As soon as the Edmonton Oilers drafted Connor McDavid everyone presumed the battle of Alberta to be over, but thanks to poor drafting, signings and lack of execution…. The Calgary Flames have passed the Oilers. If you’re asking me if I’d take Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl over Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau that’s an easy answer, I’d be taking Connor McDavid and a player in the minors over almost any other duo in the league.
After the Oilers $21 million-dollar men, it’s not that pretty. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found a home on Connor McDavid’s wing but he’s played 82 games one time in 7 years. Milan Lucic’s contract was a disaster from day 1 and he had 1 goal in the last half of the season. After that, the Oilers are expecting some combination of Drake Caggiula, Ryan Strome, Jesse Puljujarvi and Ty Rattie to round out their top 6.
After Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau (who only take up $13 million), the Flames have Matthew Tkachuk who they took 2 picks after Jesse Puljujarvi and 1 after Olli Juolevi (Hi Vancouver), Tkachuk plays on a line with Michael Frolik and Mikael Backlund who the numbers seem to love. The Flames lost Micheal Ferland in the Dougie Hamilton trade, but he had such a hot start and was a prime candidate for 35 goals…. he finished with 21 goals and his time in Calgary could be described as inconsistent.
Up front this offseason the Oilers added 2 players they once drafted, Kyle Brodziak (good 4th line player) and Tobias Rieder (12 goals). Meanwhile, while the Flames lost Ferland they added; Elias Lindholm (44 points, right handed shot), Derek Ryan (38 points, 56% FO) and James Neal who will get 25 goals regardless of how he plays.
On Defense it was pretty easy to begin with. The Dougie Hamilton trade might actually help the Flames on the back end. They lose his 17 goals (which were replaced up front) but as soon as Noah Hanifin hits someone then he would be considered more physical than Hamilton ever was. The TJ Brodie and Travis Hamonic pairing were awful last year but once Brodie gets back to playing with Giordano, expect him to go back to 2015 form. For the Oilers, Oscar Klefbom took a major step back last year and the jury is still out on him, same goes for Darnell Nurse who is a nice skater and adds toughness but it’s still a disaster when the puck is on his stick and his hockey IQ is still in question. Adam Larsson is terrific in the defensive zone but provides little to no offense. Unfortunately for Larsson, he will always be known as the guy who got traded for the league MVP (Thanks Chiarelli). Kris Russell and Andrei Sekera are both on the wrong side of 30 and have lots of heavy miles on them
In Goal it’s also easy, Mike Smith is 36 but he only became a fulltime starter when he was 29. The last 3 years his save percentage is .915 and that should be good enough to win. Much like the rest of the Oilers, the jury is still out on Cam Talbot, he’s played 140 games the last 2 years and looked extremely tired last year having his save percentage drop from .919 to .908.
Overall the Oilers will need to rely on Connor McDavid getting over 100 points and carrying this team to be better than the Flames but after him. It’s easy to say which roster you’d prefer and it’s Calgary