Believe it or not, the season is almost half way over for the Flames already. They sit tied for 12th in the West with Colorado and Edmonton, four points back of the 8th spot which is currently held by the Minnesota Wild. Sports Club Stats suggests the cut-off point will be about 55 points to make the post-season (or a record of 16-9-3) and that the Flames have about a 25% chance of making the cut.
So, as usual, it’s dog fight for 7th and 8th. The aforementioned Oilers and Avalanche are in the mix, as are Nashville (23 points), Detroit (24), Dallas (24) and Minnesota (24). The Kings, Blues and Sharks are also crowded together in the middle of the pack, but we can assume they will separate themselves from the middling clubs over time.
As has been true the last few years, the real problem for Calgary isn’t the number of points between them and the playoffs, but the number of teams. Four points back doesn’t sound like a whole lot and it would be relatively trivial if they were chasing a single incumbent, but it’s the other half dozen roughly equivalent squad’s they’d have to leapfrog that whittles down their chances. Further complicating matters is the fact that the schedule is conference exclusive, meaning every Western Conference team is gaining points against every other team each night that goes by. As a result, there’s no cheering for the Penguins or Bruins to beat a divisional or conference rival in the hopes they take the points back East with them, unfortunately.
So it’s a steep hill to climb. In fact, the upcoming three game road trip could more or less seal the Flames fate if it goes poorly. San Jose tomorrow night and then back-to-back games against the Kings and Ducks on the weekend makes for tough sledding: the Kings and Sharks are unarguably superior squads while the Ducks have been the luckiest team in the league so far (also, they have Getzlaf, Perry, superior goaltending and the Flames will be tired).
As per Sports Club Stats, Calgary has to have a 57 winning percentage or better to have a real chance of making the dance. If this road trip ends with two or less points, Calgary will need to go at least 15-7-3 down the stretch (60%)…not impossible, but also not something to put your house on.
An improbable three game winning streak, in contrast, would put the Flames in much better position going forward. Their required "playoff record" would fall to 13-9-3 or a winning percentage of just 52%. In addition, their schedule gets a bit easier with Nashville, Dallas, Columbus (X2) and Colorado populating the rest of the month.
Obviously the stakes are high for every remaining Flames game until they are mathematically assured a spot or eliminated from contention, but this next sojourn to California could prove to be the pivotal stretch of 2013.
The year’s hot trade commodities are Jack Johnson, Tyler Bozak and Keith Ballard. I’d rather lend money to Greece.
— Cam Charron (@camcharron) March 5, 2013
As Cam wryly notes, the potential "big names" at the trade deadline right now are underwhelming. Should the Flames convincingly fall out of the race by then this could mean a lot of interest in pieces like Iginla or Kiprusoff for clubs looking to put themselves over the top. If that happens and with a 4th straight year out of the playoffs staring them in the face, surely Calgary’s decision makers have to at least consider putting their aging starts on the auction block?
– We have another freeroll running this week with Draftstreet. Click here to enter and build your roster for Thursday night’s games. As usual, the prize money available is up to $300. Good luck!