We’re in the final days of August and hockey news is at a premium, but a few interesting morsels came out of Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson’s lengthy Q&A session with Calgary Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan published earlier this week. (If you haven’t checked it out, there’s a lot to unpack.)
One interesting notion that got me a bit intrigued was Gulutzan emphasizing the importance of managing expectations for the team. After a season that saw them finish with 94 points and a wildcard playoff berth, Gulutzan has the bar set just a little bit higher: a 100-point season.
A 100-point season is a nice round number, a strong benchmark of success, and really tough to actually achieve. In 45 seasons of existence, the Flames franchise has only had four 100-point years: 1987-88, 1988-89, 1990-91 and 2005-06. (The Flames were quite good in the late ’80s.)
That said, the Flames have been close in two of their last three years. In 2014-15, the “Find A Way Flames” season where everything went right, they had 97 points but fell on their faces the following season. As mentioned before, the Flames had 94 points last season and would need to eke out three more wins (or turn a few regulation losses into overtime losses) to hit three digits.
There are a couple areas that seem ripe for improvement.
The Flames finished the season off on a tear, going 19-6-1 over February and March before finally slowing down when the calendar turned over to April. The team’s crazy finish got them into the playoffs. But it was a requirement, because the team was bad in October and November – posting a combined 11-13-2 record, hardly the stuff of playoff dreams. While it’s unlikely that the Flames have another insane eight weeks of lights-out spring hockey in them, improving their first few weeks of the season will go a long way towards both giving them a buffer in the standings for the latter part of the season and pushing them towards the 100-point mark. The team will need to play .610 hockey to hit 100 points, but avoiding the crazy ebbs and flows of the season will make reaching that mark a lot easier.
The Flames generally did a good job squeezing points out of the majority of their opponents during the season, but they went winless against three teams: Edmonton, the NY Rangers and Washington. One of those stings more than the others, and it’s also a sign of the greatest opportunity for improvement for the club: their record against their own division.
The Flames went 18-13-1 against the Eastern Conference, the second best record among the Pacific teams. They went 14-7-0 against the Central Division, which was tops in the Pacific. Within their own division, they eked out a .500 record (13-13-3) and were middle of the pack. They don’t have massive room for improvement against the Pacific, but they do have the benefit of facing Arizona, Vancouver and Vegas (expected in many hockey circles to be among the league’s worst teams) a combined dozen times, and five cracks at Edmonton will also help – they earned just a single point against them last season.
Can the Flames make it to 100 points? It’s doable, but they’ll need a better start to the season and an improved record against the Pacific (and to avoid any other area of their game seriously regressing in the meantime).
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