As Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are.” For the Calgary Flames their record says they are not a playoff team. The Flames have just 32 wins in 67 games and their (-11) goal differential is further illustration that they dig more pucks out of their own net than putting them past the opposition goalies.
With just 15 games left on their schedule in the regular season the Calgary Flames find themselves three points out of the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and trail the Anaheim Ducks by four points for third place in the Pacific Division.
Following last nights overtime loss at Pittsburgh the Flames have just three wins in 11 games since goalie Mike Smith went down with a groin injury leaving goaltending duties to rookie goalies, John Gillies and David Rittich. While I don’t think there is any debate that Smith is the teams MVP, Calgary had just four wins in the 10 games prior to the Smith injury. Quick addition tells you, that is seven wins for Calgary in their last 21 games.
The numbers indicate 96 points is what it’s going to take to earn a playoff spot in the West. That means the Flames will need to find a way to earn 22 points over the next 15 games. With their next four games all against teams currently not in playoff position (@Buffalo, @Ottawa, vs NY Islanders, vs Edmonton) Calgary has a glorious opportunity to gain some ground.
The Flames will continue their mini three game road trip this week with stops in Buffalo and Ottawa and while the road overall has been kind to Calgary, their 18 road wins trails only LA and Nashville (20) for the most road victories in the Western Conference. One problem for Calgary though is that road has gotten a little bumpy of late, dropping four of their last five as visitors. Not only that, but the Sabres who sit 30th overall have won three of four, with victories over Toronto, Tampa and Boston while the 29th ranked Senators have won two of their last three (Vegas and Dallas).
The off-season trades that brought in Mike Smith from Arizona and defenseman Travis Hamonic in a blockbuster trade with the Islanders gave many in Calgary the hope that this edition of the Flames could make a serious playoff run. Many thought adding Hamonic to a group with Giordano, Brodie and Hamilton gave the Flames the second best blueline in the conference behind Nashville. The problem is the game is played on the ice and not on paper. The 199 goals surrendered by Calgary is the 12th most in the NHL Western Conference.
The other issue plaguing Calgary is a lack of identity. There has been a prevailing feeling around the league the team lacks toughness. Calgary tried to address the issue at the trade deadline when they claimed Chris Stewart off waivers and recalled Tanner Glass from their AHL affiliate. The Stewart experiment for now, has lasted just two games as like in Minnesota he has found himself a healthy scratch for the past three games. Glass has been in and out of the lineup since his recall.
Coach Glen Gulutzan has to be feeling the heat as his team struggles in its quest to make the playoffs but from where I sit, the Flames issues are not anything to do with the head coach but a flawed roster.
While the Flames are one of a handful of teams with four players having scored 20 or more goals, nine players having scored double digit goals they just can’t seem to outscore their mistakes evidenced by the fact they have given up 11 more goals than they have scored.
The countdown is on in Calgary for the Flames and their NHL fans. Just have a feeling though that time has run out.