The man who reeled ’em in stood proudly in the middle of the frame, looking not unlike a grinning Hemingway posing for photos on some dock flanked by a pair of prize-winning marlin landed off Bimini or Key West.
On either side of fishin’ magician Brad Treliving, two of the biggest catches of the summer: Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik.
They slipped on their new duds, Hamilton donning No. 27 and Frolik No. 67 (the Brian Burke-imposed mandate against double-digits higher than 40 apparently gone by the boards) to pose for the obligatory grip-’n’-grin photo ops.
The word “excited” was ladled out in generous portions.
“Today,” said Treliving, kicking off a 10 a.m. media availability, “we want to officially introduce both Dougie and Michael to Calgary, to you folks and to our fans.”
Two more reasons for the Calgary Flames’ faithful to at least dream of aiming for the stars.
Rather than reflect on a job well done, sit tight and monitor what was already an encouraging situation, Treliving and his organization refused to stand still, weren’t willing to be satisfied or stay status-quo. The proof was there, in the flesh, Friday.
In this business, it’s been proven, idlers get left behind.
“You’ve got to get better,” repeated the GM, “When you can add players like this … the exciting thing for me is not just they fit with the group and they address needs but they’re part of us going forward, too.
“I still think in Michael’s case, at 27, he’s just hitting the prime of his career. Dougie’s 22. He’s still a pup and has (already) accomplished a lot thus far.
“Not only do they come and make us better and make others around them better, they’re able to grow with us. We collectively need to get better.
“Look around the league. It hasn’t gotten any worse.”
The new recruits are, naturally, equally as pumped to be here.
“It is, for me a dream come true, to play for a Canadian team,’’ continued Hamilton. “A great organization like this. Right now, with the Canadian flag on my shoulder, it’s … exciting.
“New opportunity. New challenge. New part of my life. It’s a great place to play, with the crowd, with the city, with the team, the coaching staff, the organization. There’s no real flaws.”
“When I look at last year, it was pretty impressive what this team did,” echoed Frolik, who adds size, versatility and depth up front. “A really talented young team. Look at the first line” – Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau. “It was pretty amazing how they played. Really fun to watch.
“In the past, I’ve proved I can play different roles on the team. I don’t know what my role’s going to be but I’m ready for it. Like I did in the past, I can be in the first line, I can play the third line, PK, powerplay.
“It’s gonna be a new system, different adjustments but I’m very excited to work with the coach here. I talked to (Bob Hartley) and he’s going to give me a chance to play big minutes. He’s a hard coach but I’ve never had a problem with any coach.
“There’s a great future here.”
What has changed, exponentially, for this entire group is perception. The future has, over the course of a season, with one determined push into the post-season, fast-tracked into the present.
Expectation has replaced angst.
“With me and Dougie,” acknowledged Frolik, “I think that’s just going to be higher and higher. With what the guys did last year, the goal is for sure to make the playoffs.”
Hamilton doesn’t see increased projections as anything to be feared.
“I think I was used to that, being in Boston.”
The addition of Hamilton to a blueline already featuring Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell provides Calgary with one of the tip-top groups among the 30.
“You build your team from there,” said Treliving. “(As a group) it’s mobile, able to move pucks. I think there are different combinations. I look at the ability to play both sides, special teams.
“With Dougie, not only do you bring his skill set, 6-foot-5, skate, shot, what he can add to the group as a whole … I think there’s depth, there’s balance. It has the chance to be a really dynamic defensive corps but like anything else, we’re only in July, there’s a long time until we play a game and ultimately we have to go out there and do it. I like the character of the group. It gives the coaches a lot of options.
“There’s a lot to like about it.
“Looking good on paper is one thing, looking good on the ice is another.”
For Hamilton, this has the makings of a group to rival, or even surpass, the Beantown gang of a couple years ago: Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Torey Krug and Dennis Seidenberg.
“I think this is a really exciting corps,” Hamilton said. “Last year you could see how active they were, great skaters, great puck handlers. It’s a hard D corps to play against. I just want to fit in. I think my game kinda fits that style.”
We’ve only just inched past mid-July. There are still two full months to go until the 2015-2016 training camp opens. The impatience around town is palpable.
On Friday, Brad Treliving, fishin’ magician, only added to that sense of giddy restlessness, officially showing off two of the biggest catches of the summer.
“When you’re able to have some success, play longer, your program is exposed to more people,” he said. “Ultimately, players want to be in a good situation, they want to have a chance to win.
“In the playoffs, seeing the atmosphere in the building, seeing this city come alive, seeing the support and the passion that our fans have, makes players excited. So when you’re selling your program, it’s to receptive ears.
“It No. 1 starts with: We have a chance to win.
“That makes the pitch easier.”
When asked Friday why commit to signing here long-term, Hamilton blinked in surprise before uttering a bewildered: “Why, uh, not?”
Hmmmm, let’s see … A young base of talent that has just had its playoff whistle whetted. A Jack Adams-calibre coach overseeing matters from the bench. A fervent fan base. One of the most influential captains in the game keeping the ship on course in the room …
Why not, indeed.