Calgary·Analysis

If these Calgary Flames make the playoffs, it would be an NHL first

No team has started as slowly as the Flames and come back to make the playoffs, at least not since 2000. But there's still a smidgen of hope, the CBC's Andrew Brown writes.

None of the 15 previous teams to open a season this poorly have gone on to the post-season

The Calgary Flames lost again on Wednesday. It's early, but their playoff dreams are probably dashed. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

This was supposed to be fun. 

Coming off the city's first playoff appearance in six years, the Calgary Flames were set to be even better this season. A taste of success and some shiny new players would surely translate into more success on the ice. 

But with only two wins so far, good for only five points in the standings, the Flames have been — to put it mildly — terrible. 

October might be a little early to write an NHL eulogy, and a pair of facts are indisputable:

  • The Calgary Flames have only played 10 games so far this season. 
  • The Calgary Flames have 72 games left, or about 88 per cent of the season.

On the surface, there's plenty of comfort there, as 72 games is a lot of hockey. A few wins here, a couple wins there, a little luck, and the Flames are back in this thing, right? 

Not exactly.

The thing is, when you start as slowly as the Flames have, there's no precedent for saving the season. 

Since the NHL expanded to 30 teams in 2000-01 (not including the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season), 15 teams have started with 5 points or fewer, and none have made the playoffs.

Seriously. Zero. 

Okay, don't panic. Well, maybe panic a little, but there's still a smidgen of hope. 

So there's a chance

It took a bit of digging, but we were able to find two teams since 2000 that turned a slow start into a deep playoff run. Neither started quite as badly as the Flames this year, but it's a start.

Flames fans are familiar with the first.

Back in 2003-04, the San Jose Sharks started the season with a 1-5-4 record, or 6 points. They heated up after that, won the Pacific Division, and made it all the way to the third round of the playoffs, where they lost to — you guessed it — the Calgary Flames.

More recently, the 2013-14 New York Rangers started at 3-7, also only 6 points, and went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final where they lost to Los Angeles.

In all, again since 2000-01, five of the 32 teams that started with 6 points or fewer made the playoffs. 

A little optimism 

The Flames should start improving soon.

Star defenceman T.J. Brodie is back from an injury, and it's reasonable to assume that the Flames young, talented players will continue to get better. 

The 2015-16 Calgary Flames season will almost definitely end without a playoff berth, but if this team does turn it around they have a chance to make some history along the way. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Brown

CBC Calgary reporter

Andrew Brown is a reporter in Calgary. He writes about sports in his spare time.

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