Hockey Fans Deserve Flames & Oilers Playoff Round

The NHL schedule maker must not be a fan of the Battle of Alberta. Because it’s hard to believe that Dec. 27 is the final third and final time the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames will play each other in the 2022-23 NHL season. These two storied rivals are 1-1 in their two regular-season games, with Wednesday’s game being the rubber match.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames makes a save against Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

For fans of the Battle of Alberta, hopefully, there will be a playoff round to look forward to. But with both teams underachieving this season, it’s hard to predict that will happen.

Expectations for Oilers This Season Are High

The first half of the 2022-23 NHL season has been a bit underwhelming for Oilers fans, as many expected the team to be much higher up in the standings. Inconsistent play on the defensive side of the puck and the struggles of goaltender Jack Campbell seem to be two of the biggest issues in Alberta’s Northern Capital.

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There’s still time for Oilers general manager Ken Holland to make some moves to improve the defense core, and he has to hope that Campbell’s play comes around to support Oilers starting goaltender Stuart Skinner. Skinner has been one of the bright spots in the Oilers’ season and has clearly established himself as the Oilers’ No. 1 goalie. If Campbell can improve, that’s good news for the Oilers. But whether he can supplant Skinner as the starter is another question for another day.

Flames Underachieving But Improving

The last six months have been a rollercoaster ride for Flames fans. Losing Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk was a major blow to the franchise in the offseason. However, Flames general manager Brad Treliving did a commendable job in bringing in forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri, as well as defenceman MacKenzie Weegar. In fact, hopes were very high that the Flames would have a strong 22-23 season, but Huberdeau hasn’t quite gotten comfortable enough to rediscover his scoring touch from the previous season when he was with the Florida Panthers.

Jonathan Huberdeau Calgary Flames
Jonathan Huberdeau, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom has also had a disappointing season so far, with a save percentage hovering in the .890 range. There is hope for the Flames as they had a successful California road trip in mid-December and are up on the Oilers by one point in the Pacific Division standings as they head into their final Battle of Alberta game of the regular season.

What’s It Going to Take for Oilers and Flames to Meet Again in the Playoffs?

A kick in the behind for both teams might not be a bad idea at this point in the season. Holland could use some Treliving magic to pull off a trade to strengthen the Oilers’ defense, which could mean draft picks or prospects heading out of Edmonton. It also might mean the end of Jesse Puljujärvi’s time with the Oilers. It’s hard not to love the Bison King, but the best thing for him and the Oilers organization might be a fresh start somewhere else.

Related: Dear Santa: Edmonton Oilers Wish List for 2023

As for the Flames, they have to hope that Elias Lindholm continues his strong play until Huberdeau comes around. And with Markstrom showing some recent improvement, that could take some of the pressure off of Dan Vladar. The other big question for the second half of the season for the Flames is whether head coach Darryl Sutter will give more ice time to young offensive prospects such as Matthew Phillips. If these players come around, it could mean another meeting in the postseason.

Hope Springs Eternal for Another Playoff Version of the Battle of Alberta

The Oilers and Flames look good on paper, but translating their talent into more wins could be a challenge for both teams in the second half of the season. With Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leading the way, the Oilers could put up some lofty offensive numbers, but they’re going to need to tighten up defensively. Meanwhile, Darryl Sutter might be forced to move out of his comfort zone and let some of his young talent run free at the expense of veterans such as Milan Lucic.

Related: Dear Santa: Calgary Flames Wish List for 2023

Should the Oilers and Flames make the postseason, it would be great for the teams to renew hostilities in the Battle of Alberta. Yes, the Oilers took last year’s playoff version of the BOA in five games, but who’s to say the Flames couldn’t return the favour this year? With both teams currently lower in the regular season standings than many expected, you really can’t predict who would win in a playoff round between the two rival cities. It would make for a compelling storyline, though, one that fans of both franchises deserve considering they only play each other three times in the regular season this year.

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