While I’m sure would rather talk about the Flames long term plans, the truth is the club is no doubt going to continue to push for the postseason this year as long as that goal is reasonably within reach. As such, it makes sense to consider the Flames chances of climbing up to 8th by the end of the year.
Calgary currently has 45 points, good for 12th place in the conference some four points behind 8th placed LA. The teams in their way include Phoenix (46 points), Colorado (47 points), Dallas (47 points) and the aforementioned Kings. Expect the Wild (50 points) to enter the conversation as well. Every team in question holds at least one game in hand over the Flames aside from the Avalanche.
If we say 95-points is the minimum to make the dance, the Flames need to garner 50 points from their final 38 contests, or a record of roughly 24-12-2 (61.3 win%). To put that in context, the Flames win% so far is about 45%. The Vancouver Canucks, who currently lead the West with 57 points, have a win percentage of 61.36% in 44 games.
So the Flames have to essentially become the Canucks for the rest of the year in order to get a chance at 8th place. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that this is faintly possible for a number of reasons.
First because even middling teams can get really hot for 20-30 games. The Flames proved that in the second half last year and the New York Rangers have proven that this year. The Rags have banked on some outstanding goaltending and unlikely shooting percentages to climb up the standings in the East, so if Kipper gets hot or if everyone on the club finds their inner Glencross, perhaps Calgary can enjoy another miracle run.
Secondly, Calgary has had a lot more success at home than on the road this year and a huge bulk of their remaining games are on Saddledome ice. Calgary’s home record is 12-5-2 and it’s not just luck that has them well above .500 at the saddledome – even their underlying numbers are superior at home, including the second best possession possession rate (56.52) with the score close in the league. Only Detroit is better currently.
I’m not sure why there’s such a huge discrepancy between the Flames at home and on the road (likely a combination of luck, strength of schedule and team construction) but that suggests Calgary’s home record isn’t all smoke and mirrors.
On the other hand, another injury or so will sink the Flames for good. It’s probably not news to anyone who has watched the Flames the last few weeks that the team is playing some fairly dismal hockey. With so many regulars down, Calgary is struggling to get shots and chances on a nightly basis and it’s not like they’re going continue to shoot 50% like they did vs the Devils on Tuesday.
Until guys like Giordano, Smith, Moss, Bourque and Tanguay return the Flames are going to continue to spend a lot of time in their own end. The challenge for them will be to hold the fort long enough to get healthy and also not suffer any more long-term injuries to major pieces.
Depending on your perspective, you may either be hoping for the team to avoid the unlikely hot streak, sell at the deadline and finally choose the rebuild path or roll a bunch of sevens and sneak in so they can play some meaningful hockey in April. The fact is right now the players, coaches and management have their eye set on 8th so until that goal changes we may as well go along for the ride.