The Calgary Flames have had a dreadful start to the 2023–24 season, now sitting with a 2–7–1 record—the second worst in the entire NHL. Currently sitting second last in the Western Conference and five points out of the playoffs, the team is in a less-than-ideal spot as they enter November.
Even if it’s early, the Flames have already dug themselves a sizeable hole that will be incredibly tough to get out of in a league that has the mixed two- and three-point games to build gaps between teams that can get ties versus those who can’t. So how often do teams sitting in the same spot the Flames are entering November 1 make the playoffs? Let’s take a deeper look.
How often does second last in the West rebound?
Dating back to the 2000–01 season, here are the teams that ranked second last in the Western conference on November 1, and where they finished the season.
*The 2020–21 season was excluded as the bubble season contained four individual divisions. As well the 2012–13 season was measured two weeks into the season as it began in January due to the lockout.
|Season||Secnd last in Western Conference on November 1||Season Finish|
|2022–23||St. Louis Blues||12th||Did not qualify|
|2021–22||Chicago Blackhawks||14th||Did not qualify|
|2019–20||Minnesota Wild||10th||Did not qualify|
|2018–19||Vegas Golden Knights||7th||Lost in 1st round|
|2017–18||Edmonton Oilers||12th||Did not qualify|
|2016–17||Nashville Predators||8th||Lost in Stanley Cup Final|
|2015–16||Calgary Flames||12th||Did not qualify|
|2014–15||Edmonton Oilers||13th||Did not qualify|
|2013–14||Winnipeg Jets||11th||Did not qualify|
|2012–13||Columbus Blue Jackets||9th||Did not qualify|
|2011–12||Calgary Flames||9th||Did not qualify|
|2010–11||Anaheim Ducks||4th||Lost in 1st round|
|2009–10||Anaheim Ducks||11th||Did not qualify|
|2008–09||Arizona Coyotes||13th||Did not qualify|
|2007–08||Edmonton Oilers||9th||Did not qualify|
|2006–07||Calgary Flames||8th||Lost in 1st round|
|2005–06||St. Louis Blues||15th||Did not qualify|
|2003–04||San Jose Sharks||2nd||Lost in 3rd round|
|2002–03||San Jose Sharks||14th||Did not qualify|
|2001–02||L.A. Kings||7th||Lost in 1st round|
|2000–01||Calgary Flames||11th||Did not qualify|
First off the Flames somehow have found themselves in this exact position more times than any other team in the Western Conference this century. They’ve ranked second last in the Western conference on November 1 five times across the past 22 seasons, easily the most of any team in the Western Conference. The second closest teams are Edmonton and St. Louis, who have been in the same position three times over the same time span.
Of the four previous occasions where the Flames found themselves in this position, they missed the playoffs three of four times. The one outlier was in 2006–07 when they squeaked into the final playoff spot in the West by one point, finishing eighth. They were then knocked out in the first round in six games by the top-seed Detroit Red Wings.
Of the last 21 teams to rank second last in the Western conference on November 1, only six of them have ended up turning their season around and making the playoffs. So around 29% of the time a team can turn their season around and make the playoffs. Of those six teams, only two made it past the first round of the playoffs. So only around 10% of the time does a start like the Flames end up with a playoff series win when it’s all said and done.
The last team to achieve the feat was the 2018–19 Vegas Golden Knights who used multiple multi-game winning streaks to get their season back on track. After entering November second last in the West, Vegas would reel off a five-game run to close out November, a seven-game run at the end of December, and a six-game run at the end of February. In other words, they started a minimum five-game winning streak in three of the next four months to save their season.
The best turnaround was the 2003–04 San Jose Sharks who rose all the way to second in the conference by season’s end. They did so by putting up a five-game win streak to close out November, as well as a five-game win streak to close out March. All said after entering November with a 2–5–4–0 record (ties were still recorded), they went 41–16–8–6 the rest of the way and finished the year with 104 points.
An interesting note is that almost every team who still made the playoffs after entering November in second last went on a run and turned things around in November.
- In 2018-19, Vegas closed out November with a five-game winning streak.
- In 2016-17, Nashville won eight of 11 games to close out November
- In 2010-11, Anaheim won six in a row at the beginning of November
- in 2006-07, Calgary won six in a row at the beginning of November
- In 2003-04, San Jose won five in a row to end November
It’s certainly telling that five of the six that turned things around immediately started seeing success in November after their rough start. It signals that the Flames need to get their season back on track in the next couple of weeks or any hope of the playoffs are likely gone.
Overall the odds are stacked against the Flames right now, as teams that experience starts like theirs very rarely make the playoffs, and even when they do it typically just ends in a first round exit.
How often does second last in the NHL rebound?
So we’ve established that it’s rare for a team that starts the season second last in the Western Conference to bounce back and make anything of their season. So how about the teams that enter November second last in the entire NHL, like the Flames did this year? Well, it looks even more bleak.
|Season||2nd last in NHL|
|2022–23||Columbus Blue Jackets||31st||Did not qualify|
|2021–22||Chicago Blackhawks||27th||Did not qualify|
|2019–20||L.A. Kings||28th||Did not qualify|
|2018–19||Florida Panthers||19th||Did not qualify|
|2017–18||Edmonton Oilers||23rd||Did not qualify|
|2016–17||Carolina Hurricanes||21st||Did not qualify|
|2015–16||Toronto Maple Leafs||30th||Did not qualify|
|2014–15||Buffalo Sabres||30th||Did not qualify|
|2013–14||Philadelphia Flyers||13th||Lost 1st round|
|2012–13||Calgary Flames||25th||Did not qualify|
|2011–12||Boston Bruins||7th||Lost 1st round|
|2010–11||Buffalo Sabres||15th||Lost 1st round|
|2009–10||Carolina Hurricanes||24th||Did not qualify|
|2008–09||Atlanta Thrashers||27th||Did not qualify|
|2007–08||Phoenix Coyotes||23rd||Did not qualify|
|2006–07||Philadelphia Flyers||30th||Did not qualify|
|2005–06||St. Louis Blues||30th||Did not qualify|
|2003–04||Columbus Blue Jackets||27th||Did not qualify|
|2002–03||Nashville Predators||24th||Did not qualify|
|2001–02||L.A. Kings||12th||Lost 1st round|
|2000–01||Columbus Blue Jackets||23rd||Did not qualify|
As mentioned above, when looking at the teams who entered November in second last in the entire NHL things look incredibly bleak. Of the 21 teams, only four ended up making the playoffs. On top of that, none of the four ended up making it past the first round. The last team to right the ship was Philadelphia in 2013–14 who ended the season 13th in the NHL before losing in the first round.
Finishing October where the Flames did has been close to a death sentence for NHL teams across the past two decades as only 19% of teams who were second last in the NHL on November 1 ended up making the playoffs while 0% have gone on to win a playoff round.
Time is running out
It may seem like the Flames have plenty of time to turn things around after their rough start, but if history is any indication they are running out of time and fast. Starting the way they have has typically been a very hard hole for NHL teams to dig out of, and if the team doesn’t start to turn things around in the next couple of weeks, they can kiss the playoffs goodbye.