The Calgary Flames learned Karri Ramo would be out for the rest of the 2015-16 NHL season, Dennis Wideman’s suspension was upheld according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun and then lost to the struggling Minnesota Wild—all on Wednesday, Feb. 17. That is one tough day.
The Flames are two points under .500 in a once-dismal Pacific Division that is now seeing the two teams that have won eight of the last nine division titles on the rebound. With the time period fans might call a vacation week (the next two weekends and the week between them) left before the 2015-16 NHL season trade deadline arrives, the time to start selling might be now.
It is time for Calgary to face that making the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs is a pipe dream. It would need to earn 13 more points than the team with the third-best record (the Anaheim Ducks) over the final 26 games each team has on their 2015-16 NHL seasons to get a guaranteed berth in the Pacific Division. It is three games closer to the final projected wild card, but there are four teams better positioned to make that climb.
The only team with a worse record in the Western Conference is the Alberta-rival Edmonton Oilers. The Flames are three points up in the Pacific Division plus have two games in hand and are likely to own the tiebreak.
Edmonton would probably need to play four games better over the final 22 games. Even if it could get out of last place in the Pacific Division thanks to its rival’s trade, Calgary should not want so badly to be better that they fail to make a move that could help reach the Stanley Cup playoffs more regularly in the future.
The reality is those losses on the back end are too much to anchor a postseason push. There just is not enough talent on the roster and mortgaging the future for reinforcements rarely helps teams reach the Stanley Cup playoffs from as far back as the Flames sit.
Wideman’s suspension can still be appealed to an independent arbitrator and he has already served eight of the maximum 20 games faced, but seven games would have to be trimmed for Calgary to have 20 games left when he returns. He is far from irreplaceable at fourth in average ice time and blue-line scoring, but a right-handed veteran is an important thing to have on the back end.
Similarly, Ramo was not having a great 2015-16 NHL season (17-18-1, .909 save percentage and 2.63 GAA), but the Flames must now rely on Jonas Hiller (8-7-1, .886 and 3.27). Furthermore, they have no goalies behind them ready to play against the world’s best.
A team a little closer to the postseason bubble or one with fewer issues already lingering in the units taking these roster hits might be able to still reach the Stanley Cup playoffs. Instead, Calgary would be better off getting a premium draft position by falling to last place in the Pacific Division—another side benefit of being a seller at the trade deadline.