Hall of fame can wait

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 PM ET

Wisdom is often considered more valuable than youth.

If that’s as true in hockey as it is in life, the Calgary Flames should have the upper hand against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place Thursday.

The Oilers will unleash a trio of rookie forwards on the Flames to open the

2010-11 NHL season, bolstering a lineup that includes just four players who’ve celebrated their 30th birthdays.

This year’s first-overall draft pick, Taylor Hall, is just 18. Fellow rookie-of-the-year candidates Jordan Eberle (22nd overall in 2008) is 20, and Magnus Paajarvi (10th overall in 2009) is 19.

“My shoulder pads are older than them,” said 38-year-old Flames forward Craig Conroy, whose Flames rank as one of the most veteran teams in the league with a dozen players

30 or older.

“They’re just a young team with a lot of piss and vinegar.”

And skill, too, which the Flames will have to counter blow for blow without being caught up in the electrifying atmosphere of it all.

“They’ll be playing with nothing to lose,” said former Oilers veteran Steve Staios, the second oldest Flame at 36.

“I don’t think they have a lot of expectations, but they have a lot of talent. It’s a dangerous thing to go up against.”

That means Staios and the rest of the Flames defencemen will be asked to give these kids a taste of the NHL.

“I guess you try to use your experience to your advantage,” said Flames blueliner Jay

Bouwmeester. “I remember my first game. You’re excited, but you have to kind of harness all that, too.

“You know they’re gonna come out hard. If we can come out and beat their work ethic, I think we’ll be just fine.”

New Flames addition Brendan Morrison figures his team, despite its average age, can keep up with the kids.

There’s plenty of skill on the top two lines and some youthful injections in rookie defender T.J. Brodie (20) and forwards Mikael Backlund (21) and Stefan Meyer (25).

But there’s likely a different feeling in the two dressing rooms right now.

“I think there is. Just thinking back to my first year in the league and my first game, there’s a lot of nervousness involved,” said the 35-year-old Morrison. “I think as you get older, the nervousness isn’t quite at the same level. You still have the excitement to start the season.”

So with both teams equally amped to get the campaign underway and play meaningful games again, the Flames will have to make the rookie Oilers question their ability to adapt to the big league by getting after them early and for-cing them to make mistakes.

“These guys have had a pretty good pre-season. What we have to do is make them understand the pre-season and regular-season are two different levels,” Morrison said. “Let’s not kid ourselves. These guys are all high draft picks, and they’re all high-end skill players, and they’re gonna have a huge impact in this league at some point.

“With this being their first year, their first game, you want to show them that it’s gonna be a grind, it’s gonna be tough.

“You just don’t want it to be easy on them.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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