Embrace the Chase: The Race for 8th


So you want to enjoy the rest of the year? Stop waiting for the rebuild and jump on board with the team in their hunt for what appears to be 8th place.

You may not agree with it... hell, I'd say the saddlesphere is about 2/3 against it if you have a gander at our poll following the Michael Cammalleri acquisition. But, still - such is the wishes of our ownership, or management, or Ken King, or... well someone who makes the decisions.

The real question is:

Is the chase even realistic?

Sitting 3 points out of 8th spot at this very moment suggests that, yes, the chase is very much realistic. But, there will be no shortage of hurdles (ahem, 3-point games) standing in the way, either.

In the past three seasons it's taken 97, 95 and 91 points respectively to earn 8th place in the Western Conference. That averages out to just over 94 points/season. A good benchmark, but let's take today's 8th place team, based on points percentage (not in the standings) and see what they're on pace for.

This is the Dallas Stars with a .555, very slightly ahead of the actual 8th place team, the Minnesota Wild. Using .555, it would take 91 points to make the playoffs this year. Three years ago, 2008-2009, it was 91 points to earn 8th as well and taking a look back at the standings for that year you'll see some similarities.

First of all, there were five teams that had pulled away from the pack (including the Calgary Flames, you'll remember that season as the year they blew an 11-point lead in the division). This year, it looks to be the same as Chicago and St. Louis take the final two spots of the top 5 with a healthy lead over the likes of the Nashville Predators, LA Kings etc.

Secondly, following the top 5 there were 7 teams fighting for the 3 available playoff spots. That remains the same this year, ending with the Calgary Flames.

The only reason I'm pointing that out is to suggest that 96 might not be needed to win 8th place. Given the similarities in the strength of teams in the West and the number of teams fighting for playoff spots, it's reasonable to suggest that we'll see a season more like 2008-2009 than 2010-2011.

Unfortunately, SportsClubStats.com is blacked out today, like many other sites, in protest of SOPA, so I won't be able to include their current odds for the Flames playoff chances... but, let's look at three scenarios to shed some light on what we need to see from the club.

96 points for 8th (commonly used benchmark)

-Flames would need 48 points in 35 games. Or, roughly a 22-9-4 record. That's a points percentage of .686 or exactly the Boston Bruins current points percentage for the whole year.

94 points for 8th (average of past 3 seasons)

-Flames would need 46 points in 35 games. Or, roughly a 21-10-4 record. That's a points percentage of .657 or closer to what the Philadelphia Flyers are sitting at right now for the season.

91 points for 8th (the mark we hope for based on similarities to 08-09)

-Flames would need 43 points in 35 games. Or, roughly a 20-12-3 record. That's a points percentage of .614 and closest to that of the Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators. Now we're talking about a realistic goal for the club.

Next question is to determine whether or not the schedule will be the teams friend like it was last year.

The Flames have 20 home games remaining compared to only 15 road games. +5 at home is a good start.

If, the Flames can equal their home record of their first 20 in Calgary - that would get them to 13-5-2. Good enough for 28 points. A lofty goal, but one that's been proven achievable given the first half of this year.

They'd then need to get 15 points out of 15 remaining road games for a points percentage of .500 - something that HAS to be achievable for any team wanting to make the playoffs and fight for their life. Unfortunately, the Flames current points percentage on the road is .307. So, it will take significant improvement in order to get them just to .500.

So it's certainly not out of the question by any means, but should the Flames require anything more than 91 points, which despite my efforts of proving otherwise - seems more likely, the playoffs are probably going to elude the team again this year.

But, as a fan, you're going to have to put aside your own common sense for a while and grab hold of your inner cognitive dissonance (much like Flames ownership, management, Ken King, Jay Feaster etc. etc.).It's a race for 8th and make no mistake, it's not the same as a race for the division title but at least it will give us something to cheer for.

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