The Calgary Flames passed the litmus test of being in a playoff spot by American Thanksgiving, but only just. With a lacklustre opening quarter to their 2022–23 campaign, it’s making it very difficult to predict the team’s playoff picture come April. Can the team turn it around or will they crash and fall? We asked, you answered.
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The outlook on Calgary’s playoff picture
As of American Thanksgiving, the Flames had a mediocre record of just 9–8–3. This was good enough to to have them in the first wild card spot.
However, the problem with the Western Conference right now is that on November 24, the Flames had 21 points. The St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Edmonton Oilers, and Nashville Predators all had 20.
The race is incredibly tight and it’ll be not just divisional games but even conference matchups that might decide playoff fates.
It looks incredibly unlikely that the Flames would even be remotely challenging for the Pacific Division title as the Vegas Golden Knights are already running away in that regard. That leaves a few options on how the team can end up.
The most popular option was that the Flames would maintain a wild card position. As mentioned, given the crazy points race, this is an option that is both realistic in Calgary’s performance and still optimistic that a Sutter-led playoff team can do anything.
The team hasn’t shown many areas of pure dominance yet. And when there are flashes of it somewhere, elsewhere really suffers to counter it all. Truth be told, the Flames have yet to outgrow their growing pains. If they meddle in mediocrity for the rest of the season, the best they can do is hope they squeak into the playoffs via wild card positioning.
Division seed no home ice
The second most popular option—and a more optimistic on at that—is that the Flames will make the playoffs as a Pacific Division seed, but without home ice, i.e. they’d lock in the third spot in the Pacific.
This isn’t entirely out of the question as the division race is far from over. Aside from the Golden Knights pulling away, we’re seeing the Seattle Kraken and Los Angeles Kings outperforming preseason expectations and the Flames and Oilers underperforming. Who’s to say these teams can’t flip down the line? After all, it’s only been a quarter season. There’s still plenty of hockey left to play.
The next option is the bleakest: a complete miss. As mentioned above, the Western Conference is already forming a wild race. The mixture of weaker teams playing better than expected and playoff teams playing worse is making for a race to the finish.
If the Flames stumble and see a few more losing streaks (they’re on a three-game losing streak right now…) then they’re not going to set themselves up well for the final stretch to make the playoffs in March and April.
Finishing just on the outside looking in isn’t out of the question and the team is far from clearing themselves from such travesties.
Division seed with home ice
The least popular—and arguably least likely to occur—option is that the Flames claw their way into second in the Pacific. It’s not totally out of the question, but the Flames really need to start seeing a different on-ice product compared to what they have right now for any chance of that happening.
Unless the team shows that they can play a string of games where they control the play from start to finish, this seems a near impossible task at this point. The Flames have had issues with their identity this season and it feels like they’re impostor versions of themselves from last year. Actually establishing themselves with a proper on-ice presence that can get the job done needs to happen before they want to be in the conversation of challenging for a top spot in the Pacific.
Hoping for a better second quarter
The Flames have had a rough start to their season. While there is still plenty of time left, they’re also quickly running out of runway to fix their issues. With the Western Conference being as tight as it is, there’s virtually no room for error as any loss in the near future could already be season-defining when we look back at the standings come April. Let’s hope the Flames can take off without crashing and burning.
Where do you think the Flames will finish in the standings? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @wincolumnCGY.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire