Breaking News: Flames Shuffle Leadership Deck for Stretch Drive

D'Arcy McGrath
February 4th, 2002

Stripped? Pushed? or Volunteered?

That's the question on most hockey observer's minds in the wake of the Flames surprise shake up of the team's on ice leadership - Craig Conroy and Bob Boughner were named co-captains at a Pengrowth Saddledome news conference today.

Dave Lowry has held the position of captain since the retirement of Steve Smith early last season.

The move to Lowry came within the eye of the Don Hay - Val Bure hurricane at at time that Hay had all but lost the Flames dressing room.

Lowry took the "c" and ran with it, putting up career high numbers and doing his yeoman best to get the Flames back to the playoffs. A battle that inevitably came up short. 

So what's changes since the Lowry appointment of 15 months ago?

A new head coach in Greg Gilbert for one ... a fact that can often lead to change in on ice leadership.

An additional consideration might come from the slip in the captain's play with Lowry struggling offensively and putting up some rather dubious plus minus numbers. It's apparent that Lowry had lost a step this season, a factor that hurt his ability to play a key defensive role in the absence of offensive numbers.

There are no steadfast rules on captaincy ... some teams employ their best player regardless of the apparent deficiencies in leadership skills (see Jaromir Jagr), while others have a grizzled veteran that commands the room and takes charge when the chips are down. The most successful franchises manage to have a front man that fits both descriptions.

With Lowry it was a case of neither, and well ... both.

Bob Boughner: Free agent signing Summer '01
Craig Conroy: Acquired from St. Louis March '01

Lowry put up decent numbers with the Flames last year, and was and is a well respected veteran in the dressing room.

The Flames brass may have deemed his soft spoken lead by example leadership style to be ineffective since his "by example" mantra could be construed to be falling on deaf ears.

In Craig Conroy, and Bob Boughner the Flames leadership group takes on a completely different look.

The two players have a lot in common; from the recent acquisition by Craig Button from winning organizations, to the tendency to step up to the podium, regardless of result after each and every contest.

The most important factor lies in the ability of both players to bring their game every night, combining a vocal leadership with key roles in the upper end of the team's on ice responsibility. Conroy and Boughner both play a lot; at even strength on the powerplay and killing penalties.

The shuffle itself is a clear message that the Flames are serious about turning around their on ice fortunes in order to salvage this season.

If they deemed the season a throw away it would have been just as easy to wait until the summer when Lowry's contract ran out.

The fact that Dave Lowry's name wasn't even mentioned in the press release is curious to the say the least, hinting that the decision was made by the team, and not by Dave Lowry himself.

But ... how will the team respond?

Over the past two seasons the Flames have shown a strong tendency to follow the lead of their more individual members. The team has practically fallen apart in back to back seasons with one player refusing to tow the line.

If Dave Lowry can no longer lead by example, then a move to players that are more consistent with their on ice play may turn out to the shot in the arm the club needs for a very difficult concluding schedule.

If however, Dave Lowry was pushed and does in fact still have a very loyal and strong following within the dressing room, the team could literally fall apart and slip into "next season" mode by the time the Olympics come around in ten days.

A question that won't be answered until the man of few words has a few words on the subject.





Please Take our Survey