I don’t imagine the Calgary Flames are very happy about getting waxed 6-1 by the Edmonton Oilers in Cowtown tonight, but they’d better get used to it because my guess is there’s plenty more to come.

Now, I get it the above paragraph sounds like the giddy bravado of a fan boy with a Jordan Eberle namebar on the back of his pajamas, but I am neither residing in momma’s basement, nor am I one Wanye Gretz, who has taken a break from worshipping at the Alter of Eberle in favor of some fun and frolic in Asia. Not so. No cheerleading here.

I’m just of the mind that what unfolded at the Saddledome tonight marks a milepost in the Battle of Alberta, an intersection of one team that’s on the rise and another in decline and headed the opposite direction. That what we just saw tonight is the shape of things to come.

I know, get your head out of your backside, Brownlee. It’s just one win and the Flames won the previous nine games. The BOA has been a one-sided beatdown for years. The Oilers don’t have a hope in Hades of finishing within single digits of Calgary in Western Conference standings this season. The Oilers are again a lottery lock after back-to-back 30th-place finishes. They will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

All that is true, of course, but I’d rather be walking in Steve Tambellini’s shoes – even with all the miss-steps we’ve seen and will see — than those of Calgary counterpart Jay Feaster when I look down the road at how the next several seasons are shaping up for the Oilers and Flames.

It isn’t even close.


I had some fun with David Staples over The Journal’s Cult of Hockey during the pre-season when he wondered out loud if the Oilers might overtake the Flames in the standings this season after finishing 32 points behind them in the 2010-11 season.

The Oilers won’t make up all that ground between now and April 7, of course. That’s a conclusion the always optimistic Staples reluctantly came to after parsing the numbers, even if he was no doubt wondering if he’d had it right after his men jumped out to an 8-2-2 start.

After what we saw tonight, I’m convinced Staples wasn’t as much wrong as premature, a season early. I wouldn’t bet even a dollar that the Flames will finish ahead of the Oilers in the standings next season. Not one buck.

Feaster’s two best players are Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff. Both are 34. Alex Tanguay, 31, Mike Cammalleri, 29, and former Oiler Curtis Glencross, 28, still have something in the tank. So does overpaid Jay Bouwmeester. After that? I don’t see a lot coming down the pipe, Grade A prospects, to take the torch.

Feaster also has pending UFAs in Olli Jokinen, Lee Stempniak, David Moss, Tom Kostopoulos, Tim Jackman, Cory Sarich and Scott Hannan. Simply put, a big chunk of Feaster’s roster is aging, old or on the way out. They’re more than good enough to finish ahead of the Oilers this season. Then what?


Even with the flaws in the roster Tambellini has put together the past three seasons, he has pieces to the big rebuild picture Feaster has not assembled – Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, for starters. Who will the Oilers get with the second or third pick in June?

Tambellini’s oldest players are transitional players – Andy Sutton, Darcy Hordichuk, Eric Belanger and Nikolai Khabibulin. Ryan Smyth, who just celebrated his 36th birthday and will be no better than a third-liner next season, if Tambellini puts this team together right, is also in that group.

Yes, holes remain. And there are also obvious questions about Tambellini’s ability to make the right personnel moves to lift this team out of lottery territory and move it along into playoff contention in 2012-13 and beyond.

Tambellini has not provided overwhelming evidence, or anything close to it, to suggest confidence is in order. A bona fide starting goaltender, please and thank-you. Another real NHL defenseman or two would come in handy. Who will be Tambellini’s second-line right winger? Etc.

All that said, it looked more obvious than ever — even allowing for a Calgary line-up thinned by injuries — what fans in both cities saw tonight was a telling glimpse of one team on the up escalator and another headed the other way, with no doubt remaining which is which.

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

  • For that I completly agree! Baertschi = overrated.

    No worries bro, I’m already sold on him, cant stand to see Horcoff play on that second line, it’s killing me!!! For the Oilers to pass on him would be terrible! Thats why you will hear me cheer for ELPH! No more wins dang it!

  • RKD

    I agree the Oilers have a lot of pieces but they still haven’t completed the puzzle by any means.

    After their cup run in 2006, they have not made the playoffs. In fact, once this season ends that will be 6 consecutive years of no playoff hockey.

    After the Flames cup run in 04′, there was a lockout but the season after the Flames won the NW division title. Which was followed by a first round exit.

    Then came three more seasons of making the playoffs but three more first round exits.

    In the past two years the Flames have missed the playoffs and are in danger again this season. Either it could go two ways the Flames could miss it again this season and possibly have another long drought before the young prospects pan out and they make the playoffs. The other way would be to retool like Ottawa who had a blip on season but rebounded nicely this year.

    However, Alfie has Spezza to carry the load while Jarome has ???, Iggy is the having to carry the load.

    • RexLibris

      I understand the idea of making the playoffs in order to “roll the dice and see what happens” but at some point treading water has to be considered unacceptable and a genuine reach for something better is called for.

      I had this discussion here on FN earlier this season about the relative success of these two teams between now and 2020. But what would constitute success? Would six first round exits trump two conference championships? We’ll have to wait and see.

      One very big positive about the trends of these two teams is that the Battle of Alberta is perhaps only a few months away from being relevant for the first time in perhaps twenty years.

  • RexLibris

    This is a long one, so I apologize in advance…

    I’ll start here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWxvbHB5DYA

    It’s a little refresher on *things* Edmontonians say, featuring our very own RNH, Eberle and Gene Principe. Very funny stuff.

    Now, about the Flames/Oilers: great read Robin. Very good stuff and much appreciated for the balance it provides in this often-hyperbolized forum.

    I wouldn’t trade one day of the Flames present for the Oilers future. The Flames have a dominant Right winger, one of the best goaltenders in the league over the past ten years, and a competent defensive group with some average to above-average bottom six players. Good for them. They might have enough talent to squeeze a few million dollars out of a playoff round, maybe two. That is the focus of the ownership and they are likely to succeed in that endeavour.

    I get that Flames fans want Iginla to stay in Calgary and I support that. I have watched talented and beloved players leave Edmonton, so it’s hard not to empathize a little, even if it is Calgary.

    The Oilers tried to do what the Flames have done but we didn’t have the same pieces in place and eventually it all went south anyway, so fate shut all the other doors and thankfully circumstances combined to give us an opportunity to build something special.

    Flames fans who want to criticize that and argue that we’ve been building for over a decade are only speaking generalizations so broad that they are essentially fallacies. Efforts prior to the 2009 season were not rebuilds, they were the desperate retooling efforts of a management and ownership structure that was too cowardly to face losing.

    I have said that there are many paths to rebuilding, or restructuring, or whatever politically correct term a person wants to use, and this is the one that best fit the Oiler’s circumstances.

    Attempts to favourably compare the prospect pool of the Flames to the Oilers only happen amongst Flames apologists. Outside observers, media, and most insiders connected with the NHL would come to the same conclusion: Calgary has improved it’s prospect depth from last season, but that only means moving frmo 29th overall to perhaps 26th overall (Hockey’s Future, last updated Nov, 2011). The Oilers rank 4th overall on that same scale.

    It’s apples and oranges at this point.

    The Flames have Arnold, Baertschi, Gaudreau, Reinhart, and Irving as their most notable prospects at this time. Taking a one-out-of-three attrition rate as an average that means that of the Flames prospects, an above average turnout would mean that two of those five players turn out to be 250-game career NHLers. Maybe Baertschi becomes good, say Logan Couture good. Maybe not. Irving might be as good as Tomas Vokoun or Tommy Salo. Maybe better. Time will tell.

    The Oilers have in their development system Klefbom, Marincin, Gernat, Omark, Pitlick, Hamilton, Musil, Hartikainen, Bunz, and Teubert all as equivalent or higher rated prospects to those of the Flames. Given that same ratio of success for prospects, the Oilers are likely to have between three and four solid NHLers. Perhaps more with their higher draft pedigree, improved development infrastructure, and better standing in the scouting community.

    Flames fans are understandably defensive about criticisms of their prospect pool. Darryl Sutter pillaged their future for the present (now the past) and left scorched earth in his wake. On top of that, their top prospect, Tim Erixon, forced Feaster to trade him for what was a marginal return given his market value at the time. But fans in Calgary would be best served not to try and contrast their development system and futures with the Oilers. You won’t be doing yourselves any favours in the eyes of most outsiders.

    I agree with Robin that there are holes in the Oiler’s lineup and those will be addressed, but not at the cost of the future. Racing to mediocrity is a well-worn path, one whose results are on display for all to see right now in L.A., Calgary, and Buffalo. A disastrous example can be seen in Columbus.

    Patience, however, has its rewards. So maybe this rebuild doesn’t snag a championship, but it will be, unequivocally, a better ride than the one Oiler fans have watched play out for the better part of this young century.

    As for Grigorenko, I wonder if the Oilers might trade down a place or two and gamble on Galchenyuk. Either way, whomever is taken this year needs to go back to junior. Nothing to be gained by rushing another young player and the focus ought to be on finding one more defenceman. Khabibulin will be traded either this summer or at the 2013 deadline at which time a goaltending upgrade will become, not a requirement, but an absolute necessity.

    Again, sorry for the length, and as an Oiler fan, while I loved (LOVED!) seeing such a dominant win last night, let’s not let it go to our heads and act like Canuck fans.

    Glad to read that story about the Oiler fans kicking in for the disadvantaged kids. I always glad to see Oiler fan brethren carrying themselves with (at least some sort of) dignity.

  • This is all very funny to me. All this ‘the future is so bright I gotta wear shades’ talk is starting to sound quite unintelligent. Any team in any sport that is horrible for a long period of time no matter how badly mismanaged will improve and get better. They finished at the bottom every year, of course they are going to get better!! Washington, Florida,Columbus and even Colorado were bottom feeders for some time and haven’t made it past 2 rounds of the playoffs in the last number of years. What makes the great hockey nation of Edmonton believe that a hockey genius like Kevin Lowe or Steve Tambellini has a cure for the basement cellar blues? Many teams that don’t cellar dwell are continuous playoff threats year after year. Keep these articles and posts from your loyal followers coming. It’s good readin for those not dwellin in oil country. yee hah!!!

  • RexLibris

    Do the Oilers have a better prospect pool than the Flames? Absolutely, I won’t argue that one. But the Flames system is improving, and I would say the 2011 draft was their best draft in a long time. Also, even though they had to trade Erixon, they got Horak from that trade, who has exceeded all expectations in his rookie season. Remember, he was a 5th round pick, so to be in the NHL at 20 is impressive. Backlund is another good young player. Yes, he has struggled to put up counting numbers, but if any of you look at the advanced stats Backlund has arguably been the Flames best forward, he drives the play up ice and creates chances. It’s only a matter of time before he starts putting up some numbers.

    All in all, I don’t expect the Oilers to consistently beat down the Flames, and I don’t think the system is as bare as some of you may think. I guess we’ll find out soon enough

  • Gange

    Some points:

    – I tire of this Flames are old and washed up talk. They have more youth than people who want to parrot what the east coast media are saying.

    – We can only guess the future so there is no point talking about what is “going to happen”.

    – Taylor Hall plays a reckless game, he is very skilled but he’d scare me as an Oilers fan. It only takes on David Steckel and…well all your championship dreams are on hold.

    – Currently the Oilers have better prospects, and they better have with their draft positions.

    – There is no proof that the Oilers development system is better than the Flames. You’ll need to back that up because as I see it there are not a glut of home developed talented players playing on the team (Hall, Eberle, and RNH do not count)

    – The only player I truly could covet on that team is Jordan Eberle. While Hall and RNH are very good I think Eberle is a different level.

    – Finally, I’m sure that there are 22 guys in Calgary right now that have March 16th circled. I know I would.

    • Oilers89

      Why doesn’t Eberle count? The oilers didn’t draft him and throw him directly into the NHL. They drafted him, developed him, and played him in the NHL. Ebs might be the one example of the oilers developing a player SUCCESSFULLY in a long time. I agree that fellow oil fans may be jumping the gun but, keep in mind that we have seen our team in the state that the flames are in, we know the warning signs of failure, and we can see it hitting the flames. In actuality it does not matter if the oilers rebuild works, the oilers could pass the flames just by being as good as they are now, the flames are most likely at some point going to fall flat on their face and finish last. P.S. Hall and RNH are players putting up basically elite numbers at in their 2nd and 1st respectively, I would hope that you would covet players that put up numbers that really only one flame or few players on each team can achieve.

    • RexLibris

      Regarding the Oiler’s prospects relative to their draft position: the prospects that are eliciting some of the most excitement over the past two years are ones that every team, even the Flames, had chances to take. They were later round picks like Omark (4th) or Marincin (2nd) or even Pelss (7th). I will never argue that we have had the fortune of drafting 1st overall, and 31st overall is also a very enviable position to have in selecting players. But the depth picks that the scouting staff has turned into decent prospects is where much of the prospect excitement, and unfortunately but understandably boasting, comes from.

      As for proof of the Oilers development system being a shade better than the Flames I would compare graduates of the Oilers farm system from 2004 to 2010 to the Flames in that same timespan.

      Oilers: Reddox, Schremp, Syvret, Petry, Greene, Brodziak, Gilbert, Peckham, Chorney, Cogliano and Dubnyk. Those are all players that were drafted or developed by the Oilers as prospects and spent time in the NCAA or AHL before suiting up for the Oilers. They all have a minimum of 49 games played in the NHL. Four of them are still with the Oilers and seven of the eleven are still in the NHL.

      Flames: Prust, Boyd, Pardy, Brett Sutter, Irving, Backlund, Aulie, Brodie. I lowered the number of games required because Irving is just getting his first opportunity now and goaltenders take longer to develop. Also, Sutter is only at 34 games but appears to have the makings of a career ahead of him. That leaves eight drafted and developed prospects that spend time in a minor league before playing in the NHL. All eight have NHL careers, one more than the Oilers, however some in more marginal roles than Cogliano, Dubnyk, Petry, Gilbert, or Brodziak. Also, of those eight there are only three remaining within the Flames organization.

      So while I would never ever argue that the Oilers were doing things right during this period when it came to developing prospects, their level of success is slightly better. The development of draft picks since 2009 (the year of ownership change and fundamental organizational shift) is still in progress, but thus far the returns would appear to be promising. The Barons are at the top of the AHL and are providing an excellent teaching environment for players just out of junior. The prospects that are in junior are all posting numbers on par with, or in excess of, expectations based on draft position. And our only overseas prospect in Oscar Klefbom was named to the WJC All-Star team after helping lead Sweden to a gold medal.

      The Flames have a collection of young, junior level prospects (Kent has a good article up on them right now at FN) that Flames fans should be excited about. They are all offensive forces that are posting good numbers and are either leading or keeping pace with their respective peer groups. It has been a very long time since Flames fans had anything in junior worth talking about.

      So the cupboard isn’t bare, entirely, nor is the roster full of Social Security recipients. But what Flames fans need to understand, and I say this because I see in their defensiveness the same responses that Oiler fans recited for years (and I know that comparison is really going to tick some people off) is that your franchise is actually returning to a state that most franchises operate in normally.

      That’s how bad it was.

      Sutter just used his bullying manner and the city’s love for Iginla to cry “traitor” whenever someone questioned his moves to paper over the absolutely glaring deficiencies and faults in the team.

      After the ’06 cup run Oiler fans were fed the same load. We didn’t have players like Iginla and Kiprusoff for the management to hide behind, so the bottom fell out and here we are.

      Finally, Eberle, Hall and Nugent Hopkins do count as home grown talent if only because for the last three years we have heard outsiders and fans on numerous nation sites telling us we need to trade a 1st overall pick for help right now, as though going from 30th to 23rd overall is some kind of desired improvement.

      But I understand your point about not including them as developed talent because they were drafted and then put into the roster as plug-and-play talents.

      Sorry about the length, and I, too, look forward to March 16th. I hope it’s a good one and if it means a Calgary win equals the post-season it’ll only make it all the more exciting for both cities.

      Good luck against the Coyotes and Flyers.

      • SmellOfVictory

        In your comparison of Flames/Oilers draftees from 04-10, did you take into account the number of picks each team had? I haven’t looked at Edmonton’s, but Calgary was missing at least two 2nd round picks and a 1st rounder in that time period due to Sutter’s apparent hatred of drafting.

        • RexLibris

          Good question. I touched on that when I mentioned that Sutter kept moving the future in favour of the present (more detail on that below).

          Also, between 2004 and 2010 the Flames had 50 picks, the Oilers 52. In actual fact, the Oilers had fewer picks up until 2010, the year the rebuild began (in spite of what many critics argue) when they had eleven picks in seven rounds.

          Here are the totals per year:
          2004 – Calgary had 10 picks, so did Edmonton.
          2005 – Calgary had 8 picks, so did Edmonton.
          2006 – Calgary had 8 picks, Edmonton had 5.
          2007 – Calgary had 5 picks, Edmonton had 6.
          2008 – Calgary had 7 picks, Edmonton had 5.
          2009 – Calgary had 6 picks, Edmonton had 7.
          2010 – Calgary had 6 picks, Edmonton had 11.

          Even a cursory glance at those numbers tells the story that Edmonton routinely traded away their picks for players in an attempt to temporarily improve their team and make the playoffs.

          2008 is a prime example. That year the Oilers drafted 22nd overall with the Anaheim Ducks first round pick that we received as part of the Pronger trade that converted when they won the Cup (without that Cup, we don’t have that pick). The Oilers took Eberle. They didn’t have another selection in the draft until the 4th round where they took Johan Motin.

          If the Oilers were really rebuilding for the last six to eight years (as critics in both Edmonton and elsewhere seem to suggest) then why were they trading away picks or losing them in compensation for RFA offer sheets? Sorry, I’m not directing this rant at you, just trying to make a point against a recurring argument.

          About the range of those picks: Calgary had 6 1st rounders to Edmonton’s 9 (three of those 1st rounders came in 2007, Gagner, Plante and Nash). Calgary had only one 2nd rounder in that time (Sutter’s handiwork, again) to Edmonton’s 8. Calgary did have 11 3rd rounders to Edmonton’s 6, while they also had 10 4th round picks to Edmonton’s 7. 5th round picks has Calgary with 6 and Edmonton with 8. 6th round is Calgary 6, Edmonton 6. 7th round and later is Calgary with 10 and Edmonton with 8.

          The bulk of the difference is in the top two rounds, specifically the 2nd round picks. Sutter traded only 1 first round pick in that time (the Jokinen one to Phoenix that became Brandon Gormley), but moved out 2nd round picks like they were vegetarian beatniks.

          The Oilers were without a first round pick in 2006 (traded to Minnesota for Dwayne Roloson and was used by L.A. to take Trevor Lewis).

          So over the period spanning 2004 to 2010, when both teams were trying to make the playoffs and each team had a SCF run both teams had more or less the same number of picks with Edmonton only slightly ahead in terms of draft position, and that only appears to be so because of the inclusion of the first year of the Oilers rebuild in 2010.

          Without that year included, a look at the draft rate of the two clubs would suggest that the Flames held on to their draft picks more often than Edmonton.

          One thing to take away from this, as a Flames fan, is that these numbers would suggest that the draft for Calgary was not only a poor showing, but that the team acutally underperformed by even the most generous terms, and that the to-date-improvement of the draft prospects of the Flames, while modest by league standards, is something about which to be excited, and relieved.

          • Gange

            As a flames fan, I am relieved and excited about the shift in scouting and draft.

            As Oiler fans, there is real reason to be excited about the future. However the Flames will not fall off a cliff. You will see that. When the schedule format changes you’ll see that all too much.

            To be perfectly honest, it’s about time the Oilers had some form of team. As good as it feels to beat up on them, I long for a return to the old days of jersey shredding rage in the penalty box.

  • I was blown away at how terrible Calgary was last night. Their own media pointing out that their record is due to Kipper putting up a Vezina quality performance so far this year. Their vets looked tired, and slow, and their AHL guys were just plain brutal. I think we will see the wheels fall off on Calgary soon enough. What I am wanting to see is if Peter Griffin goes scortched earth and trades his picks to aquire a couple of rentals to get them in the playoffs. I think he knows that this is possibly the last run. Interesting times in Cowville

  • I get why the Oiler fans are gloating. They deserve to for this game. A little early to say that this is what WILL happen in the future consistently don’t ya think? The paragraph that needs to be highlighted a little more that Browner wrote is:

    “I know, get your head out of your backside, Brownlee. It’s just one win and the Flames won the previous nine games. The BOA has been a one-sided beatdown for years. The Oilers don’t have a hope in Hades of finishing within single digits of Calgary in Western Conference standings this season. The Oilers are again a lottery lock after back-to-back 30th-place finishes. They will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season.”

    Truer words have never been spoken. Let’s also remember, most Oiler fans (many of you on this forum) were saying that this year was the year that the Oil were going to make the big jump. Let’s not count our chickens…

  • Franko J

    I never seen Feaster from that angle.
    Good one Smokey.
    Does this mean Tambellini is also known as Quagmire.

    Thanks Orange-in-Blue for the reference.
    Good laugh.

  • FIRE

    I would agree that the Oilers have a bright future. What Edmonton fans should realize is, that there are very few teams that pull off a Chicago Blackhawks ride to success and the Stanley Cup. Tambellini is not a great GM and my grandmother could of selected Hall and Nugent-Hopkins as obvious selections in the Draft. He will face the music when he gets fired next year for not being able to shore up his defence and goaltending. Hemsky is not worth what Tambellini thinks he is worth.
    As hard as it has become, to attract unrestricted players to Alberta, the Flames at least attract players to come here. It’s no secret both Hall and Seguin were hoping to get picked by the Bruins.
    By the time that the Oilers young talent become mature; they will be close to becoming restricted free agents with an eye on how much time they will have to spend in Edmonton.
    The Flames will probably not be an elite team for many years and the Oilers, although much more talented will never be the Chicago Blackhawks and win a Stanley Cup with a team full of young superstars.
    Oilers beat the Flames for the first time in 10 games and they are on cloud Nine. Big deal!!

    • D-Man

      Ah yes – the bitter Flames fan who has nothing better to do but troll an Oiler fan website… What proof do you have that Hall/Seguin didn’t want to get drafted first?? If you had watched Oil Change – you’d note that both pleaded their case to be the starting point of our rebuild…

      Also – who have the Flames attracted via free agency?? Olli Jokinen?? They traded him away only to ask him to come back?? Alex Tanguay?? Please…

      You might be right about Tambo though… He’s had as many misses as he’s had hits with drafting and free agency, but I’m pretty confident that the Flames will start their decline beginning next year… Enjoy your 9th place finish and your mid-tier draft pick…

  • Oilers4ever

    Yep… gotta agree.. so long as the Flames keep trading 1st and 2nd round picks for 30 plus year old players they will continue to be the Calgary Geriatrics… I agree with Robin.. they have this season, but it will be THE last for a long number of years.. I give Feaster one, maybe two more seasons in Cowtown before he fesses up and admits Geriatrics is not the solution to building a successful hockey team and we’ll be laughing at him when in 3 years time that ole Silver Stanley is back in the City of Champs where it belongs!