It was the way it was from 1975 to 1993 when the NHL kicked those names to the curb in favour of the geography-themed names of Atlantic, Central, Northeast and Pacific.
This brief history lesson is important to give you some context for when people start referring to this year's Pacific Division as a throwback to the old Norris Division. When you hear that, understand that it's not a flattering comparison. Especially in the late 80s, the Norris was the laughing stock of the league.
Take the 1988-89 season for just one example.
Norris Division - Final Standings
1. Detroit, 34-34-12, 80 pts
2. St. Louis, 33-35-12, 78 pts
3. Minnesota, 27-37-16, 70 pts
4. Chicago, 27-41-12, 66 pts
5. Toronto, 28-46-6, 62 pts
Meanwhile, here's how things looked at the top of the Smythe Division, which made up the other side of the Clarence Campbell Conference (another great name lost in history, replaced by Western Conference).
Smythe Division - Final Standings
1. Calgary, 54-17-9, 117 pts
2. Los Angeles, 42-31-7, 91 pts
3. Edmonton, 38-34-8, 84 pts
Now this was back when the first two playoff rounds were within the division (1 vs 4, 2 vs 3, then winners met) so that season the Oilers had to open the playoffs on the road in LA even though had they played in the Norris, they would have won the division.
Fast Forward to Today
Getting back to the NHL of today and 30 teams instead of 21, here is how the Norris-esque Pacific (Kings being the obvious exception) looks as of Monday morning. Included in red is the projected season-ending point total.
1. Los Angeles, 26 gm, 17-8-1, 35 pts (110 pts)
2. San Jose, 26 gm, 14-12-0, 28 pts (88 pts)
3. Arizona, 27 gm, 13-13-1, 27 pts (82 pts)
4. Anaheim, 28 gm, 11-12-5, 27 pts (79 pts)
5. Vancouver, 28 gm, 9-11-8, 26 pts (76 pts)
6. Edmonton, 28 gm, 11-15-2, 24 pts (70 pts)
7. Calgary, 26 gm, 10-14-2, 22 pts (69 pts)
The Flames woke up this morning in 30th place. With the league's worst goaltending and worst goal differential, it's not an aberration. Last place is where Calgary fully deserves to be at the one-third mark in the season.
However, they are also only six points back of second place and home-ice advantage in the playoffs and they can whittle that gap down to four points with a regulation win over the Sharks on Tuesday night.
Calgary's playoff aspirations should be buried by now but they're not because of the division they play in, it's that simple. Should they feel guilty about it? Sure, a little bit. But you could also chalk it up as life evening itself out after all those years in the Smythe when the Flames were stuck in the same division as the juggernaut Edmonton Oilers with the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and Grant Fuhr.
Never mind what kind of win-loss record Calgary needs to get to 93, 95 or 97 points, the only pertinent math is this:
- If the Flames beat San Jose on Tuesday, can they be five points better than the Sharks over the final 55 games?
- A win Tuesday would also bring Calgary to within three points of the Coyotes. So same question, can the Flames be four points better than Arizona over the final 55 games? This is the same Coyotes team that many picked to finish a distant 30th overall and have crashed back to earth lately having lost four straight and given up 20 goals in that span.
- As for the Canucks and Oilers, Calgary holds two games in hand on both so a couple wins this homestand and they're pretty much even making the question, can the Flames be one point better than both Edmonton and Vancouver over the final 54 games of the season?
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we will begin.
1. Johnny B. Goode at Even-Strength
Last year, Jiri Hudler was the NHL's even-strength scoring champion with 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists), finishing one point ahead of Jamie Benn (23-36-59). Johnny Gaudreau finished in a tie for 35th (16-27-43).
A look at the even-strength scoring leaders for this season reveals it is Gaudreau that is the threat this time. Tied for 11th in overall league scoring, he is tied for third in even-strength points and with less games played than the others.
NHL Top 10 - Even-Strength Points
(Ties sorted by fewer games, then most goals)
1. Patrick Kane CHI, 7-21-28
2. Tyler Seguin DAL, 11-13-24
3. Johnny Gaudreau CGY, 8-13-21
4. Mike Cammalleri NJ, 9-12-21
5. Artemi Panarin CHI, 9-12-21
6. Jamie Benn DAL, 8-13-21
7. Taylor Hall EDM, 9-12-21
8. Vladimir Tarasenko STL, 11-9-20
9. Dylan Larkin DET, 11-9-20
10. Bobby Ryan OTT, 7-13-20
Gaudreau has been especially effective at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Over the last three games, he's been on the ice for nine of the Flames 10 goals (5 goals, 2 assists) and over the span of his current nine-game points streak at home, he has 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists).
Gaudreau is tied for second behind Patrick Kane when it comes to the most productive player on home ice.
NHL Top 5 - Home Points
(Ties sorted by fewer games, then most goals)
1. Patrick Kane CHI, 9-15-24
2. Johnny Gaudreau CGY, 7-12-19
3. Jamie Benn DAL, 12-7-19
4. Erik Karlsson OTT, 5-13-18
5. Taylor Hall EDM, 7-11-18
2. Bad Case of the Deja Vu's
This year has started out in many ways like the Flames season two years ago. In fact, Calgary has the exact same point total through 26 games.
2013-14 - 26 gm, 9-13-4 for 22 points (minus-25 goal differential)
2015-16 - 26 gm, 10-14-2 for 22 points (minus-29 goal differential)
Failure to string together wins was an issue two years ago also with two multi-game winning streaks in the first one-third of the season -- both only being two games long. Same for this year's Flames, who also haven't won three games in a row yet and are currently working on just their third multi-game winning streak.
Comparisons to that season aren't terrible if you're comparing against the final 34 games (starting with the overtime loss the night of the infamous January 18 brawl in Vancouver) when Calgary finished 19-14-1. However, equalling the first 26 games is not good at all if you consider the personnel differences between this year's team and that 2013-14 team.
You can see why expectations were considerably higher for this year's team:
- Out: Mike Cammalleri, Curtis Glencross, Lee Stempniak, Brian McGrattan, TJ Galiardi, Paul Byron, Kevin Westgarth, Sven Baertschi
- In: Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Michael Frolik, Josh Jooris, Micheal Ferland, Mason Raymond, Brandon Bollig, Markus Granlund
- Out: Chris Butler, Shane O'Brien
- In: Dougie Hamilton, Deryk Engelland
- Out: Reto Berra
- In: Jonas Hiller
A comparison to a year ago when Calgary had the same goaltenders speaks volumes to how far the play at this position has fallen off. Ponder this: Last season, Calgary gave up one-or-fewer goals in a game more often than they gave up four-or-more goals. This year, it's completely the opposite and not even close.
- Four-or-More Goals Against - 15 times this year (last year, 19 times)
- One-or-Fewer Goals Against - 2 times this year (last year, 21 times)
It's looking more and more like next season, if not before, there will be at least one and probably two new goaltenders in town. It's just too important of a position to have so much continued uncertainty.
Turning the focus to the skaters, here's a look at who's hot or not.
- RW Garnet Hathaway, 6 pts (2 g, 4 a) in his last 4 gm
- C Freddie Hamilton, 7 pts (2 g, 5 a) in his last 5 gm
- LW Kenny Agostino, 4 pts (3 g, 1 a) in his last 2 gm
- LW Morgan Klimchuk, 0 pts in 9 gm on the season (played 5 games since returning from injury)
- RW Austin Carroll, 0 pts in his last 7 gm
- RW Emile Poirier, 3 pts (1 g, 2 a) in his last 13 gm (missed last 3 games with upper body injury)
- On Saturday night, Derek Grant had a big night with two goals including the game-winner, seven shots on goal and he also dropped the gloves and got in a spirited fight.
- Jakub Nakladal had nine shots on goal on Friday's 5-3 loss in San Jose. The 27-year-old pending UFA continues to look solid and will surely find his way to Calgary (and this time into the line-up) at some point this season.
- McDonald - 19 gm, 7-12-0 with a 3.47 GAA and a .893 SV%
- Blackwood - 24 gm, 16-7-0 with a 2.36 GAA and a .932 SV%
- 2013 - Tyler Wotherspoon
- 2010 (Silver) - Greg Nemisz
- 2009 (Gold) - Keith Aulie
- 2007 (Gold) - Leland Irving
- 2006 (Gold) - Dustin Boyd
- 2005 (Gold) - Dion Phaneuf
- 2004 (Silver) - Dion Phaneuf
- 2002 (Silver) - Chuck Kobasew
- 2001 (Bronze) - Jarret Stoll*
- 1999 (Silver) - Robyn Regehr^, Blair Betts, Rico Fata, Daniel Tkaczuk
- 1998 - Daniel Tkaczuk
- 1996 (Gold) - Denis Gauthier, Jarome Iginla
- 1995 (Gold) - Marty Murray
- 1994 (Gold) - Joel Bouchard, Marty Murray
- 1993 (Gold) - Joel Bouchard
- 1992 - Trevor Kidd
- 1991 (Gold) - Trevor Kidd, Kent Manderville
- 1990 (Gold) - Trevor Kidd, Kent Manderville
- 1988 (Gold) - Theoren Fleury
- 1987 - Theoren Fleury
- 1986 (Silver) - Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts
- 1985 (Gold) - Brian Bradley
- 1983 (Bronze) - Mike Vernon
- 1982 (Gold) - Bruce Eakin, Pierre Rioux^
- 1981 - Denis Cyr
- 1978 (Bronze) - Brad Marsh#
- 1977 - Brad Marsh#
^ Was not yet Calgary property but became so shortly after and made his NHL debut with the Flames
# Was an Atlanta Flames draft pick but made his NHL debut with Calgary
Cover your eyes as the 'blown lead' counter is up to 19 now.
Calgary has broken a tie and gone ahead in a game a total of 22 times this season. They've blown that lead 19 times. The latest two blown leads came against Boston on Friday when the Flames led 2-0, then again at 3-2, only to fritter away both of those advantages and need Jiri Hudler's tying goal with 1.2 seconds remaining to get the game to overtime.
It's a disturbing trend and one that's difficult to fully comprehend.
How can a team that's won 10 games have only successfully hung onto a lead three times? By winning six games in overtime and another in a shootout, that's how.
Here are the only three leads Calgary has held:
- Oct. 31 in Edm - Took a 5-4 lead with 0:09 left in the third on Michael Frolik's fluke goal. Won by that same score.
- Nov. 7 vs Pit - Took a 2-1 lead at 16:21 of the first on Johnny Gaudreau's goal. Won 5-2.
- Nov. 17 vs NJ - Took a 1-0 lead at 10:04 of the first on TJ Brodie's goal. Never trailed the rest of the night in winning 3-2.
Yes, you're reading that correct. It's been three weeks since the Flames last successfully held onto a lead. Yikes. Going hand in hand with that stat is another category in which Calgary is at the bottom of the NHL.
Fewest Regulation Wins:
7 - Leafs, Hurricanes
6 - Oilers
5 - Flyers
3 - Flames
Anytime the Oilers have done something positive twice as often as you, that's not good.
Where has the ornery Stanley Cup playoffs-version of Micheal Ferland gone? He leads the Flames in hits (51) but he's not having nearly the same impact on games as he could be having and I'd argue should be having.
I agree that 40 hits in six games -- an average of 6.7 hits per game -- like he had against the Canucks last April, is a pace that could not be sustained without him ending up regularly on the IR. However, a pace of 2.8 hits per game as he's currently averaging is also not something that can be sustained if he wants to stay in the NHL.
The Flames need more out of Ferland and maybe Lance Bouma's return to practice on Sunday will spark him because I don't know that his line-up spot is 100 percent safe once Bouma returns. Safe is also how I'd describe how Ferland has been playing much of this season. In fact, too safe. He appears too comfortable and not sure if that's a byproduct of his one-way contract or just an inability to get up for teams in the same way you can when you're locked into a long, emotional playoff series.
There were two opportunities last week for Ferland to flex a little muscle.
First was in the Dallas game when Dougie Hamilton laid a heavy check along the end boards on agitator Antoine Roussel. The two exchanged words all the way back up the ice and while Roussell wanted Hamilton to drop the gloves with him, he didn't oblige. But, nor should he have to against the Stars penalty minute leader.
This is where Ferland needs to step in later in the game and let Hamilton know he's got his back and have a little chinwag with the Dallas pest. If you're Calgary, you want Hamilton playing more physical, using his size like he did in that sequence. But man, back him up a little bit when he does.
Similar thing against the Bruins. Away from the play, Sean Monahan received two heavy cross-checks in the back seconds apart, the second from Brad Marchand. To his credit, Gaudreau jabs his stick at Marchand as a response, only to have Marchand give him the stick right back. Again, it doesn't have to be a fight, but Ferland needs to be the guy that steps in and reminds Marchand that he's the guy he has to deal with if he's going to go after Calgary's skilled players.
We've seen lots of good from Ferland this season in spurts, but not often enough and with Calgary looking up at 29 other teams, a more emotional and involved Ferland would certainly help this club moving forward.
By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.
- Will This Time be Different? A Look at the Flames Inability to Leverage Big Wins -Flames were riding high on emotion after the comeback against the Stars but they've had so-called big wins before -- three times -- and followed them with a dud. (Dec. 4, 2015)
- Eight From 80 Feet: Eight Dreadful Stats That Have Defined the Flames Season - It was a forgettable October and November with Calgary (8-14-2) tied with Edmonton for fewest points. Here are eight categories in which the Flames rank last (or second-last). (Nov. 30, 2015)
- Markus Granlund and the Risks of Giving him the Marty St. Louis Treatment - Scoring stars in the minors, used as fourth line players in the NHL, there is a similarity to how Granlund's career has begun and how St. Louis' time went in Calgary. (Nov. 28, 2015)
- So Close, Yet So Far Away: Ortio's Career Takes a Humbling Turn for the Worse: In a fitting exclamation mark to a truly terrible 48 hours for Ortio, he got lit up for four goals on 12 shots on Friday. Unclaimed on waivers, maybe he simply isn't that good. (Nov. 27, 2015)
- TJ Brodie's Rapid Rise to Becoming One of the NHL's Most Dynamic Defencemen: TJ Brodie wasn't even sure if he'd be drafted. Now he's one of the most exciting young defencemen in the NHL. Brodie talks about his career to date. (Nov. 18, 2015)