Slide On!

November 24th, 2010 | Posted in Commentary
By: D'Arcy McGrath

Historically when the Calgary Flames have faltered, they haven’t faltered enough.

The Flames are enjoying their 30th season in Calgary and if things continue the way this season has started they will miss the playoffs for the 10th time. A playoff success rate of 67% is pretty good when it comes to sports franchises, so there is nothing to hang ones head in that regard.

Where the Flames have failed miserably is properly executing the “fail”.

In the nine non playoff years to date the Flames have picked in the top ten six times, but never in the top five. Three years out of the top ten with no playoff dates is bad enough, but six other times without a true shot at a franchise player? What a waste of a season.

The Flames have picked 6th three times in Calgary history, selecting Daniel Tkaczuk, Rico Fata, and Cory Stillman. The first two were not good picks (we’ve discussed this many times), but the Stillman pick was money in that position as he’s actually played more NHL games than players two through five of his draft year.

At nine the Flames have selected Dion Phaneuf and Brent Krahn, the first a no brainer pick (but a check mark nonetheless), the second a home rink puzzler that looked bad from day one. Finally in the 10 spot the Flames took Eric Nystrom.

A serviceable NHL veteran forward, a young but turbulent defenseman, and a plugger. Ouch.

For intrigue lets go back in time and put the Flames in the third spot for each of those sixth years, meaning instead of limping through a season they just faced the music and thought future; moving down the standings. The three spot as it’s dead center in the top five for each of those years.

The results?

1992 – Mike Rathje
1997 – Olli Jokinen (too funny)
1998 – Brad Stuart
2000 – Marian Gaborik
2002 – Jay Bouwmeester (slaying me)
2003 – Nathan Horton

First up I should admit that I chose 3rd arbitrarily so finding two current Flames and an ex-Flame in the process is pretty ironic. As a group these six won’t blow your mind, but it does illustrate how different that last decade could have been if the team had done a better job of facing the music during seasons.

Which brings us to today.

The Flames are only 20 games into a season, have gone 0-1-1 on a road trip despite playing quite well, but sit three games under .500. This gets worse when you see how well the rest of the Conference has played to date with only Edmonton and Anaheim joining the Flames as teams that aren’t over .500.

The west beats up the east consistently so the climb is that much harder.

The Flames need to make up five games on five different teams to force their way into a playoff spot. If the teams above them all play at their current rates the Flames will effectively need to play at a 102 point season pace for the final 62 games to get this done.

Will this happen? I don’t think so.

Could this happen? Of course.

The next three games on this road trip could effectively decide the season. Win three straight and the Flames are a .500 team that can boast six straight solid outings. Find say one point in the three and the Flames would likely need a 110 point pace for the final 59 games, something that would be a tall order.

The Flames have numbers guys in house for the salary cap. I’m sure they have numbers guys in house to work marketing, and optimal ticket price, tv revenue and the like. I hope they have a numbers guy running probabilities on playoff chances as well.

Darryl Sutter doesn’t need to come out and call the season over on December 1st, there is little point in that.

But here’s hoping the actions going forward mesh better with the future and not the present when it comes to player moves. A fire-sale may not be needed, but nor should there be an air lift of veteran players into the Flames rank to help close a gap from 13th in the west to say 9th and a brutal draft pick.

Things haven’t worked for years in Calgary despite the team looking good on paper.

Sometimes the paper needs to be shredded.


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