The Calgary Flames are off until Sunday night, having beaten the Winnipeg Jets to cap off their pre-Christmas schedule.
The holiday season is often a time for solemn reflection and goal-setting for the following year. And we quite often hear about the importance of being in a playoff spot at American Thanksgiving, but considering how little of the schedule remains after Christmas, I think that benchmark is a better one for judging a team’s performance.
So how do the Flames stack up this season, and historically?
By virtue of their most recent win over Winnipeg, the Flames hit the holiday break right at the .500 mark: 16-16-2. With 34 points, they sit six points back of the two Wild Card clubs (Minnesota and Nashville) and are one point back of Vancouver for the last Pacific Division playoff spot (the Flames have two games in hand on Vancouver, while Los Angeles and San Jose hold the other playoff spots).
LAST TWO CHRISTMASES
Let’s look at the first two seasons under the new wildcard playoff format to see how significant the Christmas standings have been.
Last season, at the Christmas break, the Flames were 18-15-3 with 39 points. They sat two points back of the Wild Card teams and three points back of the division teams. The Western playoff teams at the break were: Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis [Central]; Anaheim,
San Jose, Vancouver [Pacific]; Winnipeg and Los Angeles [Wild Card].
Two seasons ago, the Flames were way back at the Christmas break. They had a 13-17-6 record for 32 points, but they were 13 back of the Wild Card spots and 18 back of the divisional spots. It was not a great set-up for success. The Western playoff teams at the break were: Chicago, St. Louis, Colorado [Central]; Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose [Pacific];
Vancouver and Minnesota [Wild Card].
It’s obviously better to be in the playoffs at Christmas than not, but it also seems that Pacific teams’ spots are much more tenuous than Central spots. Considering how tight (and bad) the Pacific is this season, i think this will again be the case.
- Most wins before Christmas: 23 (1988-89)
- Most points before Christmas: 51 (1988-89)
- Fewest wins before Christmas: 8 (1995-96)
- Fewest points before Christmas: 23 (1995-96)
- Most games played before Christmas: 39 (1997-98)
- Fewest games played before Christmas: 32 (2003-04 and 1979-80)
- (And not counting the zero games played before Christmas in 1994-95, 2004-05 and 2012-13 because thinking about the lockouts makes me sad.)
In summation: the Flames have played an average amount of games pre-Christmas (34 games is low-normal, but still normal), have a respectable number of wins (16 wins is double their lowest amount and competitive against where they historically are at this point), and they’re in the thick of a playoff race.
The only better place the Flames could be, especially considering their horrendous October, is actually IN a playoff spot.