Just seven months ago, the Calgary Flames were looking like they were going to make more than just lemonade as they were poised to contend with a new-look roster. Of course, things haven’t gone that way for Calgary at all.
Now, with just a handful of games remaining in the season, the Flames are very much a playoff bubble team. As with any team in these situations, they’re going to play to the final buzzer of the final game to see what their postseason fate will be.
With everything that’s happened with the Flames this year, what makes for a successful season? We asked, you answered.
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What does the Flames’ team-level success hinge on?
The NHL is an incredibly tough league to play in. Winning the Stanley Cup is extremely hard and while it’s the end goal of every team, it isn’t the only qualifier of a successful season.
Taking a step back and evaluating everything about the 2022–23 iteration of the Calgary Flames, their success can be defined in various ways.
Just make it to the postseason
Right now, the Flames’ direction as a team is to do everything they can to make the playoffs. The odds are stacked against them, but it’s not entirely impossible. That said, from a fan perspective, is that enough to call the season a success?
By looking at the standings and taking in a dose of reality, making it to the playoffs at this point would give fans some much needed bonus hockey and can help close the season out on a higher note.
The team needs to rally and find the next gear and finally string together wins against both good and bad teams. In many ways, just seeing the Flames put together a season-changing series of games with their playoff hopes on the line would be inspirational enough and would be something they haven’t given the fans all season.
For that reason, if the team can actually pull it off and make it to the playoffs, that in itself would be monumental for an otherwise disastrous season.
Still need to see a deep run
After being pegged as Cup contenders by models, pundits, and fans, the Flames sorely dropped the ball in that regard, and are now looking much more aligned to Darryl Sutter’s “eighth-seed-can-still-win” brand of hockey.
They haven’t looked dominant at all in the season, and would need some kind of playoff elevation that hasn’t been evident from the roster to really be considering a deep run.
However, the path to the Cup is long and grueling, and it’d be a shame to see them get bounced without at least improving on their playoff result from last season. Knowing that anything could happen in the playoffs should provide enough hope for the Flames and their fans that a deep run isn’t entirely out of the question, and if they’re able to pull it off, then it’d be a huge success for the team.
Get a better draft pick instead
The flip side to the playoff argument is that the Flames shouldn’t even be in it at all. Instead, they should fold on this season and focus on the next one. With one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory, this year’s draft has serious potential to shift the balance between the league’s best and worst teams.
With the knowledge that the Flames are battling a steep hill to make it into the postseason while knowing the draft class is as good as it is, there might be no bigger failure than finishing right in the middle where both the playoffs and a shot of a top pick are out of reach.
Should the Flames get themselves into the draft lottery, it’d at least provide fans with hope towards the future. The Flames have never had a top-three pick, so why not hope for it to happen in a year where such a pick could be a game-changer?
The final stretch
Now, rooting for the team to tank versus them making the playoffs is a hotly contested topic between fans. There’s optimists and pessimists intertwined in the fan base, but for both parties, finishing in the middle is the worst outcome for the Flames and really puts the final nail in the proverbial coffin on a season to forget.
However, there are still other outcomes that will be deemed successful and in any case, that’s all the Flames can hope for.
How are you feeling about what makes this season a success for the Flames? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @wincolumnCGY.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire