As the Christmas break nears, the Flames have only one game left to play before enjoying a short reprieve from the ice. The Flames currently sit at 17-16-2 and occupying a wild card spot, albeit precariously with the Kings and Predators having games in hand.
With that in mind, I thought I’d look at two things that have been going though my head lately during my article writing.
The fact that the Flames found themselves back in the playoff conversation so quickly after their horrendous start is encouraging. While currently occupying a wild card spot is nice, they’d more than likely fall out of it by the time the Kings and Predators even out their games in hand.
The Flames look very much like a team that will be on the playoff bubble all season long and could very easily be battling it out with the aforementioned teams.
Prior to the season, I wrote an article talking about the perils of being on the playoff bubble and the Flames find themselves in that very position.
While the Western Conference has been weaker this season, the majority of teams are still very good, and each and every game will be a battle.
So will the Flames be in the playoffs? The site sportsclubstats.com currently gives Calgary a 38.3% chance, however that number was as high as 64.5% after the Jets victory and as low as 10% back in early November. The numbers will become more stabilized as we move further into the season.
Competing for a wild card spot is the next logical step in the rebuild and it’s very promising to see that happening. More promising is that the Flames are beating the teams that they are supposed to beat, and seem to be improving in their all around game from the start of the season.
If they miss playoffs, it’ll be disappointing but it’s very promising to see their taking the next step, and it’s up to them now to gain ground. If they make it, we’ll sit back and see how far they can go. All it takes is getting hot at the right time as shown by the LA Kings in their Cup years.
2. Garnet Hathaway
So while I was planning to make this a strictly playoff article and was pouring through the Flames recent games, I came across some interesting numbers.
Hathaway was called up 20 games ago on November 12th. That night the Flames played the Rangers and lost without Hathaway in the lineup, but he made his season debut the next game against the Wild.
That game against the Wild was the game where the season completely turned for the Flames and this caused me to dig deeper.
Out of the last 20 games, Hathaway has been in the lineup 15 times and the Flames’ record in those games: 12-3-0. The five games without Hathaway: 0-4-1. The games before Hathaway’s arrival: 5-9-1.
At what point does a trend become a fact?
While I’m saying Hathaway has been the main reason for the turnaround, I think he has been one of the key catalysts to it. His advanced stats are quite poor with a 41.13 CF%, by far the worst on the team, but at the end of the day he’s a fourth line winger who’s primary role is to energize his team, which he does on a nightly basis.
He has a +/- of +1 and doesn’t see special teams time on either side, which indicates that the team still manages to find success when he is on the ice.
Simply put, he deserves a bottom six spot in the lineup and has more than shown that he deserves the spot over Lance Bouma. Let’s look at the last four games, with Bouma the Flames have been soundly beaten and have looked “flat” three times, but the one game with Hathaway the Flames were feisty and won a physically taxing battle over Arizona.
I know the Coyotes are a significantly weaker team than the other three, but regardless of who the Flames played, the same level of energy and grit should carry over, but it hasn’t.
The only variable? Garnet Hathaway. Get him in there Glen.