February 20 2014 11:21PM
The Edmonton Oilers will return from the Olympic break looking way up at the contenders. The stretch drive may feature trading away veterans and calling up kids, and of course there's nothing of substance to play for—there's no chance at the postseason. What is a reasonable expectation for the Oilers through to season's end? Can they win 12 of their last 22?
WHAT IN H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS HAVE YOU BEEN DRINKING?
On December 27, the Oilers had 12 wins and were butt ugly. Since then, things have been better.
- through Dec 27: 39gp, 12-24-3
- Since then: 21gp, 8-9-4
- Overall: 60gp, 20-33-7
- In their last 10: 5-3-2
The club has been near .500 since December's end, and the last 10 have seen some good things happen. Let's have a look at the goals for and against for these splits:
- through Dec 27: 39gp, 101-134 (-33)
- Since then: 21, 52-65 (-13)
- Overall: 60gp, 153-199 (-46)
- In their last 10: 24-23 (+1)
All of this from nhl.com. Edmonton did in fact seem to be improving during the period after Christmas and specifically the last 10 games. Additions in goal (Ben Scrivens) and on defense (Martin Mariincin) certainly helped, as did Sam Gagner's increased productivity as he recovers from the assault in Vancouver. Coach Dallas Eakins has also gone out of his way to mention Matt Hendricks and Mark Fraser as having contributed since their arrival.
LET'S THINK THIS OVER
The Oilers were doing better before the break, but may trade a Hemsky and replace him with a Pitlick—that's going to impact things. On the other hand, if coach Eakins can work on things like defensive coverage and the power play (one assumes that will be a big part of the next week) maybe they cut down on the GA and increase the GF.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
It's a guess, but the 10 games before Edmonton's Olympic break featured opponents San Jose, Boston, New York Rangers, Phoenix and Vancouver.
The players traded (Ales Hemsky, Nick Schultz) will impact the team but the improvement of Yakupov (8, 2-4-6 +2 in the Oilers last 10) may be a real indication of a step forward.
- Prediction for the final 22 games: 10-9-3
- Prediction for final record: 82gp, 30-42-10
I think the Oilers can catch Calgary, Islanders and Florida.We'll see. If they can win 10 of their final 22, that would mean Edmonton would have won 18 of their final 43 games. The 12-24-3 start buried them, but if they finish 18-17-7 that should be considered worthy of a fist bump and a smile.