February 11 2013 01:35PM
At the quarter pole (figuratively, not in racing terms) of this abbreviated NHL season the Oilers find themselves on the cusp of a playoff spot. While many are lamenting the state of the Oilers, and I understand there are many areas of concern, the fact is the Oilers are in the playoff hunt.
While the Oilers are giving up way too many shots, can't score five-on-five, have injuries down the middle, are struggling in the faceoff circle and seemingly can't knock the opposition off the puck, they are in a decent position in the standings.
Imagine if the Oilers find a way to start scoring ES and actually play with the puck more than chase it; they could actually be dangerous.
Here is where they have stood at the quarter pole since the lockout. Keep in mind that they only have 36 games left this season, compared to 60-62 in previous years.
2006... 8th in western conference. Made the playoffs finishing 8th.
2007... 7th in the west. Finished 12th.
2008... 15th in the west. Finished 9th.
2009... 12th in the west. Finished 11th.
2010... 13th in the west. Finished last.
2011... 15th in the west. Finished last.
2012... 9th in the west. Finished 14th.
Where they stood in those years has no bearing on where they will finish this season, but while many of you are concerned over their play, especially after yesterday's dreadful performance in Columbus, excluding Devan Dubnyk's stellar play, the good news is that the Oilers haven't played themselves out of the playoff race.
The Oilers sit in 9th, just like they did last year, and most would agree the Oilers haven't played that great so far. Their special teams and goaltending are the main reasons they have 13 points in 12 games.
You'd expect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle to start burying more of their quality chances, and the Oilers as a team need to start hitting the net more. I don't see Dubnyk faltering, so if the Oilers can wake up offensively and come close to breaking even in time of possession they should be able to stay in the playoff mix.
- The Oilers need to stop taking lazy, stupid stick penalties. The Oilers are the most penalized team in the league, and it isn't because they are intimidating. They've had exactly 101 minutes of PK time this year. They have had to kill off 20 minutes more of PK time than every other team except, Colorado (82:56), Detroit (87:21), Pittsburgh (88:35), Montreal (89:21), New Jersey (91:05) and Dallas (93:55).
- At some point Ralph Krueger is going to have to staple someone's ass to the bench after a bad penalty. The most frustrating part is that the forwards have taken way too many minor penalties. Ryan Smyth has taken 8 minors, Gagner and Yakupov (5), Hall, Hemsky and Belanger (4). Only Smid (5) (two of those were for instigating) and Petry (4) are close. The Oilers need to stop taking needless stick penalties.
- After watching him rip one top-shelf for the game winner v. Columbus I wonder why Magnus Paajarvi doesn't shoot more. That was a hell of a shot.
- The Oilers need to work on hitting the net. They are continually missing the goal on some of their best scoring opportunities.
- Ryan Jones is still two weeks away from playing, but the Oilers still put Darcy Hordichuk on waivers. Clearly they didn't plan on carrying Hordichuk as a 13th forward any longer, because Krueger has shown he won't play him. They can recall Vande Velde or maybe they have a minor trade in the works.
- One of the most underappreciated players in the league is David Clarkson. He scored 30 goals last year, and with the departure of Zack Parise he's producing even more this year, with 9 goals in 12 games. He's one of the best power forwards in the game. He's likely going to get a big raise from his $2.67 million cap hit.
- Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau each had 14 points in their first 6 games, however, neither has picked up a point in their last five.
- Devan Dubnyk is tied for 6th in the league in SV% (.928%) amongst goalies with at least six starts. However, he has faced between 63-132 more shots than the other six goalies. He's had an incredible start to the season, and if he continues to play this way the Oilers will have a bonafide #1.