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Photo Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This is what we wanted

Merry Christmas Oilersnation! As you wake up today and celebrate the holidays, the Edmonton Oilers hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Despite that fact, there’s still a negative feeling around the team and while I’ve been known to be fairly pessimistic at times, I don’t see the reason for Oilers fans to feel any way but positive about the first three months of the season.

After 36 games, the Oilers are in a wild card spot and if they were to win the games they have on the teams ahead of them, they could sit third in the Pacific Division. If someone would have said that at the beginning of the year, almost every Oilers fan would have been thrilled

No one realistically expected this group as it’s currently assembled to compete for a Presidents Trophy or for a division title. The general consensus was that this would be a team that has to fight right up until the last few weeks of the season, or later if they wanted to secure a playoff spot.

Well, that’s the position this group is in. Do the three consecutive losses heading into the break sting? Sure. But, look at the big picture, this group essentially holds their playoff fate in their own hands heading into the unofficial second half of the season.

The fact that they’ve had their fair share of struggles and gone through a little adversity could be viewed as a bit of a positive. Even though this team got some sub-par goaltending at the beginning of the year, can’t seem to get any consistent secondary scoring, and hasn’t had a fully healthy blueline yet, they’re in a playoff spot. There is a reason to believe that the second half of the season could be even more successful than the first half.

From a secondary scoring perspective, we’re starting to see some positive strides forward from players like Jujhar Khaira and Jesse Puljujarvi. I’ve even liked what I’ve seen from Zack Kassian as of late and his play even got him a look on the top line during the game against Tampa Bay.

Then there are the likes of Milan Lucic and Tobias Rieder who combine for a cap hit of $8.0 million and have exactly one goal between the two of them.

Maybe I’m feeling optimistic because it’s the holiday season, but Milan Lucic is slowly starting to get more and more traction in his offensive game. I’m noticing him turning over the puck less and less and going to high-danger spots in the offensive zone on a more regular basis. I know we’ve been waiting for a while, but I think it’s completely reasonable to expect Lucic to punch in more than one goal from now until the end of the regular season.

Same with Rieder, who has yet to score a goal as an Oiler. He’s just coming off an injury, so I want to cut him some slack and before he was hurt I thought he was skating well and generating a few chances off the rush.

Those two guys getting going and continued improvement from the likes of Puljujarvi and Khaira is the solution to the Oilers secondary scoring woes. If that gets going, it will go a long way in determining the Oilers playoff fate.

THE STORM BEFORE THE CALM

Mar 18, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Markus Granlund (60) is stopped by Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot (33) during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers will play three games before the calendar flips to 2019 and once January comes, things get really crazy.

They’ll play 11 times in the first 22 days of the month. It starts with a four-game road swing through Arizona and California. While the California road trip isn’t as daunting this season as it has been in seasons past, those are still tough points to go get.

After that, they play six games at home with a quick road trip to Vancouver sandwiched in the middle. Of those final seven games, only two of their opponents currently hold playoff spots (Calgary & Buffalo).

Their blueline is depleted right now, so any break in the schedule is much needed. They don’t really get that in January with the volume of games they play, but the quality of their opponents is not very strong. While the Oilers will play a pair of back-to-backs (January 4/5 vs ANA/LA & Jan 19/20 vs CGY/CAR) they also get two games where they will be playing an opponent on the second half of their own back-to-back (Jan 8 vs SJS & Jan 19 vs CGY).

All in all, it’s a hectic part of the schedule, but it could have been much worse and when the string of games ends of Jan 22, they’ll get ten days off.

When the Oilers return to action on Feb 2, in Philadelphia, there’s a really good chance they have all three of Kris Russell, Oscar Klefbom, and Andrej Sekera back in the lineup.

If they can keep their heads above water in the first half of January, they’ll get a solid boost to kick off February.

The Oilers are in a good spot right now. I mean, it’s hard to complain about holding a playoff spot at Christmas time. Will this next month be a tough test for them? It certainly will, but isn’t that what we wanted as fans? For them to have a fighting chance of the playoffs when the calendar flips?

It certainly what I was hoping for. Enjoy the holidays and then get ready to enjoy the ride Oilers fans. We’re going right into the storm that is the Western Conference playoff race.

  • rivid

    Wow you sure got into the Christmas sauce early, Lucic game is getting better. Please pass the kool aid over so l can at least pretend to like him as well. With their dman out and their winger firing blanks the Oilers are going to be hard pressed to keep that spot. Hopefully they heal quick, the gm can replace some of the dead weight and the oilers can move up in the standings.

    • Mr. McDavid

      12 drummers drumming on Jasper
      11 or more 3 pt nights for McDavid
      10 referees keep cheating
      9 point cussuon
      8 grade A scoring chances
      7 more shutouts
      6 wingers winging
      Another five Stanley cups
      4 percent penalty killers
      Three number one centers
      two one hundred point producer’s
      a Stanley cup in a pear tree

  • The future never comes

    Lucic’s game started off descent and has steadily declined over the last month. He had a good boost when Hitch was hired and put him on the “identity line” (AKA “can’t score to save their life line”). The last 5 games he has gotten little to no scoring chances, wrist shots from 5 feet within the blueline is not getting “high danger chances”. He looks more and more like he should be in the press box every game. You lose credibility when you try to put a spin on something that cannot be spun. G’day.

  • Leichs

    The Oilers were in this exact same spot last year basically. We battled to within a few points of a playoff spot and what happened after Christmas? We proceeded to get pumped the first 8 games going like 1-6-1 and all playoff hopes were dashed and the season was over. The difference this year is that we are down 3 of our top D and are on a three game losing streak rather than a winning streak which we took into last xmas break. Trying to be positive but I don’t think this squad has a chance in hell of making the playoffs the way it is right now. They spoke for three games straight about riding a winning streak and taking momentum into the break and couldnt even muster one win against two non playoff teams.

  • Microwave

    The best part and worst part about being a fan is caring so much. I want to be positive and I’ll try my best. All I ask is exciting hockey (at least for this year) and that we have a chance to make the playoffs. But man it’s really easy to get negative fast.

  • hagar

    This site has like four or ten people that just wait to make every negative, sound devastating.

    Its hilarious that 500 million views per year are touted, and four or ten people can make the entire site sound like the sky is falling, because they follow up every single post made with brown stains on everything.

    • Kevwan

      Bung – They are in a playoff position now. They have to hold off DAL, MIN and STL but COL and their entire division is catchable. Yet you repeat the same senseless dribble about the roster not being good enough but you’re wrong.

      This team since the end of the 15-16 season has more wins than Calgary! This team has beaten WIN, NAS, CAL, and WAS and BOS this year and can compete with any team in the league. This roster has Connor McFRICKENDavid and that is enough to put them in playoff contention. In fact the only way they don’t make the playoffs is bad luck. So you and Seriously Negative Gord can stop crapping all over anything that is positive about the Oilers because it is tiresome.

      And to everyone on ON – Merry Christmas

  • Dead weight, cap hell and Chiarelli eating crow over Christmas.

    A practice roster no one has heard of enjoying popcorn time in the press box.

    Top 4 D on the IR into New Years.

    And a partridge in a pear tree…

    No worries.

  • OilCan2

    Yikes. I’m lost. Normally I would be pouring over the reports from the junior and Euro scouts to see who our NEXT prospect would be. It looks like it will be a crap shoot with our first rounder somewhere in the twenties:)

  • ROILYDoGG$

    Cheer up people , we got the best player in the world , depth in the farm with players coming from Jones, bear, marody, yamamoto. Add on the kids in the AHL like McLeod and Bouchard, we haven’t had this much youth depth ever and once they are ready Russel and sekera contracts will be done . So not sure why people think we are in cap hell considering our core is locked up for many years and the older vets have expiring contracts soon, it’s timed perfectly to have the youth start to take the spots in the next 1-2 years. Merry Christmas and happy New years, we are making playoffs once our top dmen return