That’s it, I’m rolling out one of the most-used cliches in sports history to describe what’s going on with the Calgary Flames.
'It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.'
Master malapropist Yogi Berra’s magnum opus of quips applies to hockey as much as it does to every sport played on Earth.
But that's the NFL. I’d be willing to bet those Dolphins, Lions and Bucs would’ve ditched the zeroes in their records if they played more games, but then pigskin football would be outlawed due to the number of casualties. No one would want that. I think.
In the NHL, the team with the best single-season win percentage, the 1929-30 Boston Bruins, compiled a .875 win percentage with a 38-5-1 mark. Compare that to today’s Bruins squad, which has a .817 win percentage (49-9-5) through 63 games played so far this season. The greatest modern team win percentage belongs to the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens at .825 (60-8-12).
Greats are fallable, too
But look at that, those winning teams lost games, too. One of those five ancient Bruins losses came at the hands of the lowly New York Americans, the second-worst squad in the then 10-team NHL.
The current Bruins suffered a regulation loss to the now out-of-playoff-position Ottawa Senators in October.
The Guy Lafleur-led '76-77 Habs at least lost exclusively to teams who made the playoffs that campaign, but one loss was to a middling .500 Toronto Maple Leafs squad.
And the worst NHL team of all time, the ‘74-75 Washington Capitals — owners of a .131 win percentage — still won eight games (and tied five) out of 80. They even tied the Flames (then of Atlanta) in one of them.
The lesson: All teams win and lose games. It’s not scripted like a soap opera, sitcom or wrestling.
Drama? Yes please
Which is why, deep down, fans of the Flames and all sports watch in the first place: For the unpredictable drama, mostly hoping for the highs that comes with their favourite team’s wins but also enduring the lows of losing.
I haven’t even mentioned the amazing improbable in-season comebacks that have occurred in sports history. You can Google that yourself.
At least one former version of the Flames themselves have authored comebacks of the third-period variety to vault into the post-season.
I don’t need to bring all this up, really, because the Flames are still — before games played tonight — a measly four points behind the Winnipeg Jets for that last wildcard spot with 17 games left on Calgary’s schedule.
It's reasonable to anticipate Flames in playoffs
By Wednesday, they could very well have completed a streak of five victories, given their opponents in the next three games are all below them in the standings. And they could be in eighth in the West.
After all, the Jets are worse off opponent-wise in roughly the same span. Three of their next four games are against Eastern Conference heavies the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Boston Bruins. I didn't even include the Florida Panthers, a powerhouse last season that is inexplicably sitting outside the East playoff picture (sound familiar?)
Or the Flames could fall into an indefensible death spiral or plod along at a more-or-less .500 pace. Jets fans only wish.
See? Drama of major-league proportions.
It’s the chief reason why you buy tickets, subscribe to sports TV channels, check scores and stats on smartphone apps and wear apparel.
And it's why there’s even a team in Calgary in the first place, one that’s currently figuring out how to get a new arena worth $600 million-plus built.
Because you’ll watch. Besides, it’s mid-March and it's still below zero outside like it has been most of the last four months.
Sure, there are people who don’t watch hockey in Calgary, but many do — and more jump on board if the Flames make the playoffs in the spring, spurring a flood of Flaming C flag-adorned vehicles on the streets.
But will the Flames make it? Yogi?
'It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.'
So true. Pass the popcorn.