What Stanley Cup playoff outcomes would be best for the Calgary Flames?

Photo credit:Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
There are two things we know heading into the final week of the 2023-24 NHL season. First, the Calgary Flames won’t be participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Second, the Flames have three separate conditional draft selections that could be impacted by the playoff results.
What would the best playoff outcomes be for the Flames?
The Flames have three selections that could be impacted by the 2024 playoffs:
  • From the Noah Hanifin trade: if Vegas wins one round, the 2024 third-round pick upgrades to a 2025 second-round pick.
  • From the Elias Lindholm trade: if Vancouver reaches the Western Conference Final, the 2024 fourth-round pick upgrades to a 2024 third-round pick.
  • From the Chris Tanev trade: if Dallas reaches the Stanley Cup Final, the Flames receive an additional 2026 third-round pick.
So which of these outcomes are likely, and which could be in conflict with each other?
As of Saturday morning, here are the prospective first-round playoff match-ups in the Western Conference:
  • Dallas vs. Vegas
  • Winnipeg vs. Colorado
  • Vancouver vs. Nashville
  • Edmonton vs. Los Angeles
The challenge here, folks, is the prospective Dallas/Vegas first-round series, as that has two potential pick conditions in conflict with each other. Which would be a better outcome for the Flames?
For the answer to that question, we delve into the world of draft pick values. Now, obviously not all picks are worth the same: earlier picks are worth more than later picks because the further you go into the draft pool, the more possible flaws prospects will have. So, various smart people have created models looking at draft pick values and how they compare – Michael Schuckers was the pioneer of this, and others have followed on to refine his models using different approaches. We’ll look at two recent approaches.
We used a recent 2022 model by Curtis Isacke at Sound of Hockey, which looks at how picks are valued in the trade market, and averaged the pick values across each round, since we don’t know precisely where the picks the Flames would get would fall. Here’s what the modelling suggested:
  • Upgrading the third-round pick from Vegas to a second-round pick would add 48.06 pick value.
  • Adding a third-round pick from Dallas would add 22.70 pick value.
  • Upgrading the fourth-round pick from Vancouver to a third-round pick would add 14.23 pick value.
Essentially, Isacke’s model strongly suggests that – because of how valuable earlier picks are – Vegas winning a round would add more draft value for the Flames than the other two outcomes combined. Dom Luszczyszyn’s model, which focused on the expected value of players drafted in each spot (using his GSVA metric) comes to a similar conclusion: Vegas winning a round and upgrading that pick would add more expected value (1.00 GVSA) than the other two choices (0.77 GVSA if Dallas’s condition converted or 0.37 GVSA if Vancouver’s converted).
Long story short: based on some estimates of draft pick values, if any of the teams are in conflict, Flames fans looking to maximize the club’s draft fortunes via the post-season should cheer for Vegas, then Dallas, then Vancouver.
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