This is not a familiar spot for the Chicago Wolves. Accustomed to winning division titles and earning home-ice advantages, the Wolves find themselves with the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed for the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs.
This is the 17th time in the Wolves’ 21-year history that they’ve made the postseason, but it’s the first time as the No. 8 seed. That means they get the top-seeded Utica Comets in the first round, which opens Wednesday night at Allstate Arena.
How much of a disadvantage can it be for No. 8 seeds in the modern hockey world? Not much at all.
Look at the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings started as the eighth seed, but they lost just four games during the postseason on the way to their first Stanley Cup championship.
Look at last year’s Calder Cup Playoffs. Manchester entered as the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed after stacking up 105 points during the regular season, but eighth-seeded Norfolk needed just four games to knock out the Monarchs.
“Just because you’re an eighth seed doesn’t matter anymore,” said Wolves assistant coach Brad Tapper. “Any team can win on any given night.”
That mindset worked pretty well for the 2001-02 Wolves squad that featured Tapper on the roster. That team entered the playoffs as the No. 7 seed, but wound up winning the Calder Cup.
Because that team finished on top, everybody forgets this not-so-fun fact about that group: It entered the postseason with a four-game losing streak. In a similar vein, this year’s Wolves lost three of their final five regular-season games.
But you never know when a team might catch fire.