Evaluating the Calgary Flames’ Playoff chances at this point in the 2020-21 season

Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Are the Calgary Flames still in with a chance of making the postseason with the 2020-21 NHL season more than half done?

A 4-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday was a step in the right direction but, after going on a four-game losing streak prior, are the Calgary Flames in trouble as far as qualification for the Stanley Cup Playoffs goes?

A .500 record in their last 10 games is not something to be overly concerned about, but some of the ways those losses went are enough to draw some attention when it comes to this Flames team and their postseason aspirations.

Johnny Gaudreau only has three points in his last 10 games, Sean Monahan only has four points in his last 10 games, Matthew Tkachuk hit a season-low in ice-time of 13:09 on March 19th against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Jacob Markstrom is sitting at a .879 average Save Percentage from his last five starts. Not exactly the recipe for success at the moment.

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The Flames have been known to make things interesting when it gets to the second half of the season. If COVID-19 had not shut down the season last year, they may have been in a similar situation battling for some of the final Playoff spots. Instead, they played their Play-In Round and got their chance, briefly, to experience life inside The Bubble.

The four-game losing streak very well could have been a part of the growing pains of new coaching. They kicked things off under new Head Coach Darryl Sutter with wins in four of his first five games, but then followed that up with the aforementioned four-game losing streak.

After their 4-2 victory on Saturday night, the Flames are a spot away from the Playoffs and two points behind the Montreal Canadiens. However, the Flames have five games in hand on the Canadiens.

If the Canadian teams keep on the pace they have been going at, it is expected the Toronto Maple Leafs are on their way to the postseason as winners of the North Division with the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers falling not far behind. What the Flames need to focus on is making up games and points to take the fourth and final spot away from the Montreal Canadiens and prevent the Vancouver Canucks from overthrowing them.

Darryl Sutter
Head coach Darryl Sutter of the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Where do the Calgary Flames stand in postseason race with 2020-21 season halfway done?

According to PlayoffStatus.com, after the past week of games, the Flames sit at a 25% chance of clinching the fourth and final Playoff spot. If things really turn around for them, the odds have them with a 5% chance of the third spot, a 1% chance of the second berth and less than a 1% chance of winning the North Division.

The problem is that the Flames are painfully inconsistent this season. Fingers have been pointed in all sorts of directions but at the end of the day, the core of this team needs to be better. You can’t have guys going quiet for weeks at a time and expect to be a Stanley Cup contender.

That being said, the Trade Deadline is soon and the player quarantine hurdle just got a little shorter. The Canadian government approved a request to allow NHL players travelling across the Canadian border to quarantine for seven days instead of the previously enforced 14. With this change, Flames General Manager Brad Treliving could look to make some moves to stir up some more hope for this last month-and-a-half of the regular season and beyond.

During the losing streak, the trade rumour mill was up and running by no surprise. Talks of getting Monahan and Gaudreau out of town were definitely being had. Even goalie David Rittich was among some of the chatter and that idea hasn’t been completely written off. You get far enough down the rabbit hole of Twitter and some fans propose trades of their own among the North Division and beyond.

Mark Giordano (5)
Mark Giordano #5 of the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

At the end of the day, a blockbuster trade like that is not necessarily the type of move you should make in the middle of the season, but rather in the offseason when the team can adjust in exhibition games and Training Camp. Would this team really recover in a month after losing one of their alternate Captains in Sean Monahan or one of their All-Stars in Johnny Gaudreau?

Even farther up the leadership line, there have been some eyes on Mark Giordano. There is no denying this year has not been as prosperous as others for the veteran defenseman. If a move is coming for the Captain, the timing is not right. You can’t develop the core of a team and make such a large difference to their locker room and expect them to be Stanley Cup contender in that short span of time.

The best path for the Flames’ postseason hopes this year is redemption. So, your guys aren’t playing their best? Play others. Push buttons, switch things up internally. Darryl Sutter has shown he is capable of that and has been implementing these strategies already. These guys aren’t loving losing. No professional athlete does. But they aren’t showing the extra grit it takes to win.

A slow start can’t be followed up with a two-minute push to make up three goals in the dying minutes of the game. A one-goal night can’t always hold the team to a win. A goaltending mistake can’t always be a detrimental moment in a game that takes it beyond the point of winning. A team cannot be defined by the performance of a handful of players.

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The Calgary Flames need to take a long look in the mirror and figure out which way they want their season to go. Some things will be out of their control but putting forth their best effort in their upcoming games will at least leave nothing else on the table. Fans can speculate all they want, but the fate of the Calgary Flames and their postseason hopes is ultimately in the hands of the team.