Tonight marks the fifth of six meetings between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, with the Flames having taken 3 of 4 games thus far. As always, Rexall Place will be jumping for the Battle of Alberta.
Is it better to be an Oilers fan or a Flames fan these days? Is it better to have a promising future or be part of a spirited fight to make the playoffs? I am horribly biased, but I will take the Oilers current situation over the Flames every day of the week.
The Oilers come into tonight’s game having lost eight in a row. Already thin on talent, the Oilers have cobbled together a lineup better suited to play in Oklahoma City. With Hall, Hemsky, Horcoff, Brule and Gagner on the shelf, tonight’s team won’t be full of household names. I had to go onto the Oilers website to get the first names of Chris Vandevelde and Teemu Hartikaninen. Ryan O’Marra, Liam Reddox and JF Jacques round out the AHL All Stars that will suit up tonight.
The Flames come into tonight desperately tying to end their three game losing streak. A loss tonight will likely be the final nail in the coffin to a team that looked like it had run out of gas against San Jose Wednesday night. A great stretch of hockey from late December through the Heritage Classic on February 20th got the Flames right in the playoff picture. A 6-6-3 slide since the Classic now puts the Flames in 10th place with 85 points and only six games left to play. They are chasing Anaheim, with 87 points and eight games left, and Chicago, with 88 points and nine games left. It doesn’t look good. Somewhat surprisingly, there really hasn’t been any buzz around town here in Calgary. The cupboard is bare in terms of prospects and few believe that the team would go far if they squeaked into the playoffs. Kipper, Iginla and Regehr all have a lot of miles on their skates. The Flames aren’t a year away or a couple of pieces away from a Stanley Cup.
In Oil Country, there is still a lot of hope for the team that sits dead last in the NHL with only 54 points. Hockey Night in Canada will be doing its part to sell the future to Oilers fans after tonight’s game. CBC’s After Hours segment will feature Hall, Eberle, Paarjavi and Gagner.
Another #1 overall pick looks likely with the Oilers 8 points clear of Colorado for basement position. The drafting of a stud defenseman like Swedish prospect Adam Larsson this June will be an essential part of the rebuild. Oilers fans knew coming into this season that the team in still early in the rebuilding process. The Oilers play hard every night and are generally a fast and exciting team to watch.
The Oilers’ cupboard is stocked full of provisions for the upcoming seasons. A few ingredients are missing (dominant #1 centre and all star caliber defenseman), but there is a lot to smile about. Hockey fans have witnessed successful rebuilds in Pittsburgh and Chicago.
While it is way too soon to predict how the Oilers might look in a few years, we Oilers fans can at least look forward to the future. Flames fans can only put their heads in the sand and dread what is to come. The score tonight doesn’t even matter. The Oilers are already winning the Battle of Alberta.