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FlamesNation Mailbag: General managers and general implications of the GM hire

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Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
11 months ago
It’s May long weekend, as everyone enjoys the unofficial onset of Canadian summer. It’s been an eventful off-season for the Calgary Flames already, with the parting of ways with general manager Brad Treliving, the ouster of head coach Darryl Sutter, and the expected elevation of assistant GM Craig Conroy to the big chair.
As we await for the expected official installation of Conroy on Tuesday, we dive into the mailbag!
One of the arguable benefits of having Craig Conroy as the next GM is he’s aware of the environment in which he’s going to be operating. That is to say, he’s worked in the same vicinity of CSEC president and CEO John Bean and president of hockey operations Don Maloney for awhile. And heck, he’s a known quantity to Murray Edwards and Flames ownership. They know what to expect from him and visa versa.
I don’t think the pitch in interviews was “Hey, here’s how the team is going to paddle around in the middle of the pool for the next decade.” I don’t doubt that having operated within this environment for awhile and, after spending time under two GMs and an interim GM, he has some insights into how to excel within it.
The challenge will, of course, being executing the plan, but I don’t doubt that there’s a fairly ambitious plan in place. Nobody get themselves into their first GM gig by aiming for the middle.
If I’m part of the current coaching staff, NHL or AHL, I’m feeling good about my chances about a long look during the coaching interview process. Jarome Iginla’s name has long been linked to Craig Conroy, and there’s speculation – like quite informed speculation – from insider types that Iginla could be part of the new regime in some fashion. Elliotte Friedman also name-dropped Alex Tanguay as a possible coaching possibility. Conroy played for a long time and has crossed a lot of paths over his 12 years in hockey ops, so it won’t be difficult to cast a wide net for a coaching search.
Conroy was one of the key figures in hockey operations that banged the drum for Matthew Phillips in 2016, so there’s probably some mutual goodwill there. If I’m the Flames, here’s my pitch to their leading AHL scorer: “It’s a new regime, it’s a new head coach, here’s an offer for a one-way deal to play for your hometown team and a promise at an honest-to-goodness shot at the roster in camp. Let’s see what you got.” Worst-case, he’s a well-paid AHLer. Best-case, he’s on the Flames. Somewhere in between, he gets claimed on waivers and plays on another NHL team. There’s a lot of upside there for both team and player.
Man, the big question marks for me heading into 2023’s training camp are Oliver Kylington, Jakob Pelletier and Matt Coronato. All three of them could bring a boost of energy into the Flames’ lineup that was sorely missing for big chunks of 2022-23, and the question will be how they look and where they can slot in – it seems patently obvious, at least right now, that Kylington and Pelletier are shoo-ins for roster spots unless they look wildly out of place in the fall. The nice thing for Coronato is he can potentially play centre and the wing – given the Flames’ depth, he probably spends more time on the wing, but a lot could happen this summer and versatility definitely helps Coronato’s chances.
I need to have a sense of how the moving pieces of the hockey operations department fit – and who stays and goes from 2022-23’s edition – before I can really judge a potential Dave Nonis addition. Based on his body of work as the final word – based on his tenures as GM in Vancouver and Toronto – I can understand skepticism. But he’s an experienced Hockey Man who’s been around the block and can probably add value as a voice in the room. I don’t know if I’d want him as the final arbiter or decision-maker, but his experience could make him useful.
Based on what we’ve seen from Matthew Tkachuk, I imagine the Flames would prefer to move Elias Lindholm to the Eastern Conference (if they move him at all). And if a team thinks they can get Selke Trophy runner-up calibre Lindholm from 2021-22, and a chance to re-sign him long-term, I imagine the Flames hope they can get something significant for him. (Like a first-rounder and a significant roster player and/or prospect.)
But I also imagine their preference is to keep Lindholm long-term. Players that can contribute the way he has shown he can don’t exactly grow on trees.

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