If the Calgary Flames hope to make the playoffs, they have some work to do, sitting six points shy of the Winnipeg Jets for the final wild-card position in the Western Conference while having each played 67 games. Making up a six-point deficit with just 15 games remaining may seem nearly impossible, but the Flames have a very friendly schedule down the stretch (from ‘Wes Gilbertson: Can the Flames catch the Jets in playoff race?,’ Calgary Sun, 03/09/23).
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Of course, an easy schedule only matters if you actually win those games. The Flames proved that on Friday night when they lost 3-1 to the Anaheim Ducks, one of the league’s worst teams. That said, they have been playing better of late, winning three of their past four, and will look to continue that as they chase down the Jets. While it’s a steep hill to climb, they could be a tough out for any team in the Western Conference should they make it, as pointed out recently by one former NHLer.
John Scott Flames Could Be Tough Out
Because they have disappointed in 2022-23, it might be hard to remember that just months ago, the team was considered by some to be a Stanley Cup contender. Although they lost their top two scorers from a season ago, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, they managed to replace them with Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri while also improving their blue line with the addition of MacKenzie Weegar.
The major roster shuffle hasn’t been successful, as the Flames have struggled to gel, but they have the talent to do it, and John Scott not only believes they can get back into a playoff position but could do some damage once they get there.
“I know the Flames haven’t been great, but I think they sneak in the wild card,” Scott said on his Dropping the Gloves Podcast. “And I’ll say this: whoever finishes first in the West does not want to play Calgary in the first round.”
Again, it is a big hill to climb, but Scott’s comments are indicative of how talented the team is on paper. If they can somehow go on a run and get into the postseason, they could do some damage. After all, most Darryl Sutter-coached clubs tend to be built for the playoffs.
Flames Need to Take Advantage of Schedule
As mentioned, the Flames have a very friendly schedule down the stretch. The first will come later tonight when they take on the lowly Arizona Coyotes at the Mullett Arena. After that, eight games will be against teams outside the playoffs: the Anaheim Ducks (twice), San Jose Sharks (twice), Vancouver Canucks (twice), Chicago Blackhawks, and the Nashville Predators. It’s safe to say these are must-win games, though they will need to pick up points against more difficult opponents like the Vegas Golden Knights (twice), Dallas Stars, the L.A. Kings (twice), and the Jets.
If they can become as dangerous as Scott and many others believe they can be, the Flames need to show it over their remaining 15 games. If they do, they will likely be headed into the playoffs as one of the league’s hottest teams, at which point, nobody will be thinking about their mediocre regular season through 67 games, but will instead be focused on what kind of matchup they will be. Buckle up Flames fans, these next few weeks should be fun.