The 2017 Playoff Chase: running in place

Welcome to the second exciting week of our Western Conference playoff race coverage. The Calgary Flames are still very much in the playoff mix, but they didn’t do very much to help themselves over the past week.

Let’s take a dive into the numbers, gang.

WHERE THEY STAND

Team
GP
W
Pts
Pct
ROW
Div
Chances % Change
Wild 44 29 63 .716 28 CEN 100% none
Blackhawks 47 28 61 .649 26 CEN 99.5% down 0.2
Ducks 47 25 59 .628 23 PAC 98.5% up 3.7
Sharks 46 28 58 .630 26 PAC 99.6% up 0.8
Oilers 47 25 57 .606 22 PAC 96.7% up 6.5
Blues 46 23 51 .554 22 CEN 69.6% up 6.1
Flames 48 24 51 .531 22 PAC
50.1%
down 7.7
Predators 45 21 49 .544 20 CEN 72.0% up 7.8
Kings 45 22 49 .533 21 PAC 72.7% down 7.1
Canucks 46 21 48 .522 17 PAC 18.4% up 4.8
Jets 48 21 46 .479 19 CEN 12.6% down 5.6
Stars 47 19 46 .489 19 CEN 10.3% down 9.1
Coyotes 45 13 32 .356 9 PAC 0.0% none
Avalanche 42 13 27 .321 13 PAC 0.0% none

(Chances courtesy Sports Club Stats.)

The Flames begin the weekend ninth in the Western Conference in points percentage and seventh in terms of points earned. They’ve played more games than anybody else in the conference, so take their points total with a shaker full of salt. The scary thing right now is that everybody has games in hand. If they win them, Calgary falls right on out of a playoff spot without actually doing anything themselves.

If the playoffs began today, the Flames would be starting against Anaheim (if you judge by point totals) or golfing (if you judge by points percentage).

THIS PAST WEEK

Since last Friday, the Flames have played four games: they lost to New Jersey, they lost to Edmonton in a shootout, they beat Florida and they lost to Nashville. That’s a 1-2-1 record and three points, for what it’s worth. They played two good games (Edmonton and Florida) and looked pretty bad in their other two.

THIS COMING WEEK

The Flames play four games this week: they face Edmonton on Saturday night at home, then hit the road for games with Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa before the All-Star Break. They probably need two wins, maybe three, to keep pace with everyone around them – and to guard against the other clubs winning their games in hand and leap-frogging them.

  • snotss

    this flame team is dead in the water.not much to get excited about…the flames are a 500 hockey club get used to it for the rest of this year…they are just not good enough to make the playoffs……

    • #97TRAIN

      The forward group is just net deep enough. Need some higher end guys that can play with Gaudreau, not Chiasson or Versteeg.
      You have to give to get. Time to look long and hard on who to trade from the backend to acquire what the team needs.

      • supra steve

        “Time to look long and hard on who to trade from the backend to acquire what the team needs.”

        Perhaps in a year or two, but not before Andersson or Kylington (or both) are top 4 options, I hope.

        • 24% body fat

          apparently nylander is available, its going to take more thank any d prospects in the system though,

          D value is not as good as forwards at the development level especially when there is a major draft pedigree difference, the value comes when they are solid nhl players

          Flames dont have good enough prospects to get that job done, and probably not willing to part with the defenseman that it would require?

          • supra steve

            I wouldn’t and didn’t advocate moving one of our better D prospects, I just want them able to step into top 4 positions with the Flames before moving any of Gio/Brodie/D.Hamilton is considered.

            As with his brother (Alex) at the 2016 draft, I would choose to pass on William Nylander. We’ve seen strong familial similarities in play in the Tkachuk family, I suspect there are also similarities in the Nylander family, and the Leafs looking to move the kid only re-enforces that. Michael Nylander was very skilled, but rarely played with anything close to 100% effort.

      • Rockmorton65

        But, the million dollar question is not “who do they trade” it’s, “who, if anyone is available?” If (big if) they are going to trade one of their big 3 on the backend, it’s not going to be for parts. They’re not going to trade one of them to “shake things up”, it’ would have to fill a specific need. The Flames have a very glaring hole on their 1RW. The criteria is pretty straight forward.

        Current Top 6 RW, with solid, top line potential. RHS preferred. Between 22-28 years old with the speed, hockey sense & chemistry to be able to play with Johnny/Monny.

        So the question is this…How many players currently fit that bill and of those, who are realistically available? THEN you worry about putting together the package. Right now, I can’t think of anyone that answers both of those questions.

      • Scary Gary

        The trade deadline is when most GMs overpay. If the flames make the playoffs with what you have then great, either way we’ll be making changes around the draft.

        We should definitely be selling on Wideman, Bouma, and Engelland if we can. Maybe even Jokipakka and or Chiasson.

        We need to be patient, the team is right where a lot of us thought we’d be, we’re just progressing to 2017/2018 where my expectation would be playoffs.

        • calgaryfan

          No one wants the players you are trading except maybe Engelland and he is not bringing back anything but a draft pick. What is making the Flames a better team next year?

  • smith

    At some point they should try out some of the youngsters in actual scoring roles. See what they have. Letting Agostino go for nothing without even seeing if he is able to play in NHL was not a great move. Now he is leading AHL in scoring.

    On a positive note, I was at the Oil King game with the Victoria Royals last night. Number 1 star – Matthew Phillips. 3 goals. All over the place. Kept getting right into the dirty areas even if tiny. Did not seem to get much ice time but was getting chances every time he was out. Not sure if he is SPECIAL enough to play at his size at the NHL but I do hope so.

  • Just.Visiting

    Even if we are in the run for a playoff position, we’re on the bubble, and it would take a lot of luck to get past the first round.

    I’m very much in the sell camp if I can get back reasonable value (Elliott, Engelland (best year as a Flame), Versteeg, Chiasson, Wideman), where I might be willing to look at Engelland and Versteeg again as free agents.

    I’d then audition Kulak and some of my Stockton talent so that I better understand my gaps for next year.

    As it’s apparently a weaker draft this year, I’d be looking primarily at players taken in the last couple of drafts if possible.

  • brodiegio4life

    guluztan needs to switch up he lineup… he continues going with a sub optimal lineup every night. Seems like after that 6 game winning streak he thinks the lines can’t be changed. Why is wideman still in the top 4? Why is chiasson still in the top 6? Why has versteeg not been given a chance on johnnys line after only
    playing there for about one game in october? why does johnson keep starting despite not playing well? why is kulak not getting a shot to play? A ton of questionable player usage and lineup decisions lately

    • The Sultan

      As the season wears on you’ve got to at some point stop blaming GG for player usage and start pointing the finger at BT. After all, it’s the GM’s job to go out and acquire/draft players, not the coach. After seeing how the season has played out so far, I highly doubt trying Verteeg with Gaudreau, Kulak in the top-4, or Ferland in the top-6 on the right wing will suddenly and drastically change the fortune of this team over the last half of the season. I’m not saying those aren’t good moves to make, I just think it’s delusional to think all of a sudden we’re going to see a day/night switch when it comes to performance by moving a few bodies around. It’s becoming painfully clear that we just don’t have the personnel… yet.

      • Derzie

        GG & BT are problems #1 and #2. The players (except 3M) are not setup to succeed. GG was a boring, 1 season, .500, possession coach with Dallas and that is exactly what he is here. Will win you some boring games but will not take a team any further. Remember when the Flames had their overachieving season 2 years ago? The stats crowd called it “luck”. In hindsight, what it was was ‘belief’. In each other. Remember how they would interact on the bench and after games? Guys like Paul Byron, Kris Russel & Lance Bouma were heartbeats of the team. A mix of skill and passion. BT has squeezed the heart and soul of the team through his moves. Slowly but surely they’ve become a boring, all-business, middle of the road team. Just like the personality of the GM and the coach. Talk of moving this player or changing that line is all lipstick on the pig. The BT team is taking shape and I for one am not feeling it. It’s only going to become more ingrained. Library-like crowds. Boring games. No passion. No thanks.

        • Parallex

          “The players (except 3M) are not setup to succeed.”

          You keep on saying this… unless you’re willing to put the work in and actually breakdown a deficiency in the on ice tactics you should stop. It comes off as petulant and whiny if you don’t put the work in.

          I have zero problems with GG’s systems and tactics (he has dificiencies in other area’s but systems and tactics aren’t one of them).

          • Derzie

            Proof comes easy on this one. Everyone except 3M is producing less. Better at Corsi, worse at hockey. You having zero problems with his system suggests you value Corsi higher than it is worth. No need to dig deeper than that. Wasted effort.

          • Randaman

            Gotta agree with Derzie on this one.

            Ever hear of the Corsica king named Dallas Eakins. Talk about a nightmare and GG is cut from the exact same cloth. Have fun with that!

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I would not be so sure. I am a firm believer that the Flames have the right pieces but not in the right places. We know what is not working. The team has had moderate success riding on the coat tails of the 3M line but not enough to stop experimenting. The goal of the team should not be to win anyway they can such as having your keeper steal a game or riding a few hot players. The goal should be to build chemistry and scoring balance to stay sustainable ultimately leading to team success.

        Teams have been known to get on a role, by changing a coach, picking up a player, promoting a player or finding the right chemistry.

      • freethe flames

        I agree with you, the same talent pool just rearranged will not make this team significantly better. The truth is and I will say it again we are are short 2 or 3 top nine forwards; Versteeg and Brouwer are not the answer no matter who you shuffle them on a line with.

      • brodiegio4life

        players usage has nothing to do with treliving… of course the flames have some noticeable holes in their lineup, and I think guluztan is doing a bad job of filling them with what he’s got

      • Greatsave

        Elliott took the Oilers to shootouts last Saturday in Edmonton, giving up one goal on 27 shots.

        Johnson played twice at home this week, giving up 6 goals on 43 shots for a win and a loss, while getting grilled for giving up soft goals.

        Given Elliott played the second half of a back-to-back last Saturday, I don’t know who would have been asking “Why?”. It was reasonable for him to start.

        I’m guessing Johnson’s being rewarded for his stretch of games last week when he posted .941 SV% over 4 starts? I just look at Elliott’s 5 straight wins late December and think he’s been too severely punished for that one loss in Vancouver that wasn’t even all on him. Only one start since.

        Personally I’ve always been a staunch backer for Elliott, even through his roughest stretch, so I’m not sure “fickle” is the right word. I think some fans will always disagree with others.

          • Greatsave

            My guess is that Gulutzan looked at the schedule, realized that the Flames host the Oilers for the last time this season, and decided he should finally give the local-born Johnson a start in the Battle of Alberta.

          • BlueMoonNigel

            Doesn’t matter. Johnson is the Flames goalie of the future and he’ll soon have a 4 year $18M contract extension to prove it. After all, had Johnson not saved the Flames during that November-December hot stretch of his, we’d be in the same discussion as the Avalanche and Islanders and Nolan Patrick. Have you already forgotten how many darlings in the local media have already negotiated Johnson’s lucrative extension?

  • Toofun

    At the beginning of the season Calgary had an 8/14 or 57% chance of making the playoffs.

    After a horrific start, followed by a couple of months of great hockey, then this past few weeks of let’s call it mediocre hockey, they have a 50/50 chance.

    So, while they haven’t been as good a team as we expected or hoped before the season began, they aren’t out of it. If they play well over the next 34 games they’ll be in and if they don’t, they’ll be golfing.

    Can the current roster play better than they have most of this season or are they mostly all over achieving? Have they been a “lucky” team this year getting great bounces or have the hockey gods more frequently frowned down upon them from great heights? Have the refs been pro-Flames or is the Wideman effect a thing? I could go on but you get my drift.

    There are a lot of mistakes Calgary’s management could make into the trade deadline. I would support trading Wideman, especially if he attracts some nice offers but beyond that I would be careful. Calgary is re-building, is on track, has a great young core, is well positioned for the Vegas expansion and has some financial flexibility to add pieces next year.

    Overall, stay the course and keep progressing.

  • freethe flames

    So what should be done? First if management thinks this team is a playoff team with who they have then do virtually nothing and if they make the playoffs then great. If they think they are not a playoff team then they have to decide to either add the pieces to be one or move some pieces to allow the youngsters a chance to prove themselves down the stretch. The only problem with having the kids called up is they might not get the AHL playoff experience.

    Personally I would look to see if we can move some of our expiring pieces or role players either for draft picks or even for other teams expiring pieces that might help with the playoff hunt. Teams are often looking for depth defenders who can be their insurance for the long grind; this makes it likely that any of Engs, Wides and even JJ might get us some late round draft picks. Upfront Versteeg might garner a draft pick like Hudler did last year; Bouma, Stajan, and Ferland might be able to acquire some draft picks as well. Could these picks allow them to acquire players they need; like a true top RW or a #4 defender. Taking a chance on another teams expiring contract if the price is low enough might be a good idea to see they can build chemistry in with either of or top forwards.