(Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
After a decade of being the second-best team in the Battle of Alberta, the Edmonton Oilers have, at long last, not only pulled eyeball-to-eyeball with the Calgary Flames, they have clearly surpassed their NHL cousins from down the QEII during the course of this season.
Here and now, Jan. 22, 2017, the Oilers are the better team, and for the first time in a very long time, it’s up to the Flames to play catch-up after being drubbed 7-3 by their provincial rivals Saturday in a loss that saw the team from Cowtown swept by the Oilers in a season series for the first time since 1985-86. The Flames have got some work to do. It’s their turn to chase.
How very sweet that is for fans of the Oilers, who have had to choke back the dung of defeat – that’s a PG version of the popular ESF saying that’s so popular around here — as their team has finished behind Calgary in the standings in nine of the previous 10 seasons, a stretch in which the Flames have reached the post-season four times.
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Saturday’s application of shoe leather to Calgary backside at the Saddledome leaves the Oilers with a record of 26-15-8 for 60 points. They are nine points up on the Flames, who are now 24-22-3 for 51 points. That’s the tight shot. Bigger picture, the Oilers, starting with Connor McDavid, are the better outfit top-to-bottom right now from where I sit. That’s been a long time coming.

ONE-SIDED

(Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
Just once since the Oilers went to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final against Carolina have the Oilers finished ahead of the Flames in the standings. That was during the shortened 2012-13 campaign when the Oilers went 19-22-7 for 45 points, while the Flames finished at 19-25-4 for 42 points. The other nine seasons? Ugly up north.
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In 2006-07, the Flames finished 25 points ahead of the Oilers. No contest. It was the same thing in 2009-10 (28 points), 2010-11 (32 points), 2011-12 (16 points) and 2014-15 (35 points). Along the way, the Flames grabbed those four post-season berths. The Oilers, meanwhile, waited for the lottery balls to drop.
Long ago reduced to the dusty and dated “We’ve won five Stanley Cups, you schmucks only have one” taunt while watching the Flames be better during this Decade of Defeat, Oiler fans today have something besides ancient history to crow about and hang their hats on. It’s been awhile.
This turn of events began with the Golden Ticket and McDavid, of course, but it doesn’t end there. With GM Peter Chiarelli running hockey ops and coach Todd McLellan behind the bench, the Oilers finally have competent hands at the wheel. We’re watching Leon Draisaitl emerge. Cam Talbot has become the No. 1 goaltender Chiarelli bet on. More size. More grit. More depth. The overall mix is better. The work-in-progress is finally showing some.
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MORE THAN A NAME

(Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
Straight up, the Oilers are the better team right now.  That’s not to suggest Calgary’s line-up is chopped liver or that hockey ops and the coaching crew down the road is some sort of clown show steering the whole works into the ditch upside down and on fire – I’ll leave that to those so inclined – because it just isn’t so.
Led by Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and rambunctious Matt Tkachuk, the Flames boast some of the better young talent in the league. No question. Do the Flames have all the pieces? Obviously not. Do the Oilers? Not yet. That said, for the first time in a long time, I’d take Edmonton’s roster over Calgary’s every day of the week. Not by a lot – McDavid aside — but every day.
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My hope, and I don’t think it’s far-fetched given how both teams are put together, is that The Battle of Alberta returns to its roots, the time when both teams were so damn good and so damn tough that watching them go at each other was an absolutely stunning spectacle. You’ve got to be pushing 40 to remember that, so it’s about time for an encore. Big picture, long term, that works for me.
Here and now, that sweep has fists pumping and fans slinging slang at their red-cheeked counterparts down south. The Oilers aren’t only better in the standings, they’re the better team. Fans who’ve waited this long to be able to say that are damn sure enjoying the moment, and they should. Over to you, Calgary.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.
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RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE