FlamesNation Roundtable: Wrapping up a disappointing campaign with the roundtable

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
14 days ago
The 2023-24 season is coming to a close for the Calgary Flames. We thought now would be a good time to get the FlamesNation crew together and reflect on the trade deadline and performance of Ryan Huska and Craig Conroy via a roundtable discussion.
Let’s get into it!

How do you think Craig Conroy did on the Chris Tanev trade?

Boomer: I think that much like the Toffoli deal, fans and media had themselves revved up to maybe get a first-round pick. So that was disappointing. Then the way the trade went down, it took a couple of hours to find out which Dallas prospect was coming back in the deal. Again, fans and media were revved up about which of the Stars’ top prospects it could be. All due respect to Artem Grushnikov, but it was a little disappointing to have to scroll down the Stars prospect depth chart 5 or 6 deep to find him. It’s a very good trade for Dallas. Conroy and the Flames really like Grushnikov so fans need to be patient and have faith that the same evaluation team that sniffed out Sharangovich has done something similar here.
Jeff Middleton: I think he did fine. Tanev is a fantastic defenceman in one end of the ice, and he was a
staple for the Flames back-end. But, he’s a rental, so the package the Flames got in return I felt was more than fine. Value is value.
Mike Gould: I think he did fine. It’ll look a lot better if the conditional pick hits but that’s out of his control for now. Artem Grushnikov has impressed me in my early viewings of him and I think there’s a chance he turns into a reasonably impactful bottom-four defenceman down the line.
Paige Siewert: I think this trade was about maximizing Tanev’s value so I would’ve liked to see a more immediate help to the Flames’ roster but Artem Grushnikov has had glimpses for the Wranglers that have shown his skill.
Raz Devrej: I honestly thought the return Craig Conry got for Chris Tanev was fair value. You just cannot complain about receiving a second-round pick plus a prospect in return for a 34-year-old injury-prone defenceman who is set to become a UFA in the summer. The only reason it was a little underwhelming was because there was discussion of possibly a first-round pick being the asking price and rumours that Ty Dellandrea was a part of the discussions. Overall, solid job by Conroy.
Robert Munnich: Conroy did okay on this deal. I personally wish they had gone with a trade package where they receive a first-round pick and a bad contract. First-round picks are incredibly valuable in today’s NHL that can be used in trades and the draft. Hopefully Grushnikov turns into a good player.
Ryan Pike: I think he got a fairly good return. I know fans would have loved a first-round pick, but considering Chris Tanev was a 34-year-old rental defenceman that isn’t somebody used in offensive situations, the return they got is probably right in line with what the market should have been. It’s essentially two second-round picks for an expiring asset.

How do you think Craig Conroy did on the Noah Hanifin trade?

Boomer: This one, much like the Tanev deal, felt close to what you wanted to see in return but maybe fell short. We would all love to know exactly what offers were on the table for Hanifin but we were all told in the days and weeks leading up to the deadline to be prepared for an underwhelming return. Right now, I wish the first-round pick wasn’t until 2026. It’s a great asset but that’s a long wait to get your hands on it. Daniil Miromanov has played a lot of minutes, but hasn’t seemed to give you any indications there’s a star player in the making here. It’s a very real possibility that the Golden Knights tail off over the next couple years and not seeing the Vegas pick until 2026 could be a blessing in disguise. So how did Conroy do? I do believe he did the best he could.
Jeff Middleton: I think he did fine on this one as well. Honestly, I think most fans just wanted Conroy to move him because he’s a pending UFA and the Flames would certainly get value back, which is what he did. I wasn’t overly impressed, but I wasn’t underwhelmed either.
Mike Gould: By all accounts, Conroy was pretty limited in terms of what he was offered. I loved the Daniil Miromanov acquisition and I think he’s performed very well in his first few weeks with the Flames. There’s a very good chance the conditional pick hits on this deal, too. I think the Flames made the best of a bad situation here.
Paige Siewert: Very well. He got a lot of pieces for someone who looked as if he was ready to move on from the Flames. This is one of the better moves we’ve seen this year.
Raz Devrej:  The Noah Hanifin trade was the one that left most people scratching their heads when they saw the return. It was underwhelming, to say the least, but you have to appreciate the circumstances Conroy was working with and all of the trouble with Hanifin and his agent. I would have liked to see a prospect included in the package but he did manage to obtain a first-round pick and the possibility of a second-round pick so at the end of the day it wasn’t terrible.
Robert Munnich: It’s a good return for Hanifin if you consider some of the comparable trades made for similar defensemen. Getting an unprotected first-round pick in 2026 from an aging Vegas team is a smart gamble. Daniil Miromanov looks like an NHL defenceman. The best part is that they avoided signing Hanifin to an eight year contract that they would have regretted.
Ryan Pike: I liked the return, but I didn’t love the return. Unlike with Tanev, Hanifin’s an asset in his prime years and he is a guy used in key offensive situations. An ideal return would have been a first, a roster player and a good prospect. Instead, they got a first, a roster player and a third-rounder that can be upgraded. It feels like a little bit less than ideal, which is why I didn’t love the return, but Miromanov has had strong early returns so it’s hard to dislike the trade overall.

Should the Flames have traded Jacob Markstrom to New Jersey?

Boomer: This one seems like one of those trades that got as close to the finish line as possible without becoming official. Markstrom approved the trade and generally, teams don’t ask players to waive their no-trade clauses unless they have a deal they’re prepared to make. Did ownership throw the brakes on?  Did someone have a change of heart at the last second? We may never know. Again, it would be great to know what the return was going to be but the rumour of Markstrom with retained salary for a first-round pick and Alexander Holtz seemed to be the ballpark. Markstrom has been tremendous this season and it would be tough to see him leave but I do think it was a great opportunity to move him. Get more assets in and capitalize on his amazing year. Maybe a deal happens this summer that looks and feels much the same? Maybe Markstrom says he won’t be waiving his no trade clause again? I think there’s still plenty of drama to unfold here.
Jeff Middleton: It’s hard to say at this point, but I’d probably say yes. Markstrom has deserved better in
front of him, and the Flames aren’t in a position to make the post-season (as many predicted they wouldn’t be), so what would have been the hurt? It also gives Wolf a full-time spot, so again, why not?
Mike Gould: It’s impossible to say without knowing what the deal would’ve looked like, but I’m convinced they’ll trade him in the summer so I’m not too concerned about it.
Paige Siewert: No. It felt like a last-ditch effort over something that can be re-evaluated in the off-season.
Raz Devrej:  I was saying it from the start, I think it was the perfect time to trade Jacob Markstrom. A lot of people argued there would be more interest in the summer but the truth is Markstrom has an NMC and he has to approve the trade. That block in the road was gone when he accepted the idea of heading to New Jersey. His value was at his highest before the trade deadline, his numbers were phenomenal and he was playing some of the best hockey he has in his entire career. New Jersey was also desperate for a goaltender so I think it was the perfect match. Wolf is ready to take that next step as well.
Robert Munnich: It’s hard to say because they don’t know exactly what the Devils offered the Flames. But I still think they should have taken advantage of Markstrom’s value being at an all time high. I worry that waiting until the summer is going to hurt the return because of his no move clause. Markstrom ultimately controls where he ends up. Look how that worked out for the Flames when they traded Jarome Iginla.
Ryan Pike: It’s hard to definitively say without having a glimpse at what the overall plan is. In terms of cashing in on Markstrom’s value as an asset and giving him the best chance at winning over the remaining two seasons on his deal, waiting until the summer might be ideal. In Flames history, some of the worst deals they’ve made have been in-season deals they’ve rushed into rather than showing patience. Given history, I don’t mind them waiting a bit.

Are you happy with the overall job Craig Conroy has done in his first season as GM?

Boomer: I think Conroy was in an unenviable position coming into the year. His team missed the playoffs, had to hire a new coach, a whack of unrestricted free agents to deal with… it was very much into the deep end from the beginning. The Tyler Toffoli deal is a win, Ryan Huska looks and feels like a very good choice behind the bench, and I think he navigated the UFA mess very well. It’s going to take time to see just how well or poorly he did on the trades, but he said that he couldn’t let the UFA players walk for nothing and he was true to his word.
Jeff Middleton: I’ve been pretty pleased with his body of work so far. The Lindholm trade continues to
look great, and he ended up moving other pending UFAs as he should have.
Mike Gould: Sure. He’s done a fine job. I liked the additions of Sharangovich and Miromanov at the time of those respective deals and they’ve both exceeded my highest expectations. But selling guys off is the easy part — drafting and acquiring top players is much more difficult.
Paige Siewert: Yes very happy. His loyalty to the organization shows through his decisions as GM.
Raz Devrej: Conroy has had some tough decisions to make during his first year as GM and I don’t think you can complain about what he has done. I think it’s finally good to see the start of a rebuild and a reset that this franchise needs after losing key pieces.
Robert Munnich: So far, so good. Conroy has done a great job in terms of asset management which was his most important job heading into this season. It does concern me that he made serious attempts to sign Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev to contract extensions. The Flames are in no place to be giving 30+ year old players long term contracts.
Ryan Pike: Yes. He began his tenure by pledging to give young players an opportunity and focus on asset management regarding his pending unrestricted free agents. He has done both of those things when he easily could’ve veered from the plan.

Are you happy with the overall job Ryan Huska has done in his first season as head coach?

Boomer: We’ve all heard about how unhappy the dressing room seemed to be as a whole at the end of last year under Darryl Sutter. So on one hand, pretty much any new voice coming in was going to seem like a breath of fresh air. But those situations can be fleeting, and Huska did implement a more enjoyable atmosphere but the players bought in to what he was preaching. It’s hard to see it right now, but if you remove the six game losing streak at the start of the year and the skid here now post trade deadline, the Flames were a competitive and entertaining team. They need to get better in many areas, but the team showed something to fans they didn’t much of last season.
Jeff Middleton: Considering how dull and lifeless the Flames offence alone looked last season, I’m very happy with how Huska did in his first season behind the bench. Not only has he had players hit career years in goal scoring, but other players have come back to life, and he’s allowing young players to have substantial roles in the lineup, which I think has been one of the more underrated parts of his tenure.
Mike Gould: Huska gets a passing grade from me but I haven’t seen anything truly exceptional from him this year. Again, he’s been fine. The best thing he’s done as Flames coach is give guys like Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil long leashes to perform. I don’t think Huska will still be coach when this team is ready to turn the corner, though.
Paige Siewert: Yes. We expected a learning curve and he has done his best to work with the pieces he has.
Raz Devrej: It’s hard to judge Ryan Huska this season just with all the roster changes that have happened throughout the year. During the beginning of the year, it was hard to see what kind of identity the Flames had, there was no real structure in place or a certain style of play that was easy to point out on any given night. I think we need to see another season with a more consistent group to see if he is the right fit.
Robert Munnich: Off the ice, I am very impressed. He’s been able to keep this season on the rails despite there being a lot of factors that could have thrown this team into disarray. I like the way he deals with the media and communicating with the fan base. On the ice, the results have been poor. The Flames have gone from one of the best defensive teams in the NHL to one of the worst this season. If it wasn’t for Jacob Markstrom, the Flames would be a lottery team. But this is not a good roster, I don’t think there are many coaches who could make this a playoff team.
Ryan Pike: Yes. Honestly, Huska might have had a tougher job than anybody else in the NHL in terms of working with a group of players that was constantly changing and trying to institute a team system and culture that can carry the club through the next couple of seasons. The job the coaching staff has done isn’t perfect – the power play says hey – but overall, it’s tough to criticize the effort given the many, many complexities in play.

What are you looking forward to seeing from the Flames for the rest of the regular season?

Boomer: I want to continue to see the youngsters play. I’d like to see Coronato get some time in the top six or in situations where it’s conducive to generating offence. It would be great if he could get a couple goals down the stretch. I’d like Pelletier to make his return to the lineup at some point. It might not matter a ton because it’s been a disappointing season for him to be sure but much like Coronato, it would be a nice boost if he could head into the summer feeling better about his game.
Jeff Middleton: Honestly, I hope the young players just continue to get shots to play in high-leverage
situations and it’s entertaining hockey. Even if the result ends up being a loss, I won’t care if the game is fun to watch. So, I’m looking forward to the “what do we have to lose” attitude of the team and how they play with that mindset.
Mike Gould: I would love to see Blake Coleman and Yegor Sharangovich both reach the 30-goal mark. Nazem Kadri hitting 70 points would be cool, too. And more than anything, I hope Oliver Kylington keeps progressing to the point where he’s ready to re-sign with the team.
Paige Siewert: A few more opportunities for prospects to get more ice time and opportunities.
Raz Devrej:  I’m looking forward to seeing compete. I would like to see more prospects get chances to play with the big club and I’m hoping to see them play their hearts out and fight to be noticed for next year. Playoffs aren’t in the question but everyone is always playing for something and the guys that continue to play their hardest knowing the season is over are the ones that will have the best shot at cracking the roster next season. I would also like to see Huberdeau continue to improve so that he has the confidence to explode next season.
Robert Munnich: I’d like to see young players get more of an opportunity. Seeing Connor Zary at center has been awesome to watch. Outside of that, there is not a whole heck of a lot to get excited about these days.
Ryan Pike: I’d love to see Huska and his staff use the last few games as a time to experiment with different lines and deployments. Heck, try out Oliver Kylington on the power play. See if Connor Zary can hack it at centre in the NHL. It’s a potentially invaluable time for experimentation and evaluation that can inform the club’s decision-making this coming off-season.

What players from the Calgary Wranglers do you want to see get an opportunity to play NHL games before the end of the season?

Boomer:  I mentioned Pelletier above. On one hand I’m advocating for the Flames to give the youngsters the bulk of the minutes, but I would love to see Brett Sutter play one more time. He’ll be 37 in June and seems destined for retirement at the end of the year. In December, Sutter played his 1,000th game in the American Hockey League, becoming just the eighth player in the league’s 87 year history. Drafted by the Flames in 2005, Sutter went on to play 60 NHL games, just 18 in a Flames jersey. It’s a long shot, and I’m a sucker for a feel good story but I’d love it if Sutter took one more twirl on Saddledome ice.
Jeff Middleton: The obvious answer in my opinion is Jakob Pelletier. I’d love to see Adam Klapka come
back up for a few games as well, and maybe Ben Jones and Cole Schwindt could be fun as well.
Mike Gould: Grushnikov, Jeremie Poirier, and Ilya Solovyov. Man, this organization has a ton of defencemen and I’m not sure what they’re going to do with all of them.
Paige Siewert: Jeremie Poirier and Ben Jones.
Raz Devrej:  I liked the little stints we saw from Adam Klapka and Cole Schwindt, I would like to see them get a couple more games in before the season is over. Jereme Poirier and Artem Grushnikov are intriguing players I wouldn’t mind seeing as well.
Robert Munnich: I’d like to see Jeremie Poirier get a chance to play some minutes. Especially on the power play.
Ryan Pike: I would love to see William Stromgren or Jeremie Poirier get a game or two in before the curtain falls on the season.
Let us know your answers to the panel’s questions in the comments!
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