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Battle for the Basement : The Oilers Have Local Competition

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You may or may not remember a couple of months ago when I started talking about Calgary being a cap team and just not looking like it. Well, not much has changed a quarter of the season in. Being devoted, loyal Oilers' fans I thought you might appreciate another look at what's happening here in Calgary. Shockingly not too much has changed except for the fact that the Flames have seemingly stopped winning. In fact if you look at the standings as of this morning, Edmonton (9-12-4) is 14th in the west while the Flames have fallen to 15th with a record of 10-13-2. I did not see this happening anytime soon. It looked as though the Flames would be somewhat competitive this year, finishing 9th or 10th in the west just missing the playoffs. My attitude hasn't changed; I don't think that they are bad enough to keep this losing pace up despite a November record of 4-7-2. Many of those losses might be attributed to some injured players and a competitive schedule.

The injured reserve list for the Flames has become shorter despite the team remaining bruised and battered. Currently the Flames have Ryan Stone (knee), Raitis Ivanans (concussion) and Ales Kotalik (knee) out on IR. Kotalik is supposed to be days from return, with a chance of playing against the Wild tonight. The Flames are in desperate need of offense and scoring. Kotalik and Jokinen were supposed to aid in this regard, so in theory Kotalik's return to the lineup is desperately needed. Suffering a knee injury in the final week of the pre-season, Kotalik has yet to play a game this season. That's two months of watching from the press box and most of that time Adam Pardy (shoulder) was right there with him.

So what will the Flames do now that players are returning to the lineup? While some were away on the injured reserve the team was able to save a small amount of cap relief. According to capgeek, the team will save $4,279,166 through injured reserve listed players. This is not something that the organisation should or will want to use as a plan to get through the year without paying fines for going over the cap. It's also very unlikely that a player like Jay Bouwmeester to an AHL team to play out his contract.

As Oilers' fans remember, seeing a large number of your players on the IR is not a good way to live through the season. Daryl Sutter is attempting to build his team into a winning one. If you see Brent Sutter on the bench during highlights or games, you can see the wheels turning; you know they figure they are just a couple of pieces away from having the right formula. This sounds familiar doesn't it?

I find it odd that two completely different teams, the second oldest and the second youngest teams in the league have lived through the same trials and so close chronologically. Does this mean that the Flames are on track to hit absolute rock bottom much like the Oilers have? Possibly. I don't think that this is Darryl Sutter's plan though. Sutter has had fairly decent success on the free agent market and has been able to make some good trades. Even if the trades appear to be poor decisions later on, at one point most of them appeared to be good. I don't think that Darryl plans to rebuild through the draft. I think that Darryl Sutter's plan is still to acquire players through trades and free agency, getting those high scoring players, the grit, or those defensively minded players that will keep his team in every game. Right now, that doesn't seem to be working and that's why the calls for Darryl Sutter's head have become louder and louder. Its not just the random fan calling into the Fan 960 that is saying this. No, you can now hear this sentiment on the train, at the grocery store, in the elevators, etc, etc, etc. So when will that happen? Most will say should the Flames miss the playoffs this year that will be the end of the Sutters in Calgary. Should Sutter pull off another miracle, acquire great players, shed underperforming contracts and make the playoffs all will likely be forgiven.

The other dilemma facing the Flames is whether or not to trade their star player, the face of the franchise, Jerome Iginla. Trading Iginla now would be the time if they want to get anything for him. By doing so however, the Flames will be telling the hockey world that they give up on any chance of winning anything substantial and are hoping to start from scratch and the draft. The main issue with this idea is that Iginla does not represent the lion's share of the salary commitments for the coming years. The Flames are in serious trouble in that regard, they look to be a cap team next year too. Unless they can trade off some bug contracts, they will have to wait it out.

Dislike for the Oilers in Calgary seems to be at an all time low currently, and this continues to be a fine time to wave the copper and blue. No longer do I hear taunts of "Oilers suck" everywhere I go, of course not! So do the Flames! What's really interesting is the new dilemma for Oil fans. Do you start cheering for the Flames to win so that they will finish just short of the playoffs, or do you hope they lose in the most disgraceful manner possible, and for the Oilers to finish far ahead? According to the rules of the ABC club we are to never, ever cheer for the Flames. Maybe it's time for an amendment to the rules though, I think in this case cheering for the Flames to win enough to miss the playoffs is in the best interest of the Oilers' fanbase. Plus, it will make the rest of the season much more interesting.