Calgary has played 24 games and only have another 24 remaining in their 2013 season. They probably won’t make the playoffs, but that’s hardly a brave prophecy at this point. Here’s a few other things I expect to happen before the final puck drops for Calgary as well…
1.) The Flames won’t finish last in the West
Although pragmatically the best thing for Calgary would be to finish as low in the standings as possible, the truth is the Flames aren’t as bad as they have seemed through the first half of the year. All of their underlying numbers are at least middle of the road and it’s only league worst goaltending that has sunk them.
So unless Feaster tells the troops to lay down their arms or trades everything not nailed down, the Flames will improve as a matter of course. In the summer I suggested Kipper would regress from his outstanding numbers last season, but I seriously doubt he is suddenly a sub-replacement level puck stopper. Even if he is merely average for the remainder, Calgary’s record should improve.
This prediction seems a little tone deaf considering Calgary’s recent struggles, but really this should be a familiar script for Flames fans. In each of the previous two seasons the club flailed around for the first 30 or so games, only to turn things around in the second half and make a serious run at the post-season. They probably don’t have enough games left to do that this time (the hole is too deep) but expect them to go on a winning streak and pull themselves out of the basement out least.
Aside – when the Flames go on their inevitable run, you’ll hear stories about how they are finally embracing Hartley’s system, or playing relaxed hockey because they don’t feel the pressure of the playoffs anymore, or some other such psychologizing. Don’t believe them.
2.) The Flames will finish above the Oilers
You know who is (still) legitimately terrible? The Edmonton Oilers.
On twitter the other day I asked my followers if they would rather be a Flames fan or Oilers fan right now. I was obviously being a bit facetious (the response was overwhelmingly "neither"), but the question actually does interest me – The Oil have an impressive collection of kids, but that’s about it. They’ve raced through most of the youngsters ELC’s, their management doesn’t seem to know how to build an NHL roster (make sure to click that link) and they still sport some of the worst possession numbers in the league.
It’s arguable that Edmonton is in the better position given their younger assets. Even with those guys, though, they remain below the Flames despite the fact we’ve arguably reached the latter’s post-2004 nadir. It can certainly get worse for the Calgary organization if the next 12-24 months aren’t managed with a deft hand, but Edmonton has been rebuilding in earnest for almost 5 years and are still the NHL’s easy-out.
3.) Iginla will be dealt
After two or three years of writing "trade Jarome" articles, this is the season I think we finally see it happen. Iginla’s contract is up in the summer, the team and player haven’t talked about an extension and it should be as obvious as the nose on Tim Hunter’s face at this point that Jarome is no longer an elite piece to build around.
Eric Francis’ recent article on the subject portends an Iggy deal I think, not because of the subject or content, but because it strikes me as a trial balloon purposely raised by the Flames management (via the media) to test the public’s willingness to embrace a post-Iginla era. A random sampling of the comments there (and here and almost any other fan gathering online) suggests this is the case.
Iginla will likely be the most sought after rental player on the market at the deadline, raising the demand and therefore asking rpice. The Flames won’t realistically be in the playoff chase for the first time since they made their cup run. The franchise is in desperate need of adding to its modest stable of future assets. And Jarome is running out of time to win the cup.
It makes entirely too much sense. Unless Jarome categorically refuses to waive his NTC ala Sundin (which I don’t think will happen), he will be a Bruin, Penguin, Blue or King in April.