Wednesday night the Flames come back from the break to take on the Carolina Hurricanes at the Scotiabank Saddledome. This is game 48 of 82, meaning the Flames have 34 games left to figure out if they're going to push for the final Wildcard spot or land in the top 3 of the NHL Draft. The Flames currently sit at 21-24-3, which is 6th in the pathetic Pacific and 11th in the West, only 2 points ahead of basement dwelling Edmonton. Maybe last year was an aberration and the Flames arrived a year or two early in the rebuild, but I don't think I'm alone in thinking this season would be similar to last year.
Winning is self explanatory, but the Flames NEED to get it together in their own conference. As mentioned above the Flames are 6th in the Pacific (4-8-2) and 11th in the West. As of now, Calgary is 8 points behind Arizona for the final playoff spot. Winnipeg, Anaheim and Vancouver all sit ahead of the Flames in the Western Conference and Calgary hasn't showed little, if any, pulse when they play in their own conference. They are 10-15-2 where the points really count and they've been outscored 70-78 to the left of the Mississippi River. Not good. Compounding this is the fact that the Flames have 19 of their remaining 34 left against the West and while that seems daunting, that still leaves 15 against the East where Calgary is currently 11-9-1. So if the Flames want to push for that final playoff spot they can't stumble out of the gate, seeing they went into the All Star Break losers of 3 in a row. The Flames can gain some momentum and do some good by beating Carolina and Columbus right out of the gate. After that the gauntlet starts against the West and we'll quickly see where the Flames are headed.
Now, on the other side of the playoffs coin is the Draft. Edmonton. Toronto. Columbus. Buffalo. That's who's ahead of the Flames in the "race" for the chance at the top pick in the NHL Entry Draft. And as hard as it is to look at the Draft at this time of the year, the Flames are "only" 2 points behind Edmonton, Toronto and Columbus who each have 43. Basically, Calgary is closer to having a chance to get the top pick than they are to the final playoff spot. As fans, we never root for losing, but is there some merit to not making the playoffs and getting a shot at helping the rebuild? Sure, last season's playoff run was exciting, but IF this Calgary team were to make the playoffs would it be the same run or a quick one and done and a worse pick? Management can answer this question by either being a buyer or seller at the trade deadline (February 26th). Coming into the trade deadline Calgary plays: Carolina, Columbus, Vancouver, Toronto, San Jose, Arizona, Anaheim, Minnesota, Vancouver, Anaheim, LA, NY Islanders. 229-193. That's the current combined record of the Flames opponents heading into the trade deadline. It's daunting for sure, but it's not impossible. Remember December? Calgary had a similar path to get through in that month and finished 9-4. So there is hope, but they need to step up sooner than later.
The Flames will play 12 of their remaining 34 games against teams in the Pacific Division. Let's not kid ourselves, the Pacific isn't exactly the strongest division in the NHL and with a little luck and hard work, Calgary could do some damage and start climbing up from the cellar. Calgary is currently 4-8-2 within the division and that desperately needs to change in order for things to get better. Their opponents records within the division? LA: 11-6. San Jose: 7-4-2. Arizona: 11-3-2. Anaheim: 6-4-4. Vancouver: 6-3-3. Every team above them is over .500 and it should not come as a shock that the only team below them, the Oilers, are below .500 as well, at 6-7-3.
It's fairly simple: win and you've got a shot. Lose and you're out......of one scenario. Truthfully, I'd like to see Calgary make a run, but if they get off to a bad start, bodies could be leaving Calgary faster than wins are arriving. It's up to the players and coaches to right this ship and find that fire that lead the Flames through the month of December. Otherwise, we'll be marking our calendar for the Draft as opposed to meaningful Spring hockey.