The way I see it, the Edmonton Oilers seem like a decent bet to improve by 16-20 points in the standings over last season.
The bad news is that won’t be nearly enough to get them into the playoffs and will likely leave them closer to a third straight lottery pick than eighth place — without a shot at the first overall selection in the 2012 Entry Draft.
So, no playoffs for a sixth straight season and, unless GM Steve Tambellini can jettison spare parts and sink the Oilers in the standings, there’s little likelihood of landing a franchise prospect like Taylor Hall or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in a draft class that will be topped by Nail Yakupov and loaded with quality defensemen.
At this stage in the rebuild, the Oilers aren’t good enough to be a playoff team and they aren’t bad enough to finish 30th overall for the third straight season. In between, they are.
Is this progress?
THE NEXT 49
With 33 games in the books and a four-game losing streak on the go as they face the Minnesota Wild Thursday, the Oilers are sitting 13th in the Western Conference with 31 points from a record of 14-16-3.
Despite a 9-3-2 start to the season that had some fans getting ahead of themselves and talking about a playoff run, that’s not in the cards. As of today, the Oilers are just one point ahead of the 30 points they had after 33 games last season and they’re actually three points back of the 34 they had in 2009-10 on the way to last place overall and the chance to snag Hall.
That said, this edition of the Oilers is better than those teams despite their struggles and some issues – notably the inability of Ales Hemsky and Ryan Whitney to find their games after shoulder and ankle surgery and current slumps by Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff. We’ll see soon enough how much better. Still, I don’t see a serious playoff push shaping up.
While the Oilers are only six points out of eighth place, they have five teams to overtake (San Jose is eighth with three games in hand) to get in. Jonathan Willis did an item on the likelihood of a playoff spot at the Cult of Hockey
As for playing meaningful games in March and April, as has been the noise from Tambellini and Tom Renney, I suppose it depends on how you define meaningful. Playing games that mean something beyond the end of January might be a victory, given the Oilers play seven straight games on the road after they face the Wild.
BY THE NUMBERS
— Of the Oilers 49 remaining games, 24 are at home, where they are 9-6-2 for 20 points, and 25 are on the road, where they are 5-10-1 for 11 points.
— Of those 49 games, 26 are against teams that currently occupy a playoff spot in the Western Conference or Eastern Conference. Nine of those games are against teams leading their divisions.
— In the unlikely event the Oilers manage 51 points from their final 49 games, they’ll finish with 82 points, which is 20 more than the 62 they had in each of the last two seasons.
— No team has made the playoffs in the Western Conference in the past five years with less than 91 points. Counting back from last season, the eighth-place totals have been 97, 95, 91, 91 and 96.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.