It’s two clashes out of an 82-game slate, but the Calgary Flames are facing a tipping point part of their season this weekend.
Saturday’s Battle of Alberta affair in Edmonton Saturday night followed by a meeting with the Vancouver Canucks less than 24 hours later will tell us so much about what to think of this squad and its possible fortunes.
Sure, it’s hard to find too many people who still believe this year’s edition of the Flames have any hope of being a playoff squad, but we’ll assume there are some out there.
It’s up to the Flames to provide reason for anybody to remain on their bandwagon instead of jumping off completely.
How they perform and what results they get against their Western Canada and Northwest Division rivals will tell us all plenty.
That is, unless you’re among the crew which has already written off this season — which is understandable when you’re talking about a team which has a 10-12-2 record, is sitting 13th in the Western Conference standings and failed to even win three straight games this season.
If the Flames drop both games, especially in the disappointing fashion seen all too often this year, it will be painfully obvious the run of missing the playoffs is destined to increase to three seasons.
If the Flames split the games, it will be just a continuation of what we’ve seen all season: The win-one, lose-one trend that has them sitting at a level below mediocre.
Frankly, the Flames need to somehow return to the Saddledome with at least three points in those two games, which would give them a chance to pull over the .500 mark during next week’s three-game homestand before embarking on their first lengthy road trip of this month.
They know the pressure’s on. In fact, GM Jay Feaster admitted Friday at the Saddledome this is a “critical part of the schedule” for the team.
“We can’t fool ourselves. We need to pick up points,” Feaster said. “When you look at the schedule this past week and as it sets up going into the Christmas break, this is an important time. It’s going to be a tough road for us after Christmas, and we know that.”
Feaster, however, has a different take on when his team is at a point of no return from its fate.
He sees their crucial date being around Christmas.
Starting Saturday, the Flames have 15 games — 10 of them on the road — in 28 days.
Sure, it would be nice for the Flames to think they can duplicate their impressive run to the finish line from last season, but that’s unreasonable to expect.
Therefore, it’s time to make a real move upwards, because the day is coming when the Flames will decide whether their sellers and going to continue their retooling process, maybe even step it up to a full-scale rebuild.
“If we’re not going to be a team that’s going to make the playoffs, we have some tough decisions we need to make,” Feaster admitted. “I can tell you this, there is clearly urgency on all our parts. The coaching staff feels urgency. I feel urgency. The guys feel the urgency.
“This isn’t where you sit and say we’ll wait until January something or Feb. 1 and make our decision. We need to get back in this thing now, and we need to be realistic about where we are.”
Two games this weekend will go a long way to showing what path they’re headed toward.