ROAD TEST: EXIT TO ALSO-RAN CITY?

It’s ridiculous that the Edmonton Oilers will play nine straight games on the road during a 48-game season, but that’s what they’re facing as they prepare to take on the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks Monday to kick-off a road swing that will go a long way in deciding their playoff hopes.

Given the stops along the way, it’s a daunting trip and one made that much more difficult because the Oilers have been so-so at best by getting out to a mediocre 7-7-3 start for 17 points through 17 games, with 10 of those played within the friendly confines of Rexall Place.

Saturday’s 3-2 comeback victory over Phoenix earned the Oilers just their second win during a five-game homestand. They managed that without Taylor Hall, who’ll serve the second game of a two-game suspension for kneeing Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild.

It’s difficult to get a read on this trip because it’s difficult to get a read on Ralph Krueger’s team. The inconsistent Oilers have been all over the place through 17 games, with the only real constant being their inability to generate as many goals as they’d like at even strength.

Will the Oilers return from this road trip in post-season contention or will it be obvious by March 12 that it’s no cigar regarding a Western Conference playoff spot for the sixth straight season? You tell me.

THE WAY I SEE IT

FEB. 25 CHICAGO 15-0-3: The Oilers are 3-1 in Chicago the past two seasons and outscored the Blackhawks 16-14 in those games. PICK: LOSS

FEB. 28 DALLAS 9-8-1: Big D is a dead zone for the Oilers. They’ve got one win in 10 games in Dallas the last five seasons. PICK: OTL

MAR. 1 ST. LOUIS 10-6-2: Tough task in first back-to-back of trip. Oilers were 0-2 in Show Me State last season. One win last six trips. PICK: LOSS

MAR. 3 MINNESOTA 8-7-2: Oilers lone win in their last 16 games in Minnesota came last season, 5-2. PICK: OTL

MAR. 5 COLUMBUS 5-12-2: Oilers beat the Jackets 3-1 Feb. 1 in Columbus and are 2-2 in their last four visits. PICK: WIN

MAR. 7 DETROIT 9-7-3: Oilers lost 2-1 at the JLA on Feb. 9 and have just one win in their last nine trips to Detroit. PICK: OTL

MAR. 8 NASHVILLE 8-6-5: Won 6-3 and 6-2 in Music City last season and have won three of the last four. Second half of back-to-back. PICK: WIN

MAR. 10 CHICAGO 15-0-3: PICK: LOSS

MAR. 12 COLORADO 7-8-2: Oilers have lost three straight in Denver, including a 3-1 loss Feb. 2. PICK: WIN

BOTTOM LINE

If the Oilers come out of this trip with nine of a possible 18 points, which I suspect they will, they’ll almost certainly jet home from Denver further out of a playoff spot than when they left home just two points out. Less than nine? Likely too much ground to make up.

It’s the first four stops that are a kick in the pills. Squeeze more than two loser points from the first four games and take, say, 11-12 points from the trip, and the Oilers will have passed the halfway point of the schedule with at least a fighting chance to take a run at a playoff spot in the second half.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • I hope I’m wrong, but I think this trip sinks the year.

    I don’t want to throw the Greater Edmonton Sports Community under the bus, but I’m just thinking out loud here: If and when the Oilers move into a new building and out of Rexall Place, would you consider selling the old building to the Canadian Curling Association and/or the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association for, say, the princely sum of $2?

    Edmonton has become easy-money for the Canadian Curling Association for both national and international curling events … but the Oilers are, quite frankly, victimized by it. And if you combine a curling-event year with the regular Canadian Finals Rodeo road-trip, it’s tougher. And the scary thing is, it’s almost self-inflicted.

    I mean, obviously, gate and conscession revenues come into both events (and I have to believe Katz will want both events in the new building), but a small part of me is really, really hoping that when that new building is built, the Oilers can schedule things so that the seven- and nine-game trips are a thing of the past.

    Nine-game road trip in a 48-game season … I don’t think Magellan’s road trip was that bad.

    • Gilmore Tuttle

      The road trips for the CFR and curling might hurt the team’s record but don’t feel sorry for Katz. He gets all the suite and advertising revenues. Northlands has to pay him a big chunk of money in beer rights and other charges.

      Northlands isn’t going to sell their building unless Katz comes up with about $60 million or so. The CFR won’t be going to the new arena. Northlands owns the brand and has a long term contract with the CPRA. Also, events like curling make a big chunk of money with beer garden facilities, which exist at Northlands but don’t in the new downtown plan.

      Katz will try to poach all the events he can, including the curling or figure skating championships. He will soon learn that he can’t compete with Northlands as they will make a lot more money with 100 more free dates in their building, even though the city is using that ticket tax to subsidize Katz.

      His wallet will soon rule his ego when he realizes that he can’t compete and either have to enter a partnership with Northlands to run both facilities or get bored and sell the team to buy the Canucks.