CRYSTAL BALL: STAPLES PREDICTS OILERS WILL OVERTAKE FLAMES NO LATER THAN 2012-13

I’m not surprised Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster got Edmonton Oilers faithful hot and bothered with his comments regarding rebuilding the other day, but I’m a bit puzzled fan veteran Edmonton Journal scribe David Staples took the bait.

Feaster, as noted in a Lowetide item at Oilersnation Friday, dissed the Oilers in a Calgary Herald story by Scott Cruickshank. The item read in part:

"I’m sorry — Edmonton finished where last year, caller? Want to wager on where we finish relative to Edmonton this year? I’m tired of this question, I’ll tell you very honestly. I’m getting a little sour. How many teams . . . every year, for the last 10 years, five years, eight years, have finished in the bottom five, bottom seven, bottom 10?

"They’ve had a pick anywhere from No. 1 to No. 10 year after year after year after year, and they still wander in the desert. And they’re no closer to getting out than they were 10 years ago.

"You know what? I look forward to the Battle of Alberta for the next X number of years. If the idea is, ‘Burn it to the ground,’ then Ken can find another manager to do it." The entire item is here.

That drew the obligatory response from Oilers supporters, and Staples, a respected and seasoned booster reporter at the broadsheet, added his two cents at The Cult of Hockey Friday, including this: "If the Oilers don’t overtake the Flames this year, it will happen no later than next year." For context, the whole item is here.

CLOSING FAST?

"If" the Oilers don’t overstake the Flames this year? Staples is suggesting Edmonton might catch a team that finished 32 points ahead of them in the Western Conference in 2010-11, a team that scored 57 more goals and allowed 32 fewer goals. This coming season? David, David, David.

There’s no doubt in my mind the Oilers have better young talent and more of it than the paper-thin Flames. And there’s no question Calgary’s best players are on the wrong side of 30, that they look to be a team in decline, whereas the Oilers appear to be a team on the rise.

That said, it’s still a quantum leap to think the Oilers, coming off a season in which they went 25-45-12 for 62 points, have a hope in Hades of surpassing the Flames, who went 41-29-12 for 94 points, by the end of this coming season.

As for turnover in the teams since last season, the Oilers have brought in Ryan Smyth, Eric Belanger, Ben Eager, Cam Barker, Darcy Hordichuk and Andy Sutton to bolster an unquestionably talented collection of kids like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi. Gone are Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano, Kurtis Foster, Jim Vandermeer, Colin Fraser, Jason Strudwick, Steve MacIntyre and Zack Stortini.

The Flames haven’t been nearly as active. They’ve tweaked the roster by bringing in Chris Butler, Paul Byron and Mr. Alphabet (Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond) and jettisoning Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik, Adam Pardy and Steve Staios.

THE LONG RUN

 

While I see the Oilers being 20 points or so better if they can keep their best players reasonably healthy — which they haven’t been able to do in recent seasons — and Calgary dropping off a bit, based on the personnel likely to be in place when camp breaks, that doesn’t add up to a 32-point swing for me.

But what about by 2012-13, the out Staples left himself? Well, maybe. Of course, that will take continued development by Edmonton’s impressive collection of youth, which seems likely. Then again, it will also require all the right moves to acquire veterans and transitional players by GM Steve Tambellini, which seems, well, you tell me.

And even if the Oilers kids keep coming on and Tambellini does fill remaining holes on defence and in goal, I can only assume Feaster won’t stand pat over the next year. If it all goes sideways, he might even have to do the kind of tear-down he thumbed his nose at in the Calgary Herald story. Wouldn’t that be something? Could happen.

The thing is, given the turnover on rosters and wildcards that come with it, I don’t think it’s possible to project that far ahead with the kind of certainty dripping from, "If the Oilers don’t overtake the Flames this year, it will happen no later than next year."

I think the fan in Staples got the better of the reporter on this one.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Mark-LW

    At the risk of sounding as foolish: I predict the winning lotto 6/49 numbers twice a week. Unfortunately, I am off by six numbers every time. Predicting what will happen season after next is absolutely impossible.

  • Predictions that the Oilers will improve by 20 points this coming season based on being injury free (odd considering the team’s best defenseman is not ready to go) and that the off season changes will all pan out, ignore the changes made by other teams in the offseason.

    The only two teams in the WC that look on the surface to be any weaker are the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars.

    The Oilers have a 37 point gap to make up on the Coyotes and 33 on the Stars.

    All of the Avs, Jackets, Wild, Blues, Hawks and Kings have made significant improvements to their rosters so, even if one is steadfastly optimistic about what Tambellini has done in the offseason, it needs to be remembered that those roster changes have at least been matched by most every other team in the conference.

    If the Oilers are able to take advantage of the Stars and Coyotes in the 4 games they play them, you have to bear in mind the other WC teams can also do the same.

    Looking at Calgary specifically, they had a +13 goal differential last season which normally means they should have been a playoff team. However, Phoenix snuck in ahead of them with a +5.

    So the Oilers have a goal differential deficit of -89 compared to the Flames and would need to score, say, 40 more goals and give up 49 fewer just to pull even with the Flames.

    Anyone think that is possible given the horrid defense and goaltending the Oilers are going to ice again?

    Another overlooked factor is the Flames now have a legit backup goaltender in 27 year old Henrik Karlsson who posted a .908 SV% in 9 starts with the Flames last season. Feaster has indicated he’ll be getting a lot more starts this season to spell off Kipper so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kipper’s performance improve given a lighter workload than the 71 starts he had last season.

    And, one factor often overlooked by pundits, is that the Oilers faced backup goaltending last season to a very large degree.

    In fact, the opposition sent out their backup to start 33 games against the Oilers last season.

    Once the Oilers start showing an offensive pulse, you shouldn’t count on that continuing.

    As for the future, I think Tallon in Florida has shown pretty dramatically how quickly you can turn an under performing, veteran laden team into a team loaded with young talent so I think it would be folly to think Feaster will just sit on his hands and let the Oilers pass him by.

    Lots of ways to skin this cat.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    You can tell alot about a team by the way they practice. The Oilers look to me like they’re only going at 90% during practices. If they can’t do it during practices they sure as heck will struggle when the tempo goes up at game time. They need a leader, a guy who’s going to lead by example, a guy who practices as hard as he plays. This work ethic should hopefully spread throughout the rest of the team. It may be early still but Taylor Hall must already realize that the team is pretty much in his hands now. He’ll have to lead the way if the Oilers hope to catch up to the Tampa Bay Lightnings of the world.

    The whole league knows the Edmonton Oilers are an easy team to play against and it’s little things like these that add up to make a big difference.

  • Dr. Nick

    Everyone talks about Edmonton’s rookie’s growing and getting better and this is what is going to make the Oilers team better. But what if Hall or Eberle or Omark or Pjaarvi or all of them suffer from the dreaded sophomore slump or don’t advance at all? Me thinks the Oilers making a top 5 pick is closer than them overtaking the Flames.

    • Like Staples, I have no doubt the Oilers have vastly superior young talent, and plenty of it, to Calgary.

      No way I would trade organizational rosters with Calgary. Edmonton’s future, as of today, appears far brighter.

      That alone doesn’t, however, translate into the Oilers closing a 32-point gap this coming season. And I’m not convinced, as Staples apparently is, that the Oilers will definitely overtake Calgary in the standings by 2012-13. Too many wildcards to make that call.

      • Dr. Nick

        My doubt about the Oilers young prospects improving and making them a better team was with regards to just this upcoming season, which is why I doubt Mr. Staples prediction of the Oilers overtaking the Flames this season. The sophomore slump is not a myth and when you have as many sophomores playing as the Oilers, it is bound to get at least one of them. As for 2012-2013, it is a crap shoot. Trades happen, free agents are signed and a new CBA is coming up and Calgary is going to have some cap space (which I hope they use wisely). Also, what happens in 2013 when all that young talent needs contracts at the same time and the Oilers don’t have a new arena?

        Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you about rather having the Oilers young talent than ours. However, I think the Flames can improve the quality of their prospects just by keeping their first round draft picks and taking a few risks on prospects other teams have given up on, like Nikita Filatov.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Prior to landing the first pick to get Hall the Oilers were just terrible. They literally played to get the first pick and rejoiced wildly when they did (again with Nugent Hopkins). It’s like ‘let’s lose on purpose’. That is sickening.
    The credit you have to give Edmonton is that they picked good players with the higher picks (not every high pick turns into a legitimate player) but I still think sucking so bad that you get those picks is not what an organization wants to do.
    That was Feaster’s point. Is there a way to transform a roster by incorporating younger cheaper talent with non top 10 picks? He thinks yes and it comes from scouting and transferring out high contracts to allow him to manuver. It’s possible and you can look at Detroit as a model.
    Edmonton and their fans (as well as a bunch here) think the only model to follow is to suck so bad that you draft yourself good. BS.

    Basically Kipper and Iggy are here to stay. They will justify their salaries now and for years to come because they are special talents. The Oilers are paying $6.5M and $6M to Smyth and Horcoff. Those are terrible contracts for what they contribute. As with every rebuild with youth campaign the young guys will get paid. It’s what Babcock was talking about with Pittsburgh back in that final.

    The Oilers may rise with the young talent but at some point they have to pay top dollar. Do they have enough to win a cup before those bills are due? I don’t think so.

    Can Calgary accrue some young talent on complement Iggy and Kipper and win more than Edmonton. I definitley think yes.

    Let’s wait and see.

  • I don’t get what the big deal is…

    What else was Feaster expected to say at a Flamers fan event?

    As for Staples comments, if we’re on a path similar to Chicago’s and Pittsburgh’s, then the prediction isn’t so far off, imo. It just still remains to be seen how close to Chi’s and Pit’s path we actually are at this stage. This season should tell us a lot in this regard.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    as an earlier poster sais, losing Regehr will make Calgary a lot easier to play against. How many days lost to injury did he cause over the last three years.

    Add in the fact that Sutton plays a similar in your face, take out three oilers in one game style and I think we just became harder to play against at D. Add in Eager and the return of Peckham – it wont be a walk physically in our building anymore. Bring on the Battle, we can finally win this piece of it.

    We will see what the impact is over 82 games.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I think old Feaster has painted himself into a wall. If they don’t make the playoffs this year, he is out of a job, because he already said he won’t rebuild. Ballsy quote.
    We’ve said every year, if Kipper or Iggy gets seriously injured, the Flames are dead last. Could this be the year it finally happens?
    Even with those two in the lineup nearly all year, the Flamers finished 9th. It would take a small miracle for them to make the playoffs.

    So if the Oilers finish just a few pts behind the Flames, to me, that goes to Staples argument.

  • RexLibris

    I’d have to disagree with Staples with regards to his certainty in the Oilers being superior to the Flames by next year. This season could be a wash in the season series, but to prognosticate next year given that the Flames have so many expiring UFAs is misguided. Certainly the Flames don’t have the organizational depth to fill all those spots internally so it will remain to be seen how they address it. I know Kent Wilson believes that pursuing Parise is a significant part of the answer, but there are enough holes to fill that the Flames would likely run out of available UFAs to sign before they run out of positions. I’ll wait to judge which team is better in ’12-’13 after this season and when the rosters for the two teams are set for that season. But I can say with some certainty that right now the Oilers future looks like blue-chip stock while the Flames has all the trappings of a Ponzi scheme (looks good on paper but something doesn’t sit right).

    I get where the Oiler fans are coming from in being angry at Feaster for his statements, but really all it does for me is look forward to watching the season play out. I hope some media guys at TSN take note and when they have Feaster in their sights come back to him with this comment. In all fairness Feaster is well-qualified to speak about how rebuilds don’t work, he screwed up the one in Tampa Bay pretty well.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Robin

    I agree that this coming season the Flames will likely be higher in the standings than the Oilers.

    however, for 2012-2013 I think the one thing we know for sure is Iginla will be 35 instead of 34. There is no doubt in my mind the Flames’ success is 100% correlated with the one elite talent they have. other than Selanne, which player over 35 has scored more than 30 goals in the last 20 years? off hand I can’t think of even one. If Iginla can’t score 30 goals I think the Flames are 20 points lower in the standing in 2012-2013.

    • Maybe.

      You might be right the roster Calgary has right now could drop 20 points IF Iginla doesn’t score 30 goals two seasons from now.

      Projecting based on that, though, assumes Feaster will not make a single move — trade, FA signing, waiver pick-up etc — between today and the trade deadline in 2013.

      If you can tell me what Calgary’s roster will look like the day after the 2013 deadline, you’ve got a source of information I do not.

      Back to the arbitrary 30-goal plateau you mentioned for a second. Assuming Feaster does nothing, and let’s say Iginla scores 29 goals instead of what, 33 goals. How do you come up with a 20-point drop?

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Finally, we get to one of the 3 points of your article. (1.) What will the Flames look like after the shed $20M in UFA? (2.) What will the Oilers look like and will the backend have improved? (3.) And, when is it appropriate for a journalist to editorialize?

        • There’s nothing inappropriate whatsoever with Staples giving his opinion at The Cult of Hockey. That’s what he does there.

          He’s not writing a straight hard news story out of city hall or on the arena debate, which is a different gig completely.

          I’m just pointing out that, as a long-time fan of the Oilers, he tends to give the team the benefit of every doubt in items like this. He certainly did here.

      • Little Buttcheeks

        Even if Iginla drops to 29 goals, the Flames have added a 20 goal scorer in Stempniak.

        Langkow scored 1 point in 4 games last season while Stempniak had 19 goals and 19 assists.

        If Hagman can bring his game back to previous levels (he scored 27 goals for Dallas in 07/08) a small decline in Iginla’s production would hardly be noticed.

  • I think the Flames are one of those teams poised to drop off a cliff. They are heavily reliant on players who are edging towards the point in their careers where they lose effectiveness, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a calvary coming. They’ve relied for a very long time on an elite forward, an elite goaltender, and some reasonable supporting players. What happens when your goaltending is no longer elite, when you have a forward who is too far from his prime years to give you more than secondary scoring, and you begin to rely on a number of mid-level players to lead you to the promised land?

    You turn into the Columbus Blue Jackets, that’s what. And I don’t know if the Oilers need to get that much better to pass the Flames by 2012-2013. That team is awful waiting to happen, IMO.

  • Yes, why prognosticate at all, since no one can see the future? Because its fun and enjoyable, and sports writers have nothing but speculation to write at this point. So lets ease off Staples a bit, hey? The guy is an incredible writer, imo one of the best the EJ has.
    With Hall obviously going no where but up, and Iggy going no where but down, those two factors alone point to the Oilers soon catching the Flames, not to mention a myriad of other facts and statistics. His point was not controversial at all, imo, I’d say Staples was bang on in his assessment. And yes, that is a prediction, since I can’t foretell the future.

    • As soon as you can predict what Feaster will do with the $23 million in cap space he has in 12/13 and the $35 million he will have in 13/14 (although the cap will rise now that Winnipeg has replaced Atlanta and the Canadian dollar is even stronger), you can look at the chicken entrails are assume the Oilers will be better.

      As long as Tambellini has his course predicated solely on building a winner exclusively through the draft, smart GM’s will steal his lunch money.

      The time has already arrived when he should be turning accumulated assets into players who fit his projected “window to win” but there is no evidence that he gets that.

      Smyth, Belanger, Sutton, Hordichuk and Eager don’t qualify either in terms of age or skill set.

      Smyth, Belanger and Sutton are too old and Hordichuk and Eager have already been turfed by contending teams because they are loose cannons who don’t help win hockey games.

      The clock is ticking as the Oilers young core reaches their second and/or third contracts.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    I think that the Flames will be in tough to improve their roster over the coming seasons with their best players growing older and their status as a contending team becoming even more laughable every year. The Oilers will likely finish lower than them this season but I do believe that with the right tweak here or there (somebody step up in goal!) we should finish ahead of them the year after that. Why worry about that now though? Nobody knows what this season will bring and I am cautiously optimistic because we can only go up from here. GO OILERS GO!!

  • What team ever built a winner soley through free agency? Philly? Maybe. But Calgon aint Philly. The only UFA’s they will be getting are of the second tier and overpaid variety. So cap space schmap space for them. Bluechippers come almost exclusively through the draft for outpost teams. Nobody won a cup through free agency.

  • It is virtually impossible to predict what happens during the course of an 82 game season. That being said, barring a collapse or a lengthy injury to Iggy/Kipper, the Flames should have at least 10 more points than the Oil this year. But as for Staples guarenteeing the Oil will have more points than the Flames by 2012-13, that’s ridiculous. Could the Oilers have more points than the Flames that year? Absolutely. But alot will happen between now and 2012-13, especially with the amount of salary coming off the cap for the Flames next season. Plus part of me wonders (this may be a bit of a flames fan bias here) if the losing attitude the Oilers have created the past two years by basically tanking for 1st overall will have an affect on their young prospects. It’s not good coaching or managing by telling players to basically not try. We’ll see I guess.

    P.S- Isn’t the world supposed to end in 2012 anyways? :p

    • RexLibris

      The Oilers never purposely tanked to get a 1st overall. They went into the season with the players they had and decided not to trade prospects or picks for short-term fixes. That’s not trying to tank, it’s prioritizing the draft and the development process, but then a Flames fan would be unfamiliar with that strategy. And there was a losing culture in the dressing room BEFORE the rebuild, in ’09-’10, which was attented to when Tambellini and MacGregor put a premium on acquiring players with character and moving out the ones who were the problem. So while I agree with your points about trying to see a year ahead, your opinions about the Oilers rebuilding strategy are somewhat off-base.

      @DSF
      Tambellini is supposed to be taken to the cleaners by other GMs because he is unwilling to send away young prospects for help now? I think you’re conflating our GM getting robbed in a trade with Sutter’s trade history. And again, the Oilers don’t have to win a cup by the time Hall turns 20. We can afford to build properly and patiently rather than send away our youth in order to win now, the Flames’ way.

      • cmagnet

        @DSF Tambellini is supposed to be taken to the cleaners by other GMs because he is unwilling to send away young prospects for help now? I think you’re conflating our GM getting robbed in a trade with Sutter’s trade history. And again, the Oilers don’t have to win a cup by the time Hall turns 20. We can afford to build properly and patiently rather than send away our youth in order to win now, the Flames’ way.

        Why would you assume he’ll be taken to the cleaners?

        And why would you assume you need to send away all your youth for help now?

        Why not have a strategy that turns a decade of drafting high (as Feaster points out the Oilers have done) into a team that is so unbalanced?

        For example, these are the Oilers defensive players and prospects that realistically project to be bottom four defensemen:

        Gilbert
        Smid
        Peckham
        Barker
        Chorney
        Petry
        Teubert
        Marincin
        Musil
        Klefbom
        Plante
        Motin
        Fedun

        How many bottom four defensemen do you think the team will need when it’s competitive?

        Think there might be a chance that some of the excess could be turned into players that will help sooner rather than later?

        While the Oilers don’t need to (and can’t) win a cup by the time Hall turns 20 in December, it is also not written in stone that a rebuild needs to take 6 or 7 years.

        Smart GM’s are able to turn excess assets into useful players not spend an offseason heiring fourth line goons, a couple of castoffs on defense and a centre who is too old be of much use when the team is ready to win.

        I would suggest you take a close look at what Tallon has done in his 15 months on the job in Florida as example of how patience doesn’t need to be the only guiding principle in a rebuild.

        He has added Campbell, Versteeg, Fleischmann, Jovanowski, Bergenheim, Goc, Kopecky, Upshall and Skille in ONE offseason.

        His propsect list includes:

        Huberdeau
        Grimaldi
        Gudbranson
        Ellerby
        Kulikov
        Bjugstad
        Petrovic
        McCardle

        So, it’s obvious he found a balance between acquiring quality NHL players with drafting and development and, all the while, he’s $15 million under the cap….spending $8 million less on payroll than the Oilers.

        Tallon has built a winner before and he’s doing it again in much the same fashion.

        As stated earlier, many ways to skin this cat.

  • OutDoorRink

    I agree with Feaster. The Oilers have had a number of really good picks over the years and has got them no where. I remeber not too long ago when people were talking about Cogs/Nilsson/Gagne and how Edmonton was REALLY building something special…..What happened?

    Sure they have a few young stars in the making but they have thrown them into the league at a young age and forced them to develope because no other player better than that wanted to go there. Now that Van Reimsdyk has signed his second contract worth over 4 million a season for at best around 40 pts, the bar has been set. Where does that put the likes of Taylor Hall and some of there other youngsters they will be dishing out 5/6/7 million dollar contracts just to keep these guys. They will be a cap team just keeping them and I doubt they will keep them all and sign vetran defense and a star goalie. We live in salary cap world. Chicago had to win the cup the year they did because they knew the team could not afford to keep everyone with Toews and Kane second contract coming on the books.

    Harsh words I know but it is true.

  • OutDoorRink

    “I remeber not too long ago when people were talking about Cogs/Nilsson/Gagne and how Edmonton was REALLY building something special…..What happened?”

    Uh, it didn’t work out, that’s why we’re where we are now. We gave up on second tier talent and decided to go top end. That’s Calgary’s problem, they’ve always been on the cusp of being a good team, so they’ve never been able to get to that top tier talent, and any good players they did have in the system, were jettisoned to garner such stand-outs as Jokinen and Bowmeister.

  • OutDoorRink

    hey
    I may agree with you arguement about crosby but as for malkin, kanes and toews, sharp etc. I think eberle, hall, paajarvi, nugent, omark have just as good outlook as the above 3. please brownlee
    i would rather have a cup half full than half empty. As for heart i know you have one beating
    but the question is it beating to the right beat.

    Go OILERS GO

  • OutDoorRink

    Definitely too optimistic of a prediction by Staples, but is the guy who picked 9 Oilers to finish with 40+ points the guy that should be pointing this stuff out?

  • Hard to imagine Flames being better this season with Regher , Langkow and Erixon being let go . Erixson appeared to be the Flames best draft choice in quite sometime . Oilers need reclamation projects along with youngsters to all flourish this season under Renney’s tutalage in order to have a decent season . Hardly anyone outside of Oilers fans feel the Oilers have the staff to develop the team to begin with . Until we show positive results hard to argue that we Oilers are doing the right things here .

    When i look at our present roster it appears to be a lot better than last season , yet the same people are running the show and thats what might be holding us back .

  • cmagnet

    Steve Ludzig summed up the value Feaster brings a organization. I’m glad he is arrogant enough to think the Flamers will be a good team. I live in Cowtown and I will enjoy another season of them missing the playoffs. Besides, the Flamers have lot’s to be proud of, they had an outdoor hockey game and made it to the second round of the playoffs once since 1989. Go Oilers Go and when the Oilers make the playoffs you can tell em Lanny sent yah, thanks Feaster.