It seems ridiculous to count a team out in November, but Oilers fans know just how easily that can happen.
Edmonton has 22 points in 25 games and are five points out of a Wild Card spot, with both Chicago and Calgary having a game in hand. The Oilers have dug themselves a hole that history doesn’t favour. No team has made the playoffs since the last lockout with 16 points after 20 games. Since then, they’re 3-2, but they still have a ways to go. Their win against Arizona only moved their playoff chances from 1.3% to 6.1%, according to Sports Club Stats. Dom Luszczyszyn’s model has the Oilers at 18%.
W/ loss to DAL, #Oilers officially have a worse record at 20 game mark than any team that has been able to make the post-season since re-alignment following last lockout.
— Alan Hull (@alanhull) November 18, 2017
The Oilers are on the outside looking in right now, but there are still 57 games left in the season. They’ll need a serious comeback and they’ll need to play better than their 10-13-2 record if they want to start passing other teams in the West.
Forty of their remaining 57 games are against Western Conference teams. Twenty-five of those are against Pacific teams. They’ll have an opportunity to prevent their competition from gaining points on them, but that means winning in regulation, something they’ve only done six times in 25 games. The loser point makes regulation wins crucial to get back in the race.
Vegas isn’t likely to continue at their current pace, but they’ll probably get better goaltending as Fleury and Subban return. Vancouver could take a step back, but they have a group of solid, if unspectacular veterans.
It took 94 points to make the playoffs last year. Edmonton would need to go something like 32-17-8 in the rest of their games.
The 16-17 Flames
There was one team last year who started 10-13-2 and ended up making the playoffs: the Calgary Flames. Calgary finished the season 35-20-2 and in the first Wild Card playoff spot. They needed hot streaks from both Chad Johnson and Brian Elliott, as well as a 10-game win streak to claw their way up the standings, which shows how difficult it is to make up lost points from October and November.
That Flames team doesn’t seem markedly better than this Oilers team. Andrej Sekera’s return will help, but scoring up front and goaltending are bigger concerns right now. Cam Talbot needs to be better than his .903 save percentage. He’s also on track to play 72 games again, which is a lot for a goalie who became a regular starter two years ago. It’s a tough situation for the Oilers and Todd McLellan. Do you risk starting Laurent Brossoit to rest Talbot?
Edmonton was top ten in scoring last season but currently sits in the bottom ten so far. McLellan’s put all three of Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Leon Draisaitl at centre to spread the offence around, rather than rely on a loaded top line.
Playoffs are still in reach. It’ll take a significant winning streak and playing like a top team for the rest of the way, but it’s hard to count out a team with Connor McDavid on it.