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.

  • 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.

    • 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?

      • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • oddclod

    Czarnik can’t think the game at nhl speed. Come playoffs, will be a healthy scratch. Dube gets the first audition.

    Neal is floating. He’ll pick it up. After 2 finals in a row me thinks he has two more gears.
    Smitty is a capable back up.
    Most teams don’t have two starters.
    We got big Save Dave.
    Good job Tre.
    Rejoice. Half way, first in the west.
    As I scroll over to nhl.com just to see the standings again.

    How sweet it is.

  • 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.

  • Sterls

    I wonder if once Valimaki is back if Toronto would do Kylington + Czarnik for Kapanen. We would need to find another LD to shore up the LD depth, but I think that should be easy and cost a middle pick. Kapenen could solve that 2RW problem we have long term, and we could get him at a good cap hit next season. I’d like to see Byng-Janko-Kapanen as a line with Bennett-Backlund-Frolik as a shutdown third line.

  • Skylardog

    The Flames are making the playoffs, but the cut off in the 91 point range are ridiculously low, and the 100 points being enough to win the division is way too low as well. Vegas is trending to hit 102, and the Sharks 101 if they match on the back half what they have done so far. The problem is, both came out of the gates slow, especially Vegas.

    We need 108 to be first, and 95 is the cutoff for a playoff spot in the West. We have a playoff spot almost locked in, but it will be a dogfight to get tops in the Pacific.

    But we got this, tops in the Pacific I mean. We get to 108 at the very least.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    BT might decide to go to the playoffs with the guys who have gotten them where they are. The bidding war for rentals is likely going to get expensive and there are teams better situated to over pay for rentals than we are. The best bet might be a simple depth addition or two. Valimaki coming back is like adding a player.