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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.

  • buts

    The team in order to go deep needs depth in goal, who to get is an upgrade on what we have as Smith is the worst goalie statistically to play 50 games in the last 2 years. Our flames also need to acquire a depth left shooting defensemen. Moving Frolik, Neal and possibly moving Kylington, Bennett or Brodie to make a huge move for Mark Stone or Kapenen to get a legit top 6 winger would help very much.

  • BendingCorners

    Unlikely trade:
    Backlund, Frolik and Neal to Ottawa for Stone and White plus a 2nd.
    Ottawa gets defensive help plus a “scorer” to play with Duchene, and removes the risk of Stone walking this summer.
    We get cap space, a primo scoring winger, a young center who will improve but is already good.
    The way I crunch the numbers, there would be space to sign both Stone and Tkachuk next summer, as long as our other Stone is traded or is on LTIR.
    A big disruption but Tkachuk with White and Stone should be a good line.

  • The OG

    With goaltending being their potential Achilles heal that is the position BT should focus on before the deadline. Rittich is good enough to be the starter but need a reliable backup should something happen. Requirements are:
    Low salary
    Low acquisition cost
    Playoff experience

    They player they should target is Ryan Miller from Anaheim. He’s cheap (1.5 mill), will be cheap (he’s finishing the back 9 of his career) and playing pretty good this season. Only challenge is Anaheim is a division foe.

    • Rude

      What do you think the cost would be, cause I would guess huge on account of being a good goalie, having a low cap hit and being a divisional rival. That last point in particular probably drives the price up to a first rounder plus an asset. Calgary and Anaheim are not exactly trading buddies either

    • Greg

      Ferland + McBackup would be a pretty good combination trade. He’s already a known commodity, would slot right in with Tkachuk and Backlund and make the top 6 complete, plus bump Backlund/Neal/Frolik permanently into the bottom 6 to shore that up. McBackup would also be a solid insurance option without any questions about who the starter is.

      It seems to me the best TDL acquisitions are always ones that plug clear holes, without dislodging a good incumbent and mixing up roles and chemistry that have already formed. They would do just that (as opposed to, say, Howard, who’d be coming in with starter credentials and potentially upset the apple cart).

      I’d bet that’d cost us a first though. Worth it IMO. But it wouldn’t leave leave much left to shore up the D. I wonder though, if Valimaki and Stone are expected to be healthy for the playoffs, is another D really as important as improving forward and goaltending depth? I’d think you’d have to be ok with Stone/Prout being your 8/9th D, and Smith/Gilles being your 3/4 goalies. Not many teams would have better options if injuries forced them that deep.

      • Greg

        Justin “mr. game 7” Williams is also a UFA. I’m not normally a fan of rentals but given there’s (a) no cap room to add for next year and (b) a young core ready to compete, I think we’re in that window where we should be shopping futures for that push every year. If a 1st + 3rd can get you Ferland, Williams, and McBackup, I’d do it. Forwards would look like:

        Gaudreau Monahan Lindholm
        Tkachuk Bennet Ferland
        Frolik Ryan Williams
        Bennet Jankowski Neal

        That’d be a great top end with more depth than most teams can match over 7 games.

        All assuming Valimaki and Stone will be cleared and conditioned by playoffs though. If they are both out, I think D depth is the bigger concern heading to the playoffs.

  • everton fc

    Carolina needs scoring. They can’t sign Ferland. Ferland for Neal. Straight-up.

    Move Czarnik. Promote Lazar. We have depth at forward with Quine, Rychel, Lomberg (yes, Lomberg!), Mangiapane… Graovac… If we have guys go down, these guys can all give us more than Czarnik. Punt Czarnik.

    Keep an eye on the waiver-wire. Find a low-cost backup for Rittich. I don’t think Carolina’s moving McElhinney. They’d move Darling, and probably eat cap space. But would anyone take a fly on Darling?

    • Kevin R

      Salary retained is still too much $$$ for Darling who has been dogs breakfast the last two years. Better off with the devil you know for backup, at least he’s gone at the end of the year. I would flip Czarnik for Kassian. I know he’s a bone head but our path in the playoffs is going to lead us head on with Vegas & we need a functional 4th line deterrent to handle them come playoff time. Just saying. Bieska as a depth D & Kassian give us an answer to the stupidness of the playoff intensity.

      • Greg

        Neal for Darling might be an option though. In theory that gets them some offended for only incremental spend, and gets the flames a backup goaltender under contract for less money then they are paying to get nothing from Neal anyway.

        I’d guess both teams the downside risk in that is too high though. I doubt Neal’s contract is movable unless his goal scoring rate starts moving up to a level where the flames would want to keep him anyway.

    • flames2015

      Lmao. Carolina needs scoring, so you propose Ferland one for one with Neal. Ferland 12 goals (in 10 less games, to Neal 4 goals. With the latter making more than double the salary of the first.

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    I would like to see them take a run at Toffoli and one of their goalies; Petersen or Campbell.
    Send them Bennett and Gillies plus a prospect and/or pick. Add Frolik if they want as well.

    Gillies get to learn under Quick. They still have another goalie if he doesn;t work out. Bennett would be perfect for a slower Kings team. Underpayment for sure, but you need to start with something interesting.

  • Skylardog

    Funny how many are talking about trades that I put out this AM. I got trashed, but now some are seeing the light.

    Two of the ones I listed are very doable, and necessary.

    Pry Kapanen out of Toronto. I suggested Brodie go to the Leafs this AM, but that is because I believe Muzzin is an upgrade to Brodie in a playoff setting where physical play takes over. Muzzin also has a lower cap hit. Brodie also has the occasional brain fart where you just have to go “what the heck TJ.”

    But Kapanen for Kylington either straight up or with another small piece makes going East should work too. As I explained this AM, Kylington is nothing more than a bottom pair defensemen for his entire career here, because Hanifin and Valimaki will ALWAYS be ahead of him. That makes him a minor piece in our system, but Kapanen can and would be a top 6 scorer for us. Ky would help the Leafs a bunch, and has the right cap hit to make it a great trade for both teams. They have a cap nightmare next year, even with Ky in and Kapanen out. They are never signing Kapanen. we have Ky as a surplus in the short and long run.

    And as we need a backup (we do, If we had to go to Smith because Ritter was injured, it is over). To get this done, and protect the cap situation, Smith has to go the other way. Only Detroit can do this. They are losing Howard in the next few years anyways. He can sign a 1 day deal as a Wing when he hangs them up.

    If you JUST did those 2 trades would my ideas be more acceptable?
    Before you trash me, put the new lineup on paper. It looks good with Kapanen on the second line.

    And then you could add Bieksa as suggested for D-depth. I like that idea, I was thinking we could give up a third or pick someone up on waivers to fill in the 7th D. Prout is not capable.

    • Puck Head

      Sounds beautiful but there will be a bidding war for Howard and he’s not a long term solution. I think we’re stuck with Smith – nobody will want him plus they’ll want a juicy sweetener in return.

      Brodie’s value is increasing. You could get a great return for him, more than Muzzin I would expect.

      The Bieksa idea is good.

      The salary cap makes it extremely difficult to play GM. So much going on behind the scenes that we fans aren’t privy to.

      I expect Tre will make a deal or two but I also expect to be surprised when the announcement comes through.

    • Off the wall

      Kapanen for Kylington. Yeah I’d do that in a heartbeat.

      Too bad Neal hasn’t worked out so far. We probably wouldn’t be having this reaction if he could just get his act together.

      Could you imagine actually having two functional scoring lines?

      Neal’s pretty much immovable, like a hippopotamus taking a nap. Not a pretty picture.

      Perhaps Neal shouldn’t have got his teeth fixed. He looks too pretty to worry about scoring?
      Nice teeth though. I wonder if he flosses?

      Maybe if Neal lost a tooth, he’d start scoring again. We should get Backlund to take warm up shots around him…

    • freethe flames

      What will the cost be for Muzzin? Again in making trades lets remember NTC, cap space and one that we sometimes forget and really have no idea about is “the locker room”, sometimes you move a guy who is part of the glue in the locker room for a guy who is better on paper but is not the right fit.

      • Skylardog

        The cost is speed. That is what the Kings need, and cap relief.

        They may be a team that would take Czar and find a spot for him. The other chip is Mangiapane. They will be familiar with him because of his time in Stockton. They could probably find a top 6 role for him, while, he is a long way from cracking our top 6. That makes him a permanent AHLer in our system unless he can retool his play into a bottom 6 player. But we have those too, and they are a dime a dozen.

        After that they would likely need a pick or another prospect, but I think that would have to be getting close.