Flames Race to the Bottom



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.

  • McRib

    Did anyone else watch the Oilers game last night??? Man oh man (Eberle, Hall and Gagner) looked pretty disgusted!

    If Oilers management doesn’t turn things around quickly… At what point in the future do these young guys start going to the brass demanding a trade?!?! i.e. The Chris Pronger/Sheldon Souray. Edmonton needs to figure out this arena situation quickly, so they can convience free agents to even think about going there!

    • beloch

      For most of this season I’d been assuming that, with all their cap space, the Oilers would be ready to make some nice UFA acquisitions over the summer. Well, I was probably wrong.

      First, the cap will shrink by ~$6M and the Oilers have given raises to Hall, Eberle, and Smid worth a combined $8.3M (These kick in next season). That’s $14.3 less to spend on the supporting cast right off the bat.

      Next Sam Gagner, no matter what you think of his underlying stats or (shoddy) defensive play, is on pace for 70+ points in a full season. He’s currently making $3.2M and I seriously doubt he’ll resign for less than that. Magnus Paajarvi is also a RFA who will probably be asking for a raise. In total, there are four RFA’s currently without deals with a total current salary of $6.675. That can only go up unless some are let go.

      There are 6 unsigned UFA’s (not counting goalies) that combine for a total current cap-hit of $10.35M. Will Ryan Whitney be resigned? Anyone?

      Finally, there’s Khabibulin. Is this guy finally going to retire? With Dubnyk performing pretty well (I didn’t think he’d turn out this well quite frankly!) there’s not much reason to keep wheeling the ol’ ‘bulin wall out. That’s a $3.75M cap hit that can probably be replaced with a much cheaper backup. (Feaster: “Hey Big MacT, wanna trade for a backup goalie? Have I got a deal for you!”)

      To sum up, the Oilers have $16.5M in cap space and have unsigned roster players with a current total cap hit of $17.0M, not including Khabi. Most of these guys are dirt cheap (and suck), but some of them are going to demand raises or walk (e.g. Gagner). Somebody worth keeping is going to have to be let go. This means the Oilers are not going to be going on a crazy UFA spending spree this summer. Their focus is going to have to be on filling in their gaps in a cost-effective manner.

    • Sanintarious

      Oh boy…this should be interesting.

      lines are:

      Horak- Hudler- Aliu
      Banks-Byron- McGratten(nifty mittens himself)

      D pairing:

      Brodie- Cundari
      Gio- Carson
      Butler-Babchuk (THIS LINE BETTER PLAY 20+ MINS!!)

      Kipper in net (Only thing better would be playing Irving)

      If NASHVILLE can’t beat this line up (despite their injuries) then they have SERIOUS SERIOUS problems.

      I hope the kids look good tonight, but a nice 8-7 Loss would feel great!

    • Sanintarious

      Auditioning for Captain perhaps? haha.

      I really don’t know who I’d make captain for next year….I would love to see Glencross as captain (but I find this very unlikely) Cammy PERHAPS (if they were interested in resigning him past next year for a much smaller cap hit.

      iginla’s house is up for sale apparently (could mean nothing at all). But this has to make you wonder if he is going to come back next year even if he did win a cup…

  • Parallex

    The absolute best case is the Flames continue to win, finish ahead of the Oilers, then win the lottery against all odds and then have The Blues lose as many games as they can to drive them down in the standing to 8th and watch them and the Pens get bounced in the first round. I really hope the Blues drop to 7th or 8th… I’d feel dirty rooting for the ‘Nucks to win.

    Realistically at this point the Flames are out of drafting one of the big 4 (In my mind Jones, MacKinnon, Drouin, and Barkov) but we’re still likely to Be in Lingholm, Monahan, Nichushkin range (particularily if someone below us wants someone like Nurse). We’ll get a good player, probably a better one then we’re due considering how much below average goaltending sunk the team.

    • mattyc

      Yeah, I’d be happy with Monahan or Lindholm (though I doubt he falls that low). Nichushkin is also top 3 in some rankings – he could be a steal, but again i doubt he falls to 7/8.

      I’m guessing Jones, MacKinnon, Drouin, Barkov, Lindholm, Nichushkin all go in the top 6.

      • McRib

        Monahan, Lindholm and Nurse would all be Top. 5 picks most other years. They just aren’t as NHL ready as those above them in this deep draft, which is likely a good thing for us as we aren’t NHL ready either, Haha. Compare Nurse’s numbers to Griffin Reinhart’s last season if you think differently.

        No chance in Hell are the Flames taking a Russian with a Top. 10, you are crazy if you think so!! You know Murray Edwards is the owner right?!?!?! Fortunately I see a team like Carolina reaching for Nichushkin earlier than expected, Nurse might get picked up higher as well as Tampa, Carolina and Colorado all need defensee.

        • mattyc

          “Nurse might get picked up higher as well as Tampa, Carolina and Colorado all need defensee.”

          Indeed. Nurse is a player often forgotten in these reckonings, and I could definitely see Tampa Bay reaching for him. Carolina and Colorado not so much. Carolina likes to take forwards in the first round (Ryan Murphy was extremely out of character for them), while Colorado is generally pretty prudent on draft day (Duncan Siemens notwithstanding).

  • beloch

    Kipper’s been a difference maker ever since he busted out of klink and replaced the replicant who was filling in (badly) for him. I’ve got a feeling he could steal this one.

    Also, I bet Aliu scores two dirty goals before being ejected for attempting to discuss “human anatomical possibilities” with a ref… again.

    Anyways… Here’s to an entertaining battle to the bottom. A Titan (of sucking) vs a Titan (of sucking)!!!

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I laughed at the Flames managment got the sage comment. You would have to think that the NHL would want to mitigate this kind of behavior league wide. Tanking is a smart and saavy business decision, given the drafting format of the NHL. As a fan this is actually disgraceful, and I wonder if their have been any meaningful discussions (at the GM’s annual meeting) to dissuade this from continuing?

  • Colin.S

    That lineup makes me want to vomit outside of Brodie/Cundari/Giordano/Baertschi.

    That is a an abysmal lineup and the flames should be fined for even icing such a lineup. Glad to say that I won’t be watching tonights game, be to busy working.

    But Flames will still win however and we are going to have to ice an even worse lineup next game, if that’s even possible….. can we call up Nemisz yet?

    • McRib

      THE FLAMES SHOULD BE FINED?!?!? How about Florida, Colorado, Tampa Bay and Carolina tanking the last two months?!?!?! We are just tanking the last three games!! You can’t tell me moves like placing Jussi Jokinen on waivers is not a tank move!!

      • Colin.S

        You can hardly accuse any of those teams of purposely trying to tank at any time, unless they start sitting all the Staals or Semin or Stamkos or anyone else then you could accuse the of tanking.

        As well the Jussi Jokinen thing is a lot more than just tanking, that team has an internal budget that is not the cap, so with the cap going down and re-singing Semin they decided that Jokinen was the odd man out and rather than try to move him in the offseason they did it now.

        Maybe theres a lot of injuries the FLames are not telling us about and that’s why they are siting ALL the vets, but seriously, they couldn’t give a more clear we do not give a damn about winning with that lineup.

        • McRib

          Like I said earlier Carolina, Nashville and Edmonton all went on real “convenient” loosing skids ten games ago, once they had ZERO chance at making the playoffs.

          Anyway if teams like Edmonton, Colorado, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida continue to finish in the basement with multiple Top. 3 picks on their rosters, I hardly want to see us relying soly on a Top. 3 pick this season or any other!! The Flames already look to be headed in the right direction in terms of the rebuild, I’m fine picking 6-10. Its a deep deep draft.

          • Colin.S

            But Carolina, Nashville and Edmonton were all also in the midst of a playoff chase as well, why would they being only a few points out of the playoffs “decide” to start loosing. If anything either they are bad teams and percentages are catching up to them or they are going through a bad percentage stretch of season.

            Either way this Flames lineup is still meant for full on tank mode, way harder than any other team.

          • RexLibris


            Carolina, Nashville and Edmonton, even Tampa Bay to some extent, have made attempts to improve and were in the playoff picture to varying degrees at the point of the trade deadline.

            That they have since dropped off significantly since then speaks to the wild variations expected in an abbreviated season. Were this a full schedule season it is likely that at least three of those above (I’d exclude Nashville, perhaps) are far closer to the floor than the ceiling by trade deadline and thus begin to sell off. Their performances were not indicative of ability, it is just that the deadline came sooner than the final grade was available.

            The Flames roster looks a lot like one built to “experiment” with young players and let the chips fall where they may. They have some injuries and absences to make up, Glencross, Tanguay, Bouwmeester, Iginla, and perhaps one more bruised blueliner needing rest. Those deletions don’t really add up to explain the number of veterans sitting other than to suggest that the Flames are deliberately dressing an inferior roster.

            Contrast this to last year when injuries forced them to bring up Baertschi from the WHL.

            It sucks for Flames fans that the younglings are taking it to the NHL grownups, but such is fate. This draft is not so deep that you want to be rebuilding by drafting outside of the top six, and if they find themselves picking 8th or lower then I would strongly recommend looking at a trade for a proven player. Perhaps New Jersey would part with Adam Henrique?

        • stretch14

          I couldn’t agree more. While it is embarrassing for bad teams to lose on a consistent basis none of the teams Mcrib mentioned have healthy scratched established NHLers in favor of AHL pluggers with no NHL future.

          Say what you will about the Oilers “tanking” the past three years but not once during that time did we healthy scratch multiple vets in a shameless attempt to purposely lose to a team below us in the standings. By not icing the best lineup possible isn’t that contradictory to building a “winning culture” in calgary?

          Sitting vets like Stajan, Cammalleri, Stempniak and a guy who’s still developing in Backlund is an absolute joke. That really takes tanking to a whole new level. I’m really not trying to be inflammatory here, it’s just the facts of the situation.

  • mattyc

    They’re right on the cusp of that pre-season rule where you have to play 5 regulars. The regulars I have (who started the year in Calgary) are:

    Hudler, Giordano, Butler, Kipprusoff, and I guess you could make a case for Cervenka, McGratton, Brodie. But c’mon.

  • McRib

    The Draft Rankings should be determined and set prior to the final 10 games of the season. These were the rankings 10 Games ago… 30. Florida 29. Colordao 27. Calgary 26. Tampa Bay 25. Carolina

    Nashville has gone (1-7-2) in the last ten games, Carolina has gone (2-7-2) and Edmonton has gone (2-8-0). It seems very “convenient” that those teams had loosing skids the day after realizing the playoffs were out of reach. Embarrassing!!

  • Sanintarious

    The only thing to look forward to this miserable season was a high draft pick and a future building block. We got to the bottom of the league fair and square while trying hard to win, and the all those other atrocious teams surpassed us in their ability to bungle a hockey game.

    Maybe the NHL needs some soccer type relegation for perpetual bottom dwelling teams. Edmonton has tons of #1’s and STILL craps the bed and apparently has no self respect. Florida and Tampa Bay etc have #1’s in their system already.

    Meanwhile our Heat/ Flames god awful mishmash is winning us out of a great pick! If we can’t lose our way into, or trade into the top tier of the draft, this season will have been an unmitigated disaster in every respect.

  • Sanintarious

    Heard an interesting suggestion for the draft lottery. What if the lottery was for the first five picks? The lottery would still be weighted, but the earliest that you would be guaranteed to pick by finishing last would be sixth. The top five spots would all be filled in order by the lottery method.

    It would look to remove some of the mechanism in place for ensuring parity in the league, but then look at the draft history and records for teams like Edmonton and Florida and you have to believe that the draft has less to do with parity than good/poor management and three point games.

    Helps to limit the amount of or the degree of tanking by teams when they realize that they dont have anything to play for but draft position.

  • Sanintarious

    Would also like to see something where you cannot get a top three pick two years in a row. Regardless if you are really bad or just really lucky in the lottery.

  • TheRealPoc

    You see how underwhelming this lineup is? That’s what we can look forward to if we don’t add an elite talent from this draft or the next.

    Tank baby, tank.

    • Parallex

      Except that it’s not because the Flames are sitting a whole whack of experienced guys with several more injured (leaving aside that the team we’re icing now wouldn’t be cap compliant).

  • Is Backs injured?

    My vote is for Glencross to become captain next year.

    Gio, Backlund & or Brodie with the A’s.

    I’d be happy

    As for the rest of this year: we need to lose.

    Barkov or Lindholmn with our pick, and then depending where our other picks land, we need to target Mantha, Erne with STL, then look for a defender with the PIT pick.

    • RexLibris

      I’d vote for a rotation of A’s next season. Let the room sort itself out. Picking a captain from this group, going into a period of roster flux, just means you’ll likely have to strip it from someone, or trade them, later.

      As for the draft, I’d suggest that Jones, MacKinnon, Barkov and Drouin will go in the top four. Florida likely takes either Jones or Drouin, Colorado probably takes whomever is left. Nichushkin, Nurse, Monahan and Lindholm probably in the next four or five spots.

      If the Oilers draft ahead of the Flames you can almost guarantee they will take the best center available, be it MacKinnon (if for some reason he drops), Barkov or Monahan. Lindholm might be a safe bet if the Flames pick at 8, he is a strong 2 way center averaging .5 ppg the last few seasons overseas.

      I’d be most worried about Feaster trading down or reaching for a player like Nick Petan. Great skill, but undersized. Plays for the Winterhawks, a Flames’ favoured destination for picks.

      As I said before, the further down the Flames draft, the more they might benefit from trading the pick for a young player.

  • piscera.infada

    Didn’t Nischukin just sign a contract in the KHL (4 years, I think) not sure where I read this, or if its real).

    But, do you want to take that risk?

  • Derzie

    Draft priority: 1) Center, 2) Center, 3)Skilled Canadian Forward. No Russian players unless they’ve played ALL of their hockey here. We need to go with highest probability of success. No luxury to take chances on skill players without Canuck-like will to win.

  • beloch

    Preds have been playing like total crap so the Flames have a good chance of winning tonight.

    Glad they’re not playing Backlund. He’s been too good recently.

  • RKD

    Kipper starting doesn’t really make sense, unless MacDonald has a minor injury and the team isn’t saying anything.

    Maybe Kipper is being traded after the playoffs or on the draft floor where the Flames will miraculously acquire another first round pick giving the Flames a whopping 4 first round picks. C’mon Florida or Colorado you know you want Kipper. Trading him to the Leafs won’t help they don’t pick until 23.

    All kidding aside, Florida is probably getting Luongo and taking Jones. The Avs could use Jones more and Florida would benefit from MacKinnon more.

    As for tanking, they’ll probably beat Nashville whose been worse than Calgary. The Preds had injuries and lost Suter, but they got Forsberg for Erat. The Flames just aren’t Florida bad.

    • RexLibris

      I tend to think that Tallon selects Drouin to play alongside Huberdeau. They have Markstrom, Gudbranson, and Kulikov. Jones would be a good addition, but I think Tallon takes the skilled winger to play with a center. That means Sherman is free to take Jones, which is good news to the rest of us as few highly-drafted blueliners actually stick with their original team. Then you have Barkov and MacKinnon, a Finn with size or a Canadian with a strong two-way game and high-end skill.

      Somebody will probably take a reach with either Nurse or Nichushkin between 4 and 6, so the latest I think you can pick and still find a high-end prospect is 7th. After that it will be draft-and-wait with a greater caveat on potential ceiling.