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.

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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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  • Derian Hatcher

    Hey Jordan88 – missing your yapping!!!!

    On a better note, I have been impressed tonight with Eberle and Petry. For two guys rumored to be on the move, both have played very well. Eberle has sick hands and someone I’d love to see on the Flames and Petry has been a physical presence and very strong on the boards. Schultz, Yak and most of the rest of the team have been pretty non existent. And the Oil need a goaltender that can steal a game.

    • Jordan88

      Sorry I was busy watching the game.

      That being said hats off to the flames great game they played amazing what a “team” looks like when they work hard together to achieve a common goal.

      Oilers played a solid 25 minutes and then took the foot off the gas and then at 4-2 flames you can see nothing but sulking and piss poor attitudes.

      Team is poisoned. They need a summer off no more drive in them.

      Really hard to hate Calgary when the Organization has built something out of the proverbial nothing they had.

    • camdog

      The sad thing is I thought that was one of Schultz’s best games. Petry is petry. You want him for the playoff’s? He’ll be better than smid I promise!!

  • 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

    • 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

          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)

        • 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.

    • 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.

  • mr_nihilism

    What a classless organization…. Been absolutely terrible all year and they come up with an effort like that for a game that matters to the fans. Really starting to hate this team

  • The Last Big Bear

    “Devan Dubnyk had a shutout and is now 4-1-0 with a 0.931 save percentage since coming over from Arizona”

    If you ever wondered why the Oilers’ tending coach was fired…

  • BlazingSaitls

    I just finished listening to Eakins interview on TSN Analytics.

    At times in the past I was a reluctant defender of Eakins. Not always but at times. After listening to his latest interview, and after cleaning the puke from my mouth, I have new thoughts.

    Dallas Eakins is the second worst hire in hockey history next to POHO Lowe. Then again my opinion of Eakins and Lowe is…

    “at where it’s at”

    • Derian Hatcher

      Have you ever been at a minor hockey game minding your own business, perhaps watching your son or daughter play the game they love, maybe standing in a secluded part of the arena – down behind the net or in a corner. Then some know-it-all stands beside you and starts commentating on the game, telling you which player should be where, what system they should be running, quoting analytics, using the latest hockey lingo and generally ruining your enjoyment? Well, this will be Dallas Eakins in a few years. There is at least one in every rink – and Dallas will be begging for you to say “Hey, didn’t you used to coach….. ” Before you can finish your sentence he will fill you in on his all-knowing, smartest guy in the rink knowledge. I would rather stand next to a guy like Todd nelson any day. He’ll be the one asking “what number is your kid?” and just enjoy the game with you.

      Go away Dallas – please just go away, you have done enough damage here.

  • Jordan88

    Funny how yakupov and Galchenyuk have the same amount of points and how one is perceived as a bust and the other as an up and coming star. Bizzaro world.

    My bet for where Petry lands is NY Islanders. They are not high Griffin Rheinhart and I could see that as a return for Petry.

    The more I watch the Oilers play under Nelson the more I think that the team is wayyy more relaxed and thus less on edge of the precipice of making mistakes.

    Justin Shultz sure looks like a guy who is feeling less pressure and making fewer and fewer mistakes.

    Yak still is making a few but less so and is putting himself in better positions on the ice to receive the puck and make a play.

    3-2 Calgary

  • 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.

      • 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

        • vetinari

          I don’t like him. There. I said it. I would have fired him by December in his first season. But no one asked me. Although I did post it. Doesn’t management read our comments?

          • YFC Prez

            I felt Krueger did enough to earn another season. I was somewhat surprised when Eakins was hired but was somewhat excited mainly due to the hype.

            Then his doughnut interview really rubbed me the wrong way. And taking our all the history from the dressing room. That also rubbed me the wrong way. Basically he over stayed his welcome for this fan for a very very long time.

            Oilers players should be reminded constantly of what a great franchise they once were, a franchise they could once again become. There needs to be pride wearing that jersey, Eakins didn’t understand that.

            That and he just comes off as a arrogant snob.

          • vetinari

            I agree and felt the same way. When they presented Eakins as the new coach, I remember that the pitch was that he was highly sought after by other teams, a player’s coach, a fitness freak and a systems guy. He turned out to be all style and no substance. You can put a guy into an Armani suit but you can’t give him class, brains or success.

  • vetinari

    Is Eberle’s ATB contract up, and is the ATB head of marketing in the building?? What’s going on?? I’m actually enjoying watching an oiler game!! Am I dreaming right now?

  • Serious Gord

    One more point. Nikitin is having a heck of a game tonight! I haven’t noticed him make a terrible give away or mistake all game!! Amazing!! Wish he could play like this more often

      • vetinari

        Lol true. But I’m not trying to rag on the player, I’m trying to rag on management for giving him 4.5 million plus trading a pick to get the right to do so. I really really hate oiler management

  • YFC Prez

    Big test for the oilers in the third. Flames are gonna come out guns a blazin. Oilers have been easily broken before. If they can hold onto this win it’ll be major props for Nelson.