At this moment, according to Sports Club Stats, the Calgary Flames have a fourteen percent chance of making the playoffs. That is not very good. Of course, if you asked Jay Feaster, he'd probably say the Calgary Flames have a one hundred percent chance of making the playoffs. That, in theory, is a lot better.
This is why, barring a massive losing streak to rival the nine-gamer of a few years back, you can expect the Flames to be considered "buyers" (though I loathe that term as well as "sellers" due to the connotations, but more on that later) despite what any outside observer would realize: the Flames aren't going to succeed in making the playoffs, and if they do, it'll be at best a 4-2 with the Flames enjoying the second round from their couches and resorts in Mexico.
But wait Calgary fans! That doesn't have to be horrible news! Well, the losing in the first round or missing the playoffs is bad news, of course, but the acquisition of players who can make an "impact" now doesn't necessarily mean the Flames are mortgaging the future.
Take, for instance, the Mike Cammalleri trade. Through a combination of the French
circus media running a guy out of town by hilariously convoluting his words to the point of him being yanked in the third period of the game and shrewd negotiations, Jay Feaster acquired a pretty darn good forward with minimal effect on the future of the team. Sure, a lot of people bemoaned the loss of a second round pick (15% chance of being a replaceable NHL player! Oh no!) and Patrick Holland (a player who I like a lot for his candidness and intelligence, less for his actual minimal hockey ability), but that was a pretty reasonable "futures" loss for a player with high end offensive abilities.
Throw in Rene Bourque, a guy who had outstayed his welcome in Calgary by repeatedly taking poorly timed moronic penalties and receive a potential Kiprusoff replacement and a fifth round pick (woo!) and you have a pretty terrific deal.
The fact is, with good drafting (SVEN) and smart deals, it's possible to turn a team over from consistent frustration to an actual playoff contender without ever truly tanking. Difficult? Absolutely. Possible? Certainly.
It helps that the Flames have cleared salary with Hagman and Kotalik, have shown a willingness to waive players they don't need with Carson and Ivanans, and are clearly indicating a willingness to trade. It helps that Jay Feaster is showing an actual awareness of the team problems, even if he won't verbally acknowledge it.
Even with the Cammalleri acquisition, the Flames will still be able to add over $4M at the trade deadline. And if Feaster keeps his head in the right place, they might be able to do that without sacrficing tomorrow's quality players.
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun has listed players such as Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Antoine Vermette, and Jason Blake as being available. It's possible that they could be available for minimal futures and instead for defensively responsible depth players, especially with these teams having a win-now attitude as well despite their current positioning. The Blue Jackets can't afford to continue looking at tomorrow, the Sabres have money but no cap space, and the Ducks are, well, the Ducks. Nobody's really sure what's happening there.
While I can still safely say I'd like to see a full out rebuild that includes at least one player of Yakupov/Grigorenko/Galchenyuk ability, the current decision process the Flames are using could be far worse: we could be trading our first round picks and top prospects for middling centers who show baffling decision making with and without the puck. We could still have Darryl Sutter as GM.