|2009 - Craig Conroy||63||3||12||15||-6||25||0||0||1||0||52||5.8|
This season was an extraordinarily tough one for the the grizzled Flames vet; not only was he limited to sixty-three appearances due to a myriad of injuries, but he found the back of the net on only three occasions and was even called out by Theo Fleury. Conroy's 5.8 SH% was his lowest since he played seven games with the Canadiens in 1995-96, and his -6 was his worst +/- rating in his second go-around with the Flames.
All this seems to fall in line with the expected decline of a thirty-eight year old player whose designated job has been to kill penalties, block shots, win faceoffs, and shut down the other team's best, but Conroy accumulated forty-eight points and a plus-20 just last season on a Flames team that finished in the top half of the league in scoring and possession but struggled in most defensive categories. This past season, the team's aptitudes and deficiencies were inverse, and Conroy finished with a relative corsi of +1.8/60, just below Rene Bourque and far superior to fellow bottom-sixers Eric Nystrom and Jamal Mayers as well as occasional linemate Jarome Iginla, and while facing tougher competition than the former two.
Conroy had the third least-favourable zone start of regular Flames forwards this season at 49.1%, and his zone finish (50.9%) combined with the team's +2.45 corsi rate with him on the ice indicates that he was pushing the puck in the right direction; the Flames allowed less shots with Conroy on the ice and directed more towards the oppositions' net, even though those shots rarely resulted in goals. The team scored only 1.48 goals/60 with Conroy on the ice, as opposed to 2.45 with him on the bench.
Despite only playing an average of 10.91/60 at even strength, the Flames allowed .18 more goals when Conroy wasn't on the ice, and on special teams, his 140:29 of short-handed ice time was seventh most on the Flames and fourth most of all Flames forwards. Conroy led the Flames in short-handed faceoffs won with 86 and came in second in ES faceoffs won with 355, behind only Daymond Langkow. Despite his injuries, Conroy still blocked 41 shots, fourth amongst Flames forwards, and doled out 43 hits.
Conroy may not be the offensive threat he was in his 75-point career season alongside Iginla in 2002 or even last season for that matter, but one has to think that it's very unlikely he'll operate at a 5.8 SH% or that he'll direct a meagre 52 shots on goal next season should he re-sign. Is $1M too much money to spend on an aging checking centre when the team should be shedding salary and allocating its remaining funds towards getting younger, faster, and more efficient? Probably, but Sutter has already traded away Dustin Boyd, and finding a natural centre who fits Conroy's mold on the free agent market at a price affordable to the Flames won't be an easy task; the closest fit the team has in the system would likely be Brett Sutter, whose offensive output at the NHL level looks to be just as limited as that of a soon to be 39-year-old Craig Conroy. Aside from Conroy's contributions on the ice, his friendly and honest demeanor and his generous contributions to the community have vaulted him into the stratosphere of 'fan favourite,' while his eloquence and outgoing personality have all but guaranteed him a job in hockey media should he retire.
In a recent interview which Robert linked in his post yesterday, Conroy expressed his desire to remain in Calgary while acknowledging that the team will likely aim to get younger with the limited funds they have available, perhaps at his expense, and that he'll have to wait until free agency begins in July to determine his fate.
What do you think?