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Conroy: Flames will ‘change the core’ moving forward

Calgary Flames Craig Conroy - The Canadian Press

Craig Conroy was introduced as the new general manager of the Calgary Flames on Tuesday and wasted no time sharing his plans for the franchise.

Promoted after nine seasons as assistant general manager, Conroy said there is a lot of work to be done following a disappointing season in which the Flames missed the playoffs after finishing with a 38-27-17 record.

The 51-year-old first-time GM said there will be changes made to the core for 2023-24, emphasizing a need for more youth in the lineup.

“I think we’re going to change the core a little bit. We’re going to add some youth to the lineup. You have to give them a chance,” Conroy said at his introductory press conference on Tuesday. “It might not be seamless all the time, but we need to move forward.

“I never want to say this team can’t win, and I never want to count a team out, but I definitely think there needs to be some changes.”

Conroy also added that he believed the team underachieved last year and that the Flames should have made the playoffs with its current roster. 

“Did we underachieve last year? Yeah, that starts right at the top with us. Do I think we were a playoff team last year? One hundred per cent,” Conroy said. “I was shocked that we didn’t make it and that’s unacceptable. With the guys we have here I think we can make the playoffs.”

At the top of Conroy’s to-do list is addressing the seven unrestricted free agents on the roster, including forwards Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis, and defenceman Michael Stone.

“We can’t go into a season with seven UFAs. It just doesn’t make sense. I want to get an idea of where they’re at. We have to do what’s right for the Calgary Flames.”

The Potsdam, N.Y. native also laid out the club’s plans for the coaching search to replace the recently fired Darryl Sutter, saying he wants to begin the process sooner than later and to find someone who can foster a fun environment for the players.

“We need to work together; we need to be a team. We’re not going to be at odds and we’re going to have the same vision and passion for this team,” Conroy said of his expectations for the new coach. “I want someone that is a leader. It doesn’t have to be an experienced head coach. It can be someone with limited experience. You want a guy that can communicate with the players. He has to make this environment a fun place to be.”

Conroy played 507 career games with the Flames in his 16-year NHL career and was named co-captain in 2001-02 and given the full role in 2002-03. Shortly after retiring with the Flames in 2011, he joined the team’s front office as a special assistant to then-GM Jay Feaster.

He said becoming the Flames’ GM is his dream and looks forward to the challenge of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Calgary.

“This is home. I have a passion for this team and this city. This is the dream job for me. I feel so appreciative that I’m going to have that opportunity and I’m going to do everything in my power to bring a Stanley Cup here.”