When the Flames defeated the Oilers 5-0 in the final Battle of Alberta at Rexall Place, they locked themselves out of last place in the league standings.
Calgary currently has 72 points. Edmonton is now sitting at 67, and with two games left, they can finish with a maximum of 71 points.
Second last in the NHL is Toronto, also with 67 points: but with four games left, they can finish with a maximum of 75 points. So while it isn’t possible for the Flames to finish 30th overall, they can still finish 29th, and still get decent draft lottery odds.
It’s the last week of the season: let’s see just where there chances lie.
Highest possible scenario
Say the Flames win their final three games. That gives them a maximum potential of 78 points. As of right now, they’re guaranteed to be a bottom nine team: 10th last in the NHL are the Ottawa Senators, who have 81 points. Calgary cannot catch them.
Ninth last in the NHL are the Montreal Canadiens, who have 78 points. Calgary and Montreal both have the same number of ROWs – 31 each – so if Montreal loses out and Calgary wins out, the Flames would pass them.
The Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, have 77 points each. Both teams would have to lose out and the Flames would have to collect five of six possible points in order to pass them.
These are all possible, but none seem particularly likely. All it will take is one win from any of Montreal, Arizona, and Buffalo to finish with, at most, the sixth worst record in the NHL: where the Flames currently sit. Likewise, all it takes is one Flames loss to ensure the same fate.
So while the Flames could theoretically jump up to 22nd in the NHL standings, it seems pretty likely they won’t go any higher than 25th.
Lowest possible scenario
This leaves four teams to really keep an eye on regarding the Flames’ draft position: Winnipeg, Vancouver, Columbus, and Toronto.
Let’s start high up. Winnipeg, like Calgary, has 72 points, with three games remaining. The difference here is Calgary has one more ROW than Winnipeg does, putting them above them in the standings.
The Jets defeated the Wild 5-1, but their remaining three games are against the California teams, all of whom are playoff-bound. Winnipeg did just defeat the Kings 4-1 on March 24, and picked up a point against the Ducks in a 3-2 overtime loss on March 20, but they probably can’t be relied upon to beat the opposition this time around.
The Canucks, meanwhile, snapped out of a lengthy nine-game losing streak (that saw them shut out four times) to defeat the Sharks and Ducks back-to-back. They have four games left, which could see them pick up a maximum 79 points. The games are fairly winnable for the most part, too: one against the Kings, two against the Oilers, and… one against the Flames, which is going to get rather interesting.
The Blue Jackets currently sit at 70 points and with four games remaining, can finish with a maximum possible of 78. The games are against the Rangers, Leafs, Sabres, and Blackhawks: most of which could actually be winnable (the Rangers are floundering, the Leafs and Sabres are bad, the Blackhawks have clinched a top-three spot in the Central).
Then there’s the Leafs who, we established earlier, can finish with a maximum 75 points. They face the Panthers, Jackets, Flyers, and Devils to close things out: a team that just clinched a post-season berth, a bad team, a team that will probably be fighting to the very end to clinch a playoff spot, and a team that’s already eliminated. They’ve been pretty unpredictable as of late; don’t underestimate Mike Babcok’s abilities to get his team to accomplish something, even as the season ends.
If you want the Flames to finish with the best possible lottery odds, you’re cheering for these four teams to win every game they can (and for the Jackets-Leafs games to be a three-pointer). Except all it will take are two more Leaf losses to put 29th place out of reach for Calgary, so they’re on the brink, there.
What could happen?
I’m playing a guessing game now; feel free to join in on the comments with your own theories. I’m guessing Winnipeg picks up two more points this season, Vancouver four, Columbus three, and Toronto two. That would make the standings thus:
- Vancouver: 75 points
- Winnipeg: 74 points
- Columbus: 73 points
- Calgary: 72 points
- Toronto: 69 points
I’m leaving the Flames at 72 points in assuming they lose to the Kings and the Wild… but I haven’t acknowledged the Canucks-Flames game yet.
A win there would see the Flames jump from third last up to fifth last, passing Winnipeg; a loss would give them the third-best lottery odds in this scenario. That’s how tight things could get.
But let’s step back for a second and assume Vancouver picks up just two points. They have a home and home with Edmonton; maybe the Oilers, like, try or something in their final game at Rexall. That would have Vancouver sitting at 73 points, just above Calgary: and that Canucks-Flames game becomes that much more important.
As things stand right now, it’s easiest to see the Flames falling somewhere in between having the third and sixth best lottery odds. That could have them picking as high as first overall, or as low as ninth. We’ll see as this week plays out.