Oilers & Flames Becoming “Death Valley” Again for Opponents

History may be about to repeat itself. Longtime fans of the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames may remember the heyday of the two clubs. For eight consecutive seasons between 1983 and 1990, the Stanley Cup Final featured either the Oilers or Flames. At the time, Alberta’s teams earned the unofficial nickname of Death Valley because it was where wins went to die for visiting teams.

Those were the days when Alberta fans were privileged to watch Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier of the Oilers and Lanny McDonald and Al MacInnis of the Flames on a nightly basis. Today, they get to watch Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri. It’s almost as exciting now as it was then. Between last season and 2022-23, it looks the nickname has returned to stay, as both the Oilers and Flames are once again Stanley Cup contenders.

It’s been a long time since both Edmonton and Calgary were consistently good enough to top the NHL standings. Edmonton has emerged from a decade of darkness after 10 straight seasons without a playoff berth (2007-2016) — not that Calgary was that much better during that time. The Flames had their own stretch of futility from 2010-2014. But as the Jack White Song goes, “That was then, and this is now.”

Jack Campbell Edmonton Oilers
Jack Campbell, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Oilers and Flames are poised to make the playoffs and go on a possible run. We couldn’t have said that about the Flames in July after both Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk opted out of Cowtown. However, Calgary’s fortunes quickly turned when general manager Brad Treliving pulled some rabbits out of his hat and sent restricted free agent Tkachuk and a conditional 2025 fourth-round pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt and a conditional 2025 first-round pick. Then Treliving turned around and signed recent Stanley Cup winner Kadri and further bolstered his group of forwards up front.

Meanwhile, up north in the Alberta Capital, Oilers general manager Ken Holland was busy signing goaltender Jack Campbell and defenceman Ryan Murray and bringing forward Evander Kane and defenceman Brett Kulak back into the fold.

Limited Battles of Alberta this Season

The Battle of Alberta was reignited during last season’s playoffs. Unfortunately, this season, the Oilers and Flames only meet three times during the regular season — on Oct. 15, 29 and Dec. 27.

Related: 3 Reasons the Oilers Won the Battle of Alberta

After last season’s five-game, Round 2 playoff victory by the Oilers over the Flames, there’s the sense that Calgary might want some revenge, while the Oilers might want to build on their playoff dominance.

Looking Ahead to the 2023 Playoffs

If all of the early-season predictions are accurate, the Oilers and Flames will be competing for the Pacific Division title this season, and if all goes right, the two teams will meet in the playoffs. After so many frustrating seasons for both fan bases, it’s good to see the Oilers and Flames ranked among the best teams in the league again. This doesn’t feel like 2005 when the Flames lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final or 2006 when the Oilers lost in the Final to the Carolina Hurricanes. It feels a bit like the ’80s and early ’90s all over again. “Death Valley” could be here to stay for a few years as both teams boast solid young teams. Fingers crossed, Oilers and Flames fans. This current era of NHL hockey in Alberta could be epic.

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