The Flames prepare for their stretch drive

After four full days away from the rink, the Calgary Flames gathered at the Stampede Corral for their first practice in almost a week. The top thing on everyone’s minds when chatting with the media was the impending beginning of the homestretch for their club: 26 games over 55 days which will determine whether the Flames will be playoff competitors or spectators.

The Flames are undoubtedly familiar with where their club sits as the homestretch begins. Following Sunday’s practice, head coach Glen Gulutzan summarized the team’s likely orientation towards standings-watching rather succinctly (when noting he avoided the practice during the break).

“I resisted the temptation to do that because I really feel that, add
20 points, 25 points to all of us, I’ve said it before, and then let
us play the last 10,” said Gulutzan. “We’ve got to stay focused on the daily process
and it’s going to come down to the end. It really always does.”

The Flames have 26 games remaining, but seven dates in particular will likely be key in determining whether or not they make the postseason. It’s probably not shocking that the seven games are against the three other teams they’re jostling with for playoff spots.

  • Feb. 21 in Nashville
  • Feb. 28 against Los Angeles
  • March 19 against Los Angeles
  • March 23 in Nashville
  • March 25 in St. Louis
  • March 29 against Los Angeles
  • April 6 in Los Angeles

It would be helpful for their playoff chances if the Flames were keyed-in for the last two weeks of March.

    “It’s going to be that battle right to the end,” said Gulutzan. “The good part is the
    teams we’re fighting with we’ve got, so that’s always encouraging to
    know that you still have everything in your control. And at this
    point of the season, everything’s still in your control. You’ve got
    to play good hockey.”

    Compared to a lot of the teams they’re chasing for playoff spots, the Flames are in relatively good shape. They don’t have any significant injuries. Both of their goaltenders have given them good starts in recent weeks. They have the cap space to carry a full 23-man roster and the flexibility to rotate players in and out of the lineup. The team’s hectic schedule down the stretch – particularly 16 games in the final 31 days of the season beginning March 9 – will both require and facilitate keeping the team’s full roster engaged in the stretch drive.

    “It
    becomes a slippery slope because sometimes, if you’re on a roll, you
    hate to change your lineup. If you’re not, it’s easier to change the
    lineup,” said Gulutzan. “But we’re going to have to work guys in and out to make sure
    we keep everybody sharp, especially basically I think it’s March 9 we
    play every second day. We’re going to have to make sure we have
    everybody available. The reality is we’re going to need everybody to
    get this thing done.”

    The Flames are currently one point behind Los Angeles for the final Western Conference wildcard spot. The Kings have one game in hand.

    • everton fc

      A nice addition or two at the deadline would really help us. A d-man to lower Wideman’s minutes, a young prospect like McCarron we could unleash on the right side… Would be ideal.

      Anyone we pickup must mean exposing Brouwer for the expansion draft. His contract is already feeling like a millstone. If we lose players like Backlund anf Frolik because of this blunder – which to this fan was so obvious up front, the moment it was announced – then BT deserves to be let go.

      The Kings are limping. Unfortunately the Blues seem to have found some game (interesting Statsny was a healthy scratch last game. Could Yakupov be had for a 5th? Would we even want to chance that?!)

      GO FLAMES!!!

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Would like to see a D-man like Franson or B. Smith added so we can cut ties with (or sit) Wideman. Maybe add Schenn (at the right price) to allow us to trade Engelland.

      I find it odd that Gully talks about balancing the need to rotate guys in with the chemistry in a previous win. With that in mind, why does it look like Bouma is back in and Ferland moves back to RW? Win a game? Time to change the lineup. A player looks good on LW? Time to move him back to RW.

      • Parallex

        It’d have to be Franson. Given GG’s proclivities we’d need a right shooting D-man to force Gulutzan to drop Wideman down in the order. I’d keep him (Wideman) in the line-up (at least initially) until the playoffs when the refs put away the whistle (his shot is still an asset on the PP) or at least utilize him initially until Franson learned the PP system.

        I wonder how much he’d cost? In trade, extension, and in bribe to Vegas not to take him.

        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          Schenn would be the lowest cost of the bunch. He has one year remaining, so he could be exposed. Wouldn’t think that they would want any more than a 3rd for him, which we could recoup by trading Engelland, assuming we can’t get rid of Widedog.

          Widedog isn’t getting any PP time as it is, so that really isn’t a factor. His shot is missing the net more than it hits.

          For Franson, I believe that we could do it with a pick.
          Buffalo isn’t going to make it this year. An extension would be aroud what he is getting today, and you could get it cheaper by offering some term. Gives enough time to see where Andersson is. Working with LV, we could probably give them a prospect to take Kulak or Bouma or Stajan. Shinkaruk or Poirier probably stand a better chance of playing there.

    • MontanaMan

      Schenn is a pylon and although he’s tough, he has hands of steel and is a “high off the glass” type of d-man. So now thanks to Schenn under any circumstances. Franson I’d take a look at. Even Ghost would be a good find for the right price.