The Calgary Flames are doing the right thing by shifting the organizational focus

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
1 year ago
The first step of reshaping the Calgary Flames is underway. Craig Conroy has been hired as the new general manager after Brad Treliving and the Flames mutually decided to part ways. The 51-year-old has a vision for the team that involves more speed, skill, and youth than players who are less effective but have more “grit,” physicality, or veteran leadership. Of course, those two things won’t go unchecked when acquiring players to try and help the team, but being able to harness creativity in tandem with speed, skill, and tenacity in the dirty areas is going to be the key to success for the future of the Flames.
Hockey as we know it is becoming a different game, and 2022-23 felt like a perfect example of how the times are changing. Darryl Sutter, a coach everyone knows is prone to making player and scheme decisions based primarily on experience and physicality, is being slowly pushed out of today’s NHL. Of course, his experience and Stanley Cup wins will keep him in the running for NHL coaching jobs, but the criticism he received from the Flames faithful as the other teams competing for playoff spots is hard to truly quantify. Let’s just say it was enough for him to not return after a Jack Adams win in 2021-22.
There are still players that play a primarily physical role, but instead of having a 2022-23 Milan Lucic impact, they play an above average brand of hockey in one end of the ice or the other. Although he’s currently not signed by the team, Trevor Lewis would be an example of this kind of player. He’s a very physical player, but his positive contributions defensively and on the forecheck are reason enough to play him in a depth role. And those players can be of the utmost importance when building a Stanley Cup calibre team.
The Flames let Sutter and his way of thinking go at the right time. The forward core is becoming younger with the implementation of Jakob Pelletier and Matthew Coronato following him. There are bound to be more young players that get their shot soon as well. It’s also why this next coaching hire is vital to the future of the franchise. I wrote about why the Flames shouldn’t hire a retread head coach and I think that’s an opinion held by many. A bench boss like Mitch Love, Ryan Huska, or Andrew Brunette, who can coach creativity and be able to learn and grow in their experiences with the younger players. It allows for a work environment that is far less stressful than one where making one mistake out of inexperience could put you in the press box for a stretch of games while the more veteran players that are having a much worse impact overall can make all the mistakes in the world and not face any repercussions.
There is still a long way to go in this off-season for the Flames management team, but they’ve gotten off to a good start, and the shifting from the old organizational and team-building focus to the new one that Conroy preached about should be a breath of fresh air. Moves still need to be made, so it’s not close to a success yet, but it’s a good start.

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