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.
"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.