The Oilers fans may finally have the upper hand, and Zach Stortini may win a few more fights this year.
If you remember, for the past couple of years, the Edmonton Oilers have been a cap team but definitely not performed the way you would want any cap team to. You also very likely know a few Flames fans that were ever so quick to let you know what they thought of that. It's a new season and wouldn't you know it, but the shoe appears to be on the other foot.
Several teams going into the start of this season were up over the cap; the Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames. Most teams remedied this situation by assigning players to the AHL while the Canucks made a trade and a few( Flames and Devils) found relief through injury and even going with a shorter roster. The thing about the salary cap is though, that it isn't just a one time benchmark. No, the salary cap is an ongoing issue through the season. So, as players get healthy, or injured, the salary cap must always be taken into consideration. How do the Calgary Flames organization and fans feel about being over the salary cap, once their players come back?
Let's first take a quick look at who is on the Flames injured reserve list shall we? First Daymond Langkow (C) injured his neck last season in a game on March 22nd against the Wild. This injury was scary at the time it happened and it is alarming that he is still unable to play hockey. At this point there are rumblings in the Calgary media and amongst the Calgary fans that he will not be able to play another NHL game, or professional hockey again for that matter. This is not something that you would wish on anyone, not even a Calgary Flame. Then there is Ales Kotalik (RW), a player that the Calgary flames need to score goals and on a consistent basis but that the Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers were not able to get him to do. How about Ryan Stone (C), a big point producer in the WHL who had a brief stint with the Edmonton Oilers who is still looking to break into the NHL on a career basis. Then there is David Moss (C), who the flames need to return to 20+ goal per season form who is also out. Lastly Matt Stajan (C), yet another centreman out for the flames, at this point you can't help but wonder who will take faceoffs you might even stat to feel a little sorry for the Flames, if you weren't already.
As mentioned, Langkow was injured last season, but the other three were injured during the pre-season, a time when most veterans really don't even show up let alone play to get injured. Kotalik injured his knee, Stone also injured a knee, Moss with a shoulder injury, Stajan has a shoulder injury of his own and again, I can't say this enough, all before the regular season. The Flames organization have been very public saying that they dressed a roster for every pre-sesongame to win. True, wins beget wins, but pre-season games don't get you into the playoffs.
The salaries for the injured players would put the Calgary Flames $3,324,167 above the salary cap. That is not a number that is easily swept under the carpet, and this is not a team that anyone is betting to win the Stanley Cup this year. Sounds familiar doesn't it? Looking at capgeek shows that the Calgary Flames have the least amount of breathing room currently this season. So how is the team and the fans reacting? Apparently everything is fine, there is no need to worry, this team will make the playoffs. Well there are some fans who have taken to calling for the Kevin Lowe approch; lose every game possible hoping for a top draft pick, and buying out some contracts if trades can't be done. The thing that I don't think that some Flames fans are keeping in mind is that the Oilers had more than just our number one draft prospect in the wait this year. The Edmonton Oilers have been collecting and developing prospects for the past couple of years. Sadly for Flames fans, the organization has been trading first round draft picks for players like Olli Jokinen, and then basically giving Jokinen away at draft deadline day. Deals like that will not help you build for the future and apparently won't help get you into the 2010 playoffs.
What are the Flames really expecting this year? No, I'm serious, the organization is saying they are a playoff team while some fans are expecting to come in bottom five. I don't think that this team is going to win the Stanley Cup, but they certainly aren't bad enough at this point to lose the western conference. Yes, the Oilers decidedly beat the Flames last week, but do we really expect every game to go like that? No. Many Edmonton fans are saying that this team is going to squeak into the playoffs, barely miss them, or come in somewhere near the bottom, we can't come to any kind of consencus, so why would we expect Flames fans to?
This season seems to be a chance (finally) for Oilers fans to point and laugh, to say "that's too bad" while listening to Flames fans lament on their team's cap space and roster. How does it feel? That's right, it feels wonderful! Mind you, I'm not sure that I want the Flames to be successful at drafting, trading and clearing cap space. I want the Oilers to have their time in the spotlight without the Flames trying to steal it. That's right, the feeling of jealousy and competition aren't going anywhere. I also find it strange that my Flames fans friends aren't turning to me for sympathy after constantly wanting to bring up the Oilersproblems last year. Strange isn't it? Well don't you worry, your pal Lisa is there to remind the Flames just what kind of shape their team is currently in. I proudly wear my Eberle shirt everywhere, I very proudly proclaim the name Paajarvi at random moments, it's nice to have something to be proud of again.
Although there are mixed feelings in Calgary right now, don't you worry, they are overall aware of the fact that their team is essentially very much above the salary cap and that their future isn't looking so bright unless players magically find their health and scoring abilities. These are not happy days in Calgary for Flames fans and Jordan Eberle and company are the salt in the wound so to speak. I will try not to get too far ahead of myself, not to get too excited, but these are good days to be an Edmontonian and Oilers fan in Calgary, even if its just for a little while.