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.


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.


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.

    • BurningSensation

      Nicely done Ryan!

      A couple of questions;

      – If we draft 5th, what are the odds we win the lottery?
      – What are the odds we draft 5th?
      – What are the odds we draft 6th?

      At 6th overall, and presuming that; Reinhart, Ekblad, Draisatil, Bennett, and Dal Colle are all off the board, is the obvious pick Virtanen?

      • RexLibris

        Virtanen might be the best option and given the Flames’ shortage, to put it mildly, of RW prospects, perhaps a bit of good fortune as well.

        They have Backlund and Monahan down the middle, are developing wingers in Baertschi and Gaudreau (not to mention Roy and Klimchuk) and could add Virtanen as well.

        Not a bad collection. Nothing stellar on paper, but a slow and steady accumulation of prospects that can be allowed to develop at their own pace.

          • RexLibris

            I’d forgotten about Olivier Roy.

            And darn it, Poirier was the one I was trying to remember but for some reason I’d confused him with Marco Roy, the Oilers’ prospect.

            My mistake.

            In any case, most prospect lists I’ve seen have the Flames RW depth as Poirier, Eddy, and Harrison. They could use a Virtanen or someone similar.

      • supra steve

        30th place: 25.0% 29th place: 18.8% 28th place: 14.2% 27th place: 10.7% 26th place: 8.1% 25th place: 6.2% 24th place: 4.7% 23th place: 3.6% 22th place: 2.7% 21th place: 2.1% 20th place: 1.5% 19th place: 1.1% 18th place: 0.8% 17th place: 0.5%

        If we end up at 26th, 8.1% chance we draft first, 68.7% we draft 5th, 23.2% we draft 6th.

      • Parallex

        If we are in 5th position pre-lotto our odds are 8.1%. the odds on us drafting 5th post lotto are the cumulative odds of position 1-4 (68.7%) plus the odds of New Jersey, odds we draft 6 are the cumulative odds of position 6-14 less New Jersey.

        I wouldn’t draft Virtanen at 6… I’d probably try to trade down a few spots and take Fluery.