The vibes are back in Edmonton, and the Flames need a rebuild
Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
25 days ago
On the heels of an electric Heritage Classic, the vibes are high in Edmonton.
Yes, it’s only one win, but it feels like a weight has been lifted off of this team’s shoulders, and the hope is that they’ll be able to turn this one positive burst of momentum into a winning streak.
While wins never come easy, they are in an interesting spot when it comes to their matchup against the Stars on Thursday.
First, the Oilers are at home, and they’ve put forth a few really solid performances at Rogers Place this season. Even though they didn’t beat the Canucks or Jets, they dominated those games for long stretches.
Also, the fan base is feeling good right now, so the atmosphere should be good. They’ve also had three days off to refocus after the big outdoor victory.
Also, the Stars will be playing their second of back-to-back games. They’re in Calgary tonight and will be starting their number-one goalie Jake Oettinger. I know that backup goalies can often be the Oilers’ kryptonite, but there’s no denying that you’d rather face Scott Wedgewood than a potential Vezina candidate in Oettinger.
If the Oilers play well, they can win this game and after this, they don’t face another truly elite team for another six games.
Again, there are no easy nights in the NHL but if the Oilers can bring the same level of play that they did against the Flames for the next two weeks, they’ll be back to .500 by the mid-point of November.
On the flip side of the Battle of Alberta, the vibes could not possibly be any worse.
Yes, the Flames and Oilers are tied in the standings with five points on the year, but the Flames are really down in the dumps and it’s getting tough to imagine a scenario where this core group pieces it all together.
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov is making headlines seemingly every time he speaks to the media with his sharp criticism of his teammates. Not having Darryl Sutter around anymore was supposed to bring this team closer together, and that just doesn’t seem to have lasted that long.
The Flames organization needs to take a hard look at themselves and realize what they are and that is: clearly not better than the Oilers, Golden Knights or Kings. I don’t even think it’s all that close.
They need to go through a tough rebuild and it won’t be pretty.
I take a look at what the Los Angeles Kings were able to do in their short, but very productive rebuilding process.
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2013-14, the Kings spent the next few seasons rotating between missing the playoffs and losing in the first round. It was clear that their core group was not going to be able to get it done anymore, so they decided to change things up.
They finished dead last in the Pacific Division in 2018-19 and then no better than sixth in each of the next two seasons. They used those years to stockpile young talent and get rid of bad contracts, while not getting so bad that it would take years to get competitive again.
Now, the Kings are sitting on the cusp of once again being a Cup Contender and appear to have a group that will be a lock to make the playoffs for years to come.
Now, the Flames don’t have players like Anze Kopitar or Drew Doughty that they can keep around the steady the ship, so their rebuild might be more painful.
But if they decide to deal off players like Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, and Chris Tanev, they could bring in a collection of solid draft picks at this year’s deadline. On top of that, you’ll avoid potentially signing those players, to contracts you could regret, like you did with Huberdeau and Kadri.
Take the picks, establish a new young core over the next two years and by the time your new arena is ready to open its doors, you could be ready to compete in the Pacific Division.
It will be painful and there will be some lean years, but the Flames as currently built are not capable of winning a Stanley Cup and they’ll need to drastically change their approach if they want to one day get to that point.
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