Think back to October. You'd just been underwhelmed by the acquisitions of Deryk Engelland, Devin Setoguchi and Brandon Bollig. You just presumed that this season would be a write-off, and that this would be a hard year in the rebuild, didn't you? Never in your wildest dreams could you have imagined that, come mid-March, the Flames would still have any sort of chance of making the playoffs, never mind be in the thick of it.
For that reason alone, regardless of what happens between tomorrow night's return to the Saddledome against the Ducks, and April 11th when the regular season ends in Winnipeg, this season has to be seen as a good year. The Flames don't have the best team, don't have good stats, still have some questionable player selections and line pairings, but are still in the hunt. Honestly, at this point of the season, what is the worst that could happen?
Scenario 1. The Flames make the post-season
Let's say the Flames manage to make the post season. This would be an incredible achievement from where they were at the start of the year, and would be great reward for the hard work they have put in all season. Should it happen, it goes two ways. Either they make a great run at it and make some progress, or they fall at the first hurdle. Either way, the young core of the team get their first taste of playoff NHL hockey, and it makes them hungry for more. You never know, the way this team is playing, would you write them off?
Scenario 2. The Flames narrowly miss the post-season
At this point, one or two defeats linked with a couple of wins for rival teams elsewhere could easily see the Flames just drop out of contention. While it would be disappointing, I again ask you to look back to the start of the season, when nobody thought this team would be anything like being in contention for a playoff spot. The team has still given a good account of themselves, and it sets a marker for progress. Something along the lines of: "this is how you could do in the league with a supposedly bad team at the start of a rebuilding process. How good are you going to be when prospects come through and it becomes a good team?" It would make the players hungry for more too - after narrowly missing out this year, it will make them want to make the playoffs even more next season.
Scenario 3. The Flames lose. A lot.
The worst scenario would probably be if the Flames just fell off the charts. If the effort of working hard for so much of the season finally became too much and they dropped, and dropped hard. It would be a disappointing end to a good year, but at that point, the focus turns to June, and the supposedly-deep 2015 draft. The more the Flames lose, the higher the chances that Brad Treliving drafts a future franchise player. What would be a disappointment now, could easily become a big positive in a year, maybe two or three years' time.
Obviously, everyone is hoping and aiming for scenario 1. There's no reason why this Flames team cannot make the playoffs this year - after all, they've been defying the odds all season. But it is important to remember it is not the end of the world should they not make the party. It is the start of the process, and it's been a damn good start.