Of all the Flames players listed in this series, Craig Conroy will likely draw the most controversy. That’s because he might be one of the most under-appreciated Flames in recent memory.
During his time in Calgary, the Flames were always criticized as an organization unable to “find Jarome Iginla a center,” an insult to Conroy and symptom of how underrated he was. It’s true that Conroy was never a Stamkos, Getzlaf or Crosby during his heyday, but he nevertheless was one of the most effective two-way forwards this team has ever seen.
It’s just his bad luck that his career was ending just as the metrics that would more fully capture his on-ice value were coming into general use.
Which is to say, Conroy was a a tremendous possession player. Even at 36 years old, Conroy was a positive relative corsi player on a team featuring Iginla, Mike Cammalleri and Daymond Langkow.
That season (2008-09), he centered the best third line in the NHL featuring David Moss and Curtis Glencross on his wings. Which may sound like damming with faint praise, but the trio had similar possession rates to superstars like Pavel Datsyuk and Patrice Bergeron that season.
Conroy scored 46 points at even strength – the same as Patric Marleau and Nicklas Backstrom in 2008-09. That’s what kind of season Conroy had at 36 years old. That iteration of the Flames was the best possession roster the organization has put together in the modern era – having Conroy and company around to beat the tar out of other team’s support lines was a big reason why.
Because of his infectious smile and affable personality, Conroy was certainly a popular player in Calgary, but that often seemed to overshadow his effectiveness on the ice. Many fans probably don’t remember that Conroy was a Selke Trophy finalist twice and a Lady Byng finalist. He also played 1,000 NHL games and scored over 500 points. Not bad for a 6th round pick who didn’t make it to the show until 1997 – seven years after he was drafted.
There’s a lot to like about Conroy. His infectious enthusiasm, his rare candor with the media, his passion for the team and the city – but don’t forget the fact that he was also an excellent player and one of the key guys on the Flames during their most competitive period of the Iginla era (even with the brief stop over in LA).
- 8th most games played by a Flames forward (507)
- 12th most points by a Flames forward (308)
- 8th best career plus/minus by a Flames forward (+62)
With Conroy now established in the Flames front office his legacy with the franchise will extend beyond his playing days. Conroy eschewed the path to the broadcast booth that he seemed destined for and instead decided to stay with the organization and then city which had become his home.
Conroy is only now establishing his second career as an executive. Here’s hoping he’s as good a manager as he was a player.