2013-14 Division Rivals: Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames

Jonathan Willis
August 19 2013 09:58AM

The Calgary Flames appear to be rebuilding. After resisting the urge for years, the team sold off high-priced talent at the 2013 Deadline, and barring something extraordinary the club appears destined for the NHL cellar next season. How do they compare to the Oilers?

As with previous pieces, I’ve included one basic statistic at each position on the depth charts below. For forwards, I’ve used points from last season projected over an 82-game schedule, for defencemen time on ice per game in 2012-13, and for goalies their 2012-13 save percentage. Players in italics did not play a significant number of games in the NHL in 2012-13; red indicates numbers come from the AHL or Europe while green indicates a previous NHL season. And again, the same caveat: these depth charts are my best approximation of each team and the line combinations should not be seen as definitive.

Forwards

Despite the doom and gloom surrounding Calgary, they have pretty decent depth and a serviceable top-nine. The trouble comes at the top of the lineup, as is obvious when compared to Edmonton. Curtis Glencross is a good player, but Taylor Hall he isn’t. Mikael Backlund’s a solid young centre, but he isn’t in the same range as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Mike Cammalleri vs. Jordan Eberle is probably the closest match, but Cammalleri’s also an unrestricted free agent and will probably be elsewhere for the last third of the season or so.

Matt Stajan and Lee Stempniak are both solid players – and typically underrated – but like Cammalleri they’re bound for free agency in the summer and are good bets not to finish the year with the Flames; even if they were the duo of Gagner and Perron are better-suited to second line work.

Calgary’s weakness at centre likely means either Corban Knight or Sean Monahan win a top-nine job out of training camp; I’ve bet on Knight here because he’s a little older. Knight’s a solid prospect and likely has a higher ceiling than Boyd Gordon, but Gordon’s the guy I’d pick to anchor a third line at this point in time. Two of three guys will fill the last top-nine roles – youngster Sven Baertschi, veteran TJ Galiardi and David Jones, the latter coming off a rough year in Colorado. I can’t decide if I prefer that group to the Edmonton equivalents (Hemsky, Jones, Smyth) in 2013-14 – Ales Hemsky’s likely the best of the group but Calgary’s trio have good points.

Regardless, the Oilers win this matchup in a rout based on a top-six mismatch and the likelihood of the Flames’ roster getting gutted by the deadline.

Defence and Goaltending

I’m a big fan of both Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie – the latter was a revelation last season on a pairing with Dennis Wideman – but this is a group with some problems. I like Giordano/Wideman slightly better than Smid/Petry as a tough minutes pairing, but I’m not wild about either set of rearguards for those minutes.

Brodie should be Calgary’s third defenceman, but after that it looks like a toss-up as to whether Kris Russell or Chris Butler switches to the right side on the second pairing and neither guy was especially good in a third-pairing role last season. There’s a trio of good players on the Flames and then a bunch of maybes after that; frankly, if Anton Belov played in Calgary I’d like his chances at breaking into the top-four. Given Edmonton’s depth and the slightness of Calgary’s edge at the top end, I like the Oilers’ group significantly more.

Unless somebody surprises – say, for example, Mark Cundari steps in an solidifies Calgary’s top-four – this is going to be a real weakness for the Flames.

In net, I like Karri Ramo a lot; he’s been dominant in the KHL for the last three seasons. That said, it’s always a gamble to pencil in an unknown as the starter and the depth behind him – career third-stringer Joey MacDonald, Reto Berra and his 0.906 Swiss league save percentage – don’t inspire confidence. It’s a good thing Calgary has a fourth goalie (Joni Ortio, 0.917 save percentage in Finland) because they might need him. Right now, Edmonton is far and away the safer bet between the pipes.

Overall

Calgary shed some key players from last season – Iginla, Bouwmeester, Tanguay – and while they’ve done a decent job of filling out the roster with NHL-calibre players they almost certainly won’t be a good team next year. They lack top-end talent in all positions, depth on defence, and anything resembling certainty in net.

Strange things can happen, but the Oilers should pass the Flames by a comfortable margin in 2013-14.

Recently around the Nation Network

Last week was the second anniversary of the death of Rick Rypien; Dmitri Filipovic of Canucks Army remembered him by collecting some perspectives on the tragedy: 

In the past two years there have been many, many beautiful words written on both the subject of mental illness, and Rick Rypien himself. I don't have much else to add that hasn't already been said. So instead, I've decided that on this day, I'd simply pass along some of my personal favourite articles that have been written for those that either haven't gotten to read them yet, or would like to give them another look. After all, this is a day of remembering for most.

Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 geoilersgist
August 19 2013, 10:03AM
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Great picture to open the article with JW haha love it

This is a great series.

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#2 David S
August 19 2013, 10:09AM
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HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA *cough* HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Eat (human fecal matter) Flames!

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#3 Spydyr
August 19 2013, 10:11AM
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Harvey should have never got on the wrong side of Mac-T.Now he sleeps with the fishes.

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#4 Will
August 19 2013, 10:28AM
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Poor Flames.

They don't have the offence, especially if anyone in their top six gets injured. Their defence, like ours needs either some major work, or some prospects to mature and step up. And they lost the only thing they could rely on in Kipper.

They basically need an overhaul at nearly every position. And to top it all off, the Saddle Dome needs to be repaired.

They are going to be in serious trouble this year.

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#5 LinkfromHyrule
August 19 2013, 10:57AM
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come on Calgary, if you really want to tank you need a real GM like Steve Tambellini to show you how it's done. That man will screw your team so bad it'll take literally years to finish your rebuild

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#6 Wäx Män Riley
August 19 2013, 11:20AM
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LinkfromHyrule wrote:

come on Calgary, if you really want to tank you need a real GM like Steve Tambellini to show you how it's done. That man will screw your team so bad it'll take literally years to finish your rebuild

Well if anyone can do it, I believe Jay Feaster is the guy!

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#7 Fogey
August 19 2013, 11:26AM
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JW: You forgot to include the other "jewel" in the Iginla trade, Kenny Agostino. Oh wait, he's staying in school. Yeah, good plan.

When a team is down you pile on. The Oil will need all the points in this series so I look forward to many beatings.

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#8 sec206
August 19 2013, 11:37AM
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remember it's not a rebuild , they're 're-tooling'

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#9 vetinari
August 19 2013, 11:46AM
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Can we get that mini-video of MacT strutting around again-- and maybe photoshop Harvey's head into MacT's hands somehow?

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#10 Will
August 19 2013, 11:49AM
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Hey Hey hey, now lets not forget they have first round pick, and best player of the 2012 draft, Mark Jankowski on the way.

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#11 Hayek
August 19 2013, 11:51AM
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Who is Corban Knight? All of a sudden, I want to know more about this player. That is a lot of points in the AHL.

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#12 The Soup Fascist
August 19 2013, 11:56AM
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MacT should have had Sammy (Semenko not Gagner) put Harvey's head in Feaster's bed .....

... and then make him an offer he couldn't refuse.

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#14 Sheldon
August 19 2013, 12:25PM
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Knight was in College last season

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#15 oilerman53
August 19 2013, 01:30PM
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Calgary went far and beyond the premise of know when to hold em and know when to fold em. Sadly and it pains me to even say this with Kipper in net the Flames are capable of being a ninth place team. This guy when on can steal games and make this team solid on any given night. If I were Feaster I would have sent him packing and not listen to his whines. There are going to be some dark days in Cowtown and I will be singing some happy songs when we see them spin their wheels for the next few years. At least our blowing up the team yielded some high end talent, Calgarys impatience and penchant for signing UFA's keeps them in 9th-11th for many years to come.

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#16 Rocket
August 19 2013, 02:07PM
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One thing I always admired about The Flames is how they really take the battle of Alberta seriously. They really laid a beatdown on The Oilers this last decade and although Advantage has switched recently, I think Calgary will still man up for these games.

I'm interested to see when Calgary brings up Monahan. I don't think they will rush him but if the season is over early, they might feel some fan pressure to give the fans something to cheer about in March.

Remember all the debate with Bringing in Eberle early so that fans could get a look at him to distract from the sucky Oilers?

Either way, I hope The Flames are terrible for a really long time.

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#17 OilClog
August 19 2013, 02:41PM
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hah! calgary

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#18 rickithebear
August 19 2013, 02:58PM
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The worst EVGA pairing in the game was Giordano and Wiedman. Worst! the 2nd worst was N.Schultz-J.Schultz.

Smid-Petry were the 3rd best EVGA 1st comp D pair behind. Chara-Boychuck Oduya-Hjarlmasson

Winning is about Puck in the net or out of the net.

The worst over the third best.

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#19 Will
August 19 2013, 03:12PM
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I actually think bringing Kipper back (if that's happening) might be worse than giving one of their prospects the starting job.

First of all, Kipper has absolutely nothing to play for. He knows he's going to retire at the end of the year and likely doesn't even want to come back. You can't trade him because of his contract and clause, unless he changes his mind and wants to go to a cup contender at the deadline for a shot at Stanely.

Second, because he's not playing for anything, why not bring up an unproven tandem and let them play for the starting job.

Third, why would Calgary want to win. Their only up and coming player is TJ, other than that everyone is due to become a UFA, and likely will test themselves on the open market rather than resign in Calgary. So why not tank and get yourself a Reihnhart or an even better number one over all in 2015?

Finally, without Calgary's usually decent defence corps Kipper is going to get shelled in the new division. Ask Pekka Rinne how well that went for him.

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#20 The Towel Boy
August 19 2013, 03:23PM
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I may be just a biased Oiler fan, but I recall more than a few BoA's where Kipper was the difference. ...By my COMPLETELY FAN BIASED EYE.

I can't wait to see if he really was that good, or if the Oilers just sucked at burying chances.

Bring on the BofAs!

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#21 The Last Big Bear
August 19 2013, 04:06PM
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A few years ago, Flames fans were saying things like "Edmonton isn't really even a rival anymore, we should be focusing on beating Vancouver", and other bull****. Just because the Flames maybe swept the season series.

Not me.

I said "Savour the boot-****ing. The Flames are killing their rivals every night, and we should enjoy the total on-ice domination while it lasts. Because the tides will someday turn."

Gotta be honest, though. The Oilers look like bottom-feeders again this year too.

I think the season series will be a close one.

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#22 Section205
August 19 2013, 05:30PM
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I'm a Flames fan (go on, trash it!) also looking forward to BoA's and an unhealthy rivalry again soon.

One comment on the projections of Calgary forwards based on last year...

Tanguay and Iginla were (rightly) taking first line ice-time and first unit power plays that will now be spread amongst the Glencross/Cammalleri/Backlund/Hudler players. All other things being equal, the Flames top3/top6 should score much more frequently than they did last year when they were playing limited minutes behind Iginla/Tanguay line.

In goal, we can only hope and pray that Ramo can deliver .915 or .920 if we are going to be truly competitive. Otherwise we will be at the bottom of the division for sure.

My gut says Ramo will be about .910 and the Flames will be respectable up to the deadline. At that date, the responsible thing to do is turn over roster players for picks etc.

Based on what NHL numbers has to say (in pictures and in words) about the Oilers, I am not sure they have a "comfortable margin" on anyone. Eakins/MacT still have their work cut out for them.

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#23 ed in edmonton
August 19 2013, 07:01PM
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If Michael Backlund is your top center, its going to be a long season.

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#24 yawto
August 19 2013, 07:29PM
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Section 205, Buy some seats in the 100's, the elevation is effecting your mind. I remember defending the Oilers pre Eberle, Hall et al. Now I really see how foolish I looked. If an Oiler fan knows one thing, it's what a team full of suck looks like. Change backlund to gagner, cammi to hemmer and giordano to visnovsky and you practically have our roster from a few years ago, a whole bunch of suck.

As for you JW, how do I props an article/picture cause you could have just posted a title that said flames 2013/14 with Harvey's head like that and 'nuff said. Good article, great picture.

Eat sh!t Calgary.

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#25 RexLibris
August 19 2013, 10:53PM
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Scott Cullen has an interesting rating system for forwards in his annual team-by-team off-season plan review.

It scores forwards on a 100 point scale and a player needs to break 70 to be considered a top-six option.

In his review of Calgary he had only one player off this roster score above 70, Lee Stempniak at roughly 72.

Glencross is a nice player, and would be an upgrade on virtually anyone the Oilers could dress for their third line, but he's too high in the batting order for the Flames right now.

Cammalleri is still perceived as the player he was in 2008 and is beginning to fade.

There was a discussion over at FN a short while ago about whom the fans thought would lead the Flames in scoring. I had raised the point that the team may only manage one or perhaps two players who break the 50 pt barrier with the team this coming season.

Looking back at other teams during their initial rebuilding year, Chicago, Edmonton, etc, most of them who undertake this kind of massive exercise manage one or two above 50 while the rest of the roster gets massacred.

All that being said, I've watched the Oilers get their hats handed to them too many times these past few years to believe that they will now suddenly be able to simply waltz out of any BoA match with 2 points. I have hope, but remain cautious.

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#26 rickithebear
August 20 2013, 09:39AM
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//Glencross is a nice player, and would be an upgrade on virtually anyone the Oilers could dress for their third line, but he's too high in the batting order for the Flames right now.//

Epic Fail!

total goals the last three seasons. fwds #40-43 66 goals C. Giroux E. Kane Pominville Vrbata

Fwds #44-46 65 goals L. Ericksson Glencross Taylor Hall

Fwds #47-48 64 goals B. Richards J. Skinner

So glencross is the only guy who is not a 1st line forward. A top 50 goal scorer for that period.

Classic!

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