Race To The Bottom: Three Weeks Out


It’s an off-day today for the Calgary Flames, as they trek eastward for their final five-game road trip of the year. Now’s as good a time as any to check out the race at the bottom of the NHL’s standings for draft position.

I’ll be blunt – Buffalo’s pretty awful.

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The Flames are slightly over-performing. They’ve won six of their last ten games, which is obviously (a) more than their season average and (b) better than you’d expect based on their opposition. The big question is “Can they keep this pace up?”


Their last eight games are against Ottawa, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Florida, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. I’m not about to say any are un-winnable. They get Tampa after a long flight, but after a day off, and they get them before Florida (in the front end of a back-to-back), which is probably the scheduling best-case scenario.

The model I’m using estimates that the opposition continues to gain points at roughly the same rate they’ve done all season (which is how I measure strength of schedule). That equates to four wins for Calgary. They could get five, though.

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The model suggests that Nashville is the most likely team to drop down to Calgary’s level, based on having the fewest games remaining and a really hard schedule – Washington, Anaheim, San Jose, Dallas, Phoenix, Chicago, and Minnesota. But considering they sit six points up on Calgary right now, they’d need to under-perform and Calgary would need to over-achieve.

Carolina, Ottawa and Winnipeg are fairly close, but they’ve built up enough of a points cushion that they’d need to implode entirely for Calgary to catch any of them.


  1. Buffalo – 48 points – 9 games left, .588% strength of schedule – 56.6 points projected
  2. Edmonton – 61 points – 8 games left, .631% strength of schedule – 67.8 points projected
  3. Florida – 62 points – 8 games left, .533% strength of schedule – 70.4 points projected
  4. NY Islanders – 66 points – 9 games left, .499% strength of schedule – 76.3 points projected
  5. Calgary – 69 points – 8 games left, .531% strength of schedule – 77.6 points projected
  6. Nashville – 75 points – 7 games left, .613% strength of schedule – 81.4 points projected
  7. Carolina – 73 points – 9 games left, .561% strength of schedule – 82.1 points projected
  8. Winnipeg – 75 points – 8 games left, .607% strength of schedule – 82.2 points projected
  9. Ottawa – 74 points – 9 games left, ..530% strength of schedule – 83.4 points projected


Same projection, except using Sports Club Stats’ percentages and weightings. Their model is much more complex than mine.

  1. Buffalo – 100% chance
  2. Edmonton – 65% (Florida 34%)
  3. Florida – 59% (Edmonton 32%)
  4. NY Islanders – 60% (Calgary 28%)
  5. Calgary – 52% (Islanders 26%)
  6. Nashville – 31% (Carolina 19%, Winnipeg 18%, Ottawa 12%, Calgary 11%)
  7. Nashville – 25% (Carolina/Winnipeg 21%, Ottawa 16%)
  8. Winnipeg – 20% (Carolina 19%, Ottawa 18%, Nashville 17%)
  9. Ottawa – 18% (Carolina/Winnipeg 15%, Vancouver 12%, Nashville 10%)


Most likely, the Flames draft fifth overall, pending the draft lottery. This is unlikely to change, even if they win a ton to close out the season.

    • T&A4Flames

      How about the Leafs? They may not win another game this season. The Leafs only have 80 points; if they lose all their remaining games, the Flames can catch them by winning 6 of 8.

      Sadly for Toronto (and barring a miracle), the Leafs have established their identity now, three+ years in a row.