For the past 39 years, the Calgary Flames have been engaged in the Battle of Alberta with their bitter rivals, the Edmonton Oilers. The two teams have played hundreds of times. They’ve engaged in dozens of fights. But until Friday’s trade, there had been more popes since 1980 than trades between the two rivals – now that tally is even.
Since 1980, five Oilers general managers and five Flames GMs didn’t conduct any trades with their rivals. Oilers GMs not trading include Glen Sather, Kevin Lowe, Peter Chiarelli and interim GM Keith Gretzky. Flames GMs not trading include Cliff Fletcher, Doug Risebrough, Al Coates, Craig Button and interim GM Brian Burke.
Three Oilers GMs and three Flames GMs broke the seal, though. Here are the three trades they’ve made to date.
March 3, 2010: Calgary trades Aaron Johnson and a 2011 third round pick to Edmonton for Steve Staios
Looking to add some experience and grit for a playoff push, Flames GM Darryl Sutter did the unthinkable – he made a trade with Edmonton. (Edmonton’s GM at the time was Steve Tambellini.) Staios was alright for the team, but didn’t give them much of a boost. (Johnson and the pick didn’t fare much better for the Oilers.)
Staios missed most of the following season with injuries (and was fairly flat otherwise), eventually giving rise to the FlamesNation meme “Staios! Is! Available!” He left the team as a free agent in 2011 and we all vowed to put this silliness behind us.
November 8, 2013: Calgary trades Roman Horak and Laurent Brossoit to Edmonton for Ladislav Smid and Olivier Roy
This trade made a bit more sense than the Staios swap. Looking for a veteran to help guide a rebuilding Flames squad, Jay Feaster sent tweener forward Horak and junior goalie Brossoit to Edmonton for Smid and Roy, a minor league goalie. (Edmonton’s GM at the time was Craig MacTavish.)
Like Staios, Smid struggled with injuries and consistency and ended up riding out the final year of his contract on the long-term injured reserve list after a couple serious neck injuries. He landed in the Czech Republic as a free agent. Brossoit was easily the player who made it out of this swap looking the best, and he didn’t really get a foothold on a steady NHL gig until he became the backup in Winnipeg years later.
July 19, 2019: Calgary trades James Neal to Edmonton for Milan Lucic and a conditional 2020 third round pick
As with the prior two swaps, Brad Treliving’s trade with Edmonton was seeking to find a particular attribute or two. Staios was veteran grit. Smid was experience and leadership. Lucic is physicality, particularly with the departure of Garnet Hathaway. (The trade is functionally an acknowledgement that Ryan Lomberg might not be the heir apparent to that fourth line spot.)
The Staios trade was a declining team struggling to stay in the playoff hunt (and failing). The Smid trade was a rebuilding team trying to find a mentor for their youngsters. The Lucic trade is, at best, a team making a lateral trade with a rough contract and hoping to find a player who’s a better fit for the role that they have available. With the top six the Flames have, Neal wasn’t going to find his way back into that mix… and if he’s not scoring, you probably would rather have Milan Lucic manning the third or fourth line in limited minutes than Neal.
Time will tell if the third Battle of Alberta trade is as fruitful (or fruitless) for both sides as the previous two.