Why Flames got it right by choosing Conroy as next general manager

Elliotte Friedman reports that the Calgary Flames are expected to name Craig Conroy as their new general manager next week.

CALGARY – The Calgary Flames got it right by hiring Craig Conroy to be their new GM.

The people’s choice will be announced Tuesday as the organization’s choice to lead the franchise into a new era — a tricky new chapter that requires familiarity, above all.

It’s his 12 years as the club’s front office utility man that made him the most logical successor to Brad Treliving – a man who helped mentor Conroy the last nine years as an assistant GM.

A front-office hire by late Flames president Ken King just one week after retiring from a 1,000-game career in 2011, the affable American has long been groomed for the task ahead.

King took him everywhere, from season ticket holder meetings and sponsor luncheons, to league confabs, where Conroy forever charmed everyone he met, making him the perfect front man for the organization.

He listened, he learned, he added valuable input and he got the job done, whatever it entailed.

Whether it was running the Flames affiliate, scouting from all corners of the globe, helping negotiate contracts or ensuring the likes of Johnny Gaudreau or Matt Coronato left college to join the big club, he was always up to the task.

The feeling amongst Flames ownership and hockey president Don Maloney is that this challenge will be no different.

And he comes with a bonus: Jarome Iginla.

Conroy’s most famous winger, and best of friends, revealed the two of them have spoken for years about the possibility of working together.

Now that dream will become a reality, as the Hall of Famer admitted he’ll be ready to join forces with “Connie” after coaching his son, Joe, for one final season at Kelowna’s RINK Hockey Academy.

While he might be named an advisor of sorts as early as Tuesday, whatever full-time capacity in which Iginla joins the Flames a year from now is an exciting addition for the franchise and its fans.

Will the Flames icon take on a Martin St. Louis-type coaching role, or a front-office gig?

Stay tuned.

None of those options would be possible had Conroy been overlooked.

That said, Maloney and the owners did well to interview dozens of potential candidates over the last few weeks, getting a chance to pick the minds of some of the league’s brightest talents.

As Elliotte Freidman reported Sunday, it’s likely at least one of them (potentially Dave Nonis) will also be hired by the Flames to assist the 51-year-old Conroy.

One thing Conroy won’t need is a refresher on the state of the organization, as he’s as familiar as anyone with the personalities, capabilities, contract situations and shortcomings of everyone on the depth chart.

The biggest issue facing the club in last year’s lost season revolved around the inability of several key players to adjust to new surroundings.

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That won’t be an issue for the team’s former captain, who can get to work right away on tackling the issues he knows need addressing.

It will start with scouting meetings this week, at which he’ll be familiar with everyone in the room, the draft list and where every prospect is in terms of development.

He knows what this team is short of and what it does best.

His strong relationships in the dressing room might give the club a chance at extending the contracts of key vets like Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund.

He’ll get to work on hiring the type of coach who must be able to balance the importance of easing young prospects into the lineup while also earning the respect of a room full of veterans.

In-house coaching candidates like Ryan Huska, Kirk Muller and Mitch Love will get a good long look at filling Darryl Sutter’s shoes, or supporting the man who does.

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Brian Burke told Sportsnet last month that while he oversaw the Flames’ hockey operations, King’s long-term plan always revolved around Conroy eventually taking over.

King, who passed away in 2020, would be so proud to see that time has come, setting the stage for an introductory press conference that will be wildly popular with Flames staffers, as well as fans.

No, you don’t hire GMs based on popularity.

You hire them on merit.

That said, it sure helps sell tickets, hope and earn goodwill with a fan base when one of the more popular players of his club’s era is rewarded for a dozen years of dedication and service.

It’s so important, especially in a Canadian market, that the architect and face of a franchise is also armed with the ability to sit comfortably in front of a microphone to answer tough (and stupid) questions.

He’ll do it with panache, good humour and that perma-grin that has endeared him to Flames fans dating back to 2001 when the little-known sixth-rounder arrived from St. Louis via trade.

Like Treliving, Conroy is just so damn likeable.

A franchise treasure-turned-franchise architect.

The right move, in every way.

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