Calgary Flames

Identifying the five most realistic general manager candidates for the Calgary Flames

With the departure of general manager Brad Treliving earlier this week, the Calgary Flames organization now has a massive hole to fill. The incoming general manager could be the determining factor on the future of this franchise, depending on who and why that individual is chosen to take the reins.

After nine years, the organization was somewhat spoiled with having someone of Trevliving’s character, work ethic, and body of work at the reins. There are massive shoes to fill in this new role.

That being said, it’s also an interesting one across the league now for a few reasons. The main one being autonomy, as the Flames have long struggled in this department. In addition to having new President of Hockey Operations Don Maloney in a higher leadership role, most decisions appear to go through majority owner Murray Edwards. Think back to the failed Jason Zucker and Ben Bishop deals, it was all due to Edwards not being reachable. Whoever comes into this role will most likely not be immediately given the keys to the kingdom. 

Additionally, the relationship with Head Coach Darryl Sutter is imperative. It’s not a foregone conclusion that he will return, and in most people’s opinion, he shouldn’t. But if he is going to be the coach for the next two seasons, the GM will have to be fully aware of the roster implications. It may be better to have a new face that takes away some of Sutter’s safety blankets (a.k.a. Trevor Lewis and Milan Lucic), but Sutter’s utilization could throw a massive wedge in how the new GM is making the calls.

Calgary’s general manager options

For these reasons, there aren’t many genuine candidates that stick out when looking across the league. Let’s take a look at the five most realistic candidates for the role based on the criteria noted above.

Craig Conroy

There is no denying that Craig Conroy could be near the top of the Flames’ list for a GM hire. Since joining the organization back in 2011, Conroy has held a number of roles with the most recent being Assistant General Manager. He’s a Flames fan favourite, the organization and its staff love him, and he knows the operating system well. 

Additionally, he had been considered for the Buffalo Sabres GM position a number of years ago and is even a part of Team USA’s management group for the upcoming IIHF tournament, but the Flames wanted to ensure he remained with the organization. 

He’s played under Darryl Sutter before, knows how he likes to work at least, and has been being prepped for a role like this for a number of years. If they have been working him up to the general manager role, and want someone with a “younger” viewpoint, then Conroy would be the guy.

The downside is that his exact involvement in the Flames decision making the last few years is unknown, therefore he may not be fully ready to take on this position. 

Brad Pascall

The other current internal hire that also makes a lot of sense is Brad Pascall. 

Pascall is easily the most under-the-radar Assistant General Manager in the organization as he doesn’t share in the spotlight as much as his peers. This should not deter him from the role as well. Similar to Conroy, Pascall is a familiar face and someone who also knows the system and what the job would entail. The organization would surely like to keep around. 

The most impressive part of Pascall’s resume is his work with the Flames AHL affiliate. This is where his role has been focused since 2014 and he’s seen a massive amount of success during his tenure. AHL rosters have far more turnover than an NHL one, but Pascall has been able to take the Flames’ prospect roster and surround them with quality professionals that can help compete for an Calder Cup.

Ignoring the two COVID seasons, he helped the Stockton Heat get to the post season twice in addition to a Pacific Division title. He has also helped see the Calgary Wranglers have great success in their first season in Canada.

Sean Burke

Sean Burke has been a name that is consistently thrown around the league when a new GM position becomes available. Since retiring from the NHL, Burke has held a number of positions in the league from Assistant to the General Manager, goaltending coach, scout, and most recently Director of Goaltending with the Vegas Golden Knights.

He also has an extensive history with Team Canada working in their management team as well. 

The biggest reason why this may be the time for him to take on a GM role is that when he was working as the Assistant to the General Manager, it was with the Arizona Coyotes under Don Maloney. 

I don’t know if that is enough to warrant quite the jump, nor do I think trying to keep the former band in Arizona together is the smartest idea, but the Flames did well by promoting Treliving from that organization. Perhaps lightning can strike twice?

Mike Futa

The eyes are probably rolling on this one, but Mike Futa makes a lot of sense for the Flames organization in terms of pure connections. 

Futa was a part of the Los Angeles Kings organization for 13 seasons where he held various positions from Director of Scouting to eventually being their VP of Hockey Operations and Assistant GM. During his time there, he helped build the team that would eventually win two Stanley Cups.

Add in his relationship with Sutter and there is no doubt that the Flames organization will think of him when it comes to a new role.

That being said, similar to how Sutter’s Stanley Cup pedigree came nearly 11 years ago, one could wonder if Futa’s way of building a team would fit in the new NHL. If the Flames want reinvent themselves, then falling back on an older way of building the team may not be the best fit with Futa at the helm.

Kyle Dubas

Is Kyle Dubas really a realistic fit? Let’s hope.

Although the Toronto Maple Leafs got blown out in Game 1 of their first round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, there is still a lot of hockey left before definitely saying that Dubas is done in Toronto.

Of course, his career could play out similarly to Trelivings where he finally says his time is done with the Leafs and moves on to a new opportunity. Dubas is one of the youngest and brightest minds in the management circle, which would be a massive add for the Flames. He knows the structure of having a larger ownership group, and President of Hockey Operations, that sit above him so it could be a much more seamless transition than originally thought.

The only question mark would be the coaching situation, as a Sutter and Dubas tandem doesn’t scream success to many people at first glance. If Dubas’ arrival comes with a brand new coaching staff then this could be the turnaround the Flames need. 

Time will tell for the Flames

These names may not be the best suggestions, but they surely feel the most realistic. Conroy looks to be the leader out of the gates, but questions come into play around if it would be the most successful move.

A big consideration will be the number of expiring contracts of core players coming up and if the team needs a familiar face to negotiate the deals to ensure some players want to stay. 

The next few months are going to be fascinating. 

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