How slim are the Calgary Flames playoff hopes?

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
4 months ago
If you’re a new reader – and if so, welcome! – you might have noticed two things about the Calgary Flames over the course of the 2023-24 so far. First, they sure have moved a lot of good roster players for futures. Second, they sure do seem fixated on making the playoffs.
Given the in-season departures of four prominent Flames, how slim are their playoff hopes as we head into the homestretch of the season?
Before we get into the math, let’s address the seeming contradiction of the Flames’ current situation. When Craig Conroy ascended to the general manager’s chair in May 2023, he seemed pretty clear-eyed about the team’s state of affairs. The Flames had a lot of good players that they really liked – many of them were key pieces of a hockey team that was one of the NHL’s best in 2018-19 and 2021-22 – but they were also aware that in a salary cap environment, teams need to make tough choices with their pending free agents.
Since taking the job, Conroy has made those tough choices, trading away five pending UFAs while integrating more and more fresh faces to the club’s lineup. But at the same time, the Flames have remained a tough out on the National Hockey League’s schedule, with the remaining players under new head coach Ryan Huska seemingly figuring out how they need to play in order to be effective with the players they have left.
Throughout October and November, our colleagues Ryan Pinder, Dean “Boomer” Molberg and Rhett Warrener of the Barn Burner program (Monday to Friday at 10 a.m. MT on the FlamesNation YouTube channel) kept expecting the bottom to fall out for the Flames due to these departures… and it never quite happened. The “Gauntlet” run of 15 tough games between American Thanksgiving and Christmas were supposed to be the club’s death knell; they weren’t.
Heck, if you look at some (admittedly-arbitrary) segments we created earlier this season… the Flames haven’t really had a flat-out bad one aside from their first 19 games.
Oct. 11-Nov. 227-9-32.722.5513.1%85.7%
Nov. 24-Dec. 237-6-22.442.4810.2%80.0%
Dec. 27-Jan. 278-7-02.372.6719.1%87.2%
Feb. 6-Mar. 79-4-02.682.5316.7%81.0%
Mar. 8-Apr. 180-2-03.253.3214.3%100%
The Flames traded their best overall centre, Elias Lindholm, during the All-Star break, then proceeded to win nine of 13 games before the trade deadline. That’s nuts, and it speaks to the “us against the world” mentality that Huska, captain Mikael Backlund and the club’s leadership has created. If you’re an optimist about the Flames’ retooling process, the performance of the club while key pieces have disappeared around them has to be encouraging.
What’s not encouraging, though, is the playoff math. It is, in a word, rough.
Heading into play on Monday, the Flames are chasing the Vegas Golden Knights for the final wild card playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Flames are eight points back of Vegas, with both teams having 18 games remaining on their schedules. In short, the Flames need to gain eight more points from their remaining games than Vegas does.
Put another way: if Vegas goes .500 over their last 18 games, a 9-9-0 record for 18 points, they would finish the regular season with 93 points. To tie Vegas at 93 points, the Flames would need to post a 13-5-0 record, replicating their hottest stretch of the season at a time where their remaining schedule features eight match-ups against teams currently in playoff spots.
We’ve seen the Flames play extremely well against some very good hockey clubs this season (and also seen them step on rakes against some of the odds and sods of the league). Given the time they have remaining and the opponents left to face, the math is against them and they have essentially zero margin for error.
It’s not impossible, but they have their work cut out for them over the final five weeks of the season.
Let’s get rowdy! GAME DAY hosted by Flamesnation & Barn Burner at Greta Bar YYC is coming at you live on Saturday March 23rd! Join the crew at our favorite Game Day Watch Party spot, Greta, to watch Calgary take on Vancouver! Doors open at 7pm. Tickets are $10! Good food, good prizes and a guaranteed good time. This event is brought to you by McLeod Law LLP and Village Honda. Get your tickets at nationgear.ca before they sell out!

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