Officially, the National Hockey League season is over for the only two teams this province really cares about. While survivors prepare for action in Round Two of the Stanley Cup playoffs, both the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames are setting up what should be fascinating games of chop and change.
The final on-ice breath for 2020 took place after the Dallas Stars humbled Calgary 7-3 to win their best-of-seven series in six games. Days earlier, the Edmonton Oilers were outworked and outscored in a five-game loss to the Chicago Black Hawks.
Promptly, supporters of both teams fell to the oldest response in the Dedicated Fan yearbook: fire the coach.
Dave Tippett was singled out because he juggled some lines. Truly, his Oilers were not good enough at forward, on defence or in goal. Interim Flames head coach Geoff Ward drew immediate criticism on Thursday for replacing Cam Talbot with an ice-cold David Rittich in the early stages of the Stars’ record-setting offensive burst following their early 3-0 deficit. Talbot gave up three goals on only eight shots, but Ritich’s immediate performance was even worse.
Before the sixth and decisive game, Ward expressed optimism about his team’s future. “This is more relentless, more prepared, a better team” than the group that faded badly as a playoff top seed a year ago, he said. Well, for the first 20 minutes, he was absolutely correct. Fan frustration will not force any changes behind the bench. On the ice is entirely different. Goaltending, for example, is a serious concern in both centres.
Edmonton’s pair, Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith are 32 and 38, respectively. At the very least, a reliable young netminder is required. Talbot, widely inconsistent before being traded to Calgary for Koskinen two years ago, shone through most of the playoffs for the Flames this season and drew solid support from teammates Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund after Thursday’s shoddy start.
Monahan’s generous view did not detract from the likelihood that the veteran winger, in common with linemate Johnny Gaudreau, is sure to be prominent in trade talks, starting almost immediately.
Captain and key defenceman Mark Giordano, 35, finally showed signs of age. Partner T.J. Brodie, 29, would attract serious offers if general manager Brad Treliving put him on the market.
Good news for Calgary is that on-ice leader Matt Tkachuk has shown no sign of abandoning his fiery style. He was sadly missed after suffering an apparent concussion in Game Two. The seasoned Backlund, and youngsters Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube and Sam Bennett are set for solid futures up front.
In Edmonton, the question about offence is simple: who will play with Connor McDavid on one line and Leon Draisaitl on another? Third- and fourth-liners on the 2020 roster will have plenty of company looking for jobs next year.
At this point, Edmonton lags behind its provincial rivals in at least one important area. It must be remembered that the Flames won their so-called elimination round by defeating a strong (but injured) group of Winnipeg Jets. The Oilers, who would mortgage the future of the entire Icer District for a brilliant young defender such as Miro Heiskanen of Dallas, Cale Makar of Colorado or Quinn Hughes of Vancouver (all still active in playoffs) have no such victory as a building block at this point.
Regulator rules in favour of Trans Mountain route deviation
Workers place pipe during construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on farmland, in Abbotsford, B.C., on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
By Amanda Stephenson in Calgary
The Canada Energy Regulator has approved Trans Mountain Corp.’s application to modify the pipeline’s route, a decision that could spare the government-owned pipeline project from an additional nine-month delay.
The regulator made the ruling Tuesday, just one week after hearing oral arguments from Trans Mountain and a B.C. First Nation that opposes the route change.
It didn’t release the reasons for its decision Tuesday, saying those will be publicized in the coming weeks.
By siding with Trans Mountain Corp., the regulator is allowing the pipeline company to alter the route slightly for a 1.3-kilometre stretch of pipe in the Jacko Lake area near Kamloops, B.C., as well as the construction method for that section.
Trans Mountain Corp. had said it ran into engineering difficulties in the area related to the construction of a tunnel, and warned that sticking to the original route could result in up to a nine-month delay in the pipeline’s completion, as well as an additional $86 million more in project costs.
Trans Mountain has been hoping to have the pipeline completed by early 2024.
But Trans Mountain’s application was opposed by the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation, whose traditional territory the pipeline crosses and who had only agreed to the originally proposed route.
In their regulatory filing, the First Nation stated the area has “profound spiritual and cultural significance” to their people, and that they only consented to the pipeline’s construction with the understanding that Trans Mountain would minimize surface disturbances by implementing specific trenchless construction methods.
The Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc argued that Trans Mountain never said its originally proposed construction method was impossible, only that it couldn’t be done in time to meet a Jan. 1 in-service date for the pipeline.
The First Nation didn’t respond to a request for comment by publication time.
The Trans Mountain pipeline is Canada’s only pipeline system transporting oil from Alberta to the West Coast. Its expansion, which is currently underway, will boost the pipeline’s capacity to 890,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 300,000 bpd currently.
The pipeline — which was bought by the federal government for $4.5 billion in 2018 after previous owner Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. threatened to scrap the pipeline’s planned expansion project in the face of environmentalist opposition and regulatory hurdles — has already been plagued by construction-related challenges and delays.
Its projected price tag has since spiralled: first to $12.6 billion, then to $21.4 billion and most recently to $30.9 billion (the most recent capital cost estimate, as of March of this year).
Keith Stewart with Greenpeace Canada said it’s alarming to see the regulator over-rule the wishes of Indigenous people in order to complete a pipeline on deadline.
“Every Canadian should be outraged that our public regulator is allowing a publicly owned pipeline to break a promise to Indigenous people to protect lands of spiritual and cultural significance,” Stewart said.
The federal government has already approved a total of $13 billion in loan guarantees to help Trans Mountain secure the financing to cover the cost overruns.
Trans Mountain Corp. has blamed its budget problems on a variety of factors, including inflation, COVID-19, labour and supply chain challenges, flooding in B.C. and unexpected major archeological discoveries along the route.
Given the Canadian regulatory system has a reputation for being slow and cumbersome, it was surprising to see the Canada Energy Regulator rule so quickly on Trans Mountain’s route deviation request, said Richard Masson, executive fellow with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.
“It’s a challenging decision to have to make, when you’ve got a $30 billion pipeline that needs to be completed,” Masson said.
“If there’s no feasible way to do that tunnel, then I guess you have to allow for this.”
Masson added that if the regulator had denied Trans Mountain’s request, it would have been bad news for taxpayers as well as the federal government, which is seeking to divest the pipeline and has already entered into negotiations with several interested Indigenous-led buyers.
It also would have been bad news for Canadian oil companies, who have been eagerly anticipating the pipeline’s start date to begin shipping barrels to customers.
“If this can result in the pipeline being completed by year-end and started up in the first quarter, that’s good news. The world is still looking for oil, and oil prices are up at US$90 a barrel,” Masson said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2023.
Partial settlement approved in lawsuit against Calgary Stampede over abuse of boys
A judge has approved a partial settlement in a class-action lawsuit against the Calgary Stampede that alleged the organization allowed a performance school staffer to sexually abuse young boys.
Phillip Heerema received a 10-year prison sentence in 2018 after pleading guilty to charges including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child pornography and luring.
Heerema admitted to using his position with the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, which performs each year in the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show, to lure and groom six boys into sexual relationships.
The school is operated by the Calgary Stampede Foundation.
Court of King’s Bench Justice Alice Woolley approved the deal in which the Stampede has agreed to pay 100 per cent of the damages.
Hearings on the amount will take place on Dec. 14 and 15.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2023
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