The season is not done, but with seven games left and six points back of the Avalanche, it is not looking likely the Flames will be among the top eight teams in the West.
Detroit, Los Angeles, and Nashville could all be caught, but the chances Calgary will catch any of those teams is slim to none (I had to edit this paragraph, as today the surging Wings hopped all the way up to sixth, eight points ahead of the Flames).
Experts, preseason predictions and fans of the game didn't have the Flames first in the League or anything, but most did have them in the postseason (most placed the Flames around the No. 5 spot).
So why are the Flames in the battle of their lives to squeak into that No. 8 spot?
Short term, the loss to the Islanders on the 25th could be seen as the dagger that ultimately killed Calgary's playoff chances. The 5-0 thrashing from the Bruins on the 27th didn't help either
But here are my five reasons, over the course of the whole season, the Calgary Flames may not be battling for the Stanley Cup in less than a month.
Some might wonder why the Flames Captain and leading scorer is in a list of reasons the Flames aren't in a playoff spot. But there is a simple answer—inconsistency. Through 74 games Iggy has 32 goals and 36 assists, but he tends to score in bunches.
For example, on March 7 he went off for 3 goals and 1 assist in a 5-2 win over the Wild. Next game on March 9 he had a goal and an assist in a crucial 4-2 win over the Wings.
The following four games Iginla went pointless while the Flames posted a record of 2-2. This has been a theme all season for the Captain, and for the most part, when Iggy is on his game and putting the puck in the net the net, the team is winning. It's just too bad that scoring can't be more spread out.
Of course, Iggy would probably have done better if he had a legitimate number on center...
Yep. He left a while ago, but I still give him a spot here. I guess Matt Stajan could be here, but he will be discussed a bit in the next slide.
The big theme here is not having an elite centre for Iginla though. A big reason for that was the poor play of Olli Jokinen. In my slide show, Top 10 Flames Centers, I talked about how a lot of players feel their sole job is to pass to Iginla and nothing else—Jokinen was one of these players.
For a guy that never had less than 30 goals for the Panthers post-lockout, it was expected he would bring a goalscoring touch. He wasn't playing his best for the Coyotes, but Sutter believed he could get the old Jokinen back.
Alas, he was never able to return to prime form. He found himself on the third line some games, and could never really stick with any line mates. Jokinen had that "new team surge" at first, but he cooled down, hard.
I have no doubts, that if we saw "Florida's" Jokinen in Calgary, he would still be a Flame, and Calgary would be sitting in a playoff spot.
Last season, Sutter signed unproved talents like Glencross and Bourque. They proved to be vital to the team (both recorded 40 points in 74 and 58 games respectively). Those were solid numbers, especially for their low salaries (Bourque was earning $1.3 mill, Glencross $1.2).
Before the current season, this feat was seemed to be emulated with the signings of Dawes, Sjostrom. Dawes has done well with 30 points in 58 games, but he has been quite inconsistent. Yes, he had injuries but more was expected of Dawes.
Sjostrom on the other hand was quite the disaster. He was a good penalty killer, but his offensive production was practically non existent.
Then the big Phaneuf trade came. White was a good piece in the trade and has fit in quite well, but Stajan and Hagman have been streaky. They've played good, not great.
Some have wondered if Sutter could have gotten a better return on Phaneuf. I think he might have been able to, but Burke inquired about Dion. The second Sutter tried to shop Phaneuf, his value would have gone down, and his return could have been a lot worse. I guess we will never know if we could have gotten better for Phaneuf.
Especially after losing a sniper like Michael Cammalleri, the Flames needed a lot of guys to step up offensively. Something, that evidently didn't happen, and has the Flames not in the postseason.
One of the best two-way defenseman in the game has played good this year—in his own end.
Jay Bo is a smooth skater, and he's showed that in Calgary, but he has been a disappointment on opposing blue lines. Defensively, he has been solid. Some games he seems off, but the majority of the time he's been able to shut down other teams top players.
I didn't have to look at stats to know Bouwmeester is having an off year offensively, but I was surprised to see just how little he has scored. How many ears do you have? That's how many goals Jay Bouwmeester has this year (unless you're Vincent Van Gogh).
His assist number is 24, which isn't his worst, but it also isn't his best.
If Bouwmeester had been able to score more than twice this season, the Flames would be much closer, if not in, the playoff picture.
Brent Sutter has a fairly simple to understand system. It consits of simple elements.
Play a solid, 60 minute defensive game. Be aggressive, but be patient when doing so. In-your-face hockey, with a healthy tendency to attack the net. Throw in a good forecheck and you have Brent Sutter's system. It can work, and has (mostly for his Junior teams though).
Before this string of bad results (spanked 5-0 by Boston, 3-1 loss at the hands of the Islanders) the Flames were buying into this system.
On and off all year we saw signs that the Flames were going to explode and go on an extended winning streak, but they could never carry momentum from game to game. They had trouble playing a full 60 minutes (see blown five-goal lead to Chicago).
Coming out of the Olympic break, Calgary was playing good and getting results. One thing they were doing, was attacking the net, hard. With a team lacking potent offensive stars, this is a very, very good way of generating offense.
Sadly, this system was not embraced by the team for the whole season—or the full 60 minutes of a game.
If the team had bought into B.Sutters system the whole year, the Flames would be holding down a playoff spot right now.
Here is my "slideshow" of reasons the Flames aren't with the Oilers in the basement of the league. Night in and night out Kipper makes saves he has no business making and rarely has help on the offensive end.
You can look at numbers (which are excellent) but really all you have to do is watch a Flames game and you will understand how good Kiprusoff has been this year.