Western Conference Bubble Teams: Last Ten Games

Jonathan Willis
March 17 2009 10:01AM

oilers

We all know how bad the Oilers have seemed of late. What I’d like to know is how much ground it has cost them in the Western Conference playoff race, so I made a list of teams who have been “on the bubble” for most of the season:

5. Vancouver – 81 points

6. Columbus – 78 points

7. Nashville – 75 points

8. Dallas – 74 points

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9. Edmonton – 73 points

10. St. Louis – 72 points

11. Minnesota – 72 points

12. Anaheim – 70 points

13. Los Angeles – 68 points

The next step is to put up these teams record over their last ten games:

5. Vancouver (7-2-1) – 15 points

6. Columbus (6-4-0) – 12 points

7. Nashville (7-2-1) – 15 points

8. Dallas (4-5-1) – 9 points

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9. Edmonton (3-2-5) – 11 points

10. St. Louis (7-3-0) – 14 points

11. Minnesota (2-5-3) – 7 points

12. Anaheim (4-5-1) – 9 points

13. Los Angeles (3-6-1) – 7 points

Edmonton has a funny record. If they lose tonight, they’ve lost four straight and six of their last seven. On the other hand, if they win they have recorded points in five straight games and seven of their last eight. The three point game has, like the tie before it, allowed the beat writer to put down whatever narrative he choses.

Whatever the problems with the “loser” point (and some would argue that it “does nothing less than compromise the competitive integrity of the game”), it has certainly kept the Oilers alive through this latest stretch of – well, of whatever this is.

Right now we can cross Vancouver off the list of bubble teams. After an initial slump caused at least in part by Mats Sundin’s need to find his legs, they’ve performed at the level they should be performing at, and may very well overtake Chicago for home ice advantage in the playoffs. With a strong group of forwards and great goaltending, they could very well be a Stanley Cup contender this season.

Columbus too seems likely to make the playoffs; they added a needed piece at the trade deadline and Steve Mason is playing incredible hockey. I’m happy to see this, because this is a fanbase that stayed committed despite the comedy of errors that marked Doug MacLean’s tenure as general manager, and they deserve to see playoff hockey.

Nashville and St. Louis are playing over their heads right now, and despite the recent slump in Dallas they can’t be written off (particularly with Brad Richards looking to return to the lineup before the end of the season). Any of Minnesota, Anaheim or Los Angeles could still surprise, but those teams made it clear at the trade deadline that they did not expect to be in the postseason, so they’ll probably drop out of the picture entirely as April nears.

The Oilers have hung in there so far with overtime losses, and that may or may not be enough to keep them in the race for its duration. One thing is for sure – a win tonight over St. Louis would not only help keep the Oilers in the playoffs and the Blues out, but also allow some positive press for a team that probably deserves it; they haven’t lost near as much ground as the prevailing pessimism would have you think.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 scorecoff hemmercules
March 17 2009, 10:11AM
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"they haven’t lost near as much ground as the prevailing pessimism would have you think."

The numbers do show that, but in all reality, if we let games slip away to the avs, habs, and thrashers how do we expect to show up for games against the likes of chicago, calgary, vancouver and detriot. If we lose all five of those games can we still make it??

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#2 The Towel Boy
March 17 2009, 10:13AM
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Hmmm...Who saw this coming?!?

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#3 Boundz
March 17 2009, 10:13AM
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Pray for a complete game. Hope for a "Sully" fit with Hemmer and Horcoff. The Oil need it now like no other time.

Great article... but what a disappointment to watch the Oil lose 4 of the last 6 games in OT...

B

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#4 Jonathan Willis
March 17 2009, 10:15AM
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scorecoff hemmercules wrote:

how do we expect to show up for games against the likes of chicago, calgary, vancouver and detriot. If we lose all five of those games can we still make it??

I think so. 8 or 9 wins should get the Oilers into the playoffs.

I don't really expect them to do much once they're there, but that's not the point. I just think that so much of what's happening right now is a matter of perspective, and as a contrarian I'm feeling optimistic because the prevailing mood is 180 degrees opposite that.

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#5 Bruthah
March 17 2009, 10:16AM
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The Towel Boy wrote:

Hmmm…Who saw this coming?!?

I think you did, in your article I read yesterday.

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#6 Jonathan Willis
March 17 2009, 10:21AM
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@ The Towel Boy:

Incidentally, I think "Winners Find Ways To Get The Loser Point" is the best blog title I've seen this year.

Amazing work ;)

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#7 Chris
March 17 2009, 10:21AM
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@ scorecoff hemmercules:

I aggree. The Oilers have missed out on a golden opportunity to get some separation. After tonight they need to head out on the road and play three games in four nights... Ouch.

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#8 The Towel Boy
March 17 2009, 10:25AM
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@ Bruthah:

Trust me...JW's level of analysis is about 2,348 times more in depth, and probably more accurate by that much too, than my ramblings.

My analysis consists of making a sweet photoshop picture and then forming words below it that sort of make sense...but really...I just want to put pictures I drawed out on the internets.

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#9 The Towel Boy
March 17 2009, 10:27AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

haha...Thanks JW.

Every now and then any old squirrel gets a nut.

*beams with pride*

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#10 dw
March 17 2009, 10:28AM
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If we are going to do anything it has to be over the next 9 games. Once we get to April we are looking at SJ, VAN, LA, CGY and CGY. Except for LA, I don't see us getting many points in our last five games.

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#11 Phil
March 17 2009, 11:31AM
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All in all, the team's been pretty consistent at being shitty.

I mean seriously, they're a pretty shitty (or at least supremely overrated) team, it's been a negative year overall.

If they make the playoffs - whether they get ousted in 3 by Detroit or San Jose or not - I still think it'll be priceless for all the young players on the team. No matter how short the experience is.

Once they get a taste, they'll want to be back. Guys like Horcoff, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Moreau, Souray (amongst a few others obviously), these guys all want to win a Stanley Cup.

I think the Cup is so far from these guys minds right now, they need a taste of the post-season to refocus them for next year and many more to come.

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#12 I'm a Scientist!
March 17 2009, 11:35AM
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@ dw: Ummm, we beat good teams and lose to bad teams. I see us winning 4 of those 5 games and getting blown out by LA...with Matt Greene scoring a couple. Just a bold prediction.

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#13 David S
March 17 2009, 11:46AM
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dw wrote:

Once we get to April we are looking at SJ, VAN, LA, CGY and CGY. Except for LA, I don’t see us getting many points in our last five games.

“Winners Find Ways To Get The Loser Point”

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#14 The Menace
March 17 2009, 11:57AM
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The one thing we have in our favour is that the Flames are doing the same thing they do every year; they ride Kipper hard in the regular season, and he's done come playoff time. Hopefully, that will make it a bit easier to earn points on those last two games. Even if they dont' play Kipper, they seem like a different team in front of the other dude. We took two from them back-to-back at the beginning of the season, why not book-end it with two more at the end!

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#15 Colin
March 17 2009, 12:47PM
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This team is so mercurial it's impossible to know from any stretch of games how this is going to play out. I'm not sure I even care anymore; it's not like they can win a round in the playoffs anyway unless a plane crashes.

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#16 scorecoff hemmercules
March 17 2009, 01:16PM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

@ dw: Ummm, we beat good teams and lose to bad teams. I see us winning 4 of those 5 games and getting blown out by LA…with Matt Greene scoring a couple. Just a bold prediction.

Not this year. Maybe in 2006 we were good against those teams but this year is much different. Detroit, San Jose, Chicago and Vancouver have owned us this year. We also dont show up when we play the bottom feeders so those games wont be easy either. "Nothing to lose" teams are oiler killers this year.

8 to 9 wins is a tall order when our longest winning streak is 4 games (games 1,2,3 and 4 of the season)and 3 games a couple time after that. I guess we did have that stretch before the all-star break where we played well. What were we doing then thats so different from now with the exception of losing lubo??

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#17 Ender
March 17 2009, 01:26PM
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Edmonton has a funny record. If they lose tonight, they’ve lost four straight and six of their last seven. On the other hand, if they win they have recorded points in five straight games and seven of their last eight. The three point game has, like the tie before it, allowed the beat writer to put down whatever narrative he choses. Whatever the problems with the “loser” point (and some would argue that it “does nothing less than compromise the competitive integrity of the game”), it has certainly kept the Oilers alive through this latest stretch of – well, of whatever this is.

I actually "replied" to this last Friday:

The 05/06 Oilers were a win away from a Cup, after squeaking into 8th place, gaining [more than a third] of their points [after 60 minutes]. This is the "New NHL." Deal with it.

Link

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#18 Jonathan Willis
March 17 2009, 01:33PM
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@ Ender:

That's a good counter-argument, but I don't think you'll ever reach consensus on this particular issue.

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#19 Ender
March 17 2009, 01:55PM
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No, you're right. But barring consensus, I'd rather be on the side of "the way things are" than "the way things were."

Different strokes and all that.

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