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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Vernon30

    I think you get a backup, maybe Pickard? Is he somewhere still available? I know he’s not been great this year, but would be cheap. Just tinker other than that. Don’t change the chemistry at all. Any big moves aren’t needed at this time. Like has been said above, leave big moves for the summer.

  • Flamesforever

    The team I would lock in on is St Louis, obviously they are not having the year they expected and should look to change up the make up of there room, could we pry a Schwartz or Schenn away from them? Maybe one of there hulking dman for our playoff push? They play in the central so I don’t see a rivalry holding back any trade options.

  • Luter 1

    We don’t necessarily need depth on D, Valimaki is more than capable if one of the young guys slides or if someone goes down, he’ll be back well before seasons end but we could use some toughness. Bieksa is long in the tooth but if he came cheap, how about Boroweicki out of Ottawa, tough SOB, we still need to get some team toughness, one forward, one D. Johnny still taking way too much abuse. Neal for anyone with a pulse, why on earth do people think Carolina’s going to give us back Ferland for this plug? That would be the ultimate after Christmas miracle!

  • aye

    Nobody is talking about Brian Elliott on FN for obvious reasons, but personally I think he is a capable and relatively cheap backup option, and should be considered. Also, is Kari Ramo a potential backup option for next year? I mean his numbers with the Flames weren’t bad by any stretch, I didn’t think he was great, but was fairly consistent and reliable. And he is having a great year in the KHL, 1.94 GAA and .930 SVP.

    Playoffs is totally different from regular season, it’s quite common that every year we see depth players come out of nowhere to become huge contributors. So, I personally don’t think it’s necessary to go big at TDL, too pricey and they rarely work out, and potentially upset team chemistry. I am a full believer of going with the guys that got you there, both as a reward and confidence in the group. While secondary scoring is somewhat concerning, it’s not like we don’t already have the potential pieces, if Neal gets engaged and gets going in the Playoffs, he’s as good as any rental we can get at the TDL. Bennett has also shown in the past that he is really good in the playoffs.

    As for Kylington, I think it’s wise to hang on to him to see what they really have in him. When the D is fully healthy, I think it might be a good idea to dress 7 D, and give him the odd shift on LW.

  • freethe flames

    I read this morning o Spectors report that Florida was looking to move Riemer. Would he be anyone to consider. 2 years left after this year at $3.4m as a possible back up. The story basically says that Florida wants to pursue a higher end goalie and use sweet Lou as the back up.

  • freethe flames

    On D are their rentals better than Prout? Basically we have no one on D on the farm. So personally I expect Valimaki will be ready and Kylington as the 7th. Unfortunately I am concerned that Stone will not be ready.

  • 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.

  • freethe flames

    The issue the Flames have before they go on a shopping spree is limited assets. I would hope they will not move their first and third round picks for a rental. You can move them for a guy with at least a years term and if it means you can dump your bad contract. If somehow we can upgrade on Smith by moving Smith and or Gilles great. A depth defender that is better than Prout should be doable and at low cost. A guy who can play in the top 6/9 who is solid offensively but has a little grit in his game would be good,(What we expected Neal to be).

  • Davebot

    Deadline deals terrify me. They are worse than a crap shoot. Remember how Statsny was going to put Winnipeg over the top? Or cast your mind back to when St. Louis was a cup contender, but for goal-tending, and they made the no-brainer move to bring in Miller in his prime and… lost in the first round. I’d rather lose with what we have than lose plus also flush a bunch of draft picks down the toilet.

    • Flint

      Deadline deals shouldn’t be made to fill significant holes. If you’ve got significant holes then you aren’t a contender. Deadline deals should be made to give you depth in areas where you’re thin, or to potentially give you options for different looks.

      Think of the Flames 03/04 run. We brought in Ville Nieminen, who wasn’t a ton of talent, but it was a shrewd move for Jason Morgan (who?). That brought us an antagonistic, fast, hard working player who bumped Lyons out of his spot. He wasn’t a game changer but he played an important role and scored 4 goals in the playoffs.

      Marcus Nilson was also brought in for a second rounder. He again filled a spot that at some point is trickle down from the Dean McAmmond injury. Would we have preferred McAmmond? Of course, but Nilson played well in that run.

      This is what I’m advocating for. The Flames have a good team, but we don’t have a lot of depth, because we’re already pulling so much from our farm (Valimaki, Kylington, Dube, Hathaway, Czarnik) some of those are good young players, some regular season energy players…. but they aren’t playoff run players cause the bottom of the rotation is their ceiling… either this year or maybe forever (Hathaway and Czarnik).

      There will be injuries in the playoffs and we gotta be ready for that.

  • Garry T

    Lots of good suggestions in terms of acquisitions. I really like the idea of signing Bieksa as insurance. If Reiner is available for someone from Stockton, jump on that.
    I’m keeping Frolik. He is playing very well since coming back and Backland’s line has been super. That leaves us needing a good forward. Not giving up picks. Islanders have four one picks and there are a couple more teams it’s 2 ones. If I was moving Frolik it’s a one and a good player or can’t lose prospect.

    • freethe flames

      Islanders have 4 first rounders? Not according to capfriendly. Buffalo has 3 that I know for sure(although the conditions could end up making them next year)

      • Flint

        How is Frolik not playing well? He has 9 goals in 26 games. He scored 10 all last year. Sure, he has empty net goals. Sure his shooting percentage is high. But he’s on pace for a career year in goals. You can say he’s playing unsustainably well, but you can’t say his goals and points “don’t count”. He’s the kind of depth guy we need in the playoffs, who can skate hard and move through the lineup.