The Calgary Flames winning against all odds has been strangely gratifying recently, especially since it has once again catapulted them above the woeful Oilers in the Western Conference (who lost again last night, by the way).
Let’s be clear, though – wins are worth less than nothing to the Flames at this point of the season. If you are a fan who takes a principled stand against "playing to lose", that’s admirable and I agree the players and coach should never take the ice with the intention of laying down. Pragmatically speaking, though, every standing point earned by Calgary in these last few games is toxic to the long-term health of the club.
Losing Is Winning
Right now the Flames sit 24th in the NHL with 42 points, one point back of Philly for 23rd. If nothing changes, Calgary would enter the draft lottery at 7th overall, which would give them just a 4.3% chance of winning the draw and picking first. Otherwise, Calgary’s pick would be 7th/8th, a few steps outside of that obvious first tier of talent (Jones, MacKinnon, Douin, Barkov).
The race to the bottom is neck and neck. No one is catching the Panthers (the only club in the league to have worse luck than the Flames so far) – even 29th placed Colorado is 5 points up on Florida. The Avs stand at 37 points with three games left and could conceivably rise to 43 points if they win out. Anything less than that – 5 points in 3 games, for example – would still place them below the Flames even if Calgary doesn’t win another game though, thanks to Calgary’s superior number of regulation wins (19 to 14 currently).
So 29th is more or less out of the picture as well.
Tampa Bay has 38 points and could potentially pass the Flames with three more wins, assuming again Calgary stops winning themselves. As such, the best the Flames can hope for at this point is 28th overall, but it would take concurrent winning and losing streaks by T-bay and Calgary for that to happen. Possible, but a longshot.
On the other hand, Calgary can catch all of Philadelphia (43 points, 3 games left), Buffalo (44 points, 2 games left), New Jersey (44 points, 3 games left), and Phoenix (46 points, 3 games left). The Flames maximum amount of points is 48 so anyone at Dallas or above is more or less out of reach. If we assume another 3 points for the Coyotes is probable in their final few games, then they’re beyond reach as well.
So Calgary’s probable range of results falls between 28th and 21st overall (or 3rd and 10th draft-wise), although 28th is tenuous. For the sake of realism, let’s say 27th-21st (4th-10th). That means their range of winning the lottery is roughly 11%-2%, depending.
The optimum scenario
Best case is the Flames continue to win, finish ahead of the Oilers and then win the lottery against all odds.
That’s not very likely, however, so the other ideal is to play well, lose the last three and hope teams like T-Bay, Nashville and Carolina win a few more before things end this week.