Monthly Record: 7-4-2-0 14 points
Let's get one thing straight right off the bat.
The Flames aren't going to continue on a pace that would leave them at 55-14-13 in 2001-2002.
Not unless they're the surprising reincarnation of the 1975-76 Montreal Canadiens (58-11-11).
The startling 8-2-0-2 pace out of the gate, while just what the doctor ordered, will moderate at some point simply because good old gravity is still a law you can count on.
But that shouldn't prevent the Flames from starting the month of November nicely with home wins over two struggling teams, Columbus and Montreal.
The Flames will hit a roadblock in Anaheim where the Ducks aren't playing that badly of late even if Paul Kariya has been rendered incognito. Call this loss one of those statistical aberrations every team runs into once in a while.
Colorado and Chicago will be tough home opponents for the Flames before Roman Turek continues his streak of never having lost to a former team in beating the Blues at the Saddledome.
It's too bad the Flames didn't get a chance to take on Ottawa in October because the Senators are starting to rev things up and will take care of the Flames easily on the first game of an eastern road swing.
But the Flames will finish the month strong with a tie in Buffalo and a win in Columbus before returning home to thump the struggling Dallas Stars.
Calgary will emerge from November at 7-4-2 and 15-6-2-2 overall, still in
command of their own destiny as the Canucks and Kings continue to struggle.
The difference between good teams and bad teams in the NHL is that a bad team will invariably have a solid two month stretch where it will rack up wins and appear to have turned the corner. But the other two thirds of the season they spend in the dumper. It's the good teams that provide consistency through the year, spending two-thirds of the time playing highly competitive hockey - and limiting the damage of the one-third where they are playing less than their best.
In the last five years, the Flames have dominated for parts of seasons, but were usually lamentable the majority of the time.
This could be the season where that changes. While a hot October is one thing, a solid month of November is where we'll find out how far Calgary has come in competing for a long coveted playoff spot.
PREDICTIONS - To date, Jarome Iginla has participated in 54% of Calgary's 35 goals, a total that is both astonishing and somewhat alarming. Although the Flames have gotten goals from a wide variety of sources, the team will eventually need to rely less on Iginla as his pace eventually slows. But I expect the Olympic team to be named around Dec. 1 and Iginla and Morris will make the grade. Other predictions - Bob Boughner will score his second goal of the year, Oleg Saprykin will reappear from the minors, Jeff Cowan will be waived, Mike Vernon will get only one start in November since the Flames play back-to-back only once and my last bold prediction, Flames will wake up one morning and realize Igor Kravchuk, long a deserved target of their wrath, is actually having a fine season, already leading the team with a plus seven and helping on the power play. Around the league, the Canucks will trade for a goaltender but, since no good one's are actually available, will accomplish nothing. The Pens will fall off the face of the earth, the Flyers will finally figure out who they are and go on a month long tear, the Leafs will continue to roll, the Hurricane will remain incognito, Ron Low will get his deserved firing in New York and yes, he'll be replaced by Mike Keenan. The Oilers will move past the Flames in the standings although the two teams will remain close at hand. Dallas and St. Louis will finally come to the realization that all the moves they made in the summer actually accomplished virtually nothing and Washington will discover that one player (Jagr) does not a team make. In Miami, Bill Torrey will simply wonder what the hell he has done as he mans the helm of the worst (read: unmotivated) team in the league.
Monthly Record: 6-4-2-1 15 points
You hear people say maybe we're the same old Flames but you know what, it's not the old Calgary Flames." - Craig Conroy
You're absolutely right Craig, it's not the same old Calgary Flames. In past years, the first of November was a time to make excuses about why the first month was unsuccessful, and to generate formulae for how many wins the Flames would need to get back into contention. The answer, inevitably, would be "too many".
No one, but no one, could have predicted this season's start. 18 points and a share of 1st overall after 12 games was virtually inconceivable after a half-decade of missing the playoffs, but it happened. And while it's very impressive in the standings, it's still 72-odd points away from a playoff spot, which means that November is no time for the Flames to rest on their laurels.
November can be broken down into three distinct chunks. The first four games are against struggling opponents that the Flames should beat. The next four games are against much stronger opponents, but are all in Calgary, where they Flames are still undefeated in regulation. Finally, the last five games are against four tougher opponents on the road, then Dallas at home.
Realistically, anything below .500 will be a disappointment in a month with seven home games and a few easy road games. I'm predicting the Flames will be slightly above that mark at 6-4-2-1 (15 points in 13 games). This isn't as impressive as October's record, but it is a winning percentage that will certainly bring the Flames to the post-season if it can be maintained. I don't expect that the Flames will continue to dominate teams like St. Louis, Detroit, and Dallas, especially after embarrassing each of them in their initial meeting of the season. However, I do expect that the Flames will continue to be one of the grittiest and fastest skating teams in the league, and that should allow them to continue to win the close games and remain a very competitive team.
Rob Niedermayer will score his first goal against Columbus and enjoy it so much, that he'll score five times during the month and add five assists. Oleg Saprykin will add some spark when he joins the team later in the month after dominating in the AHL. Jeff Cowan and Scott Nichol will spend time in the press box, when new flavor-of-the-month Jukka Hentunen catches fire. Mike Vernon will rebound with a strong game, but will continue to be inconsistent throughout the month (and the rest of his Flames' career). The Flames will reclaim Rico Fata on waivers and ship him to Saint John.
Monthly Record: 6-5-1-1 14 points
The only thing more difficult than imagining a successful October for the Calgary Flames may just be imagining a follow up November on top of it.
Clearly the torrid pace set by the hometown squad can't continue, though to what degree the pace falls off, however, may determine their chances at landing a playoff spot in April.
By the time the dust settles on November a full 25 games will be in the book, a number close to one third of a hockey season.
A team sitting six or more games on the positive side of .500 will likely have their own destiny in their lap when the season hits its dog days after Christmas.
A position the Flames are far from familiar with, at least in recent memory.
A quick glance at the schedule shows November to actually be a more lenient month than October in terms of opposition.
However, the Flames will no longer have the luxury of surprise, as teams are well aware of their standing, and the expectations already left in the wake of a hard skating team, that appears to have gelled.
But rosters don't lie, so as much as the Scotty Bowmans, Joel Quenvilles and Andy Murrays of the world will try to prepare their teams for the upstart Flames, a lack of glitz on the Calgary roster may leave many an opponent's mind to wander.
"Careful, these guys work really hard", just doesn't instill the fear in the league's greats.
Don't be surprised to see a few more clubs completely unprepared to take on the Flames.
The Flames will finish with a moderately successful 6-5-1-1 record for the month, pushing their seasonal record to 14-7-1-3, good for 32 points in 25 games. That mark will leave them roughly 55 points short of a playoff spot with 57 games left to play.
Marc Savard, schedule to come back somewhere around the last week of November, will come back early ... suiting up for a home game against St. Louis on the 17th. ... Mike Vernon will get his first win of the season, avenging his loss in Chicago when the Blackhawks visit on the 15th. ... Craig Berube will not score a goal this month ... Derek Morris, off to a great start in points, but with only one goal, will strike for four in the month of November. ... Oleg Saprykin will not be recalled by the end of the month. ... Jukka Hentunen will find his way back into the lineup, and be quite effective on the second line with Marc Savard.