NHL: 5 Reasons Why the Oilers Will Finish Ahead of the Flames
Despite the third period meltdown in Calgary last night, the young Oilers are a resilient bunch to keep your eye on this season. So much so that a finish ahead of the Calgary Flames in the standings isn't out of the picture; in fact it's quite possible it could happen this season.
The Flames have been the better of the two during the past few seasons, but times are changing. The Oilers have stocked up on young talent while the Flames efforts have seen them become stale and somewhat of an afterthought to realistically compete for the Stanley Cup.
Depth at Forward
The Oilers are blessed with riches of talent available to them at every position at forward. Despite missing three forwards last night; Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner and Darcy Hordichuk, the Oilers still iced a competitive bunch of forwards. Teemu Hartikainen being an NHL player playing in the AHL just shows you how much depth the Oilers really do have.
While in Calgary the Flames are relying on role players to get the job done. Curtis Glencross and Lee Stempniak are not top six forwards, but that is where they are being used.
The Flames have been criticized for not bringing in and keeping younger offensive happy forwards; until they do it may it be a long season in Calgary.
Help for Iggy?
Year-in-year-out Jarome Iginla gets the job done, leaving fans in Edmonton scratching their heads. Every season he puts up respectable all-star numbers without much of a supporting cast. Last season he put up 43 goals and 43 assists. Look for a significant drop in offensive production this season.
He's currently skating on a line with Alex Tanguay and David Moss. No matter how much chemistry they have together, Alex Tanguay and David Moss are not Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Taylor Hall.
It seems unlikely that the Flames will bring in an offensive talent to help Iggy anytime soon. If things start to crumble, look for the Iginla trade rumours to take center stage in Calgary.
Goalies on a Mission
Miikka Kiprusoff is a fine NHL goalie, he's never seen a save percentage under .900 as a Calgary Flame and is off to another good start this season. The goaltending tandem is still better in Calgary, but the divide between the Flames goalies and Oilers goalies may not be as big as you think.
Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin are two goalies on a mission. Devan Dubnyk is out to prove to NHL skeptics that he is a true number one goalie in this league, and Nikolai Khabibulin is wanting to redeem himself for a summer he wishes he can forget. The Oilers defence may lack offensive puck moving defencemen, but so far this season they have helped the two masked men in Edmonton off to a good start.
The Flames welcomed a few new players that saw action in the first installment of the Battle of Alberta, they included: Lee Stempniak, Scott Hannan and Chris Butler, to name a few. Not the most exciting bunch, but role-players are, nonetheless, something each team needs.
While the Oilers didn't lure in any prize free-agent, they opted for bringing in veteran leadership. Eric Belanger, Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk and Cam Barker were all signed, while Ryan Smyth and Andy Sutton were added via trade. The city is still buzzing around the addition of Ryan Smyth. Even with the kids performing admirably, for this season at least, this is 'Smytty's' team.
Does Lee Stempniak taping up before the game in the locker room motivate Jarome Iginla to perform better, or does sitting beside Ryan Smyth for a kid like Eberle, or Hall, or RNH take them to the next level?
The Oilers Are Sick of Losing
Enough losing, it's time to win some hockey games. Back-to-back 30th place finishes have the Oilers eager to prove to the rest of the league that it won't happen again. The management has provided the club with pieces to be successful this season. It doesn't mean the Oilers have to make the play-offs, but staying competitive longer into the season will only help the development of the club as a whole.
Injured players Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky will be used as trade bait and could be used to continue stockpile young talent. Calgary, on the other hand, doesn't have those kind of trading pieces. The only true young stud on the way is Sven Bartschi, and for the sake of Flames fans, I hope they keep him.