Calgary Flames GM Craig Conroy has a very full to-do list
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike6 months ago
Former Calgary Flames forward Craig Conroy got a promotion at his job on Tuesday, becoming the club’s general manager after a dozen years paying his dues in their hockey operations department. After signing his contract and settling into his new office, Conroy has a lot of things on his plate.
Here’s a quick and dirty look at the many, many (many) things that Conroy has to tackle over the next few months.
Preparing for the 2023 NHL Draft
Tuesday was the first day of the Flames’ amateur scouting meetings as they prepare for the 2023 NHL Draft. As he’s done since the 2011 edition, Conroy will be involved in the process of the team building their draft list. (They might make additional tweaks after the NHL’s scouting combine in Buffalo on June 9 & 10, but the bulk of the heavy lifting is done during this week.)
But for the first time, Conroy’s sitting in the room as the GM. Prior to the interview process, he was scouting at the Under-18 World Championships in Switzerland. (He was supposed to be in Finland with USA Hockey for the World Championships, but obviously… he had some other commitments to deal with.)
The Flames will select 16th overall in the first round, and have four additional picks (in the second, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds).
Pitching Jarome Iginla on rejoining the Flames
Conroy was asked about Jarome Iginla and a potential role in the organization, and Conroy danced around giving a specific answer. He admitted that he and Iginla have spoken about working together in the past and now that Conroy has the GM position, it sounds like they’ll talk.
“This is definitely something I want to explore moving forward, but haven’t done it right yet.”
During his one-on-one chat with Pat Steinberg on Sportsnet 960 The Fan, Conroy admitted that (among other strengths) Iginla has seen all the top up-and-coming North American kids due to his role coaching his sons Tij and Joe in Kelowna and Boston.
Iginla has stated that he’s going to be coaching in Kelowna for the 2023-24 season, as his youngest son (Joe) won’t be eligible for full-time WHL duty until 2024-25. But a part-time role sounds like a distinct possibility.
Hiring a head coach
Filling the GM role was the first big off-season domino for the hockey club. Now that’s been dealt with, the next big domino is definitely the coaching search. Conroy noted that they’ve started on their list – they’re still working on it – and it appears they’re figuring out a plan of attack.
Conroy noted that he wants the coach and management to be able to work together, but team culture and leadership also appear to be big: “He’s got to be able to communicate. He’s got to be able to make this environment a fun place to be.” He also discussed being able to play a structured defensive game and a more free-form offensive attack.
He didn’t name-drop any contenders during the press conference, but mentioned in his chat with Steinberg the three internal candidates (Ryan Huska, Mitch Love and Kirk Muller). Names like Gerald Gallant, Alex Tanguay, Marc Savard, Travis Green, Peter Laviolette and Andrew Brunette have been bandied about by media types in recent days. It seems likely we’ll hear more names as the Flames’ list becomes more defined – and interviews inevitably begin.
No timeline was trotted out for a coaching hire, but generally-speaking teams prefer to have a head coach in place by the draft.
Engaging in asset management with the pending 2024 free agents
In case you haven’t heard, the Flames have seven prominent potential 2024 unrestricted free agents eligible for contract extensions as of July 1: Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Tyler Toffoli, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov and Oliver Kylington. And yes, Conroy is aware of this fact, and aware that a few of those individuals weren’t publicly enthusiastic about returning… before the management and coaching changeover.
“Obviously we can’t go into a season with seven UFAs,” said Conroy. “It just doesn’t make sense. We got to make sure we do it right for the Calgary Flames, so we’re going to look at all those options.”
Conroy mentioned a couple times during the press conference that he sees the job being asset management, and he mentioned how tough it was to lose Johnny Gaudreau to free agency and not recoup anything for him. So… expect some movement on the Magnificent Seven this summer.
Leaving room for a youth movement
“What I’ve watched and learned is you need young players on the team,” said Conroy. “You need that excitement, you need what they bring, day in and day out.”
Conroy declined to name-drop any players he’s hoping to see, noting it wouldn’t be fair to those not mentioned, but did mention that providing opportunities was a theme in his chats with the Calgary Wranglers during their exit meetings.
“We said there’s going to be an opportunity next year. Come to training camp and earn a spot, take a jersey.”
Filling the captaincy
“Absolutely. We’re going to have a captain,” said Conroy in his chat with Steinberg.
This will obviously have to wait until closer to the season, when the new coaching staff is in place and whatever roster changes are in the cards for the off-season have unfolded.
Signing (or not signing) some 2021 draft picks
Finally, the Flames have until June 1 to sign (or lose the NHL rights) to 2019 draft choice Lucas Feuk, and 2021 selections Cole Huckins, Jack Beck, Cameron Whynot and Cole Jordan. In the previous regime, it was usually the recommendations of the development staff that led to signings.
Either way, we’ll see some answers on this front quite soon.
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