The Calgary flames joined the NHL as the Atlanta Flames in 1972. While the team was in Georgia, it had no interstate rivals like the two Pennsylvania teams, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. Unlike the two previously mentioned teams, the Flames had no inherent rivalry until they moved to southern Alberta in 1980.
There have only been three provincial rivalries in Canada, two of which are still active. In Quebec, the Quebec Nordiques and Montreal Canadiens have never executed a trade during the Nordiques’ 15-year tenure in the NHL in the province. However, when the Nordiques left for Denver in 1995 to become the Colorado Avalanche, they orchestrated one of the most shocking trades in hockey history involving the Hall of Famer. patrick roy.
In the other eastern province with two teams, Ontario, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators have a long history of relationships. The Maple Leafs are an Original Six franchise with a century of experience, while the Senators reemerged in 1992. Since renewing their rivalry 30 years ago, the two teams have completed seven trades, the most recent ( summer 2022) involving a goalkeeper. Matt Murray.
In 1980, the Flames moved three hours down the Queen Elizabeth Highway (Highway 2) from Alberta’s capital, Edmonton, which had a rising team in the Oilers. In Western Canada, the Flames and Oilers have one of the most intense rivalries in the league. Between 1984 and 1990, the road to the Stanley Cup passed through Alberta, where the Oilers won the silver chalice in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990. While the Flames lost in the 1986 Finals , they bounced back to win it all in 1989.
The two teams strongly hate each other and their feelings go far beyond the ice. The animosity between the franchises carries over to the fanbases which split the province in two. Those emotions make it nearly impossible to conduct business with each other, but here are the few times the Flames and Oilers reached a deal.
The First Exchange of Flames and Tankers (2010)
On March 3, 2010, the two teams agreed to the first trade of their rivalry. Thirty-six-year-old defender Steve Staois became the first player to switch sides, becoming the centerpiece of a trade with Aaron Johnson and a third-round pick in the 2011 Entry Draft in Edmonton. Staois played 573 games in eight seasons with the Oilers, including a trip to the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals. The veteran guard also spent parts of his career with the Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins, Atlanta Thrashers and New York Islanders. He scored 146 points in northern Alberta before collecting only 13 points in 57 games for two seasons as a member of the Flames.
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Johnson also traveled extensively but did not have the playing time that Staois had accumulated. After making his NHL debut with the Columbus Blue Jackets, he played with the New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks. However, Johnson joined the Flames organization in 2009 through a trade to the Blackhawks for Kyle Greentree. Unfortunately, he had three points in 22 games before changing postal codes again in Alberta.
The latest trade involved Travis Ewanyk, a native of St. Albert, AB, who has never played in the NHL. A young prospect at the time of the trade, Ewanyk played with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL) then the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League (AHL) before leaving the Oilers organization in 2015.
Flames and Greasers Make a Different Deal (2013)
The two teams came together to execute the second trade of the rivalry on November 8, 2013. Instead of a 2-for-1 deal, the teams agreed to trade four players, with Ladislav Smid and Olivier Roy going to Calgary while Laurent Brossoit and Roman Horak went to Edmonton.
Smid came to the Oilers in 2006 in the trade of Chris Pronger. He had 65 points in 474 games before ending his NHL career with the Flames. In three seasons in Calgary, Smid scored just seven points in 109 games before returning to Europe to end his professional career. Meanwhile, Roy was a young goalie prospect at the time and never played higher than the AHL in North America. He is still active at professional level, playing in France after spells in Germany.
The Oilers got Horak, who played 82 games with the Flames over three seasons, collecting 18 points. He struggled to crack the roster in Edmonton, only adapting for two games and scoring one goal. Horak ended his NHL career in 2014, leaving for the Swedish Elite League (SHL) before returning home to play in Czechia. He is still an active member of the league at the start of the 2022-23 season. The other trade item was goaltender Brossoit, who was unlucky to find his game with the Oilers, playing 28 games in four years. As a free agent in 2018, he left the organization for a role with the Winnipeg Jets, compiling a 25-19-3 record as a backup. In 2021, Brossoit joined the Vegas Golden Knights, where he now shares the crease with Logan Thompson.
The Last Deal Between Flames and Tankers (2019)
The Alberta rivals only made their first deal 12 years ago, so it wouldn’t be surprising if some players are still actively playing professional hockey. The last blockbuster between the Flames and the Oilers happened on July 19, 2019, when a pair of former 30-goal scorers swapped addresses.
The Oilers caused a stir in free agency by signing Milan Lucic in 2016. Some might argue that the deal didn’t work out for the team, as Lucic scored 104 points in 243 games, hitting the 20-goal plateau just once in three seasons. However, they found a way out of the remaining years of his contract by trading him south to the Flames for James Neela former 40-goal scorer with the Penguins.
Neal joined the Flames in 2018, signing a five-year contract as a free agent. In his first season, which lasted just 67 games, he scored just seven goals and 19 points. A change of scenery was necessary for both players, and the teams could live with it. As a member of the Oilers, Neal fared no better, scoring 41 points in 84 games before leaving the organization as a free agent in 2021. After a release from the Blue Jackets in 2022, he is currently at the looking for a job in the League. Meanwhile, Lucic is still an active member of the Flames, playing in the bottom six of their roster. So far, he has collected 66 points in 212 games.
A conditional draft pick (third round in 2021) was associated with the trade of Lucic and Neal, which the Flames used to select Kirill Kirsanov. He has never played for the Flames, who traded him to the Los Angeles Kings for a third- and sixth-round pick in 2021. As of this writing, Kirsanov has yet to play in the NHL, while the Flames used their picks to boost their prospect pool by selecting Cameron Whynot and Jack Beck.
Analysis of the Battle of Alberta Transactions
Between 1942 and 1967, the NHL had only six franchises, which meant that dealings between rivals occurred regularly. Iconic names like Hall of Fame keepers Terry Sawchuk and Jacques Plante each found themselves on the trading block, changing addresses before the expansion.
When you peruse the history books, you will discover hundreds of successful trades; however, there will only be a handful of deals between teams that live three hours apart. As the league expanded, new rivalries emerged and few teams liked doing business close to home, whether geographic or divisional.
The Flames and Oilers may have been late to the party, but as both franchises chase another Stanley Cup ring, the future holds endless possibilities. Anyone can be involved in a trade, and while GMs may want to deal with another team besides their provincial rivals, perhaps what they’re looking for is just up the road.
Ryan Gagne is back for his second stint with The Hockey Writers. In 2021, he wrote about the New York Islanders and will now take on the challenge of covering the Calgary Flames. The best part about this new assignment is that Ryan currently lives in Edmonton and will see both sides of the battle for Alberta up close. None of this will make much sense since he was born and raised in New England and the Boston Bruins are still his team.