NHL Predictions: Which Alberta Team Will Have a Better NHL Regular Season?
With the 2010/2011 NHL Regular Season underway, I wanted to take a look at two teams that know each other very well. Both residing in Alberta, Canada the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames start off the regular season renewing their historic rivalry. However, I’m not hear to just simply predict who will win that season opener.
You see, going into the season the Flames and Oilers are taking very different approaches when it comes to their squads.
The Calgary Flames are looking for some veterans to burn it up on the ice. They picked up former Flames Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen during free agency period, hoping that they will contribute often on the offensive end. The Flames will also be relying on veterans like captain Jarome Iginla, star netminder Miikka Kiprusoff, and forward Niklas Hagman to lead the Flames in their push for the playoffs.
Iginla who had a rather unimpressive season will be looking for a big bounce back year in 10/11. He only managed to put up 69 points last season, which is a very low output for Iginla’s standards. He’ll be looking to pick up 80-90+ this season.
Miikka Kiprusoff could be looked upon to once again carry the team on his shoulders. Although some may say that Kiprusoff had an off season last year, the truth is if it wasn’t for him the Flames probably would’ve placed near the very bottom of the Western Conference. Kiprusoff made some great saves as he tried to keep the Flames in playoff contention. However, one man cannot do it alone, and the Avalanche eventually clinched the eighth and final playoff spot.
Kiprusoff will not have to break his back this year between the pipes, though as it seems the Flames have finally found a suitable backup for the man. Henrik Karlsson should provide a great backup for Miikka Kiprusoff. If the Flames were to reach the playoffs this year, they could finally go in with a well-rested, rather than an overworked Miikka Kiprusoff.
A younger player who the Flames will be looking upon to step up is Rene Bourque. He had a good season for the Flames last year, finishing second in team scoring for the Flames behind Iginla. This year could finally be a breakout season for the Bourque; don’t be surprised to see him rack up 70-80 points.
Another young star who you should keep an eye on is Mark Giordano. Giordano also had a good season last year when he managed to put up 30 points. Giordano can become one of the premier defenders in the league in due time if all goes right. Hopefully the Flames do realize that too.
Other key figures on the team are top prospect Mikael Backlund, defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, and others.
In Edmonton, the Oilers are looking for their young guns to do them proud.
Led by newly annointed captain Shawn Horcoff, the Oilers will be looking to much better than last season where they finished dead last in the NHL. To be honest, I think it’ll be nearly impossible to do worse.
Taylor Hall has been deemed as the most NHL ready player from the draft this year’s draft. The Oilers took Hall first overall over Tyler Seguin hoping that he would guide them out of the basement, and that he may very well do. In a few years Taylor Hall could easily join stars like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Toews as some of the NHL’s best.
Jordan Eberle, who was a star for Canada at the Juniors, will also have a lot of pressure on him. Us Canadians know him as the man who continuously would step up in the final moments of the game for Canada to tie the game up. Edmonton will look for him to step up and put some points up on the board this season.
Edmonton’s average age is around 26. Players like Nikolai Khabibulin, Jason Strudwick, Jim Vandermeer, Steve MacIntyre, and Shawn Horcoff, who are the only players on the team either at or above the age of 30, will have to provide the younger players with some valuable knowledge about playing in the NHL.
Now that we’ve examined both the Oilers and Flames a bit, it’s time to ask ourselves will the veterans of Calgary or the young guns of Edmonton have a more solid season? They say youth is wasted on the young and that with age comes great knowledge. With that being said I think you know which side I’m leaning towards when we discuss who will place higher, Calgary or Edmonton.
I can see Edmonton placing around 10th place in the Western Conference, while Calgary places eighth or ninth. Although they are within reach of each other, Calgary will slightly out do their Alberta rivals.
I do think the Flames could place as the eighth and final spot in the playoffs if the right guys perform at a level of play that is up to their standards. Kiprusoff will be key if the Flames want to make the postseason. However, that is not reason to overplay him, especially when you have finally found a legitimate backup for him.
Edmonton’s youth and inexperience will hold them back enough to finish around 10th. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle should both develop at a steady pace for Edmonton, and with luck, they can get Oilers into the postseason soon enough. Hall and Eberle remind me of Toews and Kane. If they can step up as quickly as those two did, then Edmonton has themselves a sure bet with these two.
However at this point with Edmonton, we are still looking towards the future. In Calgary’s case, we can talk present, and in the present the Flames can make the postseason, placing above their rivals, the Edmonton Oilers.
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