What a breath of fresh air yesterday was.
Craig Conroy was officially announced as the Calgary Flames’ 10th general manager in franchise history yesterday afternoon, in what was a slam dunk decision by the organization. Although the search appeared to have started with 35 candidates before being dwindled down to four finalists, Conroy was the clear favorite both internally and externally for the job.
Yesterday simply proved how smart of a move that was.
Although Conroy has become well known for his positive demeanor both on the ice and working in the front office for the last decade and a bit, his promotion to general manager shows once again just how beloved he actually has become. Whether with fans, media, or within the organization, Conroy just exudes positivity. That is something that the franchise has so desperately needed the last few months.
His press conference was the perfect encapsulation of how the Flames will be working moving forward: with positive intent and forward thinking. Here’s why his introductory press conference hit the perfect notes.
Doubling down on being young and fresh
Something that the organization has lacked for many, many years is their inability to promote or play young prospects from within the organization. The team’s default was to always sign older veterans to fill out roster spots, rather than giving a draft pick an opportunity to prove themselves.
Conroy made it abundantly clear that youth is coming to the roster:
Now words are one thing, so we will see how this works in practice, but having this be a clear directive from management is at least the first step. There were a number of younger players that made significant impressions with the Calgary Wranglers and Flames, but never got a true opportunity. With both Conroy and Brad Pascall having a significant overview of the Wranglers the last few seasons, few people know who is ready to make the jump more than others.
In the wise words of former captain Mark Giordano, the Flames are aiming to go “young and fresh.” This could spell amazing things for Jakob Pelletier, Dustin Wolf, Matthew Coronato, Connor Zary, and Matthew Phillips. Just what this team has been missing.
I don’t recall a time when a GM has made such an emphasis on asset management during his opening press conference. Conroy didn’t just use it as a blanket term to say “this is a key word I know people will like” he provided real world examples from his past experiences while also looking to the future.
You know Conroy is thinking about next season, and this team’s future, when he explicitly calls out that the team cannot go into next season with seven unrestricted free agents on the books. He was truly burned by the Johnny Gaudreau situation last summer that he won’t let that affect the team moving forward. Whether that is Elias Lindholm, Chris Tanev, or Noah Hanifin, you can be sure he will look to recoup some assets even if he so much as sniffs an ounce of danger.
This is exactly what a GM should do. That isn’t a knock on Treliving, as we know how the situation with Gaudreau was unique, but coming out and saying this at the top is huge. The organization has seen the likes of Jarome Iginla, Mark Giordano, and Miikka Kiprusoff leave for absolutely nothing. That can’t continue.
Something that really snuck under the radar was the way in which Conroy talked about the Flames need to change their style of play. He noted that the team has to move away from “one system” and let some of their offensive players start to shine.
This included the notion that he wanted Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, and Lindholm to have the space to do what they do best. What a concept: playing to people’s strengths.
The team has reportedly been looking into hiring a coach that is more offensively minded to change the way the team approaches the offensive end of the ice. A welcome change to what fans experienced last season.
One of the more comical aspects of the press conference was just how much shade Conroy was throwing towards Darryl Sutter. Surely it was unintentional and more of a reflection of his philosophy moving forward, but it was clear that Conroy most likely also thought Sutter was not the best fit moving forward.
Whether it was the preaching of “collaboration and working together” with a coach, moving away from the one system, or playing to players strengths it was a clear departure from Sutter’s way of thinking.
Nothing more so than Conroy emphasizing that he wanted to “make this environment a fun place to be.” The team under Sutter was simply a cornucopia of depression last season, and it’s most likely a main reason for the organization’s failures.
Conroy wants to take the “Sad” out of the “Saddledome” immediately.
The best part of Conroy’s promotion and press conference was just simply how much fun it was. Sure he will be judged on his body of work over the next few seasons, and there will be surely some moves that don’t work, but for now his positivity and laughter bring some much needed levity to a team that seemed to be headed to purgatory.
Most of the media alluded to how much laughter there was during the press conference, and we all know how much Conroy loves to laugh and have a good time. It’s not at the top of the list when it comes to hiring a GM, but everyone needed some good vibes when it came to the Flames.
Conroy brought them in spades.
Lots more to come
Yesterday was just the beginning of what will surely be a much more different tenure than Treliving’s past nine years. With additional hires to come and some important player decisions, Conroy is going to have to hit the ground running.
That being said, coming out of his press conference I think most people are looking at this offseason with far more optimism than they were just a few weeks ago. Whether it works on the ice or not remains to be seen, but at least for now the C of Red can breathe a little easier.