FGD #37: The Battle of Alberta (8pm; CBC)

On October 9, on the second day of the regular season, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers met in their first Battle of Alberta of 2014-15. The season was full of promise for both of them at that point. Since that game – a 5-2 comeback win for the Calgary Flames up at Rexall – the teams have moved in different directions.

Calgary’s win was their first of the season, and they’ve subsequently added an additional 17 triumphs to enter tonight’s game with Edmonton at the Saddledome with a pretty solid 18-15-3 record. The Flames exited the Christmas break a mere two points out of a playoff spot, a massive leap forward for a club that drafted fourth overall last season (even after an eight-game losing streak).

Edmonton’s loss was their first of the season, and they’ve subsequently added an additional 20 setbacks to enter this rematch with Calgary with a 7-21-7 record. Like Calgary, the Oilers are a streaky bunch. Unlike Calgary (until their recent ugly stretch), they’ve been finding ways to both (a) lose in gut-wrenching fashion and (b) extend losing streaks beyond the point of even being funny anymore. They exit the holiday break 20 points out of a playoff spot.

Calgary’s last five wins? December 22, December 4, December 2, November 29 and November 26.

Edmonton’s last five wins? December 7, November 9, November 7, October 27 and October 24.

Ouch. (Both Edmonton’s total number of wins and Calgary’s big, big recent gap.)

In a weird quirk, the Oilers axed coach Dallas Eakins (and brought in GM Craig MacTavish as interim coach) the same week that the Flames extended coach Bob Hartley for what’s reportedly a deal through 2016-17.

The puck drops at 8pm MT and the game can be viewed on CBC (with Rick Ball and Craig Simpson) and heard on Sportsnet 960 The Fan (with Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias).

THE FLAMES

Lines from the December 22nd game versus Los Angeles via Daily Faceoff:

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 1.28.48 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 1.29.14 PM

Bob Hartley occasionally put Monahan with Hudler and Gaudreau on that top line, so don’t be surprised if things get shuffled a little bit. Josh Jooris (upper/lower body) missed the LA game due to various injuries, but he’s not on the IR, so he could slot back in. Ladislav Smid, Mikael Backlund and Sam Bennett remain out. Most likely Brian McGrattan and Corey Potter are your healthy scratches again.

I would expect Jonas Hiller to get the start given that he won last game.

THE OILERS

Lines from the December 23 game vs. Arizona from Daily Faceoff:

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 1.33.44 PM

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I would expect Victor Fasth to get the start, if only because Ben Scrivens took the loss last game.

The Oilers keep shuffling lines, trying to get something going on their end, but so far it’s been akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The Oilers should be much, much better than they are on-paper, but for various reasons, they keep wildly under-achieving.

And I don’t know about you, but spending a year on the 30th-best team in the NHL is probably not the best use of the first year of Leon Draisaitl’s entry-level deal.

SUM IT UP

There may be no better metaphor for the Edmonton Oilers 2014-15 season than that first game, a 5-2 loss at home against Calgary. The game began with great promise for the team up north, but somehow it got completely away from them and they couldn’t figure out how to get it under control.

The horses are out of the barn for the 2014-15 season. The Oilers need some positives, in any form. The Flames want nothing more than to string a few wins together and get themselves back into a playoff spot. This is a meeting of two rebuilding teams, each progressing in two completely different speeds – rapid and glacial, respectively – and with two completely different sets of goals.

And it should be a fascinating way to kick off the next section of the National Hockey League schedule for both clubs.

Checkout what they’re saying about tonight over at Oilersnation.



    • Captain Ron

      Don’t feel bad for them. They deserve this. Their lazy overpaid players deserve this. Their terrible management deserves this. But most of all, their delusional, pro-tanking fans deserve this. For every Edmonton fan that laughed their way to a first overall pick, to them I say..

      HA!

  • mk

    As much as I don’t miss Ference (only in my nostalgic moments), he seems to be the only one who cares on the Oilers. Like actually wants to win. Too bad he’s not very good anymore (for them).

  • BurningSensation

    “What is best in life?”

    “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of the women”

    Here’s hoping we can make the Oilogosphere cry.

  • beloch

    The Oilers have been a decent puck possession team actually, but their goal-tending is a steaming hot mess. MacTavish was responsible for starting the season with two untried backups, so he naturally threw Eakins under the bus. One thing he has not done, however, is acquire a competent NHL starter. Goaltending is still the Oilers’ biggest weakness.

    Another big weakness of the Oilers is a general lack of fortitude. The length of their losing streak plus the loss of their coach has this team back on its heels in disarray. If the Flames push early and put a few past whatever bum is in net, there’s a good chance the rest of the Oilers will fold and spend the remainder of the game waiting to make their walk of shame to the dressing room.

    • MattyFranchise

      “The Oilers have been a decent puck possession team actually…” If this doesn’t demonstrate the stupidity in some of the analytics, I don’t know what does. Who cares if they are a decent puck possession team and even if it’s true, how has that helped them? They are a terrible team with brutal systems, horrid coaching and a cancerous culture. Let’s call it like it is and not fall back on analytics to support their game.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Welcome to Flames Nation, a hockey-analytics centric website.

        Before you respond, rest assured that everyone that comments and posts on this site will watch the game.

        • ChinookArchYYC

          That’s the issue Chinook. Your statement should have read “Welcome to Flames Nation, where we speak intelligently about hockey, share our opinions, discuss hockey strategy and the Flames present and future.” The fact that you think hockey-analytics is the sole basis for hockey discussion restricts intelligent dialogue.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            Not at all. Frankly most hockey discussions I’m involved don’t involve any stats, because most guys I talk to don’t follow them. Hockey analytics for me and others are just another part of how the game can be viewed. Take or leave it, it’s your choice.

            I just don’t see why you come to FN and criticize people that are interested in analytics. Especially when it’s a website decided aiming toward people interested in fancy stats.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            First of all I wasn’t critical of people interested in analytics. It’s part of the game but I disagree with those who rely 100% on analytics to support a position. And I didn’t realize that FN was “a website decided aiming toward people interested in fancy stats.” Here I thought it was a website for people to have an intelligent discussion about hockey.

      • beloch

        The Oilers’ CF% is 16th in the league, which makes them average in that respect. With a large enough sample of games this means the Oilers would be an average team, but only if they also had an average shooting percentage and average goal-tending. They have neither.

        Their sh% is third last in the league, which is probably due to a combination of poor luck and taking too many harmless perimeter shots. Their goal-tending is dead last in the league and the two reasons for it being that bad are named Scrivens and Fasth.

        Saying that the Oilers are a terrible team does not begin to explain why they are terrible. Saying that they play a terrible system does not explain why their system is terrible. Saying that they have a cancerous culture is pure speculation. If you were the GM of the Oilers, you’d throw your hands up in the air and fire a coach, like MacTavish just did. I would have made a trade for a competent starting goalie. I’m willing to wager my approach would garner more wins. The difference between you and MacT is that MacT is likely intentionally tanking his team for picks… yet again.

          • beloch

            How deflated is it because of the games the Oilers just gave up on in the first period after their goalies let a few softies in?

            It’s difficult to interpret stats without looking at what’s on the ice, I wholeheartedly agree. I’m also a fan of the Oilers (a distant second to the Flames) and I’ve watched a lot of their games. They’ve been right in more games than their record would suggest. They’ve also quit early far too often, which makes their overall good CF% that much more surprising. If the Oilers got league average goal-tending they might surprise a few teams. They likely wouldn’t be a playoff team, but they’d be dangerous enough to take seriously.

  • RKD

    The Oilers maybe better off restarting their rebuild right now they just keep putting patches on a leaky tire. Adding guys like Nikitin, Purcell, Pouliout, Fayne and Aulie have had no impact. McDavid would be nice to have but their biggest problems are in the net and on the blueline. Final score 13-1 Flames.

  • beloch

    Re: Gaudreau – I still can’t get over Eric Francis thinking Gaudreau needed to go to the minors. And then after Gaudreau started scoring, claiming the team was only a day or two from sending him down and he was just reporting it. At least be enough of a man to admit you were wrong.

    Re: Draisatl – not sending this kid to play in the WJC, regain some confidence, gain international experience and represent his country is entirely indicative of how stupid Oilers’ management really is. Vs., you know, having to endure what’s happening in Edmonton. Unbelievable.

    Re: Oilers’ goalies: While I totally agree they should’ve gotten themselves a vet, IMO the real culprit is the complete inability of that entire team to play anything even remotely resembling defense. I mean, that breakaway was embarrassing.