Flames Sunday Census: Calgary’s place in the Pacific

The Calgary Flames are going through a bit of a slide, and with one of the busiest schedules remaining, they’re going to have to dig deep and be prepared for non-stop hockey. Given where they stand in the Pacific Division right now and what’s up ahead for them, where might they finish the regular season in divisional standings? We asked, you answered.

Calgary’s current situation

There are still 46 games to be played by the Flames. Only the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators have more games left in their schedule, but with neither of those teams expecting to be playoff teams, their schedule impact on end-of-season outcome is less significant—if anything it might help their cases for better lottery odds.

However, the Flames, and coincidentally the Edmonton Oilers, are two teams with the playoffs in sight and an unreasonably busy schedule up ahead. With Calgary’s slate, they’re slotted to play a vast majority of their games at home, and barely have any breaks.

They have four more games in January, 11 games in February, 16 games in March, and then 15 games in April. In all three months, they’re scheduled for three sets of back-to-back games each. Calgary’s going to be extremely busy to say the least.

Where does this potentially put them Pacific?

Expecting exactly what we’ve seen

With where the Flames are in the standings, they are second in the Pacific in terms of points percentage. Only the Vegas Golden Knights are ahead, and the trio of the Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks not overly far behind.

If the Flames have a reasonable finish to their season, they should be able to secure the second seed. The caveat obviously is based on their schedule, and also their home performances. With a shaky home record so far, they’re going to have to find a way to win games at home.

Calgary schedule is a double-edged sword, as they’ll be busier than ever, but at least they’ll have a rhythm again. Their lack of games over the past couple of months has made it difficult to establish any momentum. Fortunately, their systems haven’t faltered and their on-ice product is above-average. This bodes well for them heading into the second half of the season, and expecting them to find a way to stay at right around the level they are at right now should lock in the second spot.

Being iffier on the Flames

The second most popular result was that the Flames would drop to third. Again, the three teams chasing them are all in much worse positions, but a hot streak for one coupled with a cold streak for Calgary could be all it takes.

Finishing third would be indicative that the Flames lost their games in hand advantage and weren’t able to control the destiny of other teams. As the upcoming gauntlet of a schedule comes up, Pacific division teams will be closely watching the Flames to see if the points gap lesses or widens with the discrepancy in games played narrowing.

If Calgary wins a few of their upcoming games, it makes it hard for other teams to catch up. If Calgary loses even just a few, then both the Ducks and Kings have legitimate opportunities to leapfrog the Flames.

Hoping for a surge

The flipside of the Flames falling out of favour is that they get a hot streak going and actually challenge Vegas for first in the Pacific. Vegas is eight points up on Calgary with five more games played. Just like how losing a few games will make it plausible for Calgary to drop to third, winning a few makes it more likely that they can challenge for first.

They don’t have to win four of the next five to put them exactly where the Golden Knights are today, but winning two or three games pulls them much closer. It would create two tiers in the Pacific essentially: two teams vying for first and second, and four teams trying to grab that third seed.

The Flames could make a splash on the trade front and acquire some scoring help, which would make it all the more likely that they’d be able to contend for first, but Vegas is also getting Jack Eichel into their lineup soon enough as well. This outcome is a cautious mix of optimism by a game-by-game basis, but also reflects the hope that the Flames actually do something about their roster for a deeper playoff run.

A fall from grace

To be fair, the option that the Flames would finish fourth or worse was listed for completeness’ sake, but it truly is an unlikely outcome. The Flames have a competent coach in Darryl Suttter, who’s getting good enough results with this roster that a total collapse in their system would be catastrophic. It just doesn’t seem likely that this would occur, though stranger things have happened.

The Flames benefit from playing in a weak division, and all signs point to the Central having five playoff teams to the Pacific’s three. The Flames really should not even be thinking about this is a possible outcome. They’re in a position to control their own destiny where they can build on the standings position they’ve earned so far and not even worry about the teams chasing.

The large differences in games played between teams makes this storyline a lot more enticing to follow, and only time will tell what happens.

Busy times ahead

The Flames will be busier than ever and how they enter the second half of the second will dictate the rest of the year for them. Their fate could change in a moment’s notice, as their schedule does not give them much room to breathe. Where do you think the Flames will end up? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @wincolumnCGY.


Photo by Terence Leung/NHLI via Getty Images

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