Calgary Flames

Breaking down how often the 31st place team on November 1 makes the NHL playoffs

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.

SeasonSecnd last in Western Conference on November 1Season Finish
Western Conference
2023–24Calgary FlamesTBDTBD
2022–23St. Louis Blues12thDid not qualify
2021–22Chicago Blackhawks14thDid not qualify
2019–20Minnesota Wild10thDid not qualify
2018–19Vegas Golden Knights7thLost in 1st round
2017–18Edmonton Oilers12thDid not qualify
2016–17Nashville Predators8thLost in Stanley Cup Final
2015–16Calgary Flames12thDid not qualify
2014–15Edmonton Oilers13thDid not qualify
2013–14Winnipeg Jets11thDid not qualify
2012–13Columbus Blue Jackets9thDid not qualify
2011–12Calgary Flames9thDid not qualify
2010–11Anaheim Ducks4thLost in 1st round
2009–10Anaheim Ducks11thDid not qualify
2008–09Arizona Coyotes13thDid not qualify
2007–08Edmonton Oilers9thDid not qualify
2006–07Calgary Flames8thLost in 1st round
2005–06St. Louis Blues15thDid not qualify
2003–04San Jose Sharks2ndLost in 3rd round
2002–03San Jose Sharks14thDid not qualify
2001–02L.A. Kings7thLost in 1st round
2000–01Calgary Flames11thDid 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.

Season2nd last in NHL
(November 1st)
Season Finish
2022–23Columbus Blue Jackets31stDid not qualify
2021–22Chicago Blackhawks27thDid not qualify
2019–20L.A. Kings28thDid not qualify
2018–19Florida Panthers19thDid not qualify
2017–18Edmonton Oilers23rdDid not qualify
2016–17Carolina Hurricanes21stDid not qualify
2015–16Toronto Maple Leafs30thDid not qualify
2014–15Buffalo Sabres30thDid not qualify
2013–14Philadelphia Flyers13thLost 1st round
2012–13Calgary Flames25thDid not qualify
2011–12Boston Bruins7thLost 1st round
2010–11Buffalo Sabres15thLost 1st round
2009–10Carolina Hurricanes24thDid not qualify
2008–09Atlanta Thrashers27thDid not qualify
2007–08Phoenix Coyotes23rdDid not qualify
2006–07Philadelphia Flyers30thDid not qualify
2005–06St. Louis Blues30thDid not qualify
2003–04Columbus Blue Jackets27thDid not qualify
2002–03Nashville Predators24thDid not qualify
200102L.A. Kings12thLost 1st round
2000–01Columbus Blue Jackets23rdDid 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.

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