Thirty years ago, Alberta was home to some of the best hockey on the planet.
Now, finally, it’s time to wonder once again: “Are we really in a world where Edmonton or Calgary could win the Stanley Cup?”
That was the question posed by Ryan Dixon to his Tape to Tape podcast co-host Rory Boylen, as the boys kicked off their 2017-18 NHL division previews with the Pacific. For anyone who answers no, Boylen had a follow-up query: “If you think it’s a joke, then who is the cream of the crop in the Western Conference?”
While Boylen and Dixon agree both the Oilers and Flames have legitimate designs on a championship, there’s a sense the clubs are going about things in different ways. In Southern Alberta, it’s all about defence, where the addition of Travis Hamonic gives Calgary a top four that can rival what you’d find on any other NHL outfit.
In Edmonton, the mega-stars drive the bus. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are, no doubt, hungry for more success following the Oilers’ foray into the second round of the 2017 playoffs. With both players having signed new deals this summer — McDavid’s doesn’t kick in until 2018-19 — Boylen even wondered if this coming year represents the Oilers’ best chance to win a championship in the foreseeable future.
“I think you could say that,” said Sportsnet senior columnist Mark Spector, who spoke at length on the pod about Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. “At the coming trade deadline, they’ll have more flexibility than they’ll have in ensuring deadlines.”
While Cup talk consumes conversations along Highway 2, it’s a different story on the coast. The rebuilding Canucks are trying to get back on their feet, which will mean big opportunities for youngsters like winger Brock Boeser. At the other end of the age spectrum, twin towers Henrik and Daniel Sedin are about to embark on the final seasons of their identical contracts. Though it would be interesting to see the still-dangerous redheads play out their NHL days as second-liners on a championship contender, Spector isn’t sold on that scenario.
“It’s not like Vancouver has so many top-six players it can’t afford the two Sedins on short-term package deals [for a total cap hit of] seven to eight million,” he said. “I don’t see them leaving Vancouver.”