Calgarypuck Predictions: March

March 1, 2002 Staff


Hey! We're getting better!

For the third straight month each of the Calgarypuck writers that were asked to project the Flames performance showed to be optimistic when compared to the actual results of the team.

There does seem to be a movement down in expectations, however, as the variance between pie in the sky expectations and cold, hard reality appears to be tightening up.

The Flames played seven games in the month of February due to breaks for the all star games as well as the winter Olympics. They managed a six points in those seven games to remain pretty much where the month began - out of a playoff spot.

The overall battle for prognastic supremacy remains a close one with each of the contributors sitting a season total of four or five points to the positive side of the ledger.

Writer Oct. Nov. Dec. Jan. Feb Total
Charlton -6 0 3 6 2 5
McCracken -6 1 5 4 1 5
McGrath -5 0 2 5 2 4
Ciampa     3 2   5

The season has six weeks to play ... a harrowing March that contains a nine game road trip, and then a two week April that may or may not have implications on the Flame's playoff chances.

A below average March writes the team off, a return to their October/November play puts them firmly back into a battle that could land them in the playoffs for the first time in five years.

How do the writers see things unfolding?

Related Articles: October || November || December|| January|| February

Aaron McCracken

Monthly Record: 5-8-2-0, 12 points

Brace yourself Flames Fans... March could be a tough month.

Coming off a two win, six point month, the Flames will play 15 times in 30 days during the month of March, including a 9 game, 15-day road trip which will likely decide the outcome of their season.

On paper, the Flames aren't that far out of contention. They sit in 11th place, just 5 points behind the teams the three teams tied for the 7th, 8th, and 9th playoff spots. A little winning streak could make things very interesting.

The Flames' biggest obstacle isn't the number of points, but the number of competitors. The Stars, Canucks, Coyotes, and Oilers are fighting tooth and nail for two playoff spots. If Calgary hopes to play in the post-season, they'll need to finish ahead of three of these teams, plus hold off a late-season charge from the Predators.

While it's easy to dismiss their chances, one must remember that is virtually the same group of guys that started the season at 13-2-4-2. A similar pace down the stretch would all but assure them of a post-season birth. But on the other hand, a three or four game losing streak would probably be insurmountable, and Calgary fans will be forced to thing about next season instead of a playoff run.

It's a case of win now and win often for the Flames; a tough chore, given the schedule, but one that has become a necessity after three months of sloppy play.


The Flames playoff hopes will be shattered after they struggle to begin their road trip against five playoff-hungry teams. I just don't think the team has the depth, confidence or leadership to survive a long road trip at this point in the season. Their play will improve in the middle of the month, but it will be "too little, too late" as the Stars, Coyotes, and Oilers pull away from the pack.

The sporting world's most hyped trading deadline comes on March 19th, and since the Flames will be out of contention, I don't expect to see any major moves. Marc Savard and Mike Vernon will remain Flames, with the latter announcing his retirement effective at the end of the season. The Flames will move defenceman Igor Kravchuk for a young unproven forward, and Dave Lowry will be moved to a younger contending team (such as Boston) for a mid-round pick.

On the ice, Rob Niedermayer will return and center the 2nd line, flanked by Dean McAmmond and a new winger virtually every game. Niedermayer's struggles will continue, as the Flames continue to be a one scoring line team. Marc Savard will continue to play left-wing for the remainder of the season, while linemate Jarome Iginla will continue to lead the league in scoring. Derek Morris' season will come to an early end as he decides to have surgery on his wrist after the team has been eliminated. Petr Buzek will step up and prove to be a legitimate NHL defenceman in his absence. Roman Turek will continue to give a valiant effort each night, but will show signs of fatigue later in the month.

Around the league, the trade deadline will be major disappointment as virtually no big-name players are moved, with the exception of Darius Kasparaitis. The Devils and the Stars will be the most active teams as they try to position themselves for the playoffs after disappointing seasons.

D'Arcy McGrath

Monthly Record: : 6-5-3-1, 16 points

Well ... this is it boys.

Win and you're in ... lose and you're lost.

That's the epitaph for a very tough March schedule.

The Flames can no longer limp along and stay within the hunt. They no longer hold down a playoff position, and what's worse, they have too many teams ahead of them that they'll need to leap frog.

With a two team battle, a convenient slump to your competitor can mask a bad run by the local squad, but with five or more teams fighting with two spots only the hottest of hot teams will find themselves playing meaningful hockey in April.

That being said ... I have a funny feeling about this month.

The Flames have always done their best to prove us wrong. If you think they've turned the corner they stumble badly, if you think they've been left for dead they put some games together.

If there is a bright side to a nightmarish nine game road trip towards the end of the season it's this - when it's over the season sets up quite favourably. Should the Flames manage to hang with the pack up to the end of the monster trip they have nine of their final 13 games at home, against many a team deemed beat-able.

The key will be finding at least eight points on that trip, and to do that they'll need an Olympic Jarome Iginla, an October Roman Turek, a better commitment to team defence, and a fortuitous bounce once and awhile.

All very possible, but to a betting man ... leave your wallet in your pants.

Fasten your seatbelts Calgary fans ... the home stretch is on.


The Flames will be active at the March trade deadline, moving one significant player as well as scuttling some depth to teams getting set for a playoff ride. Look for the likes of Igor Kravchuk, Mike Vernon and one of the young defenceman (I'll say Lydman) to be moved in an attempt to shore up the Flames battle for a playoff spot, and to setup the team for next season. ... After the dust settles one of Oleg Saprykin or Blair Betts, plus Levente Szuper will find themselves in the show. ... When Rob Niedermayer returns for the first game of the trip, he'll center the second line with McAmmond, leaving Savard up on left wing with the big boys. ... This line will be scrapped after a tough outing in Boston. ... The Flames powerplay will play a significant role on a .500 nine game trip, led by Derek Morris and Marc Savard. ... Jarome Iginla will move past the 40-goal mark this month, the first Flame to do so since Theo Fleury. ... Dean McAmmond will refind his touch coming off his injury and start contributing once again. He'll still come up short of his career marks for goals and points because of his long absence. ... The Iginla contract will still be a hot issue when the month comes to a close, with his agent Don Meehan too busy negotiating Curtis Joseph's contract with the Maple Leafs.

Rick Charlton

Monthly Record: 6-6-2-0, 14 points

The Flames have been given any number of second chances this year but with only 22 games remaining and 15 of those in the month of March it figures their fate will no longer be nebulous but certain depending on how events transpire in the next four weeks.

If the Flames do in fact secure a playoff spot this year they'll have done it the hard way.

The nine game road trip, gone a total of two weeks, the nightmare everyone saw as far back as October, is now upon them just as they have to kick, scratch and claw their way to every point they can possibly wangle.

In their two games since the Olympic break, however, Calgary has looked rested, reflecting the friskiness they showed in the first six weeks of the season when they were largely unbeatable.

Good. Because they're going to need all the help they can get.

Although a schedule that gives them only five home games out of 15 this month is hardly a help, the number of beat-able teams coming up in March is a positive sign.

The Flames, however, seem to have little trouble beating the teams ahead of them in the standings. It's the bottom feeders that have given them trouble.

There are two guaranteed losses this month - the tail end of a back to back against Philadelphia and the first game back from the long road trip against San Jose. If they win either of those this other guy I know will faint dead away in surprise.

Two against Columbus and one against Minnesota have to be categorized as "must-win," particularly at this time of year. The swing game this month might be Tampa, but its the second part of another back-to-back and if the Flames had demonstrated anything this year its that they have little energy for two in a row.

It's the last make or break month of the year for the Flames.

There are no more second chances around the corner.


Iginla ignites again, cementing his lead atop the NHL scoring derby. Marc Savard, after a deserved switching of his bottom these last three months, begins to come around and survives the NHL trade deadline. Robyn Regehr remains a Calgary Flame with improved play. Mike Vernon does not. Neither does Toni Lydman, the proverbial bait to acquire some help up front - nothing personal. The Flames move by the Oilers in the standings, leaving fans dancing and doing handstands in Olympic Plaza. Did I forget to mention Oleg Saprykin is also traded? . . . . . Rob Niedermayer scores three this month. Craig Berube does not. Blair Betts gets a call-up and what's a month without Jamie Wright on a plane between Saint John and Calgary.

Marc Ciampa

Monthly Record: 8-4-2-1, 19 points

Arguably, the most important month in Flames history has begun. The team's success could either go one of two ways. Either they come together as a team and make a move to get back into the playoff race, or they fizzle and finish the season with a whimper.

The most recent ten-game segment was the team's best since mid-November so there is some indication the team is on the upswing again. Still, they were only .500 and they need to be better than .500 to compete for a playoff spot.

The month is characterized by both a nine-game road trip over 15 days and the NHL trading deadline. The road trip shouldn't be as difficult as it sounds for the Flames. Five of the teams they face are teams they should beat, including a Rangers club in turmoil, Florida, Tampa, Columbus and Minnesota. If the Flames have any hope to make the playoffs they need to win these games.


The Flames will start off the month very well, and this will be enough for Craig Button to stand pat at the trading deadline. If the Flames do make a move, it will only be a minor one. Rob Niedermayer will return on March 4 and will begin to have some success as the team's #2 centre. He will play with Dean McAmmond behind the Savard-Conroy-Iginla line. Mike Vernon will play well this month and will get at least three wins.

March Calendar (small)

March Calendar (large)