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Photo Credit: James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports

When will the Flames clinch a playoff spot?

The Los Angeles Kings lost to the Arizona Coyotes last night. The shootout loss dropped the Calgary Flames’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot to nine, meaning any combination of nine Flames wins or Kings losses would result in the Flames cementing a post-season berth.

With relatively few games remaining for both clubs, the rapidly diminishing magic number seems to beg a very specific question: When will the Flames clinch a playoff spot?

A HANDY TABLE

Here’s a quick table plotting out the remaining games for Calgary and Los Angeles. The main underlying assumption presented in the table? The teams win the games you would reasonably expect them to, which for these purposes are games against teams below them in the standings (unless it’s the second half of a back-to-back).

Date Flames Kings Magic #
 3/15  BOS (W)  down to 8
 3/16  BUF (W)
 3/17  DAL (W)  down to 7
 3/18
 3/19  LA (W)  @CGY (L)  down to 5
 3/20  @EDM (L)  down to 4
 3/21  @WSH (L)
 3/22
 3/23  @NSH (W)  WPG (W)  down to 3
 3/24
 3/25  @STL (W)  NYR (L)  down to 2
 3/26
 3/27  COL (W)  down to 1
 3/28  @EDM (L)  down to 0,
clinched
 3/29  LA  @CGY
 3/30
 3/31  SJ  @VAN
 4/1
 4/2  ANA  ARZ
 4/3
 4/4  @ANA  EDM
 4/5
 4/6  @LA  CGY
 4/7
 4/8  @SJ  CHI
4/9 @ANA

DIGGING IN

As you can see, the Flames have a lot of wiggle room. The draw-down of the magic number to zero is finished on March 28. The Flames still would have six games remaining, including two against the Kings. The Kings would still have seven games remaining, including a rough final four games against the Oilers, Flames, Blackhawks and Ducks (all playoff teams). Right now, our best projection for when the Flames clinch is March 28. Even if we’re off and the Flames lose a couple games in the interim, they have a ton of wiggle room based on the number of games remaining for both them (to win) and the Kings (to lose).

A frequent question we’ve received on Twitter: What if the Flames lose all three games against the Kings (in regulation)? They still can clinch, and likely do, just a fair bit later. Using the above draw-down table as reference, the Flames would instead need to get points against the other California teams OR they’d need to rely on the Kings losing to other teams, such as the Oilers, Blackhawks or Ducks. Either of those approaches, or a combination of them, result in an X appearing beside their name in the standings.

Clinching earlier (via beating the Kings once more on March 19) gives the Flames a bunch of breathing room, as they’ll know they’re playoff bound and can start to make roster management decisions, and could allow them to focus on the divisional race rather than expending mental energy on worrying about the teams below them.

    • The Doctor

      For his stance on the Olympics thing alone, I cannot say enough bad things about Bettman. Then there’s his stance on keeping lame zombie Southern US franchises on life support. I intensely dislike this man.

  • Alsal

    So I’m riding the high of the 10 game win streak and on my phone a tweet comes up from Mr. Eric Francis – basically a link to his article itemizing 10 reasons why our Flames have turned this around.

    Many moons ago Mr. Francis sat there on TV proclaiming that the Flames were a playoff team. And in a frustrated rant, after another embarrassing lopsided loss, this time to Montreal, I declared this was not a playoff team.
    In short:
    GG had nice hair, but was no motivator.
    Dougie was bambi.
    Johnson and Elliot had five holes the size of that blue circle thingy on Deerfoot.

    Eric Francis, thankfully, it looks like I’m wrong. However, I’ve got 3 reasons for the turnaround and I’d like to say you are simply lucky about your playoff prediction for our beloved Flames.
    You are lucky, BT got Stone and Bart which benched Wides and freed Brodie. No longer would our D-core and our goalie be deflated after Wides was beaten like a road construction pylon resulting in a goal. What if Wides was still giving up his usual goal a game?
    You are lucky, GG, in what appears to be the first time this year, after a sputtering 1 half of the season, summoned his internal Maximus GG and had a train car beer session with his senior field generals (allegedly after asking permission from Sonic the Burkie and Emperor BT). GG returned and indeed avenged his loss to the Habs, and hopefully has a chance in the first round against the Oil. What if GG had summoned his internal Maximus sooner?
    Lastly you are lucky, GG gave up on Brower playing shotgun with Money and Johnny and let Ferlie have a go. Feisty Ferlie freed our dynamic duo, just ask Jake Muzzin. He looks like Bertuzzi, on Naslund and Morrison’s line. What if Ferlie was still stuck play 4th line minutes?

    Nevertheless, full credit to the Flames for 10 in a row. But for those who were down on this team after gutless losses to the Leafs, Habs and Oilers, I think our concern on coaching and team were justified. And lucky us 10 wins later here we are.

    Btw… Sammy looks pretty good a center. And Ryan Leslie… I’m still shaking my head, you say Wides was held out because teams were interested in him? Lol. He was out because he sucked.

    • Burning Ring of Fire

      I’m still puzzled why it took so long to bump Brouwer down the lineup. I kinda get the Wideman thing because they were hoping to offload the guy. I’m assuming (hoping) it wasn’t GGs choice to leave Wides in but it sure didn’t help the team and made the coach look like a bit incompetent. I can only assume this is what is happening with Brouwer as well because there is no logical reason for him to be playing regularly based on what he’s displayed so far.

      • The Doctor

        I agree the brain trust has been slow in making moves like that this year (the slowness in moving Chaisson to fourth line is similar). But I suppose you could argue that there’s a method in that seeming madness, because the case is so overwhelming by the time they make the decision that it’s difficult for the player involved to claim that he didn’t get a fair chance.

  • Xcameron

    I think your table is wrong. Look at March 25. You have CGY winning and LAK losing yet magic # only drops by 1. Also you haven’t accounted for any loser points for LAK and they will get 1-2 based on their current record. Probably still lands on the same “clinch date” but gives a bit more wiggle room.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    The Kings are such a weird team this year. Beat the Cap’s 4-2 in regulation…then drop one to the Coyotes in a shootout. I think we might see them take care of themselves as a threat. ….im not going to lie and saying im rooting for them. I hope they embarrass themselves royally. Never count em out though…

    • The Doctor

      They’ve definitely got some good offensive weapons, some absolutely elite players (Carter, Doughty, Kopitar), one bona fide world-class goaltender and a great coach. I get the feeling that lack of depth is generally what’s hurting them this year, both up front and on the blueline. They rely an awful lot on their top guys.

      • flamesburn89

        Yeah, and ever since they lost Voynov their depth on D has been bad. Top 3 of Doughty, Muzzin, and Martinez is great. After the top 3, the blueline gets real weak real fast. Kind of similar to Calgary’s blueline in recent years.

  • ThisBigMouthIsRight

    Its Going to be much tougher than this… Way underestimating the kinds and slightly over valuing the Flames and you don’t even have the Oil or Blues in the mix… Honestly I believe the Flames are going to have to play .750 to make it including beating the kings at least twice more if not all three… Articles like this just seem to Jinx teams more than anything.

  • From American Thanksgiving and onward every season we automatically assume the top three teams in both conferences are elite teams and they will be in the playoffs. Asking the question “When will the Flames clinch a playoff spot?” is assuming too much. The 10 game winning streak was nice and all but I’ll believe the Flames are an elite team when they’re usually in a the top four in conference standings like the Blackhawks in recent years. With that that said, the rule of thumb for every non-elite team like the Flames is that you are not in the playoffs until you’ve mathematically claimed a playoff spot.