(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)
Hockey is a game full of traditions and sentimentality, and that also bleeds into its rivalries. At this point, it’s only sentimentality that supports the notion that the Battle of Alberta is top rivalry for either the Calgary Flames or the Edmonton Oilers.
For their part, the Flames seem to have more bees in their bonnets for games against the Vancouver Canucks (and for good reason). Since the last time the Flames played meaningful spring hockey against Edmonton in 1991, they’ve played Vancouver three times in the playoffs and had a memorable line brawl with them in January 2014. But don’t look now, but there’s a decent chance that the Flames and the Oilers could meet in the postseason for the first time since 1991.
What has to happen for the Flames and Oilers to finally face off?
A Brief History
The Flames and Oilers have met five times in the playoffs:
- 1983 Smythe Division Finals: Edmonton beats Calgary 4-1
- 1984 Smythe Division Finals: Edmonton beats Calgary 4-3
- 1986 Smythe Division Finals: Calgary beats Edmonton 4-3
- 1988 Smythe Division Finals: Edmonton beats Calgary 4-0
- 1991 Smythe Division Semi-Finals: Edmonton beats Calgary 4-3
If you’re a Flames fan, sentimentality may be the primary reason you want to see a playoff Battle of Alberta… because the outcomes have rarely been good for the Flames. (Thanks, Steve Smith!)
Scenario 1: Edmonton finishes 2nd in Pacific, Calgary finishes 3rd
In this scenario, the Oilers are required to keep doing what they’re doing and figure out a way to finish ahead of Anaheim in second place in the Pacific. It seems doable considering that the two clubs have had roughly the same amount of points for the last while.
The tougher challenge is given to Calgary: they need to stay hot and figure out a way to catch up to Edmonton and Anaheim, bumping the Ducks down to the wildcard spots. It’s not impossible, but it involves the Flames bridging a two-point gap between them and Anaheim. It’s doable, but the Flames have been bad against the Ducks lately.
SCS odds: 59% chance the Oilers finish 2nd, 23% chance Flames finish 3rd
Scenario 2: Edmonton finishes 1st in Pacific, Calgary finishes in first wildcard
While Scenario 1 puts the onus on the Flames to get hotter and catch up with someone, this scenario relies upon the Oilers to put the rubber to the road and catch up with San Jose (currently three points up). Meanwhile, the Flames merely need to out-pace Nashville/St. Louis and Los Angeles for the first wildcard spot.
SCS odds: 11% chance the Oilers finish 1st, 29% chance Flames finish first wildcard
Scenario 3: Edmonton finishes 2nd in Pacific and wins in first round, Calgary finishes in first wildcard and wins in first round
This scenario is arguably the least likely. The Oilers and Flames both basically stay put and then win in the first round. Considering the teams they may face in the opening round – Edmonton would play Anaheim, Calgary would play San Jose – it seems somewhat unlikely that both Canadian teams would unseat their California counterparts.
Sum It Up
Based on the most likely outcomes, a first round Battle of Alberta is a possibility but it’s not quite a likelihood right now. Edmonton’s most likely first round opponents are Anaheim (56.2%) and Calgary (23.3%). Calgary’s most likely first round opponents are San Jose (27.9%), Edmonton (23.4%) and Minnesota (22.3%).
It’s possible, but both teams have some work to do over the next month to make it a reality.