Twenty games into an 82-game schedule is 24.4 % - not exactly a quarter, but close enough. After going 6-4 in the first ten games of the season, the last ten have been a challenge. While a record of 8-11-1 only projects a point total of 70, all is not yet lost.
The biggest reason to be optimistic is the ratio of games remaining against tough competition. Fully, 30% of the difficult games are out of the way, with three vs. Detroit alone, and 11 overall. The record against the top teams has been passable, with wins against San Jose, Chicago, Colorado and Los Angeles. What remains to be seen is how the matchup goes with Vancouver, with six games yet to be played against the Canucks. A winning record against the Canucks, and further success against Colorado, San Jose, Chicago and LA would point to good results.
Mid level opposition is the smallest group – with a total of 16 games against projected mid level Western teams Phoenix, Dallas, St Louis and Nashville, plus four games against Eastern conference swing teams in Tampa, Carolina and Toronto. With a win against Nashville and two losses to Phoenix, there is still not enough information here to project how this will all turn out. Dallas and St Louis are critical match-ups for determining playoff eligibility.
The record against the weak sisters is not where it needs to be. With just six points in six games against the potential cellar dwellers, this needs to improve significantly or the Flames will be considered charter members of that group. To make the playoffs, winning three of four over Anaheim, four of the remaining five games against Minnesota, two of the remaining three against Columbus, and sweeping the final three vs. Edmonton would be almost completely necessary. With only five games against weak Eastern teams like Buffalo, Ottawa, the Islanders and Atlanta (though they may be a mid level team after all), the Flames clearly need to make hay on the Western sloths.
A Few Additional Thoughts
The team went into the season looking for an improvement in offense. They are right around 10th in the league in shots per game, at just over 31. Shooting around 9.2% is just 18th in the league, so that translates to 10th in GFA – not bad considering we don’t have anyone in the league's top-50 in scoring.
A 3.03 GAA is good for 22nd in the league and that is not good enough. The team is allowing 29.2 shots per game, good for around 10th, but a save percentage of.898 is poor at 25th.
Special teams are basically in and out, with 18 special teams goals allowed and 17 scored. Adding the PP% of 15.7 to the PK% of 80.5 comes to a number well under 100%, and good special teams stay over the 100 mark.
Miikka Kiprusoff plays too much. Kipper ranks second only to Carey Price in minutes played. Other guys in the top five in minutes are 23, 28, 30 and 22-years old. Kipper is 34. The goalies in the top ten in terms of minutes are. on average, 29-years old (the same as last season), including Brodeur, who will soon be out of the top ten in minutes. played.
Tanguay 17 pts.– Almost half of all last year. On pace for only 100 shots – close to his career average – will probably score 20-25 goals.
Gio - - Strong in all aspects – wouldn’t it be great if he was three inches taller and 20 pounds bigger
Sarich – Earning his pay as a top 4 defenseman; only Regehr is out-hitting on a per-game basis.
Jackman – Ok I called him Thing Two – he has proved me wrong; he is a capable 4th liner. The guys let go to sign him and Thing One ( Ivanans), sure have not proved themselves elsewhere ( Boyd, Dawes, McGrattan), so we’ll call this strategy a limited success, with Ivanans still counting the birdies from the first game's KO.
Regehr – No goals and only three assists, but that doesn’t matter. Well ahead of pace on hits and blocked shots, though those stats are not completely reliable. Still a serviceable guy, but seems not to be the feared or dominant player he once was. Hoping his injury is short-term.
Bourque – Inconsistent - he started like a house on fire but has had many nights where he has not generated much. Leads the team in goals, but trails Iggy by 20 shots–he needs to push to be better than Jarome every night. A minus player, but playing the tough opposition most nights.
Stajan -- Quietly putting up acceptable stats –leading in assists and the only plus player on the "first" line. Strikes fear in the heart of no opposition, however.
Hagman – Has had a couple of nights where he was the best Flame on the ice. A 25-goal, 50-point season would be pretty good.
Glencross – On pace for his best season goal-wise, no argument for his value as a capable third line guy.
Morisson – Can’t quibble with 15 points and a plus rating for this last-minute signing. Will his age begin to show as the season wears on?
Iginla – The six goals in the last three games brought him almost exactly to a projection of his career average--34 goals and 260 shots. Three came in a blowout win, and the other three in a loss and an OT loss. Good, but not great – not enough for $7 million, unless someone else is playing at a level way over their salary and we don’t have that at the forward position.
Conroy – Has not embarrassed himself, and is certainly worth having around at the league minimum. Would be of even more value if he was mentoring more young forwards, however Backlund is the only potential pupil.
Kiprusoff – A couple of dominant performances, and some not so good. A .904 SV % is not going to get it done.
Bouwmeester – Trails Gio in points, shots, hits, and blocked shots while making six times as much money, and will still make 50% more than Mark next year. Appears to be a very good #4 defenseman, however he is paid to be amongst the top four in the league.
Backlund – Playing pretty well, getting lots of shots (2nd amongst Flames forwards) but only five points so far.
Moss – Hurt early, but has added some offense upon his return – 20 goals looks possible if he can stay healthy. Someone pointed out to me that he looks weak for his size, maybe he needs to work on his core with Iggy.
Mikkelsson – Relatively young and cheap, no particular skill or attribute that distinguishes him from the rest though.
Jokinen – Has had a few games that were not bad. Sorry, that is all I can say. On pace for a fourth consecutive yearly decline in shots, shooting percentage, goals (obviously) and points.
Staios - $2.7 million.
Karlsson – One win, one near win, and a shaky relief effort, so he hasn’t inspired confidence enough to get more starts--which he, Kipper and the team need.
Meyer – Slowly drawing the short end of the stick when it comes to ice time. Perhaps it is time to send him back to Abbotsford to help that team be competitive.
Ivanans – A waste of a roster spot.
Babchuk, Kostopolous. Pardy, Kotalik, Langkow.
For you academic types, that would be a GPA of 1.92. A failing grade – but just barely so. I think that fits. There's plenty of the semester left – and some easy classes – time to bring it up!