Former Oilers Great Offers To Help Ken Holland Out In Series vs. Flames

The way Game 1 went between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames on Wednesday suggests the Oilers are going to need to change their approach. Edmonton got caught up in the emotion of a playoff Battle of Alberta, got out of sorts early, and had to battle back just to tie the game in a super high-scoring affair. They weren’t able to hold the lead and lost 9-6. Members of the team who spoke to the media afterward said they couldn’t play that way again if they expected to win this series.

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One player who knows a lot about the emotion of the Battle of Alberta is Esa Tikkanen. The former Oiler who fought many times as the Oilers took on the Flames in the glory days of the 80s and 90s, he was someone who knew how to elevate his game and play a style that worked. Interestingly, Tikkanen has offered to help the Oilers out, and maybe, GM Ken Holland should take that phone call.

Tikkanen Offers His Expertise

In a tweet on Thursday morning that followed the 9-6 loss, Tikkanen wrote, “Ken Holland you have my number #battleofalberta #LetsGoOilers.” He shared a video of his goal that sealed the series for the Oilers over the Flames in 1991. It was an overtime goal that helped the Oilers win 5-4 in the Game 7 Smythe Semifinal.

While Tikkanen is likely tweeting something like this for fun and simply rooting on a team he played many years for, it brings up an interesting question: Should the Oilers consider bringing in a voice that has been there before? This isn’t to suggest someone like Tikkanen be given a job inside the Oilers organization, but would a quick chat or a pre-game locker room speech help this team? Clearly, the Oilers let the drama of this series take them off their game. Even veterans like Mike Smith were rattled early. A voice from the past might mean something.

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This sort of thing is not unheard of in sports and if another game goes by where the Oilers look lost and chaotic, Holland shouldn’t be afraid to turn over every rock in an effort to find a solution.

Tikkanen Knew How to Be a Pest

Tikkanen had the ability to score, but the one thing he was really known for was driving the opposition crazy. In a way, he was the Oilers’ version of Matthew Tkachuk. He had a knack for being irritating, but a lot of what made him so likable as an Oilers fan but hateable as a fan of every other team was because he was annoying and also a really good hockey player. When it came time to play the Flames, he really seemed to relish the opportunity to play his unique style and it was key to the Oilers’ success.

Esa Tikkanen Edmonton Oilers
Esa Tikkanen, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)

This team needs a little more Tikkanen in them. Most fans knew this series would be physical. If the players didn’t know it, they do now after Game 1. The skills Tikannen possessed and his desire to get under the skin of his opponents are something the Oilers shouldn’t shy away from. It will be important for Edmonton to flip the narrative and become the team that takes Calgary out of its structure.

Players like Kailer Yamamoto, Evander Kane, Zack Kassian, Josh Archibald, Derek Ryan, and others could learn a thing or two from a player like Tikkanen. Essentially, they could add another tool to their toolbox.

The Shadow Knows

If nothing else, Tikkanen could offer some great advice for Connor McDavid. The Flames will never shut McDavid down completely, but they’re going to key in on him and Game 1 already saw situations where the defensemen were trying to shadow him, something Tikkanen was known for. One of his best attributes as a defensive forward was to stick with his guy and never let him do anything or go anywhere. Perhaps he can offer some advice to McDavid on how to get around it.

Fans will say this is no longer the Boys on the Bus team of the 80s and that the Oilers need to move away from those guys to be successful. But, anyone who watched Game 1 can see that these two teams rolled back the clock 31 years. If this is the style of game these two organizations are going to play, it’s not the worst thing in the world to get some pointers from players who have lived through it once already.