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Photo Credit: Jack Lima

The Stockton Heat could complete a miraculous run tonight

When the Calgary Flames called up Spencer Foo from the minors on Mar. 29, the writing was on the wall. Sure, it was “mathematically possible” for the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat to qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs, but it was incredibly unlikely.

But due to some unlikely circumstances, the Heat are in a position to potentially qualify for the playoffs on the final game of their regular season.

Some history

You may recall that the Flames called up Jon Gillies from Stockton back on Mar. 26 and sent David Rittich there in his place. The Flames were mathematically eliminated later that day and the idea was to (a) give Gillies a shot in the NHL and (b) get Rittich to the farm so he could jump-start the Heat and push them towards the playoffs.

The Heat were spanked 6-0 in Rittich’s return to the AHL, losing a one-sided game to the lowly Cleveland Monsters, and so it appeared that the playoffs probably weren’t in the cards. Foo’s call-up wasn’t all that controversial because a Calder Cup berth was such a long shot. The Heat had to win several games and the teams ahead of them had to lose several games.

An improbable race

While the Heat have gone 4-4-0 since Rittich’s demotion – two of their four wins have come since Gillies was returned to the minors – the San Diego Gulls have gone 2-6-0 while the San Jose Barracuda have caught up from behind with a 5-2-0 record.

Here’s a quick primer on how the standings have changed since Mar. 26.

3/26
Pct.
3/26
ROW
4/13
Pct.
4/13
ROW
San Diego .610 30 .567 32
San Jose .533 27 .552 32
Stockton .559 28 .552 32

Simultaneously, San Jose went on a run and closed the gap with Stockton from below while San Diego started to lose a lot and fell down to meet the Heat from above. As a result, there’s a three-way race heading into the final Pacific Division games of the season for the final Pacific Division playoff spot. Stockton’s managed to keep pace and stay in the race, despite missing Andrew Mangiapane for the last several weeks as well as being without Morgan Klimchuk and Hunter Shinkaruk this weekend.

A recipe for chaos

So here’s the gist: San Diego is sitting in the fourth and final Pacific Division playoff spot with 76 points (and a .567 points percentage). Stockton and San Jose are tied in fifth place with 74 points apiece (and identical .552 points percentages).

  • If Stockton wins in any way AND San Diego loses in regulation, they’ll both finish with 76 points (and identical .559 points percentages) and Stockton will finish in the final playoff spot due to head-to-head tie-breakers.
  • In any other scenario, Stockton doesn’t make the playoffs.
  • freethe flames

    I have been following the game scores for the last couple of weeks and listened to most of the game last night and there are couple of things of note: Klimchuk and Shinkaruk have not been playing; Dube is doing well and the Lomberg McMurty/Poirier line have been dominate. Poirier was benched for a game about 2 weeks ago and has come back with a vegance; last night he had a goal 2 assists tried to instigate a fight and drove to net resulting in Lombergs goal. Hopefully it continues tonight.

    • Juan Valdez

      I think it would be a huge mistake not bringing Poirier back next year. Case-in-point, look at what happened to Dubnyk. Fell off the face of the earth playing for crap teams, but made a huge resurgence with the Wild.

      • freethe flames

        I agree with you; I think the Flames organization needs to consider keeping a number of these tweeners even if is on 1 way AHL deals; but in saying this the players need to know where they stand when they are offered these contracts. Again as I have said before it would be easy for me to cut the current 49 contracts down to to 38 leaving plenty of room to add different options.

        • freethe flames

          Actually with all the guys I would keep (re upping our own RFA’s/UFA’s that I would keep) my number would be 40; 22 forwards, 12 D, and 6 goalies; leaving plenty of contracts to decide if you wanted to test the FA market, sign college grads, sign Fischer, re-sign AOM, sign Farenger(I think that was the goalie who stepped in), resign Hrivik to have some depth at center.

  • Stu Cazz

    As painful as it may be the Flames organization needs to and will move on from players like Shinkaruk, Poirier, Klimchuk, Smith, McDonald etc. The limitation of pro contracts forces this and allows new prospects to come in, develop and show wether they can be impactful NHL’ers. Watching the playoffs without the Flames sucks but it really confirms what the Flames have been lacking. Teams like the Jets, Preds, Knights etc are loaded with speed, physical players, and the ability to roll 4 lines. Every line in some way makes an impact to the final outcome of the game. My point is retaining tweeners is a non-starter for me. Then organization has been evaluating these guys daily on a game by game basis and they have a good read. Tweeners need to move on, they are a dime a dozen…make room for potential NHL’ers.

    • freethe flames

      We have 3 forwards likely going to the AHL next year; Dube, Gawdin and Phillips. Who do you want them to play with? Smith and likely Carroll with both be gone. McDonald has a contract. The AHL is made up of non NHLer’s. Successful AHL teams are made up of good hockey players who aid in the development of prospects. Shinkaruk, Poirier and Klimchuk are all younger than Foo and would add to the development of Gawdin, Dube and Phillips rather than distract from it.

      • FL🔥MES

        If a new coaching staff is brought in I would like to see what they think of some of these guys before moving on from them. Also, I agree that we need some experienced bodies in Stockton to help develop the prospects. If you move out the vets the Heat will get pummelled and I don’t see any advantage to doing this. Plus SF will be ticked, and rightfully so.

      • Stu Cazz

        No question the Flames high end prospects need a strong supporting cast. I would like to see ET & more Europeans in the system. Failing that plenty of AHL tweeners to choose from. Regardless guys like Wotherspoon will move on unless they are offered one way deals. Unlikely.

  • Stockton's Finest

    I will be providing updates as the night goes on. Just need one and some help.

    You guys are mentioning players. I will provide my run down of players I think should be re-signed and players who will be filling out change of address cards. I will provide reasons and expect a lot of discussion on the topic.

    • freethe flames

      I’m looking forward to it. Debate is good. One thing that could change everyone’s views would be if the Heat make the playoffs and go on a long run. If that happen’s and some steps up then all bets are off. Yesterday I asked your opinion on the AHL centers we have and I’m really interested on your take on them.

      • Stockton's Finest

        Did you see my response? McMurtry and Colin Smith for sure. Pollock, Lomberg, and Nowick all are listed as centers, but have been playing wing and doing better there. I think Pelley will move on.

  • McRib

    I don’t understand the handling of Emile Poirier by this organization at all. The player has shown an ability to dominant the QMJHL & AHL at times displaying standout tools that would suggest he could be greatly effective in the NHL, yet Garnet Hathaway is giving every chance to succeed when he never cracked a point per game in the NCAA and he only scored one fluke goal in the final 44 GP of the regular season. Not to mention Poirier can skate circles around Hathaway and is just as tough. If Poirier was playing the minutes to start the year with Janko and Mangiapane he also would have dominated and have be the first callup and the guy has WAAAAAYYYYY more NHL upside (you know the scoring abilities that made him a first rounder his draft year?)!! Lunancy. I’d drink if I was Poirier as well, if I was buried by this organization like he has been.

    • McRib

      Emile Poirier scores 42 goals in only his final year of junior on a bad team. Garnet Hathaway scored 20 goals his entire NCAA career!!!! Lol. Its not like our bottom six was starved for offense this year or anything.

      • Stu Cazz

        I would agree with you if you tell me you see Poirier play on a regular basis? My understanding is that the kid simply does not show up to play every night….maybe no one really understands this kid? I’m thinking a change in scenery will benefit him.

      • BiggDogg

        Should also consider though that CHL has way more games and is a lot higher scoring than NCAA. Poirier’s 42 came in 60 odd games, but Hathaway only played 99 NCAA games. Not a lot of goals still, but the gap is closer than it looks

    • Hotwing

      So.. our NHL team spit’s the bit

      Our AHL team spit’s the bit

      No playoff’s for either…

      No lotto picK, no 2nd round pick, no 3rd round pick…

      Seriously… all the coached need to go. And some shuffling of players needed… sorry, we are NOT the 2016 jets.

      We have some good pieces, but the coaches are too nice and some of the players need a heart transplant.

  • freethe flames

    After 4 years of Huska as the Head coach of the Flames farm team is it time to make a change? His teams have only made the playoffs once but in all 4 years they were .50% or better. What is his job? One is to prepare players for the NHL, two have players know the NHL system(he has had two very different systems to implement) and three build a winning tradition in the AHL. Has he done these three jobs? After 4 years how many players have successfully made the jump to the NHL for the Flames; I count 3 full timers: Kulak, Janko and Hathaway- am I missing anyone? Is that enough? You can if you wish add Rittich. Is that a product of his coaching our the Flames drafting? Do the players who get called up ready to play the Flames system? I would say yes even though I sometimes think some of them are misused by the coaching staff at this level; one example is you take a guy like Mangiapane and he is an offensive player and make him play mostly on the 4th line and wonder why he doesn’t produce; yet a guy Foo gets a top 6 audition. Has he built a winning tradition on the farm? One playoff appearance in 4 years is not a good sign but is it all on him. Winning AHL teams have a solid core of AHL/Tweeners that make their teams better and have space for the 5 or 6 maximum prospects that make the team each year and I would say the Flames organization has not really done that. The new prospects need to be put in a position to grow and develop but also to succeed and learn the ropes of professional hockey. I don’t know what the Flames organization will do with Huska and coaching throughout the organization but I would not be surprised to see an overhaul of the organization. I ca’t wait to see Stockton’s Finest report card on the Heat; he will have a better idea than those of us looking at them from afar.