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Does being in a playoff spot at the Christmas break matter?

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Photo credit:Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
8 months ago
One of the club goals, as stated by Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter, was for his hockey club to be in a playoff spot as of the Christmas break. Obviously, aside from the end of the playing schedule, any date cited as a goal for being a playoff spot is completely arbitrary.
But in terms of recent Flames history, has being in a playoff spot at Christmastime resulted in making the post-season in the spring? Does achieving this specific standings goal matter?
To evaluate the value of being in a playoff spot at Christmas, let’s focus entirely on Brad Treliving’s reign as general manager (dating back to 2014-15).
In 2014-15, the Flames were in third place in the Pacific Division (by both points and points percentage). They ended up third in the Pacific at the end of the season, qualifying for the playoffs.
In 2015-16, the Flames were fifth in the wildcard race by points and fourth by points percentage, decidedly out of the playoffs. They finished sixth in the wildcard race at the end of the season.
In 2016-17, the Flames were second in the wildcard race by points and third by points percentage, effectively a borderline playoff team. They ended up in the first wildcard spot – they were tied with second-place Nashville in points but were ahead on tiebreakers – and made the playoffs.
In 2017-18, the Flames were fifth in the wildcard race by points and fourth by points percentage, outside of the playoff pack. They finished fifth in the wildcard race at the end of the season.
In 2018-19, the Flames were first in the Pacific by points and points percentage. They finished the season in the same spot and qualified for the playoffs.
In 2019-20, the Flames were second in the wildcard race by points and third by points percentage, again, decidedly a borderline playoff team. When the league shut down in March, they were third in the Pacific by points and in the second wildcard spot by points percentage, ahead of Winnipeg by .001 percentage points.
In 2021-22, the Flames were third in the Pacific by both points and points percentage. They ended up finishing first in the Pacific and qualified for the playoffs.
In seven seasons under Treliving’s guidance that included a Christmas break, the Flames have been in a playoff spot at that break by points five times (three of those times also by points percentage). Every time they hit Christmas in a playoff spot, they made the playoffs.
It’s a small sample size, but based on this sample it’s a very strong predictor.

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