I turned on this game expecting a Flames loss. My only hope is that it wouldn't be a blow-out.
I have been listening and reading various Oiler Schadenfreude over a good part of the season and been thinking about what is the best kind of post-victory article to write for Flames fans today :-)
First lets state the facts here. The Flames prospects, none of which are supposed to be A-list like Hall, RNH, Nail, Schultz and Eberle, just dominated the Oilers 4-1. There was a MacDonald in net and it wasn't Lanny. Let that sink in, I am sure you have had to listen to just as much "the Flames prospects suck" as I have from Oiler fans.
Sven is a top prospect but you are going to get laughed at pretty hard if you try and compare him to any of the Oil's super-studs.
So what to do at this moment? How shall we savor it as Flames fans? I am so tempted to write a "Letter to Oiler Fans from the Future" but lets face it, I may have to commission an Islanders or Panthers fan to do that.
I decided to write a article that will hopefully serve you well in the future against Oiler fans. A measured one that is not full of the usual gloating and smug smack talk that they often throw at us. One that has a bit of historical analysis and some basic common-sense observation.
If there is one comment I have read a million times this year and over the last 3-4 years it is that "The Flames are just like the Oilers" This is so wrong and so annoying to hear. The organizations could not be more different from the top, right down to the bottom, yet we have to listen to this constant superficial comparison.
I know why it happens.
It is just a lazy way of Oiler fans being able to justify their pain and suffering of the last several years and project it down to us in Calgary. It makes their pain easier to handle. Like being in the blocks in medieval Europe and screaming in agony at their worst foe. "It is going to be you next, you are going to be next suffering, you are just like me."
Well, no, we aren't just like you and let me count the ways. The Flames will not only never finish dead last two years in a row. They will also never have three 1st overall picks in a row. Try to keep in mind that this franchise all the way back to its origins in Atlanta never drafted in the top 5. Up until this year, it was the only franchise in NHL history to have that claim.
So lets begin with some random points and then sum up with the big picture difference you should quote back to Oiler fans when you hear that inevitable comparison yet again.
(1) The Flames want to Win
Yes sometimes it is futile, sometimes it is laughable, sometimes we listen to TSN announcers mock our organizational moves, our trades for college players, our liberties with NTCs and so forth but you have to understand Oiler fans. At the root of all this is the bizarre thing we have down here in Calgary, we want to win and telling us that the way to win is by becoming losers just doesn't jive anymore than telling us the way to be a bachelor is to get married.
Sorry, we thought that was the whole point of playing the game, night after night, you want to win. To Respect the Crest. No matter who you are when you pull on that jersey and skate onto NHL ice you are part of an organization that is committed to playing the best it can every night and trying to win.
(2) Players want to play with the Flames
Our organization unlike yours has a excellent history of attracting players for the most part, yours doesn't really, Schultz excluded for your part, Tim Erixon for our part but over the large stretch of recent history here you can see the clear distinction.
Futile attempts to FA by the Oilers, names like Jagr, Vanek. Players wanting out - Pronger, Souray and then players requesting trades from their current team and then using their NMC to block the trade because they didn't want to go to the Oilers, Heatley.
Yet, I can can give you a list of quotes as long as your arm from former NHL players on the Flames who have returned or exited and been disappointed not be re-signed. Joker, Tangs, Cammy all came back enthusiastically to the Flames and I challenge you to find a quote from a player with a bad thing to say about the organization as they left.
(3) You handle trade requests without class, the Flames diplomatically act for the player.
Every organization goes through a player trade request on occasion.
We are no exception but the way the Flames handle such a request is with class, media silence and respect for the player's wishes and privacy of his family. Alex Tanguay requested a trade to Montreal and Darryl Sutter quietly got it done.
Yet after his trip to Montreal and then Tampa, Alex bent over backward to meet the Flames Cap limitations and signed on at 1.5 million for a year, far below his market value just so he could play with the Flames.
All the while the "Back to the Future Flames" were roundly mocked that year as Joker also returned after D Sutter's call to him on UFA day and admission that he had made a mistake. Why would a player like Joker return after being traded to the Rangers in such a publicly humiliating manner?
TSN roundly mocked the Flames as did every other hockey personality out there but if you were paying attention you might have noticed how amazing and rare these actions are from players. They want to stay with a class organization and will even return after having been traded against their will.
(4) The 2004 / 2006 Cup Run parallels
Yes we both had our magical Cinderella runs to the Cup final but lets face it, the comparison from this point all fell apart immediately. We had our core player in Kipper, you had yours in Pronger.
What happened? Pronger demanded to be traded after going to the Cup final and 9 years later with the Flames in the basement Kipper still doesn't want to leave… Riddle me that Batman, what does it say about the Flames?
They still could have traded Kipper to the Leafs for a conditional pick and unleashed the Toronto media onto his doorstep but they didn't, what does that say about the Organization?
(5) We just traded our franchise player without a whiff of Sundin Stink
Yes Oiler fans, we didn't get much for Jarome Iginla. Yes, we traded him too late and he very likely drove the bus all along in that weird trade with the surprise announcement but you know what?
That whole thing could have gone publicly wrong in so many ways but it didn't. The main stink that has arisen from that trade is the paltry return but you know what the organization did not push its franchise player out of town 3 years ago. It did not leak crap to the media to get pressure on him and his family. It did not pull all the usual media circus tricks on Jarome.
It likely honored his request to go to a team he thought he could win a Cup with.
On the Jbo trade, same thing. The Flames could have broke his iron-man streak but went out of their way to time the trade so that it was kept intact. It is the little things and they matter to players and the Flames reputation grows with it.
(6) The three 1st round picks in 2007 for the Oilers, 2013 for the Flames
Hate to break it to you Oiler fans but the Flames have actually drafted pretty decent under Feaster and via Weisbrod. Since D Sutter left there is definitely something different going on there at the draft.
The draft is always a crap shoot so it remains to be seen if the Flames results will mirror the Oilers.
These are interesting little superficial parallels, the Cup run, the 3 first round picks but at the core our two franchises could not be more different. The comparison always makes comments along these lines and completely avoids the larger macro elements of the organizations and dressing rooms.
(7) Veteran Leadership
Yes I remember how you mocked us so strongly over the past several years, our aging team. Our destiny to fall face-down in the gutter just like you. Our useless aging players. Our over the hill Iggy, Kipper, Regehr and so on.
You had a point but you also missed something. Older proven NHL players know what it takes to win a Cup, they know what it take to compete in this league.
The Flames even in their dismal state today still have two players with Cup rings. Alex Tanguay and Juri Hudler, do you think the fact these two guys are now on longer term contracts with the Flames is a coincidence as they enter their rebuild?
Note: Just in case you might think Ryan Whitney has a Cup ring, you are wrong. He was traded mid-season by the Pens in 2009, the year they won the Cup.
(8) Owners that want to win more than they want to make money.
Murray Edwards and company are already billionaires. They are not like Katz up in your Government Town trying to angle tax payer dollars into his pocket. Something very typical in America but pretty rare in Canada is the ability to have the community lace a billionaires pockets with even more money for a splashy new arena.
The Flames owners, God bless them, have from 2004 on given a blank cheque to the GM. These guys are hockey fans too and want to win and it is a tragedy that the organization could not deliver a Stanley Cup to Harley Hotchkiss.
I don't want to paint too rosy a picture with these guys. Lets face it, they should have canned Ken King a long time ago because he clearly was too close to Darryl Sutter on a personal level and completely blind to the fact that the guy made a single lucky trade and was completely incompetent when it came to taking the next step from playoff team to Cup Contender but oh well.
The Flames will probably get a new arena as well but I for sure will be very sad to see the iconic Saddledome close. That building is epic in design and any tax payer money the Flames get will be because of the ground Katz beat down to get for the Oilers.
Not a lot of respect for Katz because of this tax-payer funded arena he is leveraging out. Really is it about a winning team for him or making even more money for himself?
Your Top Ten List of Reasons the Flames are NOT like the Oilers
(1) Organizational Class
(2) Respected by NHL Players because they are treated with Respect
(3) A Will to always Win, even when futile
(4) Player Leadership and Loyalty
(5) Players Respect the Crest they wear
(6) The Flames can not lose on purpose
(7) The Flames Owner's are committed to Winning and prove it year after year with the dollars they spend
(8) The Flames have always been willing to make the high-risk trade (for better or worse)
(9) There is no "Fire Change" in Calgary with Cameras on young players who have proven nothing in the NHL to justify such attention, although I am sure Katz gets a good kick-back in dollars.
(10) Harvey the Hound vs the Oilers Cheerleaders
Now I am not trying to pick a fight here with Oiler fans. I am trying to get across some intangible differences between our two organizations that go beyond what is just on the ice. Oiler fans I will acknowledge are actually on the whole extremely high in hockey IQ, they can dance with the best of the advanced stats guys, they know their hockey history and they know the game.
This is a message to them, not a attack. If the Oilers can address some of the organizational strengths that the Flames have not only on the ice but elsewhere in the organization, they just may be able to get their rebuild back on track.
If they fail, they risk developing a culture of losing in Edmonton and an acceptance of it throughout the organization to the pain of the fans. The first step may be a big trade this off-season of one of the young gun stars to shake things up but I just can not see Tamblowe being capable of doing that.
Anyone can sit back and pick first overall but it is a real challenge to trade in the NHL now and you can not pillage everyone you trade with.