The Playoff Chase – February 1 2015

Rather than the usual Sunday Open Thread, starting this week and going until it’s no longer useful or relevant – either because Calgary’s fallen off the face of the Earth (playoff-wise) or the season ends – we’ll use this space to frame the playoff chase for the upcoming week.

Let’s talk about next week’s schedule!

SAN JOSE (60 PTS)

Record: 27-17-6 in 50 games; second in the Pacific Division

  • Monday vs. Edmonton
  • Wednesday at Calgary
  • Thursday at Vancouver
  • Saturday vs. Carolina

Outlook: the Sharks are busy this week. They have tough games against Calgary and Vancouver on the road, and Carolina’s been good lately. They should beat Edmonton, and will have a good shot against Carolina, but the other two games are toss-ups.

WINNIPEG (60 PTS)

Record: 26-17-8 in 51 games; first wild-card position in the West

  • Monday at Calgary
  • Tuesday at Vancouver
  • Friday vs. Chicago

Outlook: The Jets face three teams in playoff spots, including back-to-back games (with travel). It’s possible they could lose all three games this week. They should all be close.

VANCOUVER (57 PTS)

Record: 27-17-3 in 47 games; third in the Pacific Division

  • Sunday vs. Minnesota
  • Tuesday vs. Winnipeg
  • Thursday vs. San Jose
  • Saturday vs. Pittsburgh

Outlook: Vancouver’s busy, but consider this: they get Winnipeg, San Jose and Pittsburgh all on the back half of back-to-back games, with each team playing in Calgary the night prior. Combined with games in hand, that’s a big advantage over the Flames (who are chasing them).

CALGARY (57 PTS)

Record: 27-20-3 in 50 games; second wild-card position (three points back of San Jose for second in Pacific, tied with Vancouver for third in Pacific, three points back of Winnipeg for first wild-card)

  • Monday vs. Winnipeg
  • Wednesday vs. San Jose
  • Friday vs. Pittsburgh

Outlook: three tough games for the Flames, with two chances to reel in teams ahead of them in the wildcard (Winnipeg) and divisional (San Jose) playoff pictures. All three games will be evenly matched. I’d suspect they win at least one game this week.

LOS ANGELES (54 PTS)

Record: 21-16-12 in 49 games; three points back of third in Pacific and second wild-card

  • Tuesday at Washington
  • Thursday at Florida
  • Saturday at Tampa Bay

Outlook: lots of travel, and two tough games in Washington and Tampa. I expect them to win one or two of these.

DALLAS (53 PTS)

Record: 23-19-7 in 49 games; four points back of second wild-card

  • Tuesday vs. Colorado
  • Thursday vs. Tampa Bay
  • Saturday at Buffalo

Outlook: Please, please, please let the Tuesday game in Denver be a regulation win for somebody. That’s all I ask. They should beat Buffalo and lose to Tampa by my estimation.

COLORADO (53 PTS)

Record: 21-18-11 in 50 games; four points back of second wild-card

  • Tuesday at Dallas
  • Thursday vs. Detroit
  • Saturday at Minnesota

Outlook: Three tough games against rivals. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see them win all three or lose all three. And as with the Dallas/Colorado tilt, let’s just pray for a regulation game on Saturday.

MINNESOTA (50 PTS)

Record: 22-20-6 in 48 games; seven points back of second wild-card

  • Sunday at Vancouver
  • Tuesday vs. Chicago
  • Saturday vs. Colorado

OutlooK: As with Colorado, I could see Minnesota win all three games this week or lose them all. That said, they could do Calgary a big favour and beat Vancouver tonight.

  • RedMan

    the playoff picture will be much clearer over the next 10 days.

    As long as the flames do not ditch the rebuild, playoffs would be fine. Although – are prospects missing opportunity to get experience now in order to play current vets to maximize wins?

  • RedMan

    Flames will be 2-1 o 3-0 and Jets will be 0-3 so the Flames move ahead of the Jets with one game still in hand. Jets have lost 3 in a row and will lose 3 more his week.

    Status quo with other teams…

  • MWflames

    Wow, who would of guessed we’d even consider an article like this before the season started?

    The Flames are actually starting to look like a playoff team. The beginning of year had wins, but a lot of them were a tad lucky. The team looks much more polished then ever lately. If only the PP could improve…

    Seeing Wolf play last night, reassures me that there’s lots of potential on the farm to improve the flames. I mean Wolf isn’t a world beater by any means, but its not hard to see him as an upgrade over Bollig by this time next year. The flames will be a better team next year which is very exciting.

  • MWflames

    So with tdl approaching what is your peoples thoughts? Keep Ramo or Hiller or both? If Glencross can fitch a 3rd round pick or better do you make the trade or do you keep him cuz he could be valuable down the stretch? Having Bennett come back is better than any trade out there. So do you let him play out the season with the big club and give a big push for the playoffs or do you save a year on his entry contract?

    • MWflames

      Ramo/Hiller: If the Flames have a great February, you keep them both. If not, trade Ramo.

      GlenX: Keep him

      Bennett: Play rest of the season in Junior when he is ready for full contact, after practicing with the Flames at Home.

  • RedMan

    does a year get burned off Bennet’s ELC if he plays fewer than 9 regular season games, but eclipses that total in the playoffs?

    Is it even possible he can make a return to the roster, or is there some sort of deadline set for when you can activate players from IR?

    • MWflames

      The answer to your first question is No.

      Why rush a 19 year old just getting off major shoulder surgery? He needs to get his game back including his conditioning. Physically also needs too and will get bigger in time. Let’s relax with Bennet and give this kid the time he requires….

      • beloch

        The thing about Bennett is he’s been training with Flames staff during his recovery, not with his junior team in Kingston. Obviously, the Flames have a vested interest in giving Bennett NHL-level care during his recovery. However, I’d be surprised if the reasons for keeping him in Calgary don’t go deeper. Bennett has likely been spending a lot of time in the video room and with the Flames’ coaches learning about the NHL game. Given this and the fact that Bennett looked more NHL-ready in camp than Sean Monahan did last season, I suspect Bennett may be more ready than many people think.

        In many ways it does make sense to send Bennett back to junior when he’s cleared to play. It’s obviously going to be easier for him to get back into the junior game. However, he’s been mentally preparing for the NHL for 4 months, not a return to junior. Also, the Flames probably want to keep Bennett under close observation when he starts playing. Giving him five minutes a night for a few games on the fourth line may allow them a lot more control over his return than if he’s sent back to junior, where he’ll likely play 20 minutes a night from the get-go. Finally, there’s probably some desire to reward Bennett for his hard work in rehab.

        Even if Bennett starts back in the OHL, it’s a safe bet he’ll be back before the season is over.

        • RedMan

          Flames are in a playoff race of there lives!! Every shift, every game will be critical. This is not the time to give a 19 year old kid coming off major shoulder surgery “5 minutes on the 4th line” and risk not only his health but the Flames playoff chances! Games are going to get brutally physical now and 4th lines are needed to play a role and not experiment with your young prospect….like I said give the kid the time he needs to develop and that does not mean spot duty on the 4th line!!!

          • beloch

            First, the Flames’ fourth line doesn’t accomplish much most games. Occasionally they turn in a good shift or even a good game, but one of the main reasons why the Flames’ are great in the third period is that Hartley shortens the bench. Second, Bennett has the potential to surprise everyone and be a huge upgrade for the team. It’s probable he needs more time but, if he were actually NHL-ready by early March, it would be a huge benefit to have him in the lineup down the stretch. If he isn’t given a chance there’s no way of knowing if he’s NHL-ready. Third, in principle player development should not be neglected to chase the playoffs. If we learned anything from the Sutter years, it’s got to be that. Finally, nothing lights a fire under the veterans’ butts like a good rookie debut.

          • Canrock 78

            Who are guys going to take off the power play or on 4 pm 4 Johnny, money, for a rookie that hasn’t played in months. And could not work out until recently as he was not allowed to do any exercises as not to disrupt the healing process.
            I can’t wait to see him play, next year. Let him go to junour help that team turn it around and do something in the playoffs.

          • beloch

            Power play is TWENTY-THIRD(!)in the league at 16.8%!! That can be improved for sure, don’t you think Canrok? The Playoffs are all about Special teams and both the Flames PP and PK suck to put it bluntly.

            There are 2 PP units; I am sure Hartley could find space for him. And Mony and Johnny don’t play all 5 minutes of OT….Maybe on the wing with Backs?

          • Canrock 78

            Hey Belch you related to Jeropototo? You have the same tone.
            Just because I don’t sit playing with myself and my computer all day doesn’t make me a rookie. People throw out crazy ideas thinking their smarter than the coaches and gm’s and I guess if you put out enough crap your bound to get one right even you my lord.

            My opinion is use the guys that got ya here and have paid there do’s in Calgary or in Aderondack.

          • Rockmorton65

            Very much disagree with your comments and am actually quite surprised….Strong 4th lines contribute greatly to championships and you are proposing that an underdeveloped major injury recovery 19 year old be put on a 4th line to help the Flames in a critical Stanley Cup playoff drive….many points you make are suspect including potentially destroying a young man’s confidence before his NHL career starts.

            Sam Bennett was the highest drafted player in Flames history..mark my words he will NEVER play 4th line…he is potentially a very talented top 6 player…never should or will he ever see a 4th line!!

          • Rockmorton65

            Remember though, most players are starting to peak in terms of speed, intensity and physicality. Bennett is essentially in pre-season mode. He may have the smarts, but his “legs” and timing just aren’t there. Even good practices don’t equal game speed. Unfortunately, this is not a good time to be working on getting the kinks out. As much as I would love to see him play, I think it would be better to shut him down for the season. Unless the Flames are out of the playoffs, then you could work on some things with him.

    • beloch

      Trade everyone for picks? Who will be the vets to teach the young studs to practice hard, play hard?\
      I guess you would overpay for another 2 or 3 nothing guys like Enggeland again to reach the cap floor?

      • Parallex

        With respect to the cap floor Glencross and Ramo will be gone next year anyways and raises to Backlund (RFA), Brodie (extension kicks in next year) and Bouma (RFA) + the Schedule A performance bonuses that Monahan and Gaudreau will (with little doubt) qualify for would likely allow the Flames to hit the cap floor if they signed zero “guys like Enggeland” again. That’s without factoring in the replacement contracts for whomever it is that takes their roster spots. So no issue there.

        As for “Who will be the vets to teach the young studs to practice hard, play hard?”… the answer is everybody still here. Plenty of vets still around + an increasing number of guys in or entering their mid-twenties (So guys that are on the borderline of the young-player/vet chart. It’s not like the team is going to devolve into animal house in their absense.

        Neither the cap floor nor the preceived value of whatever someone might ascribe to yee ol’ veteran presence should in any way impede any moves mangagement can or should make.

        Personally I think you absolutely trade Glencross and a goaltender (Ortio is ready to have one of the seats next year). No rush on Stajan.

  • RKD

    It will be a tough month, the Flames have a lot of quality opponents and will have big 7 game road trip at the end of the month against Eastern teams which they have struggled against. The upside is that so far, none of the teams behind or even ahead of Calgary for that matter have grabbed the reign or bull by the horns and ran away. Dallas, Minny, Colorado just may seem to keep pace but that’s about it. Everyone keeps saying wait until LA wakes up, well it’s Feb. 1st so they better hurry if they want to make the post-season.

  • Canrock 78

    I think throwing a rookie into the thick of a playoff race after coming off a major injury, having never played an NHL game and not having played hockey of any kind for the last 4-5 months is irresponsible. Why risk further injury? What’s the rush?
    I’d be disappointed if Sam didn’t end up back in Kingston at the end of Feb or whenever he’s ready. He can still get into the last 10 games of the season in Kingston and then hopefully go on a playoff run. Then next season in Calgary he can start off healthy with a full training camp.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    The 3 teams the Flames are playing this week all play in Van the next night. Chances are good their backups will get a game in. I wonder if the Flames or Canucks get the backups.

    I think playing Bennett on the big club after his rehab is over is about as smart as throwing the ball up the middle from inside the 1, with less than a minute left, when you have two very capable backs and 3 downs. Give him a “conditioning” stint in junior for the rest of the season and playoffs. He’ll be fine there until next season.