UFA Profiles – Craig Conroy

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)


He’s one of the most popular Calgary Flames of all time, and for good reason, both on and off the ice.  For the second time, Craig Conroy will see a Flames contract expire; and for the second time, he’ll enter unrestricted free agency with his future with the team uncertain.  We’ll start our profiles on Calgary UFA’s with Conroy, who turns 39 in September.

We’ll do these over the next few days, going through Calgary’s free agent forwards, of which there are five.  We can skip profiling goaltender Vesa Toskala, as Kent did a great job of already putting a tidy bow on that chapter. Calgary has no free agent blueliners (aside from RFA Ian White, of course – ed.).

Conroy has parts of eight seasons under his belt with the Calgary Flames, being first acquired back in 2001 from the St. Louis Blues.  His first full season with the Flames was his best, putting up 75 points and helping linemate Jarome Iginla to his first 50 goal season.  He followed that up with 59 points the next year, and was a key contributor in Calgary’s run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004, posting 17 points in 26 games.  Following that year, he signed with the Los Angeles Kings before being re-aquired by Darryl Sutter in 2007.

His second stint in Calgary was less about stats, in my opinion, than it was about all round contributions, especially his last two seasons.  Conroy turned into one of Calgary’s more reliable players when it came to matching up with top forwards on the opposing team.  It showed in how he was utilized: two seasons ago, he started 52.2% of the time in the offensive zone, lowest among forwards on the team.  Last year, it was 49.1% of the time, fourth lowest on the team, and second lowest among forwards (Daymond Langkow was lowest).

In terms of driving the offence, his impact dropped between seasons…that shots directed on net ratio dropped from 15.87 to 2.45.  There are reasons that helped contribute to that beyond Craig’s control (zone start, utilization).  But it also comes down to the fact that Conroy isn’t going to affect the game as much as he once could.  His offensive numbers dropped, and in fact were his lowest full-season totals of his career.  I think it’s fair to say that on this Flames team, if Conroy were to come back, he’d be used in the same way he was this past season…as a third or fourth option at centre.

Yet, I’m not totally against re-signing him.  Conroy has come right out and said he’d take a pay cut to stay with the team; and it’s a no-brainer he’d sign a one year deal.  If the price is right (under a mil), I’d do it.  I say that because I believe this Flames team isn’t as far away as some others.  Conroy is the type of guy that can help you: good on the penalty kill and will not hurt you 5-on-5.  Having a reliable guy like that could be huge for this team, and if he doesn’t, than it’s not that hard to scratch a 39 year old guy making 900K.  But if he does, there’s some value in having him around.

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  • Balthazar

    I like Conroy.

    I also like to think the Flames have talent coming up that should displace him and benefit from time on the big club.

    THe question is whether the Flames will have the 900k to sign him for the very limited ice time he’ll draw. I expect not.

    • I also like to think the Flames have talent coming up that should displace him and benefit from time on the big club.

      I’d like to think that too, but I can’t think of anybody that you’d be comfortable with sending out against offensively strong players.

      In fact, I can only think of one other centre on the current Flames right now, and that’s Langkow, because Backlund and Stajan aren’t it.

  • Balthazar

    My guess is that Conny may come back for a little more than the league minimum or brought in, in a coaching job (maybe defensive forward, or faceoffs). I love the guy, met him a couple times, but i just dont know if the money is there.

  • Balthazar

    gotta love typos in a headline… 😉

    that crain guy, he’s okay. i think he’d make a better coach than a player, at this point. maybe an assistant GM. cause, let’s face it –darryl doesn’t really want a knowledgeable guy around to show him up, and craig would do a far better job of fan relations….

    at least he’d actually answer questions on the radio.

  • If Conroy’s problems (foot?) were temporary then it’s only a matter of fitness and motivation for him to be a good player for this team.

    I disagree that the Flames have better centres in the pipeline than Conroy. They don’t. If Conroy comes back and is relatively healthy (i.e. 08/09ish) then he is likely the second-best centre on this squad behind Langkow. At even strength, anyway.

    Cue some asshole coming in here talking about point totals now.

  • If Conroy’s problems (foot?) were temporary then it’s only a matter of fitness and motivation for him to be a good player for this team.

    I disagree that the Flames have better centres in the pipeline than Conroy. They don’t. If Conroy comes back and is relatively healthy (i.e. 08/09ish) then he is likely the second-best centre on this squad behind Langkow. At even strength, anyway.

    Anyways, I’m sure for every comment about how he helps the team win, there’ll be ten comments about his point totals. Carry on then.

    • To be fair, I think Conroy’s hands have abandoned him to a non-trivial degree. I don’t know the slope of the degradation, but even if his shooting/puck handling remains static, I think it significantly hinders his abilities in the offensive zone.

      That said, he’s a guy you could skate on the forth line and put out for every other defensive draw and not hurt you too much. There’s value there.

    • I believe that is accurate, in that Conroy battled a foot injury last year. He said at green garbage bag day that he’ll be fine to start the season though.

      Not only do the Flames not have better centres in the pipeline right now, they only have one better on the team…at least where things stand now. Who knows where Stajan and Backlund will be later on this season or in their careers. But as the season starts, even strength wise, I’m most comfortable with Conroy and Langkow.

        • He’s aggravating as hell, but he’s an exceptional hockey player.

          Besides, the Flames have employed the likes of Bryan Marchment and Todd Bertuzzi. We clearly aren’t against putting douchebags on the ice. At least this one would actually be a good player too.

          • dustin642

            Agree to disagree… 😉 But while (somewhat) on the subject of an aggravating player since we lost Prust we really do not have a player that can get under the other teams skin. Do you think Sutter will stick to his usual gameplan and hire a 500K knuckle chucker, or will he smarten up and go after a Burish, a Kaleta, or maybe even Prusty for the 3rd time?

          • That’s a good question. I wish I could say he won’t grab another enforcer since Brent refused to play McGrattan for the last quarter of the season, but that never seems to matter with Darryl. My hope is, he gets a functional goon this time. Zenon Konopka or Aaron Asham, for instance.

          • Couldn’t disagree more on Stajan. At least from the limited time he played last season. It was bad shift after bad shift; he looked lost playing in three quarters of the ice.

            Not to say he can’t be better…but I wouldn’t put him close to the “tough minutes” category yet.

          • Yeah, Stajan got eaten alive during this last month here. While anyone playing Iginla got killed (aside from Langkow), watching those two together to end the year was just flat out ugly. Heck, Sutter took them off tough minutes duty and they still got their butts kicked.

          • I wasn’t commenting on his defensive ability per se. It’s just that he was punching out of his weight class most of the time. Nystrom is considered good defensively, but he’d have his lunch handed to him if he was played against other teams best players a lot. Same thing.

            That’s Stajan’s problem. He can’t hang with the big boys and he certainly can’t try to carry a recalcitrant Iginla while doing so. I’m sure if he gets secondary ice with good players next season, he won’t look half as bad.

            EDIT – I see RO and I are on the same wavelength.

  • I like to pause and rewind my PVR when goals are scored and sadly Connie came up missing coverage assignments for far too many key goals against. He apologized for being responsible for a loss last year and that only happened as a result of being responsible too many times.

    In hockey there’s a term called ‘falling off the cliff’ and to avoid it, you need to stop in front of the net to increase scoring chances. He does this constantly in order to keep momentum as stopping and starting at 38 is difficult. the real detriment I have seen is he constantly falls out of coverage defensively because he tries to maintain momentum for transition instead of stopping with the offensive trailer stops before the cliff edge (goal line). He has fallen off too many defensive cliffs this year compared to years past and when he goes from +20 in 82 games to -6 I think he should be held accountable for more than simply a pay cut.

    Joe Sakic played his last season at 1million. If Conroy plays, he’s only qualifed at league minimum and hopefully his cliff jumping is only seen on the 4th line at 8 minutes a game. Even then we could use the energy of a Brett Sutter in that role with a two way contract more usefully.

    Nice guy but I don’t think fans want to hear anymore apologies. Let’s usher him into a player personnel, scouting role so we can all be happy for him.

  • Graham

    I think the call comes down to salary, salary ,
    salary. If you sign Conroy for one year at the NHL minimum and play him on the fourth line, he might be a viable option. Put Conroy to work mentoring Stajan and Backlund, and hope some of his work ethic and skill sets rub off…

  • dustin642

    Stajan is all finesse. Heck, he’s only finesse, and I think that’s his problem. I love his finesse, because it’s cool and it’s something that most Flames players don’t have, but it doesn’t help him in terms of defensive work at all (not that there’s no such thing as defensive finesse, just that he doesn’t have it, at least not yet).

    My goal to overuse a word tonight is complete. SoV out.

    While people crap all over Stajan all the time, something I have heard constantly, over and over, is that the defensive game is one of the more teachable aspects of hockey. If that is the case, then his potential is pretty good if he manages to pick that up in the next (relatively short) while.

  • Stajan’s problem (Iggy’s too) IMO was on offense, the play died on them all the time when crossing the blue line. They’d try to beat guys 1-on-1 or 1-on-2, Malkin-style, and it’s a surefire way of getting outchanced.

    The duo was ok-to-mediocre defensively, they didn’t dog it back on the backcheck and for the most part you could see them commit to breaking the cycle. Problem was they weren’t very good at breaking the cycle.

    Anyways. The offense was the bigger problem. Surprise surprise, it made them look like donkeys defensively – because they coughed up the puck going south all the time.

  • D C

    Bye bye Conroy! Mr. USELESS as my buddy Chris, calls him is for sure gone. You never know what D.S. will due ie. Amonte, Nolan, McCarty etc. Lets face the facts he’s 39, 3 goals and yah he tries really hard. That’s just not enough in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cony, but there has got to be a better player in the free agent market. Nobody likes change if it doesn’t feel right.

    • The only reason I want Conroy back is because he helps you now. And I believe this team is close to being pretty good now. I’m not hyping his offence, but you need a guy, especially at centre, who can play against top guys. Having one (Langkow) isn’t enough. If the Flames want, as they did last year, to shield the minutes the Stajan-Iginla combo got, they’re going to need other forwards to play tough minutes. Conroy is one of those guys.