GDB 50.0: Crushing the Dreams of the Calgary Flames

Todd Nelson6

Todd Nelson is, as everyone knows, coaching for his life in the NHL; opportunities to run an NHL bench don’t come along very often and if he can get the Oilers pointed in the right direction he has a very good chance of finding himself at the helm of the team for Game 1 of next season.

Beating the Calgary Flames would be a big help in his quest for continued employment, and just for good measure would really, really hurt Alberta’s other team in the process.

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The Western Conference Playoff Race

1.31.15 WC Standings

Oilers fans could be forgiven if they haven’t been paying rapt attention to the playoff bubble out West, but Calgary is very much hanging on for dear life to the final playoff spot. With Winnipeg all but assured of one of the two wild card slots, the last one probably comes down to Calgary vs. the field (Vancouver has games in hand and a two point lead, though either it or San Jose could fall into the mix too with a poor finish).

The Kings, Stars and Wild all have a game in hand on Calgary and are, respectively, one, four and five points back. Colorado is only two points back but has played one extra game. Any of those teams could pass the Flames over the final 30-odd games of the season. Minnesota did itself a big favour with a regulation win over the Flames on Thursday (Devan Dubnyk had a shutout and is now 4-1-0 with a 0.931 save percentage since coming over from Arizona) and after tonight Calgary will play 10 straight games against teams in the thick of the playoff race.

This contest is the exception, their great chance to put points in the bank against an NHL bottom-feeder. A loss to Edmonton won’t be a crippling blow to the Flames (it’s an 82-game season, after all) but it could well put them behind the Kings (who play tonight) and will make things much more miserable than they would have been otherwise.

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Tonight’s game is a rarity in recent years: A Battle of Alberta that really matters.

The Lottery Standings and Rewarding Losing

1.31.15 Lottery Standings

The Sabres only have a four point lead on Edmonton for 30th, but it seems awfully safe. An incredible 14 consecutive losses have sent Buffalo to the basement and they aren’t likely to get any better as they ship off a laundry list of unrestricted free agents. Carolina has finally started playing well and with their goaltending finally recovering from a brutal start I don’t really see that stopping.

The big question is Arizona. Mike Smith has been spectacularly bad and they do have a long list of free agents to move at the deadline. A five point lead is pretty significant, but they could well pass Edmonton in the race to the bottom before all is said and done.

While we’re on the topic, I wanted to touch on Robin Brownlee’s column from yesterday. I actually agree with a lot that Brownlee writes, and I understand the case he’s making, but I can’t agree with him on the idea that bad teams should have no edge in the draft lottery. Is tanking odious? Sure. But how many NHL teams would die if without the opportunity to improve themselves via top picks? Would, for example, Pittsburgh still have a team?

The fact is that franchise stability should and does trump the ickiness of tanking. Without young stars to sell, a lot of losing teams would have tremendous difficulty attracting customers; further, without those young stars a lot of losing teams would lose for a very, very long time.

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If we’re looking for a way to eliminate cheering for losses, the Gold Rule is the way to go. In all likelihood that costs the NHL much of the excitement of the trade deadline, as teams will now be under great pressure not to unload quality talent, but that strikes me as a reasonable sacrifice if it keeps the games of all 30 teams interesting.

Lineups

1.31.15 Oil DF Lines

No big surprises in terms of the lineups; Keith Aulie will replace the injured Nikita Nikitin and with no spares at either position Luke Gazdic will stay in after a really strong game on Thursday. Ben Scrivens is expected to start, which is a bit of a surprise but also gives him a chance to make up for an ugly outing on opening night against the Flames.

The size/pugnacity dimension isn’t a bad thing to have against the Flames, but it’s far less important than actually winning the hockey game. This one really matters for Calgary and so it really should matter for Edmonton, too.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

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From Ryan Pike at FlamesNation

After a pair of good third period efforts paired with shoddy starts resulted in a win and a loss since the All-Star Break, the Calgary Flames will be hoping to get back to consistent 60-minute efforts tonight. Why?

It’s the 219th edition of the Battle of Alberta!

In addition to bragging rights – the Flames captured their 110th win all-time over Edmonton on New Year’s Eve via Josh Jooris’ overtime heroics (and hold an overall 110-87-21 record) – the Flames are now in the midst of a playoff battle. With 33 games remaining on the docket, the Flames (26-20-3) have 55 points and enter the evening’s festivities a point up on the Kings for the final wild-card spot, but also spitting distance away from Winnipeg (in the first wild-card spot) and both San Jose and Vancouver in divisional spots.

A win would do a great deal of good for Calgary’s playoff chances, particularly heading into a week where they host Winnipeg, San Jose and the Pittsburgh Penguins. While there are no easy games in the National Hockey League, Edmonton (13-27-9) is the most favourable match-up they’ll get for awhile. They’d be smart to use this game to get themselves into fighting shape, because this coming week will feature some absolute battles for playoff position.

Predictions

TopDog

Game day prediction: The Flames have won all three games against Edmonton this year, and they’ve lit up Ben Scrivens in both of his starts. Call it 4-2 Calgary.

Obvious game day prediction: Keith Aulie will fight. He’s been stuck in the pressbox for all but four minutes of Todd Nelson’s coaching tenure, and he’ll really want to show something tonight. Brandon Bollig seems a likely sparring partner.

Not-so-obvious game day prediction: Nail Yakupov will score for the first time in seven games.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

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  • Burnward

    THIRTY-FIVE GAME SUCKFEST CONTINUES!

    Sabres: Fourteen straight losses, threatening the NHL record of seventeen straight.

    Coyotes: Lost 8 out of 9.

    Oilers: Didn’t get the memo.

    Hurricane: Didn’t get the memo.

    PS: Tanking is for losers.

    GO OILERS!

  • sportsjunkie007

    I think I’ll mix up Jonathan’s obvious/not so obvious predictions just to be a rebel.

    Yakupov will fight, likely against a defenseman after Yak does something to make Calgary’s goaltender irate.

    Aulie will score. Against which team? Who knows. It just feels like it could be a weird night.

  • YFC Prez

    You’d think the flames sit on top of the league standing with the way some of these fans talk. Wow.

    The flames are not a good hockey team. Better than the oilers yes , but not good. Don’t get the red jerseys confused. That’s not the Hawks you Cheer for.

    I doubt this will help though, I don’t think they can read as from far up as that pedestal they’ve propped themselves up on is.

    • YFC Prez

      Whats this? Sensible hockey talk ? On a BOA thread!

      This is a place for childish antics, posturing, name calling and general exaggerated nonsense that carries little to no weight to it.

      Not the place for reasonable hockey related topics…. but since you brought it up.

      Im still a huge Hall fan, I think the way he’s played this season is going to be a one off, he is a really really good player. But for a young franchise D-man like OEM or Petriangelo or the likes. Yes, I would trade Hall.

      *runs and hides in the basement for the inevitable oiler fan onslaught*

      • Jordan88

        I don’t think the question is would you trade hall for OEL, I think the question is would phoenix trade OEL for hall?

        I don’t see why they would. Hall makes more money and is a winger. Maybe they would for the Eichel pick.

        • YFC Prez

          This is true. In the off season I think they would have jumped on it though. They needed offence and at LW there were few if any better than Hall last year.

          My question is what kind of contract is OEM going to get when he’s due. I imagine a “heafty-heafty” one. Hall just may look a little more affordable.

          EDIT OEL makes 4 mill for another 4 years I believe. That pretty much makes him untradeable for now.

          • Aussie Flame

            No doubt he’s gonna get paid, but he’s a franchise dman. I’m not sure any team would trade a franchise dman or center for any winger in the league. Those positions are just too important.

            Look at RNH, the biggest reason he’s the untouchable is because he plays center.

            The Eichel pick might intrigue them cuz he’s supposedly a generational centerman who will have 3 years of elc. I’d be willing to trade Eichel for OEL simply because we need a dman desperately

          • YFC Prez

            Actually I didn’t realize his contract was that long. He’s at 4 mil for a long time still.

            I just don’t think Arizona trades him. That’s a hell of a good contract for that player.

  • YFC Prez

    Why are all you flames fans getting so Butthurt over Jordan 88 comments?

    I mean aren’t you the ones trolling on ON? This article isn’t cross posted.

    There is a perfectly acceptable site for you flames fans to go. I understand that ours is so much better , and I do find it amusing that he’s bothering so many of you.

    Don’t like it, beat it.

    • YFC Prez

      I’m not butt hurt over Jordan’s comments. I find him hilarious! And very insightful actually. Reading his comments gives me a better understanding of why Lowe still has a job and people still go and watch them

  • Jordan88

    Once Calgary realizes there team is over achieving and that LA and Dallas are gonna absolutely crush them to try and get the 8th spot.

    Once the hockey world realizes that Eakins could suck the offence out of Chicago with his asinine system. Then all will be well and right again in the world.

  • Why can’t we keep the trash talk about the hockey teams? What’s up with the personal attacks? We’re all Albertans, all Canadians and all people. Some people take this hockey trash talking too far.

    Oilers suck, they are without question the worst team of the decade. The flames are average and never came close to having the success the oilers have had in the past.

    They’re both good cities with quality canadian people

    • YFC Prez

      I live in neither city. I like both. Calgary is a little more aesthetically pleasing but a total b!tch to get around in compared to Edmonton.

      I sometimes think the posters who trash each other’s home cities don’t stop and realize just how similar the 2 cities are.

      I like the river valley in Edmonton and downtown Calgary.

      Hate the flames though.

  • YFC Prez

    AMAZING COMMENTS BY DALLAS EAKINS

    A couple of previous posters have mentioned this interview. It is about twenty minutes long, available at the “TSN Hockey Analytics” website.

    Here are some of the zingers unleashed by old shoe polish head. He says he was “sold a bill of goods” by the Oilers organization. He says the Oilers sought HIM out, “unexpectedly”, to be the head coach. He seems very proud of the fact that team CORSI improved from 44 last season to 51 this season (kind of missing the point that it was EAKINS who coached the team to the 44 CORSI last year). Later in the interview he says that he does not want to talk about how they improved the CORSI this year because he has a sort of a secret “formula” which he will use in his next coaching job. Speaking of which, he says he will not settle for less than NHL Head Coach or maybe Associate HC.

    Anyone who thought Eakins was taking the “high road” when he left Edmonton should give this a listen.

    • dougtheslug

      Oil Kings Mem Cup champs and in the Dub final three straight years (and developed WJC star Curtis Lazar). U of A Golden Bears perennial CIS finalist and reigning champs.

      Oilers may suck, but there are a few people in this town that know a thing or two about winning, if there’s ever a concern. And they don’t have to pump their own tires either.

      • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

        Don’t have to pump their own tires? All you ever hear from Oiler fans is how good they used to be and how many cups they won. Tell us about your two big teams – the Oilers and Esks. Both have sucked forever.

        • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

          He’s saying that the Oil Kings and Golden Bears are good teams and don’t have to convince their fans that they’re good, it shows on the scoreboard.

          My god, you people really can’t read.

        • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

          All we hear from Flames fans is that they have 1 cup, have made it past the first round twice in their poor 30 year history, and that Johnny hockey is the next Sidney Crosby, rough period for you cow dung smelling hicks.

        • dougtheslug

          Just saying this is hockey town that knows its hockey.

          One thing this epic losing epoch has taught me is to not take myself so seriously. Cheering for a losing team doesn’t make me, or any of my ON brethren, losers.

          And, by the way, cheering for a winning team doesn’t make you a winner. As evidenced by your comment. (Not that Flames have won anything for a while, but enjoy your battle for eighth spot while it lasts)

  • vetinari

    First, thank you Ebs.

    Second, can we fire Eakins again?

    Listen to Nelson in an interview and then listen to Eakins and try not to laugh at why we are doing better now than two months ago.

    • YFC Prez

      He’s been the best offensive forward the past 15 games IMO. I only want to see Hall Or Ebbs traded if it involves a young #1 d man in return.

      Oiler fans need their whipping boys. I guess mine is just Schultz.

      • bradleypi

        He’s not my whipping boy at all. I never blame him for losses or anything like that. I don’t blame him that the Oilers are bad like most of oilersnation does too Schultz, nikitin, hall and ebs. I just don’t agree with all of oilersnations assessment of him that he NEEDS to be resigned at ludicrous term and dollar amounts. I just don’t think he’s a very good dman