The Flames in an American Thanksgiving playoff game – can they hold on?

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and according to the National Hockey League calendar, it’s the 45th day of the regular season. Whichever way you slice it, we’re at the quarter mark of the schedule and the Calgary Flames are in a decent place considering how uneven their play is: a playoff berth.

If you look at things by percentage — in order to balance out the disproportionate number of games played thus far — the Flames are the third best team in the Pacific Division. (If you go by pure points, they’re a wild card team.)

If you look at recent history — again, in percentage points — being in the playoffs on Thanksgiving is much better than not being, but it’s not a guarantee.

From 2021–22, all eight Thanksgiving Eastern Conference playoff teams reached the postseason. In the Western Conference, there were five of the eight – Vegas, Winnipeg and Anaheim disagreed.

In 2018-19 (the next “regular” season we can look at), six of the eight Eastern teams and six of the eight Western teams that were in the stadiums on Thanksgiving ended up qualifying.

In the 2017-2018 season, five of the eight Eastern teams and six of the eight Western playoff teams as of Thanksgiving have finished up. (One Western team that fell between Thanksgiving and the end of the season, in a big way, was Calgary.)

One of the reasons American Thanksgiving is such a good scale, in general, is because of the easy standard that a quarter of the season provides. But one reason it might not be entirely representative is how weird the NHL schedule is. For example, the Flames have never played a schedule so skewed in the Eastern Conference, nor have they played any games against divisional opponents like Anaheim, San Jose, and Vancouver.

Another reason for not having a Thanksgiving shot can also be found with the Flames: It takes time for teams to clear out. The Flames are missing Oliver Killington, and key players like Jonathan Huberdeau still seem to find their way around. Simply put: if you’re thinking the Flames weren’t the team they’re going to be this season, you’re probably right, and there are a lot of teams in the same boat in terms of injury handling, cap. issues, and the incorporation of new faces.

Thanksgiving is a handy benchmark and the Flames are on the right side of the playoffs chase right now. But it is certainly not a guarantee that they will cement a playoff spot in the remaining 63 games of the season.

Do you think the Flames are likely to be a playoff team this season? Do you like snapshotting the American Thanksgiving standings as a measure of a team’s success? Let us know in the comments!

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