Wes Gilbertson recently wrote about Calgary’s struggles and in that piece, he had an interesting statistic that applies to more than just the Flames.
Per the Calgary Sun:
Over the past decade, since the introduction of the shootout resulted in more three-point contests than ever before, only 11 NHL outfits had previously collected five points or less in their first 10 dates. (The Flames have company this fall, with the Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets scratching out just four points apiece through 10 showings.)
Of those, only the 2013 Washington Capitals rebounded to earn a playoff invite.
Be sure to check out the rest of the piece, which was written prior to Calgary’s 6-2 loss to Montreal last night, if you want to get into more detail about the Flames’ issues specifically, but that statistic certainly puts those three teams’ weak start into context.
There will be some that downplay a slow start by saying that it’s only October and while it’s certainly true that there is a lot of time left to stage a comeback, making up ground can be very difficult, especially in an era that awards a consolation point for making it to overtime.
For example, Columbus is already seven points behind in the Wild Card race and even that’s misleading because the Blue Jackets have played two more games than the Boston Bruins, which occupy the second Wild Card spot.
If it takes 98 points to make the playoffs — as it did in the Eastern Conference last season — then that means that Columbus needs to get 94 points in 71 contests, which translates to 47-24-0 or 42-19-10. Even if you assume that last season was an anomaly when it came to the minimum standard to make the playoffs and go with the more traditional 93 points it took in 2013-14, then that’s 44-26-1 or 39-21-11.
In other words, it would already take a remarkable turnaround.
For Calgary and Anaheim, things are arguably a little less bleak because the Pacific Division as a whole isn’t looking too strong so far this season. Right now you don’t have to meet the standards of the second Wild Card spot to earn the third seed in the Pacific and that’s a trend that might persist throughout the campaign.
Beyond that, they might all have something else in common with the 2013 Washington Capitals: They’re arguably talented teams that underperformed out of the gate. Because keep in mind, there’s a fourth team that can join the Ducks, Flames, and Blue Jackets in this unfortunate category with a loss tonight: The Toronto Maple Leafs.
That’s not an interesting addition because not much was expected of Toronto going into the campaign. But that’s the thing: Sometimes a poor start is reflective of the team’s talent and other times it’s in spite of it.
The Flames, Ducks, and Blue Jackets all arguably fall into the second camp, but those squads have to act fast because they’re already fighting against history, even though it’s only October.