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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  • Jordan88

    What possible strategic interest of the Oilers is served by playing Aulie, ever again?

    Another example of MacTavish imposing his past blunders of current coach.

    There is air servie between Oklahoma City and Alberta that would have allowed Marincin to participate in tonight’s game.

  • Jordan88

    Interesting to hear Craig Button earlier this week commenting on the development of the two bottom dwellers. According to Button, the Sabres are “light years” ahead of the Oilers as far as the future of their team and the development of their young players. Which translates into only one way for the Oil to go next year and that’s down in the standings.

  • Jordan88

    The oilers are going to feed it to the flames tonight! This team is actually starting to get it together and they can help push Calgary in the wrong direction by demonstrating it tonight. What I would love to see is for MacT to boldly trade the oilers first pick this week while it’s projected value is highest and use the guy or good guys they bring in to put together a few winning streaks before the year is out. They won’t make the playoffs, but a moderately seasoned top 2 center could be of greater value to the team over the next five years than the #3 overall pick in the draft. Move forward. Change what the players are willing to accept on the ice and set up for next season.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      You’d rather your team not make the playoffs?

      How much worse were the Flames supposed to be relative to the Oil again this year?

      I think you guys should offer up your 1st overall and Yakupov to the Yotes to try and get OEL. You need to get better now… not later.

  • vetinari

    Oiler fans. Cruise by the Flamenation sister site. Dead over there except for a few of their brainiacs. No wonder they are trolling here. They can’t even muster interest in a so called ‘winning’ team. Is it possible to hate them and feel sad for them at the same time?

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    We’re a terrible, terrible organization, but goddamn it I hate the Flames and their fans. I hope Yak crushes Johnny Hockey, just for the hell of it.

  • Jordan88

    ABOLISH THE DRAFT!

    I think that the NHL should treat the draft the way the OIlers treat the WHL.

    Mr. Bettman will make an announcement as follows:

    “We are abolishing the draft this year! We want to make sure the top players are in the RIGHT SITUATION. So MacDavid will be allowed to play in the NHL…if he agrees to play for Toronto. And Eichel will be allowed to play in the NHL…if he agrees to play for Boston. Some people say this is stupid, but the majority of insiders agree that VISUALLY this is an improvement.”

    “Nobody should try to fight us! Our lawyers will whip your lawyers! Besides which, I have many prominent PARTNERS such as Roger Goodell, Bud Selig, Al Gore and Henry Kissinger! Therefore I will win!”

  • Jordan88

    Oilers gonna get reamed out again!

    Is 8-1 too much to ask for?? Again?

    What a sick joke of an organization lol

    Favorite hockey memory of the last few seasons was being at that blasting at Rexall, jumping up every 7 minutes beers sloshing all over the place, goalies getting yanked, jerseys hitting the ice. And I loved every damn minute of it.

        • YFC Prez

          Actually we wear blue…. Might want to relook at the Oilers jersey… I’ll give you a hint take a look at this very webpage you’re commenting on.

          Edmonton has a lot to be proud of. Despite the beliefs outside of Edmonton, we our citizens supported each other after the disastrous ’87 tornado which then we were named the City of Champions. We also had thousands of volunteers come down to aid Calgary during your floods.

          I can keep going if you’d like? I left sports out of the equation but we both know Edmonton’s is much richers then Calgarys

        • Jordan88

          Proud of nothing?

          well we don’t smell like cow dung 6 months of the year we got that going for us.

          but yeah not much else.

          *Looks at Arena district*

          Nothing to be proud of at all…..

  • Bucknuck

    The Oil are due for a blowout. I’m gonna go crazy and predict a 5-2 victory my boys in blue and orange, only because it would be very sweet to do that to Calgary and wishful thinking can be fun.

  • 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.

  • Bucknuck

    I still can’t understand how Eberle is the guy the rumour keeps saying needs to leave town. He’s quietly awesome, like the people of Edmonton. How is it he is the guy people want to trade. I don’t get it.

    • YFC Prez

      Because he’s a winger. And he’s not hall. And he might actually get you a return that can help

      Personally I trade this years 1st draft picks unless its McDavid. Im hoping its the Eichel pick and maybe we can get OEL or comparable. And get a good quality 2/3 center with Pitts 1st and prospect

    • YFC Prez

      He’s been good for the past dozen games or so. But he’s playing possessed tonight.

      I just wish all of Nuge Ebbs and Hall (when he’s back) would find their stride at the same time. Always seems to be one of them leading the charge at a time.

      • kboof

        I’ve seen those guys dominate games enough not to be worried about them. I really think it’s all mental. They’ve been on such a pathetic, terrible team for so long they’re just not fully commited anymore. I truly believe that if they really had a good team around them they’d round back into form

        • YFC Prez

          That’s the conundrum isn’t it? If this team ever becomes good it’s going to rely on those guys. Their the ones that have to put out the dumpster fire.

          • Burnward

            I disagree. If this team is ever gonna turn around its gonna be by management not bringing in Nikitin’s, Scrivens, Grebeshkov’s, and not going all in on Draisaitl’s. this is all on management

          • YFC Prez

            I agree.
            Except for Scrivens. Both he and Fasth are better than they appear. Look to Dubnyk, this D kills goalies.

            Roy should have been an oiler on opening night for this team.

            Chipchura should have been a oiler when he hit waivers. Given Ds struggles.

            But the biggest problem is the D
            Nikitin shouldn’t be here.
            Ferrence should be a third pairing or 7 th man
            Schultz should just go away
            Petry and Fayne are both solid bit one will be traded cause management can plan their contracts worth a darn. Petry is gone.
            Klefbom is emerging well. I actually have hopes for him.

            So they basically have 2 nhl d-men and one emerging who all play above their skill level.

  • Ready to Win

    The worst possible result for this season would be for the Flames or the Canucks to get McDavid; I know the lottery odds will be really long for the teams that just miss the playoffs, but I’d rather see two teams I hate make it than risk either of them getting really lucky on lottery day.

    That being said, I’m sure the Flames can still make it without these 2 points, so Go Oilers!

  • Gooilgo

    Yak flattens Johnny hockey early in the first and picks up the puck and scores!

    Oilers win because hall is out with a slight bruise and they play well as a team instead of sulking.

    Oil win 3-1

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • CMG30

    The intellectual side of me has accepted the necessity of the tank parade once again, but I’m going to make an exception tonight… just ’cause it’s Calgary.

  • Sammy p

    I am cheering for the Flames tonight. Why/ If they make the playoffs they have no lottery chance at McDavid. I would love to see LA catch Winnipeg and have Winnipeg have a shot at the lottery. Hey I know it would be nice to see the whiteout in Winnipeg again but old hatreds die hard.

  • Jordan88

    Actually its so bad that flames fans feel the need to get on their little horse buggies come over to our site and make us feel bad.

    That is like picking on weak defenseless kid.

    But whatever, I can sleep at night knowing I will never see a stetson and a Oilers jersy together as a fashion combo.