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Amidst tight standings, Flames in a good position

As the NHL approaches the quartermark of the 2017-18 season, it’s probably worth noting that the standings are still rather packed.

The Flames, for example, currently have a 10-8-0 record – just barely above .500, but also, in a playoff spot. Their 20 points match four other teams in the Western Conference – San Jose, Minnesota, Chicago, and Vancouver – with three teams with 19 points (Colorado, Anaheim, Dallas) right behind them.

As things stand right now, it’s still pretty much anybody’s chance at the postseason.

Team Games Played Points 5v5 CF% 5v5 PDO
Blues 20 29 51.54 1.016
Jets 18 25 45.72 1.024
Kings 19 24 50.21 1.009
Golden Knights 18 23 48.23 1.016
Predators 18 22 49.69 .997
Sharks 17 20 52.64 .980
Wild 18 20 46.85 1.011
Flames 18 20 52.42 1.002
Blackhawks 19 20 51.14 1.004
Canucks 19 20 49.37 1.014
Avalanche 17 19 45.21 1.001
Ducks 18 19 47.86 1.010
Stars 19 19 51.99 .974
Oilers 19 16 54.98 .984
Coyotes 21 9 47.88 .973

The Blues, with their hot start, have put themselves in a good position for a postseason berth. The Coyotes, meanwhile, have put themselves in a rather poor position, having only finally collected their first regulation win of the season 21 games in. Though it’s possible the Blues could have a major falling off, or the Coyotes could climb their way out of the hole, neither is probably something to bet on.

I’ve included teams’ 5v5 CF%s and PDOs here as something of a quick and dirty predictive tool for which teams should continue to have success, which ones may fall off entirely, and which ones could be due for a surge up the standings (as the Flames were this time last season). By no means does it mean anything will actually change, but it does provide a little more context as to why teams are where they are.

The Flames, for example, have put themselves in a good position. Their start to the season has allowed them to tread in the postseason waters, while their underlying numbers hint that they’re a pretty good team that should be able to ride through the season into a playoff spot.

Compare them to the Pacific Division teams above them. The Kings and the Sharks both look to be playoff teams, but the Golden Knights, with poor underlying numbers and a higher PDO, could be due to fall out of the race by the season’s end. They’re benefiting from one of the highest shooting percentages of the season so far; however, whenever (if ever) their goaltending stabilizes itself/stops being injured, that could allow them to get some more wins and maintain at least a playoff-level pace.

Based on the current numbers, though, I would expect the Kings, Sharks, and Flames to be the top three in the division.

As for the Pacific teams below the Flames, the only one who may be a threat to jump up and reclaim a playoff spot is the Oilers. They’ve had very good underlying numbers, but they’ve also had one of the worst shooting percentages in the league to start the year. (The Sharks are actually in a similar position, but they’ve done a better job of preventing goals and collecting wins.)

Edmonton isn’t so far behind in the standings that a comeback isn’t feasible – but they may be behind enough to not finish as high as they would like. Again, it’s kind of like what we saw with the Flames last season: a later surge did see them vault into playoff position, but they didn’t have enough points stored up to get into the top three in the division.

The Canucks, however, are a candidate to fall off, and the Ducks haven’t been the team they once were. Anaheim is missing a lot of quality players from their roster, and by the time they return, it may be too late to resuscitate their numbers, let alone contend for a playoff spot.

So as much as the Flames may fluctuate over the season, from big wins to big losses and near .500-hockey, when you look at the division around them – and the conference beyond that – they’re probably in a good spot. It could, of course, be better, but as the team continues to work on ironing out the kinks, they have put themselves in a playoff position.

  • The GREAT WW

    Barely….
    At the quarter point in the season the Flames are 2 games over .500.
    We need to be at least 12 games over .500 at season end to make the playoffs.

    A 3 game losing streak and we are in bad shape.

    WW

  • The GREAT WW

    How are the coaches doing that were available over the last couple of years while we are stuck with GG?

    Ottawa, Las Vegas, The Blues etc. seem to be doing well….

    WW

    • Scary Gary

      The blues were always doing well (haven’t missed the playoffs since 2010/2011), Vegas have played 18 games in their existence and Ottawa plays such a boring brand of hockey that they’ve even moved a defenseman to forward (Wideman). I’m not a fan of Cameron though.

    • Skylardog

      The one that always crosses my mind and was available when Hartley was fired is Boucher in Ottawa. We were far too slow to get any of the 3 prime candidates that were available when the axe fell on Hartley. Coach firing should happen a day after the season ends, not 5 weeks after. Quality coaches got away while the Flames couldn’t make a decision.

      There is no way we should not have made the change last season to Gallant when he was made available by the incompetence of the Florida interim leadership.

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        I can’t say I agree, but ultimately, I probably should. Tre likes to be thorough, but it might have cost us here.

        As for Gallant in particular…maybe. But as Archie pointed out, there were several playoff coaches available that could have been hired in those 5 weeks.

  • Off the wall

    We may be in a good position, however Johnny has accounted for almost 50% of our team points.

    We have to be better from our other lines if we expect to make the playoffs. Including our defence.

  • Skylardog

    We are a longer term injury to JG or Smith away from being out of the playoffs. Very little balance or consistency so far, and Smith has been the difference in far too many games to feel comfortable.

    The highly touted D-Core, is showing cracks. Brodie-Hamonic are far from what was expected. Hamilton is a disaster if not playing with Gio (don’t trash that, I looked at the stats, although they have played limited minutes apart, but it was clearly the case last season).

    Throw in an injury to Gio on that list too.

    • Scary Gary

      You could say the same about any team, if the Oilers lost McDavid or Talbot and if the Penguins lost Crosby or Murray how do you think they’d fare?

      Brodie needs his minutes reduced and Hamonic seems to still be injured.

      • Skylardog

        Pens have lost Crosby for long portions of the season over the last few years, and still been a cup favorite and playoff team. Agree that the Oilers are in a bad spot if they lose those 2, but it speaks to their fragility as well.

        Tampa has succeeded without Stamkos, Ottawa without Karlsson, Rangers succeeded without Lundqvist last season, LA is doing fine without Carter.

        We got beat 8-2 without Smith. JG isn’t just scoring with Mony and Ferly, he is in on Steeg, Jagr, and Janko goals (if my memory serves me right).

        And who are you giving Brodie minutes to? Stone? Bart? Hamonic is usually with him, and Gio is already near max. Kulak may handle them, but that is not certain.

        • Scary Gary

          Crosby missed 7 games last year, 2 games the year before, 3 the year before that and 2 the year before that. Gaudreau missed 10 games last year and we still made the playoffs.

          • Skylardog

            The first St Louis game didn’t go well either. 2 starts for the back ups, 13 against on 56 shots, a 732 Sv%

            Lack has given up 10 goals in those 2 games on 39 shots, a 744 Sv%.

            Not a true representation of the season, but an alarming trend when Smith is out of the lineup.

          • Raffydog

            I’d say that game was a very true representation of what kind of team the flames are. If you think that without the play of Smith, this team would be anywhere near 10 wins, then it is you who is insane. Without Smith, I would say the Flames would be lucky to have 5 wins so far this season.

    • Baalzamon

      (don’t trash that, I looked at the stats, although they have played limited minutes apart, but it was clearly the case last season).

      I suggest you look again, then, because the numbers clearly show not only that Hamilton didn’t depend on Giordano last season, but that the dependency was in fact the other way around. In spite of the fact that Hamilton-without-Gio typically played with garbage scrubs like Grossmann and Jokipakka, his results away from Giordano were far better than Giordano away from Hamilton (in spite of the fact that Gio-without-Hamilton typically played with Brodie).

    • everton fc

      Mangiapane may be able to fill in, for Gaudreau. Obviously not “ideal”… But that would have to be the option.

      We are on the cusp of a lottery team, sans Smith.

        • Skylardog

          Elliott’s 944 during a 10 game run, and Johnson’s 950+ during a 6 game run. So yes – to some extent, it was the goalies.

          I know, the golaies sucked most of the rest of the season… But they were 29-33-4 outside of the streaks, which is a 77 point pace.

          And if they only go 12-4 in those 2 streaks, they are out of the playoffs.

          • Raffydog

            Exactly. Why people can’t get that through their heads baffles me. The Flames flukes our last year and rode two hot streaks to get a playoff position. Just look at the last 10 games of last season and the playoffs if you want a true indication of what kind of team the Flames are.

  • The GREAT WW

    Anyone recognize this quote?

    “More and more it’s starting to look like coaching is the biggest issue, or lack there of. That penalty kill gets scored on or dominated for the entire 2 minutes way too often. The give-aways in the D-zone are non stop. The way other teams forecheck us is how we need to forecheck them…intensity and numbers. Start some aggression on the penalty kill already too…my God the coaching is non-existent!”

    WW

      • The GREAT WW

        You win the prize!!!

        A quote that applies to the worst team in the history in the NHL also applies to our Flames….

        We are clearly NOT in a “good position”….

        WW

        • BringtheFire 2.0

          To Archie and everyone else in this thread, we’re gonna be fine. We will adapt, we will change, we will build on our 5v5 play, clean up our specialty teams, replace Lack with Gilles if we have to and that’s it, folks.

          We’re good.

          • The GREAT WW

            I thought you said Lack “was going to be fine” prior to his last start……
            Because he was going to have time to prepare for his start, not realizing he is a bit of a nut case and stresses himself out with too much notice…

            WW

          • BringtheFire 2.0

            “I thought you said Lack “was going to be fine” prior to his last start……”

            I did.

            “…not realizing he is a bit of a nut case and stresses himself out with too much notice…”

            I did notice this. During interviews he’s visibly nervous and it’s disconcerting. He hasn’t shown confidence.

            He also hasn’t started a lot and last game…that was it’s own beast, that one. Like Gully said, which of those goals was he supposed to stop?

            But I said he’d be fine before the game and he was ROASTED out there. Like, to an inedible black lump that you’d need forensic scientists to prove that this lump was once a goaltender. With his public shaming last year and this 8-2 shelling, my hopes and expectations for Lack have changed greatly.

            I don’t think Eddie can get his career back, but there is a small chance.

  • everton fc

    The Blackhawks, Ducks, Stars – and yes, even the Oilers – may turn it around here. We need more of a margin here. Quick. And we are dead if we don’t figure out our #2 goalie situation – why not give Rittich a game and see how he does?? What team will pick up Lack, if he’s waived??

    • Skylardog

      We are fortunate that Anaheim is having a disasterous season due to injury. They are likely out as Getzlaff and Kesler will not be back until it is too late.

      Edmonton, if you follow WW’s theory on 12 games over 500 being necessary to get in has to go 15 over 500 in the next 65. They are at best a wildcard unless they turn it around yesterday. LA And SJ are in great shape. So are we, but we have to pass Vegas (should be easy right?).

      But St Louis, Nashville, and Minnesota are in their stride and either rolling or starting to roll. Winnipeg has bad stats but is putting up points. Dallas has great stats and has been disappointing in putting up points. One or both have to be in the mix at the end. Chicago? Can’t rule them out.

      Not likely a Pacific team gets a wild card spot. That leaves very little margin for error.

      Keys? Pass Vegas, and hold off Edmonton.

  • Derzie

    NHL parity has made the standings pointless. There is virtually no reason to look at the standings until March. Unless your team is in the basement or miles ahead, it’s anyone’s guess who makes the playoffs. No separation creates fatigue. For fans & players. It’s just not fun. No one in the media is talking about it but there are a LOT of empty seats at games. The NHL needs to adjust course or it will crash. Hockey is a great. Don’t ruin it with false parity and refs that aren’t accountable.

    • Flint

      I disagree. NHL parity makes the first 20 games crucial. The Flames making the playoffs last year was against all odds, and the Oilers making it this year will be the same. There is so much parity it’s almost impossible to make up points.

      Last year we went something like 16-3-1 (33/40pts) in Feb/March I think it was. Including 10-0 (20/20pts) and we still barely snuck in because it’s so hard to close the gap.

      • Flint

        For example, if the Oilers aren’t a game over .500 by game 30, I’d put money on the fact they won’t make it. They are 7-10-2 today. So to be 1 over .500 they need to go 8-3-0 in their next 11, to be at 32 pts. They go 6-5 or worse and they’re done. Oilers fans sure shouldn’t be thinking about March, they better be praying for 8 wins by Dec. 10th

        • Skylardog

          They need to go 38-23-4 in their last 65. Doable, but tough. So yes, 6-5 means in the next 10 means 32-18-4 in their last 54. As the Flames showed last year not impossible, but very unlikely.

  • cjc

    The team’s warts are plain to see, middling powerplay, horrible PK, fragile goaltending situation. Because of this, I wouldn’t say Calgary is in a comfortable situation vis-a-vis making the playoffs, but there are a few things that should improve. Given the players, I think Calgary’s PP can expect modest improvement, while the PK will probably improve substantially, even if it doesn’t get back to 80% by the end of the season. Meanwhile Calgary has been strong 5v5, and that should only help them as the refs start putting their whistles away as the season progresses.

  • class1div1

    Our defenseman look un-inspired and dis interested in playing the coaches system.I would have a hard time believing that they enjoy playing this system.

    • Raffydog

      What system? I’ve asked before and nobody can give an answer. What kind of system does this useless coach have the team playing. They don’t play a fast game. They don’t have a strong aggressive forecheck. They don’t play a tight defensive game. Apparently they’re supposed to be a possession team, but they regularly get outshot by their opponents. The problem is, there is no system. And it shows because the team plays like they have no clue what they’re doing.

      • class1div1

        I have no idea what the system looks like either.I do know that P Gerrard said in an interview after the St Louis game .”I think the players are starting to understand that if they play the system they will have success”.Really Paul? The defence was Helter Skeltor in that game as well.

  • Dougiefred

    I drank the koolaid that the Flames were a sure fire playoff team now looking more and more like a bubble team and if Smithless for a significant length of time a lottery team.

  • Carl the tooth

    Decent position for having no bottom 6 scoring till lately . I think we got the Roster set up a lot better with Jankowski and Kulak in Stajan ,Glass out . I would like to see Hathaway /mangiapane get a game. Nice signing on Gadwin .

  • Justthateasy

    At any given point during the season there are only six teams under .500.
    Add two to four teams to the playoffs and put them in a best-of-three wildcard scenario.
    The season is long. This is not football where every game has dire consequences. This way you reduce the pressure slightly on the players and have a more inclusive season. Fans won’t have take each game and each giveaway so seriously because your team has a better chance to salvage the season at any point.

      • dontcryWOLF

        Oh man. It must suck being a fan when you have to hope they lose so that you’ll be right.

        Every year is different and the season is wide open. Wait and see.

        • Skylardog

          When you know there is a ceiling with the current coach, and it is no where near good enough to win a cup, you have to push for the change and hope for a few steps backwards to make the ultimate gain going forwards.

          Right now, a loss is a step in the right direction.

          • BringtheFire 2.0

            “Right now, a loss is a step in the right direction.”

            Are you going to actually, truly sit in front of the screen next game and breath a sigh of relief when the puck goes into the Calgary net? Seriously?

            I’m not. I’m going to cheer all the way to the playoffs then who knows.

            I’ve figured out what the problem is with Flame fans.

            We think we ACTUALLY know what we’re talking about when we talk about firing coaches and trading marquee forwards and defenceman 16-17 games into a season in which we’re above .500.

            We all need to grow the f@ck up.

            Look at that sentence, look at our roster. Look at what happened last season. Look at how much time is left to this season. Look at our forward crop.

  • BendingCorners

    For all 16 teams, players and coaches make changes over time, to fix problems and reward good play. This will change the numbers as the season progresses. By game 25 or 30 the effect of fast or slow starts will bleed out of the standings and this will provide a better picture.
    But generally speaking I don’t trust the numbers. They don’t show quality of chances, or whether the shots occur in groups, indicating sustained pressure. They don’t include special team performance and they don’t break out “goalie to blame” information.
    Winnipeg has been doing well but needs a goaltender and probably another defensive defenseman. If they get that they will keep climbing, otherwise they will slide down the standings.
    The Oilers need better forward support for their defensemen; that plus actually having some pucks go in the net will push them up the standings.
    The Flames need to change their PK and PP personnel and tactics, and need better forward support for their defense and need more aggressive defense in the neutral zone. With those, they make the playoffs. Without, maybe not.
    It’s way too early for Flames fans to panic but if the team doesn’t switch gears soon it may not be too early to call for a coaching change.

  • Fan the Flames

    I don’t like our chances if we don’t fix the PK . I watched the Carolina PK clip you have 2 seconds max to move the puck or somebody is on you . We have times where teams can spend 45 seconds moving around waiting for something to open up for them and it always I for one prefer an aggressive PK versus a tight box shooting gallery approach . The comment about the backup goaltending I agree if Smith goes down for two weeks we are done if we are counting on Lack.