The Flames are probably playoff-bound. Now what?

The Calgary Flames have played 43 games of their 2018-19 season. They’ve put themselves in a really good position to make the playoffs, which might give them a chance to have success once they get there.

The Flames have a 26-13-4 record for 56 points. Through 43 games, it’s the fourth best performance in franchise history:

  • 58 points in 1987-88
  • 62 points in 1988-89
  • 58 points in 2008-09

As you would expect from such a great start, their playoff chances at this point look pretty solid.

Playoff odds, at a glance

Are the Flames going to make the playoffs? Yeah, probably.

Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) had the Flames with a 96% chance of making the playoffs heading into Saturday’s games, with a 90.2 point playoff cutline. Under his model, the Flames would need 35 points to qualify, which would be a 0.449 points percentage and around a 17-21-1 record.

Dom Luszczyszyn from the Athletic had the Flames with a 98% chance of making the playoffs heading into Saturday’s games, with a 90.6 point playoff cutline. As with McCurdy’s model, the Flames would need 35 points and a 17-21-1 record to qualify.

Sports Club Stats uses a model that’s a bit less sophisticated – and optimistic – than McCurdy or Luszczyszyn, but it’s pointing in the same direction. They have the Flames with a 99.9% chance following Saturday’s games. Their playoff cutline is around 92 points, so 36 more points and an 18-21-0 record gets the Flames there.

Long story short, barring a catastrophic implosion by the Flames, they’re probably on their way to spring hockey.

So now what?

The Flames made the playoffs in 2015 and 2017. All due respect to those teams, but they had to basically exhaust themselves to get there. This year’s Flames have a lot more breathing room than they’ve had in decades in regards to their ability to make a push to the playoffs but have the ability to tinker with their lines or rest players who might be dealing with injuries.

The hockey club has had a lot of things working, but they’ve also had to deal with some challenges – secondary scoring hasn’t emerged yet, the second power play unit hasn’t done much, and Mike Smith has had issues. With two weeks until the All-Star Break and roughly six weeks until the trade deadline, the Flames have a lot of time to experiment and figure out how to fix their issues and maximize their group.

If the Flames can figure out some of their issues, their chances of challenging for the Pacific Division crown are actually pretty good right now. McCurdy, Luszczyszyn and Sports Club Stats project the Flames as the division winners. It’ll likely take somewhere around 100 points to clinch the Pacific, which would only require a record slightly north of 0.500 to hit.

There’s a lot of hockey left to play and lots of weird things can go wrong over the final few months of the season, but the Flames have put themselves in more comfortable a spot than they’ve been in decades. Let’s see what they do with the wiggle room they’ve given themselves.

  • Burnward

    Personally, this year is a complete bonus. I thought we might get there in two years given the youth on the back end.

    I think I really underestimated BP and his impact.

    I just stay the course for now.

    We have depth up front in Stockton, our D-corps set for the foreseeable future and cap flexibility.

    These kids will only continue to get better.

    • Puck Head

      I agree.

      To move and replace Smith will take a miracle if we don’t want to give up a high pick or good player. I think we all agree that high picks should not be in play unless an amazing young player comes back (low probability). Our D core is set. There is no way you move a guy like Kylington unless you get a kings ransom in return.

      My only tweak would be to acquire a functionally tough bottom six forward.

      • buts

        Really stay the course? If Rittich goes down you’ve wasted a great year where you have 4 forwards having career seasons. You at least have to address a backup goalie to replace Smith.

      • Kevin R

        Bang on & those opportunities will come up as we get closer to the TDL. We do not mess with any of this core.
        Low cost solutions will probably be the order. Personally, I think we flick Bieska a mill & bring him in as a #7 D & ship Prout to Stockton. Bieska isnt fleet footed but can move players from front of net & can be a nasty SOB & has lots of playoff experience.
        Then I would even consider flicking Oilers a young forward like Foo & a mid pick for Kassian. 1 more year if him & can you imagine how excited he would be to get away from that hot mess up North.

        Bigger trades of Frolik or Brodie or Neal are off season/Draft week type of moves. Unless a contender like Tampa or a team like Montreal who has a pretty nice looking young goalie stagnating behind Price want Frolik, the price would have to be right, otherwise no way. Frolik will be needed for playoffs, same as Neal & especially Brodie.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      Yeah I totally agree. Why would we hamstring ourselves for the next few years for a good run this year? Priorities for me are a good draft day, and some good prospect development

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    Man it’s amazing to see all the opinions. We want to trade Neal to get ferly back? The same guy who all of sudden stopped the physical play and used to disappear for weeks even on first line? That Ferly ?
    Trade goalie from Detroit? They wants first round pick? So we won’t have next year first round either? Just in case you don’t know Steve Y will be GM for wings ( he is already in the organization )
    Almost forgot Simmons from Philly? Who is slower then Neal?
    Wonder when will someone suggests trading Lucic from Edmonton?
    Brian Elliot? As a back up or Ramo? Seriously have you been following flames for at least 5 years?
    Trade cheap but very good D man and then cry when we run out of healthy d man in deep play off run
    Do you guys ever be happy? BT will need a capable back ( No Ramo or Elliot) goalie and get Neal going so our secondary scoring improves.
    We don’t need tough guys to trade for remember Edmonton game when they tried to be physical and we just went around them to score and got a win?
    Guys take a chill pill. BT is getting paid lot of money to solve this he got us this far ( I know Neal and Brouwer) but it’s more good then bad
    Man just be happy.

  • MDG1600

    1) Shore up the goaltending for a playoff run. IMHO Smith isn’t going to get his game back so we only have 1 goalie of NHL quality.
    2) Add a physical forward in anticipation of a playoff run.

    Admittedly I don’t know how they pay for any of the above but it is what I’d like to see.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I would target Maroon and Ferland and McElhiney to shore up the Goaltending. Maroon for a 3rd and B prospect. McElhinney and Ferland for Frolik and Gillies.

      • Heeeeere’s Johnny

        This might be the most legitimate trade proposal I’ve seen here in a long time. The only thing I question is how we might compensate for Fro’s shutdown capability.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          I like Frolik but where there is smoke there is fire…so I expect he will be gone by the TDL. We can win without him. He is less effective defensively than previous years so perhaps Ryan or Bennett can fill the role.

          • oilcanboyd

            For the life of me I cannot seeing getting rid of Frolik. He is so much more valuable than Neal, who should have sat out by now. Besides Frolik has been the fittest athlete at training camp over Gio the last two seasons. He also studies the game to see how he can get better.

      • Cfan in Van

        That’d be great for us, but unfortunately, that’s a fantasy trade. Ferland is going to cost more than an highly-paid Frolik with 1 year left. Gillies is now even less valuable as a prospect with his one-way contract next year.

        • deantheraven

          I don’t know if Ferland’s numbers and health are going to see him get an overpay next summer. Sure would be nice to have a guy like that for a playoff run.

  • Heeeeere’s Johnny

    Outside the trade realm I think they need to take the time and patience to reimagine PP2. This is a hot topic here but my favourite thoughts are:
    3F2D with Phat Ras as the 2nd D
    Ryan comes off and Janko replaces him.
    Neal is net front and slot
    I’d play Czarnik as the final forward and backup faceoff guy

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Yesterday’s game was a good illustration of why the coaches are reluctant to use Ras on the blue line PP2. One bobble at the blue line and it becomes a foot race that Ras does not win. If not for the elite skating of Kjillington Philly would have had a clear breakaway. Ras’s Shot is so tempting but at what cost.

    • Puck Head

      Or play 4D with 1F on the 2nd PP? Grasping at straws here but our D are #?!ing amazing, aren’t afraid of going to the dirty areas and have great shots. If nothing else, it would be fun to try.

  • Sven

    I keep wondering when I am going to wake up

    I well remember the legendary 1988-89 team

    54 wins vs 17 losses and 117 points
    and a +128 goal differential

    Lanny, Loob, Mullen, Gilmour, Nieuwendyk, MacInnis, Fleury, Roberts, Suter, Hrdina and Otto

    arguably one of the greatest teams not just in Flames history – but in NHL history

    and to think that we are currently only 3 bad Mike Smith starts from matching their championship pace is astonishing
    (todays numbers bolstered by altered overtime rules to be sure)

    Sports Club Stats has the Flames leading the western cup contenders with a 12.5% chance of hoisting the cup
    (behind only Tampa and Toronto)

    and Hockey-Reference has the Flames as the second choice to win it all – tied with Toronto and trailing only Tampa

    dare to dream

    • KootenayFlamesFan

      I’d rather play Toronto in the earlier rounds than Winnipeg, Nashville or Vegas, Anaheim, etc. There are a lot of teams in the west that will be tough to beat. Whoever runs into Toronto on the playoffs has the easier road in my opinion. The team i think is most similar to them is San Jose. Lots of talent but don’t have what it takes to go all the way.

    • deantheraven

      I dare to dream of overtime. One that ends the nightmare of shoot outs.
      Zero points for a loss in regulation one for a loss in 3-on-3, sudden death overtime.Guaranteed GWG’s would be scored sooner than what it takes to go 4+ rounds in a SO, and it would be a team win in a team game.

  • Flint

    The Flames have three areas of weakness to be a legitimate contender. Keep in mind, the TOR, TB, PIT, SJ, NSH, WPG of the world will also be solidifying for a cup run.

    We need:
    More goaltending depth. Smith isn’t even a playoff backup at this point. He’s a regular season backup, sure, but if Rittich gets hurt, or hits a rough patch, we’d be ‘one and done’ with Smith. We have nothing on the farm. Toronto just got Hutchinson. Problem is, I’m not sure where. I’m not a big fan of Howard but he may be the best rental in a fleet of bad goaltenders. But I wouldn’t do it unless Detroit basically gave him away for free.

    2. A second line centre or winger – mostly the wing. We are suddenly looking weak down the middle with Lindholm being firmly established on the top line. Backlund, Jankowski and Ryan aren’t deep enough especially if there is an injury. Someone with Backlund and Tkachuk on the wing that’s brings a little jam. I dunno if it’d be worth looking at renting Wayne Simmonds…. he’s slowed down a lot. Problem is, there’s so little out there that is any good or won’t cost a ton in future assets.

    3. A Left Shot Defender. I don’t think we can go into the playoffs with just a Valimaki/Kylington bottom LD option. Because if one of Gio or Hanafin got hurt…. it’d get ugly. Not an emergency, but a concern.