Now entering their All-Star break, the Calgary Flames continue to fight for their playoff lives. Far from a lock to make the postseason, the Flames need to turn it around quickly if they hope to have a chance at the Stanley Cup this year. With only 32 games left on the schedule, every single point matters.
One of the main reasons the Flames are sitting in the spot they are is their abysmal record against the league’s bottom teams. All season long, what should have been guaranteed wins and points against tanking teams have been hard to come by for the Flames. When you’re in a playoff race as tight as the Flames are, you need to be taking any points you can get. Dropping points against teams that are built to lose is never a good look for a team in a win-now year.
Let’s take a deeper look at the Flames record against the bottom 10 teams in the NHL.
Calgary Flames record versus the bottom 10
As mentioned, the Flames haven’t exactly dominated the bottom of the league this year. On numerous occasions they’ve dropped crucial points in the standings by failing to beat inferior teams. After a rough start to the season, the Flames were lucky enough to boast one of the easiest second half schedules in the NHL. Sure that’s good news, but you have to actually take advantage of that for it to mean anything. So far, that hasn’t been the case.
|Opponent||Record||Points %||Dropped Points|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||1–1–0||.500||2|
|San Jose Sharks||2–0–0||1.000||0|
|St. Louis Blues||1–1–1||.500||3|
Overall the Flames have handled their business thus far against half the teams, and left a ton of points on the table against the rest. In particular they’ve really struggled against three of the worst teams in the league in the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, and Canadiens. They dropped both games against Chicago, becoming the only team in the entire NHL to lose twice to the “tank mode” Blackhawks.
They’ve also had their issues with Johnny Gaudreau’s Blue Jackets, dropping a game in regulation and squeaking out an overtime win in the rematch after blowing a 2–0 lead. Meanwhile they failed to win a single games against the Canadiens this year, losing in regulation once and then dropping a shootout decision.
Overall here is the Flames record this season against the league’s bottom 10 teams.
|Record||Points %||Dropped Points|
On first glance their record is not as bad as one would’ve suspected, but still not great. Overall the Flames have actually lost the same amount of games as they’ve won against the league’s worst teams. The loser point is their saving grace right now and boosts their points percentage.
Now I’m not saying the Flames should be a perfect 16–0–0 against these teams, but dropping a whopping 12 points across 16 games to the league’s worst teams is unacceptable for a team who’s positioned themselves to be a Cup contender right now. Add in that the Flames held a lead in the third period in three of those eight losses and it’s even tougher to swallow.
For context, the Flames are currently just six points out of first in the division. A combination of just three wins or two wins and some reversals on overtime or shootout results against the above teams is currently the difference between being tops in the Pacific versus fighting for a wild card spot.
The longer this goes on, the more likely it is that the Flames dropping what should be near guaranteed points will cost them a playoff spot.
Other Pacific division contenders
So the Flames have clearly struggled against the bottom 10 teams, but how has the rest of the Pacific division fared? Let’s take a look at the current top four teams in the division and their record against the bottom 10 teams compared to the Flames.
|Team||Record against the bottom 10||Points %||Points Gained||Dropped Points|
|Seattle Kraken||8–3–3||.679||19 of 28||9|
|Vegas Golden Knights||13–4–1||.750||27 of 36||9|
|Los Angeles Kings||11–2–4||.765||26 of 34||8|
|Edmonton Oilers||10–3–2||.733||22 of 30||8|
|Calgary Flames||8-4-4||.625||20 of 32||12|
In a year when the margins are incredibly slim in the Pacific division and five teams are in the running for three spots, taking points against the league’s bottom teams is a must. You simply can’t be throwing away those opportunities on your schedule. The rest of the division has taken care of business against the worst teams in the league, while the Flames haven’t. Quite simply it’s the difference between being in a divisional playoff spot and sitting outside the playoffs right now. By losing eight of their 16 games against the bottom 10 teams, the Flames are shooting themselves in the foot.
With eight losses against the bottom 10, the Flames have performed the worst in the division in this regard. Los Angeles and Seattle are next with six, while Vegas and Edmonton have five losses. They’ve dropped three more points than Seattle and Vegas, and five more than Los Angeles and Edmonton. Their 21 points picked up from games against the bottom 10 are the lowest apart from Seattle who has played two fewer games against the bottom 10 thus far.
The rest of the division has lost 22 games combined for an average of around five losses while the Flames have lost eight. Aside from the Flames, the other teams’ average points percentage against the bottom 10 is .734. If the Flames were around .734 or a record of let’s say 11–3–2 in their 16 games, they’d have four more points right now and be sitting two points out of first in the division. In other words beat the 32nd ranked Blue Jackets and 31st ranked Blackhawks in regulation and you’re within a win of first in the Pacific.
Remaining games versus the bottom 10
|Team||Games remaining against the bottom-10|
|Vegas Golden Knights||8|
|Los Angeles Kings||9|
The good news is the Flames have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NHL. They sit with 13 games remaining against the bottom-10 teams, which is tied for the most in the division along with Seattle and Edmonton. The next steps is for the Flames to do their job and pick up as many points as possible from these games. If they continue at their .625 pace against these teams, it would only be 16 of a possible 26 points which simply isn’t enough.
Betting on beating the basement
The Flames need to start taking advantage of their strength of schedule. Entering February and currently sitting outside the playoffs, time is running out. Granted it may not seem like a major issue right now with 32 games left, but come April when a couple points is the difference between making the playoffs and your season being over these losses to the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets etc. will come back to haunt the Flames. Calgary doesn’t want to be sitting around in April telling themselves: “If we would’ve just beat the tanking Blackhawks etc., we would’ve made the playoffs.” That’s something they wouldn’t live down quickly.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire