Sports fans growing up in Alberta have usually had to choose sides. Calgary or Edmonton. Flames or Oilers. With the recent Battle of Alberta in the CFL featuring two teams not accustomed to being at the bottom of the standings, I started to think about how the Battle of Alberta would shape up for the Flames and Oilers in the upcoming season. Will it ever reach the all-out battle each side wishes it would take? Or will it settle back to a kinder, more peaceful hockey love fest that it seems to have morphed into over the past few seasons, with the exception of the February 1, 2020 game?
Key players and personnel on both the Oilers and Flames will be on the hot seat this season. If either team is unable to make the playoffs or win one or two playoff rounds, a change could be in store for Dave Tippett, Brad Treliving, Sean Monahan and even Ken Holland.
Oilers and Flames Offseason Changes
The biggest moves that affected both teams were the loss of Mark Giordano and Adam Larrson to Seattle. As much as the Oilers will feel the effect of losing Larrson, Giordano’s departure represents a crater size hole in terms of leadership and skill to the Flames. With the Oilers signing Zac Hyman and trading for Warren Foegele as well as the addition of Derek Ryan, their forward group is the strongest it’s been in over a decade. The Flames’ offseason was highlighted by the signing of Blake Coleman from the Tampa Bay Lightning, which could improve their forward group in 2021-22. However, questions remain as to whether Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk and even Johnny Gaudreau can bounce back under Darryl Sutter.
The Oilers’ defence remains a question mark, and it’ll wait and see with the additions of Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci. While the Flames D will feel the loss of Gio, the addition of Nikita Zadorov to go along with the solid first pairing of Tanev and Hanifin still gives them a slight edge on the backend over the Oilers.
Goaltending could be the Achilles heel for both teams. The Oilers will nervously rely on another solid year from 39-year-old Mike Smith, but their backup situation still has to be sorted out. I give Stalock the edge over Koskinen mainly because I think the players have lost confidence in Koskinen’s ability to stop the first shot. Stuart Skinner still remains in the mix and could surprise, but that remains to be seen. Meanwhile, in Calgary, the pressure is on Jacob Markstrom to have a bounceback year while prospect Dustin Wolf could be poised to take over the number two position in the organization.
Will the Oilers and Flames BOA be Better this Year?
Predictions from Vegas oddsmakers, media and Twitter seem to vary. While some are predicting big things from the Oilers, others believe the Flames will finish higher than their Alberta counterparts. I’m hoping both teams improve because that will increase the odds of a more intense Battle of Alberta. And, hopefully, that will take us back to the days of Steve Smith scoring from behind the net or Gretzky going top shelf over Mike Vernon.
There will always be a rivalry between the two cities. Calgary with its mountain views, and towering skyline and Edmonton with its history of hosting Led Zeppelin twice in the late ’60s. But something fans from both camps can usually agree on is the Battle of Alberta needs to mean something more. Maybe 2021/22 is the year both teams square off in the playoffs. That’ll be sure to renew the hostility. Stay tuned. Puck drops Saturday, October 16th.
D. Edward Bochon covers the Edmonton Oilers. His background is in marketing writing where he worked with the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Football Club (now known as the Elks), and the Edmonton Rush of the NLL.