 4th 1.91 1st

Since joining the team in mid-November, Dube has added some needed pace to Calgary’s lineup and has looked comfortable primarily on a line with Derek Ryan and Milan Lucic. While the Flames have plenty of other bottom six forward options, it doesn’t mean they bring more to the table than Dube does.

Mikael Backlund: a new scope

Backlund snapped an 18-game goalless drought Sunday, but it has still been a miserable offensive season for Calgary’s longest serving forward. Backlund enters the Christmas break with four goals and 16 points in 39 games, which has him on pace for 33 points over 82 games. That would be Backlund’s lowest full-season total since his first full NHL campaign in 2010-11.

While Backlund has had his struggles, he’s also getting absolutely no help from the percentages. Prior to this season, Backlund’s career shooting percentage was 9.1%, which has been sustained over a decade, despite being higher than league average. This season, Backlund’s number is down to 5.3%, which is a significant drop.

Backlund is actually generating individual shot attempts and high danger chances at or above career average levels, especially at even strength. Right now, the puck isn’t going in for him. Backlund’s five-on-five shooting percentage is a career-worst 1.8%, which is hard to wrap your head around. We’ll ask Santa for a newly calibrated scope this year.

Rasmus Andersson: a new contract ASAP

This wish is for the Flames as a team, because the more Andersson plays, the higher his price tag is going to be. As a pending RFA, signing Andersson sooner rather than later is the best case scenario for Calgary, but doesn’t necessarily best fit the needs on the other side. Realism matters a little less here, though; it’s a Christmas wishlist, after all.

Barring injury, Andersson will almost certainly set new career-high offensive numbers across the board. More impressive, though, is how much growth we’ve seen from the former second round pick. Andersson leads all Flames’ d-men in possession and is averaging 19:18 of ice time per game. He already looks like a bona fide top four blueliner, and at 23, it looks like Andersson is only starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible.

Geoff Ward: lose the “interim” tag

It’s too early to suggest Calgary needs to make Ward their full-time had coach based on merit. After all, Monday’s 3-0 loss in Minnesota was just Ward’s 11th official game as an NHL bench boss with a team still figuring out what they are. A good second half of the season and a respectable playoff showing would be the tangible ways of making the above headline a reality for Ward.

It’s Christmas time, though, so we can be a little sentimental. Ward is a friendly person to deal with and he’s engaging to listen to in the media. Furthermore, Ward took over during perhaps the most tumultuous week in team history and did a great job keeping things positive and focused on hockey. Ward has done a great job so far and it would be a nice story to see him keep this gig beyond this season.

Mark Jankowski: a goal

This one is rather straightforward. Jankowski has played 32 games this season and is still looking for his first goal; he’s recorded just one assist during that time. This awful run is hard to wrap your head around, considering Jankowski started his NHL career scoring 17 and 14 goals in his first two seasons. He has to breakthrough at some point this season, right?

We’ll send a little Christmas mojo his way to help make sure the answer to that question is yes.