BRING BACK THE BATTLE


Trademark or not, the provincial rivalry known as the Battle of Alberta between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames has been reduced to a We Suck Less Than You Do skirmish of weaklings and have-nots for too long. Might that change next season? I think it will.

Given that the Flames finished 35 points ahead in the standings and are in the process of getting filled in by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the playoff while the Oilers missed the post-season for a ninth straight year, that probably sounds far-fetched. Calgary fans certainly think so.

While the Flames made fools of pre-season prognosticators and scoffed at the advanced stats crowd by somehow winning 45 games and finishing eighth in the Western Conference with 97 points, the Oilers won just 24 times and finished with 62 points as bragging rights stayed south yet again.

The only thing worse for Oiler faithful than seeing their team suck again is seeing the Flames suck less – far less, this season. Let’s face it, the popular rallying cry, Eat Shit Flames, here in Oilersnation loses a lot of steam when the people wagging their gums have been fed a steady diet of same since 2006 to guffaws from down the QE II.

NOT MUCH OF A BATTLE

PillowFight

In terms of the standings, The Battle of Alberta has been a battle in name only since the Oilers went to the 2006 Stanley Cup final. While the Oilers have yet to get a sniff of post-season since they lost Game 7 in Carolina, the Flames have been in the post-season four times in the same span.

The Oilers have managed 40 wins just once (41 in 2007-08) since 2006-07 while the Flames have had 40 or more wins six times. Calgary has finished ahead of the Oilers in eight of the last nine seasons, the exception being the abbreviated 2012-13 season when Edmonton had 45 points and Calgary 42.

OILERS

YEAR WINS  LOSSES  OT  POINTS  WIN% 
2014-15 24 44 14 62 .378
2013-14 29 44 9 67 .409
2012-13  19 22 7 45 .469
2011-12 32 40 10 74 .451
2010-11 25 45 12 62 .378
2009-10 27 47 8 62 .378
2008-09 38 35 9 85 .518
2007-08 41 35 6 88 .537
2006-07 32 43 7 71 .433

FLAMES

YEAR WINS  LOSSES  OT  POINTS  WIN% 
2014-15  45 30 7 97 .591*
2013-14 35 40 7 77 .470
2012-13 19 25 4 42 .438
2011-12 37 29 16 90 .549
2010-11 41 29 12 94 .573
2009-10 40 32 10 90 .549
2008-09 46 30 6 98 .598*
2007-08 42 30 10 94 .573*
2006-07 43 29 10 96 .585*

*Made playoffs

HEAD-TO-HEAD

HeadToHead

  • The Oilers haven’t had much success head-to-head with the Flames the past nine seasons, going 17-30-7. That record includes being swept by the Flames in five meetings (4-0-1) this season and seven straight losses dating back to the last two meetings of 2013-14.The Oilers have won the season series with the Flames just one in this stretch, going 3-2-1 in 2008-09.
  • The Oilers have had six different coaches — Todd Nelson, Dallas Eakins, Ralph Krueger, Tom Renney, Pat Quinn and Craig MacTavish — the past nine seasons. The Flames, meanwhile, have been through four with Bob Hartley, Brent Sutter, Mike Keenan and Jim Playfair.

A REAL RIVALRY

For the most part, talking about the Battle of Alberta has largely been lip service since the 1980s, unless you think sucking less counts. For the BOA to mean anything beyond blah-blah-blah, both teams have to be competitive – how often has that been the case in the last 25 years?

Rivalries are forged in the playoffs and the Oilers and Flames haven’t met in the post-season since 1991, when Edmonton prevailed 4-3. While I don’t see that changing next season, I do see the Oilers, given what’s unfolded already this off-season, taking a sizeable step toward respectability.

The Flames, obviously, are already there, having rebuilt on the fly while the Oilers have stalled after taking their rebuild down to bare metal. Hartley has pushed the right buttons. The Flames have reloaded with exceptional young talents in Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett. They have one of the top four defensemen in the NHL in Mark Giordano, a solid blue line group overall and are set in goal with Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo.

The Flames are far from set, as we’re seeing in the series with Anaheim, but they’ve got far fewer holes to fill than the Oilers do. Calgary’s young core of players already has more playoff experience – you can’t have less than none – than Edmonton’s main building blocks, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. The holes in Edmonton’s roster, we already know.

That said, it doesn’t take a vast intellect to understand that winning the lottery and the right to draft Connor McDavid is a game-changer. MacTavish is out as GM and Peter Chiarelli is in. The Oilers have already talked to Todd McLellan about a job as head coach. Flaws and all, the Oilers showed some progress under Nelson, who could stick as an associate.

The Oilers have draft picks, including a second first-round pick, to barter with this off-season. While it’s a stretch to suggest Edmonton has suddenly become a destination of choice for unrestricted free agents, it’s easy to argue it’s a better looking stop than it was when the season ended. 

RETURN TO CONTENTION?

BringItBack

I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m not from Edmonton, although it’s been home for 26 years, and the nature of my job for most of that time has taken the fan out of me. I don’t live and die with the successes or failures of either team likes fans in both cities do.

What I do hope for is a return to the days when both the Oilers and Flames were at or near the top of the heap, when the road to the Stanley Cup had to be travelled through Alberta and when the teams went at each other like there was no tomorrow. When the Battle of Alberta really was one.

We’re not close to that, yet, but my sense, knowing how rightfully tough selling hope is around here, is that the Oilers are going to take a more significant step toward getting back into the fray next season than a lot of people expect. It’s past time the BOA meant something again. 

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

  • nuge2drai

    The Flames have been managed well and the Oil not so much. They have been able to field a reasonably competitive team season after season. When Bob N. was hired, that was the tipping point for the Oil. He got rid of Lowe, neutered McT, brought in PC and is about to bring in a seasoned coach. Connor M. was just lucky but we’ll take it. Now Edmonton is more of a destination for players than it has been in the last 10 years so we may now be able to fill the key holes we are missing.

    Playoff bound next year…..(I hope)

  • R U Kidding Me!

    I look forward to years of Monahan, Guadreau, Bennet, Brodie, Giordano, vs Hall, Nuge, Ebs, McDavid, Yak, Klefbom, Nurse. I am also excited for the Dallas rivalry to reignite. Benn, Seguin, Nichuskin, Eakins, Rousell, Klinberg.

    I don’t think it will be very long before teams like Van, San Jose, and maybe even LA are no longer in contention in the west.

    • D

      Nailed it. The rise in the west of the Flames and the Oilers will have all eyes looking West in the years to come.

      Van is so dead. They will continue to be competitive.I see 8th place finishes for a couple of years and then nada for a long time.

      • The thing everyone forgets about Van is that they have exceptional D. While they maybe lack a big name Norris winner, Edler, Bieksa, Hamhuise, Sbisa, and now Tanev make for an incredibly deep D core. But, both Bieksa and Hamhuise are UFA’s end of next year. So in my opinion how long Vancouver remains relevant will depend on if those two stay, or if Van can get aything substantial for them. If however they walk for nothing, then Van might fall out of contention sooner than later.

        I think it’s pretty funny that again, the team is mired in a bit of a goalie controversy, where the guy getting paid big dollars long term, might not be as good as the back up who is also a UFA end of next year.

        As for forwards, well. They have a pretty complete roster right now. But they will have no one to take over for the Sedins. They desperately need to pull a Jamie Benn out of the second round.

        • A-Mc

          The writing is on the wall with those guys. The rumor mill is already turning regarding bieksa trades. He has 1 year left on his deal and if they have ANY HOPE IN HELL at getting value for him, they’re moving him at the draft this year. If VAN leaves it too long (next years trade deadline), they’ll get a pick for him and we all know what happens to your team when real NHL players leave for picks.. #Sigh

          I personally think vancouver is a dead man walking.. and i love it!

          now.. how do the oilers Pry Bieksa from the Talons of VAN at the draft this year? That might be a good pickup.

          • Leef O'Golin

            I’m kind of wondering about Lack. I know right now teams are tied up in the O’Conner sweepstakes, but I would look at Lack as a possibility for solving the goalie situation for cheap. Plus that allows some flexibility.

    • Leef O'Golin

      I look forward to years of respectability too, but I think it’s fair to expect that not all of those Oilers listed will be around when that time arrives.

  • R U Kidding Me!

    In 2012-13 we actually finished with 3 more points than Calgary. Then… the Eakins arrived. Darkest days in Oiler history IMO.

    He’s gone now and Chiarelli and McDavid are in.

    If we get a goalie and a top pairing defenseman I bet we finish ahead of the Flames next season.

  • D

    Flames scored a playoff goal this round of the playoffs, haha looks like a sweep for the Mighty Ducks!

    When the Oilers make the playoffs, look out they will take a run at the Cup!

    Have to get a goalie, two d-men and a great coach firstly though!

  • A-Mc

    In the past the banter between #Oiler fans and #Flamer fans was entertaining and fun for everyone. People would get heated because they actually cared. Now after years of losing, it feels a little like being a sore loser and a little like holding onto the past; or even worse, a little like i_dont_give_a_F#ck.

    I’m really looking forward to the day when both sides can be excited about what their teams are doing on the ice, and we can get back to actually caring about what happens.

  • Battle level has been missing from this team for a long time. Even the young guns need to be told hockey is a physical game. I don’t expect them to all start throwing thunderous hits, but good god man, stand up for your teammates and yourself. If they continue to do fly byes (avoid physical contact) or are staring at their skate laces when there is a scrum, they need a one way ticket out of town( Regardless of name or pedigree). Live down south and Flames Fans here are nervous. (With good reason finally). When Mac-t preaches patience=Load Of Buffalo Bagels. When PC says it’s a process, I no longer worry about what stupid thing Management might do next.

    • Spydyr

      As a Calgarian and Flames fan I see no nervousness at all! The truth is that the fans in Calgary are excited at being in the playoffs and now playing in round 2. Although we are being dominated by a bigger better team in the Ducks the Flames fans are basking in the playoffs and look at this as a development opportunity for our young players and the rebuilding process that is only in year 2.

      Are we nervous perhaps that the Oilers have McDavid?? Absolutely not! As a hockey fan I now will get to see an outstanding young hockey player play at the Saddledome often compared to a hockey fan who sits in Boston or New Jersey! As well I think the Oilers deserve the given draft pick vs the Buffalo Sabres who purposely designed their team for tanking. An embarrassment and backfire they will have to live with.

      • Spydyr

        Nik you are a true fan,and for that I hope you enjoy your run in the playoffs.One only needs to look on T.V. And see your building is full of True fans like yourself.I can only wish that my team the OIlers can be there soon.I can also wish that the immature punks that litter this site trolling would stay away.Then again by the time the Oil make the playoffs they should be they should be in juniour high.Good times coming for Alberta teams we can only hope.

    • Spydyr

      You’re right. Battle level is a big difference. I was looking at an analytics site, and the Flames finish in the bottom five in most team categories. However, they are second in the league in shooting percentage and third in PDO (special teams metric). I also heard their save percentage is quite high. According to NHL Numbers, Van dominated the possession game against the Flames, even more than the Ducks did in their four game sweep of Winnipeg. So, how does a team win 45 games when the opposition has the puck 57% of the time, and they are poor in faceoffs, 5×5 play, etc? Battle Level. I am also sure Hartley knows his as% from a hole in the ground, unlike a nameless Oilers coach that lasted little more than a year.
      However, I wonder if the shooting and save percentages, as well as the PDO, are sustainable for more than one season?

  • Tikkanese

    Oilers versus Flames at wolf Creek in a charity golf tournament might have some value. This way we could see all the Oilers hit something as hard as they can.

  • Tikkanese

    I grew up on the real BoA during the 80’s and early 90’s so I guess I’m spoiled. What they’ve been calling the BoA the last 20 or so years is an absolute joke. Let’s face it. Both teams have basically sucked since the mid-90’s.

    I hate the Flames with all my being, probably because I witnessed the real BoA. You know, things like Doug Risebrough shredding an Oilers jersey with his skates in the penalty box. All you young guys have no clue how awesome the BoA was.

    That said, I do hope both the Flames and Oilers become perrenial contenders again with the Oilers stomping the Flames out every year. It is looking like that might become a possibility and that is exciting.

  • oilerjed

    Would it hurt the organization to put a little something on the line for the Boa series each year? Make it mean something to management/ownership who will then put a little more pressure on the team.

    Something like fly the team flag, of whomever won the BOA the previous year, at your HQ the day of each BOA game the next year.

    Anything to put a little life into it until they can bash each other in the playoffs.

  • BobbyCanuck

    An analogy if you please, based on the cement head video.

    Would 3 Oiler players come to the defense of Gadzic?

    Dave hardly needed 3 Oilers to stick up for him as seen in the video.

    That there folks is the difference between a team, and our current collection of players.

    You are saying that not if, but when McDavid gets creamed, and lying on the ice convulsing, Hall/Nuge/Eberle are going to do something about it?Yakapov would do something about it, but he would just end up hurting himself as well.

    If I could tell PC one thing, it would be to make sure you got someone tough and willing and able to fight on the ice at all times

  • Laugh at the flames all you want. Just imagine how the oilers would be doing against the Ducks when a team that has owned the oilers lately is getting man-handled by them. This series is showing people that BB nailed it saying that the flames have to get bigger to compete even though all year Calgary played above their size. Edmonton is is a team that IS small and plays smaller. I hope that the BOA returns someday. It was CLASSIC.

    • Nope. Wayne was in LA by the time I got to Edmonton in 1989, not that it mattered.

      I think you can appreciate a ridiculously talented player such as him or admire a team based on its accomplishments, but having a rooting interest in the players or teams I covered never entered into things, even a little bit. Wasn’t taught that way.

      Objectivity is difficult enough because we all bring a certain amount of bias to the table without complicating matters by being a fan.

  • Canadian Hockey Fan

    I long for the days of the real Battle of Alberta to return. I’m in college, and most people only like the Red Wings and Ducks because most my age can’t remember when those teams were terrible. Hopefully this rivalry becomes real again next season.

  • Devolution

    As a Flames fan I too truly look forward to the return of tough gut-wrenching exciting skilled BOA battles!!! I miss the 80s and 90s when each game was massive.

    What I wouldn’t give to see Death Valley move back up north from California! And to see a Flames v Oilers playoff contest…look out it could happen now with playoff realignment. Could easily be a #2 / #3 seed match-up like we saw with Vancouver this year. As a by-line would also love to see Winnipeg in the playoffs against either Alberta team too, rekindling another great rivalry of years past!

    Oilers finally on the upswing, starting with stable solid management. Will depend on coach but I see at minimum am Oilers 10th place finish in the West, and as high as 6th and playoff bound!