I don’t imagine the Calgary Flames are very happy about getting waxed 6-1 by the Edmonton Oilers in Cowtown tonight, but they’d better get used to it because my guess is there’s plenty more to come.

Now, I get it the above paragraph sounds like the giddy bravado of a fan boy with a Jordan Eberle namebar on the back of his pajamas, but I am neither residing in momma’s basement, nor am I one Wanye Gretz, who has taken a break from worshipping at the Alter of Eberle in favor of some fun and frolic in Asia. Not so. No cheerleading here.

I’m just of the mind that what unfolded at the Saddledome tonight marks a milepost in the Battle of Alberta, an intersection of one team that’s on the rise and another in decline and headed the opposite direction. That what we just saw tonight is the shape of things to come.

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I know, get your head out of your backside, Brownlee. It’s just one win and the Flames won the previous nine games. The BOA has been a one-sided beatdown for years. The Oilers don’t have a hope in Hades of finishing within single digits of Calgary in Western Conference standings this season. The Oilers are again a lottery lock after back-to-back 30th-place finishes. They will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

All that is true, of course, but I’d rather be walking in Steve Tambellini’s shoes – even with all the miss-steps we’ve seen and will see — than those of Calgary counterpart Jay Feaster when I look down the road at how the next several seasons are shaping up for the Oilers and Flames.

It isn’t even close.


I had some fun with David Staples over The Journal’s Cult of Hockey during the pre-season when he wondered out loud if the Oilers might overtake the Flames in the standings this season after finishing 32 points behind them in the 2010-11 season.

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The Oilers won’t make up all that ground between now and April 7, of course. That’s a conclusion the always optimistic Staples reluctantly came to after parsing the numbers, even if he was no doubt wondering if he’d had it right after his men jumped out to an 8-2-2 start.

After what we saw tonight, I’m convinced Staples wasn’t as much wrong as premature, a season early. I wouldn’t bet even a dollar that the Flames will finish ahead of the Oilers in the standings next season. Not one buck.

Feaster’s two best players are Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff. Both are 34. Alex Tanguay, 31, Mike Cammalleri, 29, and former Oiler Curtis Glencross, 28, still have something in the tank. So does overpaid Jay Bouwmeester. After that? I don’t see a lot coming down the pipe, Grade A prospects, to take the torch.

Feaster also has pending UFAs in Olli Jokinen, Lee Stempniak, David Moss, Tom Kostopoulos, Tim Jackman, Cory Sarich and Scott Hannan. Simply put, a big chunk of Feaster’s roster is aging, old or on the way out. They’re more than good enough to finish ahead of the Oilers this season. Then what?


Even with the flaws in the roster Tambellini has put together the past three seasons, he has pieces to the big rebuild picture Feaster has not assembled – Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, for starters. Who will the Oilers get with the second or third pick in June?

Tambellini’s oldest players are transitional players – Andy Sutton, Darcy Hordichuk, Eric Belanger and Nikolai Khabibulin. Ryan Smyth, who just celebrated his 36th birthday and will be no better than a third-liner next season, if Tambellini puts this team together right, is also in that group.

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Yes, holes remain. And there are also obvious questions about Tambellini’s ability to make the right personnel moves to lift this team out of lottery territory and move it along into playoff contention in 2012-13 and beyond.

Tambellini has not provided overwhelming evidence, or anything close to it, to suggest confidence is in order. A bona fide starting goaltender, please and thank-you. Another real NHL defenseman or two would come in handy. Who will be Tambellini’s second-line right winger? Etc.

All that said, it looked more obvious than ever — even allowing for a Calgary line-up thinned by injuries — what fans in both cities saw tonight was a telling glimpse of one team on the up escalator and another headed the other way, with no doubt remaining which is which.

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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    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      Robin Does that first fist thing irritate you or do you like to be first? Just wondering as you often post first on your own articles.

    • Gange

      Wow this article starts off saying that it’s not by a homer, then proceeds to be a complete homer article.

      Great, the Oilers have some good young players. The holes in the team are not “Spackle over” types of holes. As it stands, the Oilers will likely have to score 7 goals a night to win games next year. The defence is horrid and the goaltending is worse! There is a really good top line and a pretty good second line. Enjoy your season next year because you’ll have to pay these players starting the year after.

      Why do people look at the Flames and not see that they are playing with half an AHL roster? On top of that there’s players not up yet Baertschi, Bill Arnold, John Gaudreau. Young players that the Oilers would like to have T.J. Brodie, Leyland Irving.

      Just FYI the list of starting players that DIDN’T play last night are:
      Curtis Glencross 29
      Derek Smnith 27
      Mikael Backlund 22
      Blair Jones 25

      And hey, they’re all be back next year.

      Save it Brownlee, we may not continue the crushing wins next year but the Oilers will be hard pressed to beat them any given night. As for finishing ahead, well your team has yet to prove anything.

      • Fact! The Oilers have great young players! The “holes” you speak of, which I believe Brownlee mentioned are in fact “transitional players” we are under no illusions that going forward our goaltending or defense will be the same, not so for your Flames.

        As for “Paying” these players it’s called Cap Structure! It’s funny how non-Oiler fans always say the same thing, “Wait till you have to pay them” Take a look at the penguins who have signed there 5 first round picks with two of them being the highest paid players in the NHL, but I digress.

        I think someone already mentioned the injuries to the Oilers this year so I won’t get into that.

        As for “prospects” Please! It’s not even close. The Flames have one of the worst organizational depth in the entire NHL, that’s a fact!

        Face it, The Oilers are a goalie and a top pairing defenseman away from owning the Flames for the better part of a decade again!

        EDIT: So many beat me too it, oh well, nothing like more support!

      • Bob Cobb

        Sensitive much, don’t complain about injuries or anything else cause anything that can happen to a team in terms of injuries has happened to Edmonton. All your team has is a geriatric Kipper and Iginla trying to hold on to an ever fading past and no future prospects to speak of, if one of the four players you mentioned works out Ill be suprised.

        Yeah, the Oilers are going to have to pay the young kids, thats how it works dumbass. But with free agency after 7 years in the league we have the kids as a core till they are around 25 and for the next 5-7 years, now its just a matter of building around them. Don’t say the rebuild hasn’t worked either cause you obviously haven’t got a clue whats going on outside of Calgary. The Oilers are in year 3 of it, adding vets around high end picks is the key now as I mentioned above.

        As for injuries this year for the Oilers, Hopkins, Hall, Eberle, Whitney, Gilbert and Barker were out at the same time. Your lucky Hopkins was out last night the score would have been worse.

        So enjoy missing the playoffs again, getting a mid round pick and trying to convince your self that next year will be different.

        • Gange


          Yeah, injuries are not an excuse. This I know. Yet the Flames, with their old, “ever fading” team are vying for a playoff spot. Weird. The Oilers with their unbelievable talent are still in a lottery position. How about discussing you’re currently situation, not things that haven’t happened. Perhaps you can even use the tried and true ‘5 CUPS’ argument about things that happened 20 plus years ago?

          Compare yourself to Chicago all you want but didn’t Toews and Kake win a cup only two years after being drafted? How close are the Oilers coming this year?

          Perhaps the Oilers are more like the Islanders and Panthers than the Blackhawks? 🙂

      • Helmethead

        The thing that makes me laugh a lot is Flames fans who talk about Beartschi, Arnold Whoever and John GaudWhoTheF as being their future and the comparable to Eberle, Hall and RNH.

        I remember a time 4-5 years ago when us Oiler fans were delusional about Pouliot, Jacques and Nilson types.

        Argue the best path to take (UFA, trades VS draft and develop). Argue who’s vets are better. Debate the style of play and grit. But when Calgary fans argue their prospect pool is deep and comparable its just pure laughs.

        I truly hope you enjoy missing the playoffs by 1 point and drafting another John GaudWhoTheF this spring.

      • Helmethead


        Are you spending too much time around the Coral in Calgary sniffing cow dung or did a one cow kick you in the side of the head cause you’re clearly delusional…

        The Flames have been in trouble for years. They’ve just been better at masking their issues by signing free agents to make up for their lack of organisational depth.

        I lived in Calgary for 2 years (I tell people i was on a work Visa) and Flames fans are so mis-informed about their team. They’ve built up Backland to be the next Haaken Loob. At age 22 I’d much rather take a Sam Gagner than this kid. Talk about a bust.

        In goal the Flames are hurting.If it weren’t for Kipper starting an avg. of 74 games a year, they don’t even make the playoffs. If Karlsson is the future number 1, I’d be making reservations at the lottery table for 3-4 years.

        The Flames have had a schizophrenic locker room by releasing Jokinen, Cammalleri and Tanguay then re-signing them. They traded away arguably their best draft pick and best defenseman in Phaneuf.

        The Flames answer to a glaring hole on defense is to sign Bouwmeester until 2014 at 6.6mil.

        And you’re saying the Flames have a better future than Edmonton does?

        Normally, I’d try to be a little more empathetic but clearly you don’t have the first clue if the basis of your argument rests on players like Jones, Backlund and Smith.

        Good grief…

  • Man, in the first 10 minutes of the game I saw Iginla get his “angry face” on after a battle in front of Dubnyk and I thought to myself “We are screwed.. Angry Iginla is an Oil killer.” But then he just disappeared…along with the rest of the Flames. What the hell!?! I’ll take it any day of the week though.

    It’s always exciting to see what this young Oiler squad is capable of…and really frustrating the other 76 games of the year. I can’t wait for that to change.

  • Rocknrolla

    Long time reader….Fist Post!

    What a great game….I will never tire of beating the Flames in their building.


    I have one question Robin, we are gonna have a lottery pick this year, that seems certain. Tambi will make a couple small moves at the deadline likely. What are the pieces that this team needs for next year so it makes the playoffs. No doubt, I can see management saying that is the goal publicly next year, and I think we have a lot of the pieces to get there. What else do we need?

  • A big ticket UFA coach would help the Oilers get 5-8 more wins next year.

    Dave Tippett .610 winning % vs -.500 Tom Renney ?

    If the Oilers top 6 is Gagner-RNH-Eberle Hall-Grigorenko-Hemsky the future looks great.

    The Oilers can’t afford to lose Hemsky now, give him 3-4 years and a limited NMC. (Front-load the deal) The final year of most contracts are irrelevant in Edmonton.

    • Talbot17

      reading that top 6 is…without a doubt, what we need and that would be unreal if they kept hemsky and drafted Grigorenko.

      its the 3rd line that is killing us…the +/- is ugly on those players..horcoff…HORCOFF!!!

      • Good game by the Oilers, certainly kicked the snot out of my listless, downright terrible at times Flames.

        +/- is completely irrelevant, Hall and Eberle could be skating in, shooting, then bailing off the ice as they give up a 3 on 1 rush. Your 3rd line could simply be the recipient of some bad circumstances such as these.

        • +/- isn’t completely irrelevant, Ryan Murray was +2 last night in a 7-2 loss. It doesn’t tell the full story, but it probably means that the play was more in control with him on the ice and that he played well.

          Gagner and Eberle were +11 in chances last night which is a ridiculous game…Taylor Hall +9

  • For that I completly agree! Baertschi = overrated.

    No worries bro, I’m already sold on him, cant stand to see Horcoff play on that second line, it’s killing me!!! For the Oilers to pass on him would be terrible! Thats why you will hear me cheer for ELPH! No more wins dang it!

  • RexLibris

    This is a long one, so I apologize in advance…

    I’ll start here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWxvbHB5DYA

    It’s a little refresher on *things* Edmontonians say, featuring our very own RNH, Eberle and Gene Principe. Very funny stuff.

    Now, about the Flames/Oilers: great read Robin. Very good stuff and much appreciated for the balance it provides in this often-hyperbolized forum.

    I wouldn’t trade one day of the Flames present for the Oilers future. The Flames have a dominant Right winger, one of the best goaltenders in the league over the past ten years, and a competent defensive group with some average to above-average bottom six players. Good for them. They might have enough talent to squeeze a few million dollars out of a playoff round, maybe two. That is the focus of the ownership and they are likely to succeed in that endeavour.

    I get that Flames fans want Iginla to stay in Calgary and I support that. I have watched talented and beloved players leave Edmonton, so it’s hard not to empathize a little, even if it is Calgary.

    The Oilers tried to do what the Flames have done but we didn’t have the same pieces in place and eventually it all went south anyway, so fate shut all the other doors and thankfully circumstances combined to give us an opportunity to build something special.

    Flames fans who want to criticize that and argue that we’ve been building for over a decade are only speaking generalizations so broad that they are essentially fallacies. Efforts prior to the 2009 season were not rebuilds, they were the desperate retooling efforts of a management and ownership structure that was too cowardly to face losing.

    I have said that there are many paths to rebuilding, or restructuring, or whatever politically correct term a person wants to use, and this is the one that best fit the Oiler’s circumstances.

    Attempts to favourably compare the prospect pool of the Flames to the Oilers only happen amongst Flames apologists. Outside observers, media, and most insiders connected with the NHL would come to the same conclusion: Calgary has improved it’s prospect depth from last season, but that only means moving frmo 29th overall to perhaps 26th overall (Hockey’s Future, last updated Nov, 2011). The Oilers rank 4th overall on that same scale.

    It’s apples and oranges at this point.

    The Flames have Arnold, Baertschi, Gaudreau, Reinhart, and Irving as their most notable prospects at this time. Taking a one-out-of-three attrition rate as an average that means that of the Flames prospects, an above average turnout would mean that two of those five players turn out to be 250-game career NHLers. Maybe Baertschi becomes good, say Logan Couture good. Maybe not. Irving might be as good as Tomas Vokoun or Tommy Salo. Maybe better. Time will tell.

    The Oilers have in their development system Klefbom, Marincin, Gernat, Omark, Pitlick, Hamilton, Musil, Hartikainen, Bunz, and Teubert all as equivalent or higher rated prospects to those of the Flames. Given that same ratio of success for prospects, the Oilers are likely to have between three and four solid NHLers. Perhaps more with their higher draft pedigree, improved development infrastructure, and better standing in the scouting community.

    Flames fans are understandably defensive about criticisms of their prospect pool. Darryl Sutter pillaged their future for the present (now the past) and left scorched earth in his wake. On top of that, their top prospect, Tim Erixon, forced Feaster to trade him for what was a marginal return given his market value at the time. But fans in Calgary would be best served not to try and contrast their development system and futures with the Oilers. You won’t be doing yourselves any favours in the eyes of most outsiders.

    I agree with Robin that there are holes in the Oiler’s lineup and those will be addressed, but not at the cost of the future. Racing to mediocrity is a well-worn path, one whose results are on display for all to see right now in L.A., Calgary, and Buffalo. A disastrous example can be seen in Columbus.

    Patience, however, has its rewards. So maybe this rebuild doesn’t snag a championship, but it will be, unequivocally, a better ride than the one Oiler fans have watched play out for the better part of this young century.

    As for Grigorenko, I wonder if the Oilers might trade down a place or two and gamble on Galchenyuk. Either way, whomever is taken this year needs to go back to junior. Nothing to be gained by rushing another young player and the focus ought to be on finding one more defenceman. Khabibulin will be traded either this summer or at the 2013 deadline at which time a goaltending upgrade will become, not a requirement, but an absolute necessity.

    Again, sorry for the length, and as an Oiler fan, while I loved (LOVED!) seeing such a dominant win last night, let’s not let it go to our heads and act like Canuck fans.

    Glad to read that story about the Oiler fans kicking in for the disadvantaged kids. I always glad to see Oiler fan brethren carrying themselves with (at least some sort of) dignity.

  • RexLibris

    Do the Oilers have a better prospect pool than the Flames? Absolutely, I won’t argue that one. But the Flames system is improving, and I would say the 2011 draft was their best draft in a long time. Also, even though they had to trade Erixon, they got Horak from that trade, who has exceeded all expectations in his rookie season. Remember, he was a 5th round pick, so to be in the NHL at 20 is impressive. Backlund is another good young player. Yes, he has struggled to put up counting numbers, but if any of you look at the advanced stats Backlund has arguably been the Flames best forward, he drives the play up ice and creates chances. It’s only a matter of time before he starts putting up some numbers.

    All in all, I don’t expect the Oilers to consistently beat down the Flames, and I don’t think the system is as bare as some of you may think. I guess we’ll find out soon enough

  • FIRE

    I would agree that the Oilers have a bright future. What Edmonton fans should realize is, that there are very few teams that pull off a Chicago Blackhawks ride to success and the Stanley Cup. Tambellini is not a great GM and my grandmother could of selected Hall and Nugent-Hopkins as obvious selections in the Draft. He will face the music when he gets fired next year for not being able to shore up his defence and goaltending. Hemsky is not worth what Tambellini thinks he is worth.
    As hard as it has become, to attract unrestricted players to Alberta, the Flames at least attract players to come here. It’s no secret both Hall and Seguin were hoping to get picked by the Bruins.
    By the time that the Oilers young talent become mature; they will be close to becoming restricted free agents with an eye on how much time they will have to spend in Edmonton.
    The Flames will probably not be an elite team for many years and the Oilers, although much more talented will never be the Chicago Blackhawks and win a Stanley Cup with a team full of young superstars.
    Oilers beat the Flames for the first time in 10 games and they are on cloud Nine. Big deal!!

    • D-Man

      Ah yes – the bitter Flames fan who has nothing better to do but troll an Oiler fan website… What proof do you have that Hall/Seguin didn’t want to get drafted first?? If you had watched Oil Change – you’d note that both pleaded their case to be the starting point of our rebuild…

      Also – who have the Flames attracted via free agency?? Olli Jokinen?? They traded him away only to ask him to come back?? Alex Tanguay?? Please…

      You might be right about Tambo though… He’s had as many misses as he’s had hits with drafting and free agency, but I’m pretty confident that the Flames will start their decline beginning next year… Enjoy your 9th place finish and your mid-tier draft pick…

  • RB, what do you think about how Petry is playing? Just a good stretch or a promise of things to come?

    Also MPS looks a lot better to me. Seemed to play well on whatver line he was on. Starting to click for him or….?

  • All the Oiler’s good players you mentioned above were draftees and a monkey could’ve made those picks save late first rounder Eberle…all had probably minimal direct input from Tambo. Tambo has to go. He needs some more managerial seasoning but I don’t want him to get all this experience through Oiler managerial miscues.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Ah I always enjoy a positive read. Petry is looking good, and with Gilbert, Smid, Whitney, and Murray we’ll have a D-core to brag about.

    If we re-sign Hemmer, and with Hall and Ebs and RNH progressing in a straight line, and Gags hopefully turning the corner and finding more consistency we have 5 out of 6 forwards.

    MPS and Smyth, with Eager,Horcoff,Lander we have a good bottom 6.

    With blue-chip prospects still coming next year looks good.

    And if we can follow the Detroit/Chicago model we don’t need Lundqvist stealing games for us, we just need Dubby to make a save when he has to.

  • Colin

    Nice one, RB, I’ve been thinking as much since Saturday, when I watched a hopelessly outgunned Flames team get bailed out yet again by Kipper against the Kings. It really convinces me that the Flames have been duped into thinking their creaky held together by chewing gum and baling wire roster was not as mediocre as it has been for the last years, by the 15-20 points a year handed to them by Kipper. I really would rather bottom feed for a few years if it means I get to watch a BEAST like Hall and a magician like Eberle for the next decade. Not to mention RNH and whoever we get in July. It also convinces me that a goalie should be the last piece of the puzzle – otherwise a horse like Kipper can paper over a lot of holes that should otherwise have been filled.

  • Willi P

    Seems to me that I think I heard the same argument last year, during the summer, at the beginning of this year etc.

    Time will tell, but I would bet more than $1. Don’t count your chickens (again and again and again)

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I hate the Flames more than I can articulate with words. The only thing I hate more than the Flames is losing to the Flames.

    But that being said, isn’t this article a little premature after the Flames held us to the ground and pummeled us for like ten straight games?

  • paul wodehouse

    The Oil were very aggressive on the forecheck much like the Rangers.
    When they stand back and trap we spend too much time in our own end.

    We moved the puck out of our own end by long headman passes or skating out the middle.Most of the year we have tried to bring it up the boards and have been bottled up as the opposition knew our system.

    I don’t know if the change behind the bench caused this but I like the aggressive game plan.