Being an Oilers' Fan for all of my life I must admit that seeing the Flames woes has given me a little bit of satisfaction. I think this is mainly because of the fact that I live in Calgary now and this is the first year since I have moved here that I haven't had to put up with listening to cocky Flames fans going on about how their perennial mediocre team was so great and how poor the Oilers were doing. On the other hand I feel for Flames fans as I have gone through these same pains for the past few years myself. Watching a management team destroy the team I love with questionable and sometimes stupid moves was very difficult to watch. But I digress this is about the situation in Calgary right now and understanding the “new” management approach to managing fans and players expectations.
So the Flames have started to break down the remainder of the season into 3 game chunks because in order for the Flames to make a run at the post season they need to play 0.667 hockey. This is a similar approach to what Daryl had attempted the year the Flames went on their playoff run but he broke the season into 7 game chunks. Raising the bar to 3 games is quite risky because this approach could burn out the players or cause conflicts in the dressing room.
So lets take a look at the first half of the 2010/2011 season and see which teams have been able to maintain 0.667 hockey. Here are the top 5 teams in the league so far this year:
Vancouver – 39GP
26-8-5 = 0.667
Detroit – 40GP
25-10-5 = 0.625
Pittsburgh – 41GP
26-12-3 = 0.634
Philadelphia – 39GP
24-10-5 = 0.615
Tampa Bay – 41GP
24-12-5 = 0.585
So as illustrated the only team able to do this was the best team in the league. Now where does Calgary stand in this same part of the season?
Calgary – 41GP
18-20-3 = 0.439
In order for the flames to meet their goal of 0.667 hockey their record will have to be:
They have already finished the first half of the season and are on pace for 36-40-6 for a point total of 78. Looking at the seasons after the lockout where in the Western Conference would the Flames land with these potential point totals?
05/06 - 12th Place
06/07 - 11th Place
07/08 - 14th Place
08/09 - 14th Place
09/10 - 14th Place
Looking at these totals one could make the argument that 2010/2011 has more parity than these other years. Well looking at the standings, based off the NHL website, the 06/07 season had just about as much parity than 10/11 season. So keeping with the trend this year could be an 11th place season.
But I wanted to break this down a little bit more just to see if there is a way for the Flames to really do this so lets work with some basic stats. For the remaining games in the season we will break each conference into 3 parts each. We will assume a Loss against top 5 teams, Tie against 6th - 10th place teams and a Win against bottom 5 teams. Where do the Flames end up in this scenario?
We will give 1/2 of the ties as wins so that brings the team to 18-14-9 for the remainder of the season. That number still leaves them 9 wins short of the magic 27 needed to fight for a playoff spot. This equates to 36-34-12 and a point total of 84 for the season. So where does that place the team now?
05/06 - 11th
06/07 - 10th
07/08 - 12th
08/09 - 12th
09/10 - 13th
Yet again not results worthy of a playoff run but better. Here is the kicker based off of these numbers, at the trade deadline the team will be 9-8-6 since implementing the 3 game chunks. Above 0.500 hockey not great but definitely not bad enough to blow up the team or even pull the trigger on some players that maybe they should.
Now lets get back to the management piece that I started on earlier. The Flames are in a very tough place right now. They are up against the NHL salary cap, they are up against the 50 contract ceiling and have 11 No Trade/No Movement Clauses to deal with (this number does not change next year BTW). Any team looking at the Flames know they are a desperate hockey club and other teams have to play by the same salary cap rules as well. There are no teams looking for mediocre pickups and giving up 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round picks. The depth players on the Flames are way too overpriced and unless your team name is the Detroit Red Wings 4th round picks don't usually develop into superstars. So trades are going to be quite tough to come by and warm bodies are going to have to be traded for warm bodies on a 1 for 1 or worse trade ratio.
This season is probably one of the worst for the Flames in recent years. They have been given an impossible goal to achieve, the assets that should be traded have been “protected” and the situation is more of the same or similar for next year. So what is the best plan of attack?
Is making a run the best plan?
The Flames historically are a 1st round exit team. Since their last Stanley Cup they have made it past the first round a grand total of once, the 2003/2004 season. So I don't think this is the best plan.
Or is tanking the season the better plan?
As most people know this year's draft is quite shallow, even the players in the top rankings would have been late 1st round or early 2nd round picks in deeper draft years but at least it could be something to build on. Who knows maybe this youngster is the centre that Iginla has been looking for.
We all know that neither option is ideal but at least one can be built on the other is just postponing the inevitable.
Hang in their Flames fans as much as this hurts right now it will get better.