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.
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.
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?
UP THE ROAD
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.
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.