It’s Thanksgiving in the United States and, according to the National Hockey League calendar, the 45th day of the regular season. Whichever way you slice it, we’re at the one-quarter mark of the schedule and the Calgary Flames are in a decent spot considering how uneven their play has been: a playoff berth.
If you look at things via points percentage – in order to balance out the uneven number of games teams have played so far – the Flames are the third-best team in the Pacific Division. (If you go by pure points, they’re a wild card team.)
If you look back at recent history – again, by points percentage – being in a playoff spot at Thanksgiving is much better than not being, but it’s hardly a guarantee.
In 2021-22, all eight Eastern Conference playoff teams at Thanksgiving made the post-season. In the Western Conference, it was five of eight – Vegas, Winnipeg and Anaheim fell out.
In 2018-19 (the next “normal” season we can look at), six of eight Eastern teams and six of eight Western teams that were in Thanksgiving playoff spots ended up qualifying.
In 2017-18, five of eight Eastern playoff teams and six of eight Western playoff teams as of Thanksgiving ended up making it. (One of the West teams that fell off between Thanksgiving and the end of the season, in a big way, happened to be Calgary.)
One of the reasons why American Thanksgiving is a good barometer, generally, is because of the easy benchmark that one quarter of the season provides. But one of the reasons it might not be wholly representative is because of how weird the NHL schedule can be. For example, the Flames haven’t played a pretty Eastern Conference skewed schedule, and haven’t played any games against divisional foes like Anaheim, San Jose and Vancouver.
Another reason why the Thanksgiving snapshot might not be representative can also be found with the Flames: it takes teams time to gel. The Flames are missing Oliver Kylington, and key players like Jonathan Huberdeau are still seemingly finding their way. Simply put: if you’re thinking that the Flames haven’t yet been the team that they’ll become this season, you’re probably right, and a lot of teams are in the same boat in terms of dealing with injuries, cap issues, and incorporating new faces.
Thanksgiving is a helpful benchmark and the Flames are on the right side of the playoff chase right now. But it’s definitely not a guarantee that they’ll cement a playoff spot in the remaining 63 games of the season.
Do you think the Flames are likely to be a playoff team this season? Do you like the American Thanksgiving standings snapshot as a barometer for team success? Let us know in the comments!