The Sudden Importance of Craig Conroy

Kent Wilson
September 23 2010 10:45AM

DALLAS - NOVEMBER 04:  Center Craig Conroy #24 of the Calgary Flames at American Airlines Center on November 4, 2009 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

 

A few weeks ago, word was that Daymond Langkow was nearing 100% and may be able to return to duty a lot sooner than expected. Cap problems bloomed in light of the news, but the Flames center depth wasn't in question. Fast forward to this past Wednesday morning and the situation has reverse itself: Langkow is out indefinitely, Stajan is down for the count and 'tweener Ryan Stone hasn't even skated yet. Calgary's cap problems have noticeably receded into the background, giving the stage to their sudden dearth of centermen.

And the spotlight might ultimately fall on the elder statesmen of the club, one Craig Conroy. There was consternation in some quarters when the old man was re-signed, but there's no question now that his importance has increased exponentially in the last week or so.

Here is the Flames current depth chart, sans the injured fellows:

Tanguay - Joinen - Iginla

Hagman - Conroy - Bourque

Glencross - Moss(?) - Kotalik

Ivanans - Backlund - Jackman

Brett Sutter

Mitch Wahl (?)

Of that group, you have precisely one center who has successfully and routinely faced other top lines at the NHL level and managed to keep his head above water: Craig Conroy. Olli Jokinen is obviously the more dangerous player (at both ends of the rink), but the club suffered through an object lesson the last time he was in town; the take-away being "keep Olli away from the big boys". David Moss is a good third line player and he may make a good third line center, but I wouldn't hand him more responsibility than that. Mikael Backlund - now penciled into the "second line" spot according to the coach - has raw skills and may be able to do some damage at the good end of the rink, but isn't anywhere near the complete player he'd have to be to do the heavy lifting.

So in all probability, the Flames will enter the season featuring three centers they have to shelter to one degree or another. I was fairly sure Conroy was going to get a lot of lousy circumstances even with Langkow and Stajan in the line-up: now I'm certain of it. This is often a conundrum faced by lower budget clubs in the league and they typically resort to something similar: burying one guy (or one line) as much as possible so as to give the rest of the team a better chance to score. In Nashville, it was David Legwand and Joel Ward who faced the big boys and started out in their own zone about 60% of the time last year. In Phoenix, future Selke candidate Martin Hanzal gets fed to the wolves.

So expect the affable one to start two out of every three shifts in his own zone and to be killing every other penalty. Expect his numbers to suffer as a result and for a portion of the fanbase to criticize both him and Sutter mercilessly. And expect his coaching staff and team mates to love him for it.

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Former Nations Overlord. Current FN contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 jess
September 23 2010, 11:08AM
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I hate to bring up "intangibles", but Conroy has the kind of presence that I would want in any locker room. Easy going, mature and steady guy.

Someone remind me why Steady Steve is on the Flames, again?

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#2 jp
September 23 2010, 11:23AM
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Conroy will be fed to the wolves. Do you think there will be a constant set of wingers who get fed along with him, or will they change it up?

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#4 propositionWes
September 23 2010, 11:48AM
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Based on some of the idiocy we see out of the press ( see the Matt Stajan article from a few days ago ) we can expect Conroy to be lambasted on a regular basis. Hopefully knowledgeable fans, non-msm media and coaching staff can push back a bit.

If you didn't catch it former Flame Nystrom spoke with Justin Bourne about some Flames issues...

http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Bourne-Blog-Chatting-with-Minnesota-s-Eric-Nyst?urn=nhl-271736

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#5 Bob Cobb
September 23 2010, 01:27PM
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@jess

Why is Steady Steve on the Flames? Well they say there is a sucker born every minute, apparently 2 in this case. Thank Sutter for taking him off our hands, and ask him if he wants Souray.

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#6 PrairieStew
September 23 2010, 03:39PM
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You are right in saying Conroy will get the tough assignments and I know he will do the best he can with what is at his disposal. My concern is whether he can still carry the mail physically. With these developments will they ask him to give 17-20 minutes per game of tough work ? I was hoping he'd be a 10 to 12 minute guy. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Here's hoping he can tutor young Sutter or Stone if he returns.

Bourque along side Connie in the tough situations gives one comfort, but this team needs Rene to score too - in fact I think we agree that given the same PP time and offensive situations as Iggy, Rene would likely lead the team in goals, and this might be the year to begin to make the transition to that.

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#7 jess
September 23 2010, 03:53PM
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Young Sutter is a good candidate to be handling the heavy lifting, I can see him being a sleeper like Frans Neilson (I believe is his name) over on the Islanders club, for the Flames at some point.

In the meantime, Conroy is their best bet with Langkow MIA for the time being. Doesn't really change given Stajan's absence, in my opinion. It wasn't like Stajan was going to lift anything even remotely heavy. As Haylay commented on her photo of Stajan at M&G, he bruises like a peach.

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#9 Bob
September 23 2010, 04:24PM
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As most likely know by now, Backlund is going to be given a chance as #2 Center for the next couple of preseason games. As Kent pointed out, Backlund may not be ready for that type of responsibility, but I can say as someone who watched him at the World Juniors and WHL in 2009...he's already come a long way. Whether it's far enough is something we'll find out pretty soon.

Before we start taking up our offensive and defensive positions on Connie, how about we just sit back and see what happens? Can he physically handle himself on the ice, preferably a little better than he did last year? Will he still be counted on for those crucial defensive zoen face-offs? Mayeb, maybe not. It's exhibition time right now...I'll watch and send a prayer of hope his way that his last season can be a good one. After all he's done for this team, it's fans and our community it's the least we can do for him.

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#10 Domebeers.com
September 23 2010, 04:52PM
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Because you know, at 500k, Conroy should be at least a point a game player.

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#11 marcus
September 23 2010, 05:29PM
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Oh god... here we go again with Conner... I bet he was to be one of the final cuts now with Lanks and Stag out for sure I'm gonna kick my dog. All hope for secondary scoring is now linked to Backlund.

If he fails and Conroy skates on the second line (for the sake of heavy lifting) we're screwed.

If the indefinite injury status on those two extends itself a TRADE is the only answer cause Connie's -50 aint gonna cut it.

Not to discount his integrity and character as a human being. I'd nominate Connie for Mayor and buy a $500 plate for his charity dinner however he get's a big fat 'MEH' for second line candidacy.

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#12 R O
September 23 2010, 06:38PM
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Why does Eric Duhatschek feel the need to post under the alias "Marcus"?

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#13 JF
September 23 2010, 07:46PM
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Stajan on the injury... http://www.fan960.com/ondemand/media.jsp?content=20100923_162812_4924

Nothing new here but from the depressed and defeated tone of his voice I'm guessing he's gonna be out for a long time.

Regarding the Center situation I imagine we'll go with Backlund as the 2nd line center for now. The upside is too high to not give it a real good look at least in the early going. Gotta at least give the kid a chance to show if he can play up to the level of his competition. Fortunately the first 4 games feature the Oilers x2, the Kings, and the Panthers with 3/4 being at home (and the away game being the against the Oilers)... Pretty good circumstances if you're gonna get a top six audition.

Glass half-full moment: At least the "How do we get under the Cap?" question has been answered in the short-term at least.

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#14 R O
September 23 2010, 08:27PM
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I don't know why it's necessary to "see what we have in Backlund".

The loudest voices on the matter never seem to talk about anything that actually happened last year. The worst offenders think he was actually good, of course they never talk about stuff that happened on the ice like "losing the puck on the boards near the faceoff dots" and "wasting promising rushes with muffin shots from just inside the blueline with minimal defending pressure".

It doesn't really matter if Backlund plays like crap or not. Though it's overwhelmingly likely that he's crap, unless you're from the "10% of the time, it works every time" school of thought).

No one seems to watch the ice game anyway, and a year from now we're still going to be talking about how we need to see what we have.

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#16 walkinvisible
September 23 2010, 09:03PM
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i can already hear daz making excuses that start with "well our top two centremen were on the shelf," if they don't start with "to be quite honest."

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#18 SmellOfVictory
September 23 2010, 10:56PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

That's a good question and, right now, I'm not so sure. The only guy I really trust to do that on the wing is Rene Bourque, but the club is going to want him to score as well.

If I had to bet, Bourque, Hagman and Conroy will be a line by the 2nd or 3rd game, but I wouldn't lay down a lot of money.

Is feeding Bourque to the wolves really an issue? The guy seems to be able to carry a line pretty nearly on his own, regardless of competition, and he could still put up respectable numbers doing so. Perhaps I'll catch some flak from the more knowledgeable folk around here for saying this, but he strikes me as more of a 'score similar amounts in all situations' kind of player than the kind of guy who would suddenly put up huge numbers if he was thrown out against terrible lines. He's good, but he doesn't have the elite shooting/passing ability to completely destroy against poor players, and from what I've seen it doesn't matter who he's playing against; the opposing players all have a ridiculously tough time defending against him in terms of moving the puck north.

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#19 Greg
September 23 2010, 11:17PM
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walkinvisible wrote:

i can already hear daz making excuses that start with "well our top two centremen were on the shelf," if they don't start with "to be quite honest."

Ugh, if we just miss the playoffs again and are fed a line like that as a reason to stay the course again for one more year... shudder...

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#20 R O
September 24 2010, 12:53AM
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Yes, let's yell at Sutter about betting and losing on a mediocre player like Stajan, and then turn around and in the same breath suggest that he fix the solution by betting big minutes on a mediocre player like Backlund.

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#23 R O
September 24 2010, 08:10AM
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@Kent

If one were to condemn Sutter in advance for using Stajan's injury as an excuse for failure, then one is implicitly acknowledging that signing Stajan was a loser move.

Of course the same one talks about Backlund like it's not perfectly obvious that Conroy is still better in every way. That would be the ultimate loser move, to play Backlund in a bigger role than Conroy. It's what an organization like Edmonton would do.

I'm sure you know who and what I'm talking about here.

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#25 Bob
September 24 2010, 08:46AM
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@ RO

I gotta know...are you the guy they based the character of Sheldon from on from The Big Bang Theory???

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#26 Arik
September 24 2010, 09:25AM
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@Bob

No- he was the inspiration for Chevy Chase's character in Community.

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#27 RossCreekNation
September 24 2010, 11:29AM
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Via Boomer...

Un-official #flames cuts: Nyren, Cameron, Bancks, Mcmillan, Carpentier, Chucko, Bouma, Watt, Wahl, Patterson, Meyers, Grantham, Breen

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#28 JF
September 24 2010, 12:15PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

Via Boomer...

Un-official #flames cuts: Nyren, Cameron, Bancks, Mcmillan, Carpentier, Chucko, Bouma, Watt, Wahl, Patterson, Meyers, Grantham, Breen

No surprises. Wonder why Nemisz is still around? He was pretty lackluster in the Prospects tourney and in the 1st preseason game. Need an extra winger to take part in drills?

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#29 Greg
September 24 2010, 12:23PM
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Chucko FAIL

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#30 RossCreekNation
September 24 2010, 12:33PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

Via Boomer...

Un-official #flames cuts: Nyren, Cameron, Bancks, Mcmillan, Carpentier, Chucko, Bouma, Watt, Wahl, Patterson, Meyers, Grantham, Breen

OFFICIAL...

Assigned to Abbotsford (14):
Carter Bancks (LW)
Chris Breen (LD)
Lance Bouma (LW)
Bryan Cameron (RW)
Hugo Carpentier (C)
Kris Chucko (RW)
Ryley Grantham (LW)
J.P. Lamoureux (G)
Logan MacMillan (LW)
Josh Meyers (RD)
Giffen Nyren (LD)
Gaelan Patterson (C)
Mitch Wahl (C)
J.D. Watt (RW)

The Flames now have 38 players remaining at training camp: four goalies, 13 defensemen and 21 forwards.

http://flames.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=538522

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#31 dotfras
September 24 2010, 12:42PM
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I think a shutdown line made up of Bourque-Conroy-Glencross would fare decently against the other team's top guns.

That gives Backlund somewhat softer minutes on a third line with Hagman & Kotalsuck.

Moss can then center the goons on the 4th line and hey, they might even be able to accomplish something with Mosser there.

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#32 CalTach
September 24 2010, 06:54PM
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@dotfras

I think this is about right.

Although I would suggest that Hagman is more likely to be able to take on the tougher minutes with Bourque. I would also suggest a platooning of Conroy and Backlund between Bourque and Hagman might work best. Stick Backlund out for O-Zone draws or maybe when you are getting them out there with some softer comp and then put Conroy out for more D-Zone and tougher comp. Leave whicher one of them has some fresh legs to put on the fourth line

One point no one has made yet - how much more important is it that the first line now take on tough comp. I would suggest that it is now an absolute requirement. With Langkow and Stajan in the line up, you would at least have somewhere to hide them. Not so now.

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#33 SmellOfVictory
September 25 2010, 10:36AM
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@CalTach

And they will, and it may not be as terrifying as people think. They took on tough comp last year, and likely this year it will be similar, except potentially with more d-zone starts. If Tanguay's performance in camp is actual indication of how he'll be playing, they could end up being unterrible in their role. I think a lot of depends on whether Jarome gets his head together.

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#34 bill
September 27 2010, 09:47AM
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WHO CARES about the Flames. Let's look at the Oilers Depth. We got MPS, Eberle, Hall, Omark, Colin Fraser. The flames are done! I predict we beat them 8-1 on home opener night! It's pretty sad you guys need to rely on a 100 yearold Conroy again. Flames are done! Nice prospects by the way. Mitch Wahl. really? REALLY? He's so good you sent him down after he put up 2 points. This is why the Flames are stupid and done.

backlud= poor man's Hudler.

TJ Brodie? BAHAHAHAHA That guy can't even hold Gibby's jock strap.

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#35 PrairieStew
September 27 2010, 01:15PM
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@ Bill

Nice - stir it up on a thread that is already 2 days stale.

Anyway, in case you, or anyone else comes back here ; you Oiler fans certainly have alot of potential there. Kind of like 8 or so years ago with Michael Reisen, Michael henrich, Jani Rita, Tony Salmalenin, Alexei Mikhonov.

or further back with Jason Bonsignore, Steve Kelly, Nick Stadjuhar, and Joe Hulbig ?

Should I go on ?

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#36 PrairieStew
September 27 2010, 01:31PM
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Oh I can’t stop : Selmar Odelin, Scott Metcalfe, Kim Issel, Peter Soberlak, Francois Leroux, Jason Soules, Scott Allison ( heading up an outstanding 1990 draft for the Oil – not a single player EVER played a game in the NHL)

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#37 BILL
September 29 2010, 11:53AM
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LOL Umm what ever happend to the Swedish Wendle Clake Niklas Sunblad? Jesper Mattesson? Aren't you the same losers who passed on SHEA WEBER so you could take Tim Ramholt? SCORE!!! Oh can't forget Fata and Tazchuk. Nice work Calgary!

Flames are done. I'm stillw waiting for Chucko and Kobasew to pan out. Oh wait they are gone. Your team is a joke. Sutter will bring back Nolan and Frisen. Watch.

We have the TOP 3 Calder Candidates this year.

oh we also got 5 cups!

960 has to talk about TJ brodie beacause the rest of your prospects suck. I'm going to the game Sunday tow atch the Oilers win 9-1

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#38 PrairieStew
September 29 2010, 01:51PM
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@BILL

Excellent job Bill.

I'm sure that if Edmonton had picked 2 spots higher in 2003 they would have taken Weber instead of Colin McDonald !!

We are still waiting for Chucko too, but you missed some of our misses. Brent Krahn Oleg Saprykin, Chris Dingman, Kent Manderville, Kidd instead of Brodeur ( and trading up to do it !!!) C'mon do the research !!

Have a great season - I'm sure Rexall will sell alot of pimple cream to this edition of the Oilers !!

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#39 PrairieStew
September 29 2010, 02:03PM
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Oh and Bill - comparing Gibby to Brodie - not really fair to compare a 20 yr old first year pro to at 27 year old veteran - who by the way didn't play in the NHL regularly until he was 25, but by the end of this season Brodie may well outscore Gilbert who had a whopping 5 goals each of the past 2 years.

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#40 bill
October 04 2010, 03:57PM
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BAHAHAHAHA YOU GUYS GOT BRENDAN MORRISSON? Really? REALLY? What was Pat Peake or Pat Falloon busy?

SO your centers are Jokelson, Conroy, Morrison and Backlund ????

BAHAHAHAHA

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