The Calgary Flames are in a sticky situation as we approach the end of the season. With 17 games to go, they need to make a big push to get in even just a wild card spot.
What seems like a disappointing season has finally neared the end, as the Flames have just 17 games left to make it into the Stanley Cup playoffs. With the nearest Pacific division spot nine points away, it seems unlikely that they’ll challenge for second or even third in their division. Their hope lies in the final wildcard spot, as the Winnipeg Jets have just four more points. While it’s certainly possible to make the playoffs, the question is: is it realistic?
Calgary Flames: The Deadline
Brad Treliving was someone I didn’t envy this year. After making arguably the biggest move in franchise history, his new-look Calgary Flames had lofty expectations that frankly, they haven’t even remotely lived up to. Coupling this with a poor stint of hockey before the deadline put Calgary in an awkward position, where no one knew if they would be aggressive buyers or consider selling assets.
Brad chose neither, instead making a couple of small moves like acquiring Dryden Hunt, Nick Ritchie, and Troy Stecher for spare parts. I actually didn’t mind this approach to the trade deadline as many of the big fish had already been caught, and the 3rd pairing has been a disaster for some time now. Hopefully, Troy Stecher makes an impact as that 3rd pairing RHD beside Zadorov to shore up the Flames D core.
Calgary Flames: Is It Realistic?
In short, I believe it is realistic for the Flames to make the 2022-2023 Stanley Cup playoffs for a variety of reasons. The main reason I believe they have a good chance at making it is their strength of schedule for their last 17 games.
They face a bottom 10 NHL team for 10 of their next 17 games and face a top 10 NHL team only 5 times. If we make the assumption that they win 75% of their games against bottom feeders and only 50% of their games against top 5 teams, that would put them at 92 points. Ideally, they would need to win more games to have a guaranteed spot, but facing weaker teams will help.
Another reason I have is that it seems to be a perfect storm for Calgary. They’ve had issues all year with goaltending, as Jacob Markstrom hasn’t lived up to his Vezina-caliber reputation and Vladar has faltered as well.
However, it seems Markstrom might have turned a corner. Since the calendar turned to March, three of his four started games have been quality starts, including a 40-save shutout performance against Minnesota. If he can start performing consistently over this next 17-game stretch, the Flames will be in a good position.
Finally, their play has led me to believe that they’re much better than they’ve performed. According to Natural Stat Trick, they’re a top 3 team in both CF% and xG% but their PDO of 0.981 indicates that they’re dead last in one of the unspoken aspects of hockey: luck. If this starts to regress back to the mean as they approach the playoffs, this team will become dangerous.
Calgary Flames: The Takeaway
Looking at Calgary this year, they’ve been hard to watch for a lot of the year. However, if you put everything into perspective, they’re not a bad team. In fact, they’re probably one of the deepest teams in the league with an elite D core and deep forward lines.
Want your voice heard? Join the Flame For Thought team!
They’ve already shown that they can play with the best in the league and that they can play the right way, and it seems that their fortunes are looking up. It will be difficult, but I believe that it’s a realistic expectation for Calgary to make the playoffs.