The tough schedule ahead: a major problem for the Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers find themselves on the verge of a post-season spot – one that would be their first since 2005-06 – as they enter the final day of trading in the NHL. They’re one point back of a St. Louis team that has a game in hand, and while there’s a crowd vying for that spot (or the one inhabited by Detroit – these teams aren’t picky) superficially the Oilers look like one of the stronger candidates in the group.

The problem? The schedule is about to turn nasty again.

The Oilers first 35 games were nearly evenly split between the 10 clubs in a playoff spot in the West (18 contests against those teams) and the six teams outside the post-season (17 games against those clubs). That ends now: of the Oilers final 13 games, just four come against the also-rans while nine come against clubs in a post-season slot.

That doesn’t sound good, but it looks a lot worse once the Oilers’ record against playoff/non-playoff teams is taken into account.

The Oilers vs. the Cellar

The Oilers look awfully good when they aren’t lining up against quality teams. They’ve ripped off a 10-5-2 record (a 56-point pace over a 48-game season) and out-scored their opposition 52-to-44.

The Oilers vs. the Playoffs

… and they look decidedly worse against the power teams in the West. The goal differential falls to minus-13, and that 5-8-5 record works out to a 40-point pace over a 48-game season, a total that needless to say would put them nowhere near the playoffs.

It’s not that simple

No, it really isn’t that simple. The fact that the Oilers have struggled against good teams, and now play a whole bunch of games against good teams does not guarantee that they will struggle the rest of the way. We’re dealing with small numbers here; and we aren’t allowing for injuries, or improvement over the course of the season, or trades or any number of other things.

With that said, this should show exactly how difficult the Oilers’ road to the post-season will be to travel. St. Louis and Detroit both play more non-playoff teams than power teams the rest of the way; and even assuming they only manage to maintain their current point pace rather than improving against weaker clubs, the eight-place Blues are set for a 54-point season and have an edge in regulation/overtime wins on the Oilers (the first tie-breaker). That means the Oilers may need 55 points to make the playoffs, which means a 9-4-0 record the rest of the way.

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  • The Soup Fascist

    Near the end of the stretch we play mostly top tier playoff teams (2 ana/ 1 chi/ 1 min/ 1 van). Lets hope/most likely they will rest their star players allowing us to take those points to record our Fist playoff appearance since 06.

  • Muji

    I don’t expect many/any Oilers trades tomorrow.

    Selling players like Whitney, Jones, Fistric, Khabi may be the smart thing to do from an asset point of view, but it would look very bad to the Oilers players who have worked very hard this season to at least be in the race.

    Management wanted the kids to play meaningful games. They are. It would be a dick move to raise the white flag now.

    Nor do I expect the Oilers to be buyers. Not surrendering is one thing, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves: it’s not our time yet. Plus the deep draft.

    Nope. The only trades that make sense are tactile ones that would both improve the club now and into the future. Can Steve Tambellini make one of these on short notice? Of course not. So he won’t even try.

    • G Money

      I agree with most of what you’re saying, but there is a meaningful nuance to your second sentence.

      Of the four players in that list (all of whom arguably have value at this time of year), only Whitney’s departure would have any sort of effect on the Oilers playoff chances.

      Jones can be replaced with Hartikainen with minimal if any dropoff.

      Fistric is not playing and if needed, Peckham is the alternative (i.e. you only trade one of those two).

      And frankly, if Dubey goes down and we have to rely on Khabi for more than two games in a row, the season is sewered anyway.

      So if we can trade them now at max value for picks and prospects, then in turn use those picks and prospects this summer when *they* are higher value and teams may be looking to salary dumps in light of the cap changes (i.e. sell veterans high and buy picks low, then sell picks high and buy veterans low), then this is in fact excellent asset management that does not materially affect our chances this playoff while potentially significantly improving us for next year.

      But as you say – can ST actually do this? Probably not.

    • The Soup Fascist

      Not to be Debbie Downer but as you say, that three point swing in the blown game against Detroit is looming VERY large right now

      But that is a lesson in itself. Adapt and overcome, I suppose.

  • Muji

    We’ve only played the Flames twice and only have 7 goals against them. Where are you pulling these stats out of? Unless you are pretending tonight’s game has happened already and we won 4-0.

  • Oh geeze Willis, will you stop being such a wet blanket!! The Oilers are only one point out of 8th and only need St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus, Phoenix and Dallas to lose all the time, while also winning at least 9 of their next 13 games. THEY MIGHT AS WELL JUST GIVE US THE 8TH SEED NOW AND SAVE EVERYONES TIME!

  • Muji

    Selective picking here to make an argument, sure the record doesn’t look good vs playoff teams but they don’t play a lot of these teams they struggled with. Versus the teams remaining on the oilers schedule this year they are 10-5-2. They play those teams 10 times and have 3 vs Ana who they haven’t played yet, which is probably a good thing because they were ridiculously hot to start but have fallen back to earth lately. If the oilers want to make the dance it won’t be the ‘difficulty of schedule’ that decides it, they have done just fine against the remaining teams. Not to mention the fact that when you are trying to make the playoffs, you want to play teams ahead of you, not ones in the rear view mirror.

  • Monkeyswan

    If they do make the post season this year they will need to earn it. A tough schedule only gets tougher once the playoffs begin. I’d rather them make it knowing they can compete with the so called better teams. We all know what a hot Goalie can do in the post season. Cross your fingers that it will stay exciting right up till the last game of the season

  • Monkeyswan

    If they do make the post season this year they will need to earn it. A tough schedule only gets tougher once the playoffs begin. I’d rather them make it knowing they can compete with the so called better teams. We all know what a hot Goalie can do in the post season. Cross your fingers that it will stay exciting right up till the last game of the season

  • This is a tall order. The key at this point is to win the next 4 games to keep the dream/hope alive to make the chase and games meaning full as they say. This is especially important for the young players. But, they better play better hockey than they did against the last Flames game.Unfortunately its not the young guns that are the problem.. its the vets and defense.

  • The Soup Fascist

    We also play more home games for the final month of April… Looks like the Oilers fans are going to have to play as a solid 6th player for the team. I also like that we’re playing tougher competition because if we do make the playoffs it shows that we can also potentially compete in the playoffs.

  • The Soup Fascist

    The Phoenix game and the Wild matcheups , April 10,16,26 are our secondary challenges, our primary challenge is the game at hand night in and night out. One game at a time for the Players, but for the coaches the midnight oil must be burning right now and they must be getting prepared and be looking for any recent changes in these two teams execution systemwise.

    Tonight will be a nice test of our consistancy and ability to react, the Flames will be looking to make technical changes after the last game, they will come out loose and willing to open up with us, they have nothing to lose, so are going to be willing to come out swinging with us, we just want to do what we did last game, keep our system execution tight and focused and not be led anywhere by the nose. we have the perfect game template now and simply need to execute it properly.

    No big UPS and no big DOWNS we are on an even keel now and need to keep that mindset, we dont need to worry about what other teams are bringing anymore, our coaching crew has a firm handle on system preparation now and our season is evolving just fine, we are now seeing some results of the hard work and willingness to change and adjust we have shown this year.

    The Players just need to rest, recuperate, stay healthy, eat right and do exactly as the coaches tell them, we are dialed in and are more prepared pre-game than other teams, things are going nice and smooth and we need to keep in the groove. It was supposed to be this simple all along, we are where we are supposed to be now, we havent reached our peak at all, we are now on track exactly where we are supposed to be.

    We are showing consistancy of pre-game preparation and system execution, really all we ever needed to manifest as a group.

    The Oile dont need help now they are firmaly in the driver seat , just support.

  • The stats look scary. But this is an occasion where it seems obvious to me that the Oilers’ numbers will not play out according to the stats.

    A large portion of the stats gathered here were from games where the kids were split up and we weren’t playing nearly as well as we have as of late.


  • Quicksilver ballet

    No mans land is where the Oilers can least afford to finish this season. To finish in that 18-24 range nets you nothing. Every effort should be made to eliminate that drive down yet another Alex Plante road.

    Scouting needs to pull and ace from the deck this summer with that first pick. One more ace, so moving one of the fab 5 won’t hurt as much when an area of weakness is finally addressed.

    • G Money

      Actually, with the change in lottery rules, it is possible for the one-out-of-the-playoffs team to win #1 overall.

      Given that the rule appears to have been put in specifically because the Oilers picked #1 three years in a row, it would be an absolutely delicious irony if the Oilers fell just shy of making it, but then won the lottery and got #1 again.

  • StHenriOilBomb

    This is why the games are played. Every year a few teams surprise and exceed expectations. Why not the Oilers? It makes sense that with a couple of rookies, a new coach and new system that it would take 30+ games for a team to reach its potential. Following a team is always more fun when there’s a hope for something special. Although the deck is currently stacked against the Oilers, it would be something special to see playoff hockey in Edmonton this year.

  • Druid

    It will be a hard run, but the good thing is that they are _finally_ playing meaningful games near the end of the season.

    To get 55 pts, they need to sweep the weak sisters (Flames, Coyotes and Avs) for 8 pts, then collect 10 of 18 points vs the playoff teams.

    W L OT Total

     5  4 0  10

     4  3 2  10

     3  2 4  10

     2  1 6  10

     1  0 8  10

    Can the Oil sweep the weak teams and then go 3-2-4 vs playoff teams? Possibly.

  • Druid

    This could be the year we see the rise of Taylor Hall. He is becoming an absolute beast, the top line is finally finding their stride. They went all the season not really clicking to becoming one of the most dominating lines in hockey. With all four lines clicking and the defence cleaning up we have a real shot.