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Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The race for the wild card is getting deeper

Since the last time I did a dive into the Western Conference standings, the race for the final few playoff spots has become even more competitive. While none of the teams beyond the Big Five of the West are world beaters, hot streaks from Arizona and St. Louis has made life Edmonton’s playoff pursuit more difficult.

1. Calgary Flames

33-13-5 (71 points) / 190 Goals For (2nd) / 145 Goals Against (12th) 

Not much to see here. The Flames haven’t dropped a game in regulation since Jan. 3 and now look to be running away with top spot in the Western Conference. The Flames are scoring at will and their goaltending has been steadier than it was in the first half. If the Oilers squeak into the playoffs, there’s a very good chance we’ll see a Battle of Alberta.

2. San Jose Sharks

29-16-7 (65 points) / 187 Goals For (3rd) / 167 Goals Against (25th)

The Sharks have been one of the hottest teams in the league in 2019. San Jose went on a seven-game winning streak after the New Year that featured an impressive 5-2 over Tampa Bay and pulled themselves to second in the Western Conference. The offence has found its groove and the Sharks are looking like the contender everyone expected they would be when they acquired Erik Karlsson in the off-season.

3. Winnipeg Jets

31-16-2 (64 points) / 168 Goals For (8th) / 137 Goals Against (5th)

The Jets and Predators are in a dogfight for first place in the Central Division. The two teams are currently tied in points with 64 but Winnipeg has played three fewer games. The most impressive thing about the Jets is how they’ve continued to roll despite injuries to Nik Ehlers and Dustin Byfuglien.

4. Nashville Predators 

30-18-4 (64 points) / 161 Goals For (9th) / 135 Goals Against (4th)

As I said above, the battle in the Central is between Nashville and Winnipeg. Obviously, the goal here is to finish first and get home ice advantage when these two teams inevitably meet in the second round of the playoffs.

5. Vegas Golden Knights

29-19-4 (62 points) / 157 Goals For (10th) / 140 Goals Against (6th)

After a massive hot streak in December and January that was capped off by a seven-game winning streak in the New Year, the Golden Knights have cooled off through a difficult schedule. They’ve dropped four of their last six games, getting dropped by top Western teams like Nashville, Winnipeg, and San Jose. Vegas still has a big lead on the teams below them in the Pacific but San Jose and Calgary might be pulling away when it comes to home ice advantage.

Mar 26, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Andreas Athanasiou (72) scores a goal in overtime on Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

6. Minnesota Wild

26-21-3 (55 points) / 142 Goals For (22nd) / 142 Goals Against (9th)

Here’s where things start to get wild, no pun intended. The last time I looked at the playoff race, the Wild were on the outside of the playoffs looking in, but they’ve since capitalized on poor streaks from Colorado and Dallas to climb up the standings. The key for the Wild to be successful is keeping the puck out of the net. In their current stretch in which they’ve won three of four, Minnesota has allowed just 10 goals.

7. Dallas Stars

 24-21-4 (52 points) / 126 Goals For (29th) / 128 Goals Against (2nd)

The Stars have gone into a bit of a tailspin as of late and have fallen back into a logjam in the Western Conference wild card mix. Dallas has dropped five of their last seven games, including losses to basement teams like Los Angeles and St. Louis. They’re having a rough time scoring goals, as they’ve scored more than one goal just twice in their last seven games. I guess CEO Jim Lytes’ message to Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin didn’t help much.

8. Colorado Avalanche 

22-20-8 (52 points) / 169 Goals For (7th) / 162 Goals Against (21st)

The Avalanche are in an even bigger tailspin than the Stars. Colorado has dropped 12 of their last 15 games. Their goaltending has cooled off and riding one good offensive line has caught up to them. Colorado had been overachieving all season so this isn’t all too surprising.

9. Vancouver Canucks

23-22-6 (52 points) / 147 Goals For (16th) / 161 Goals Against (20th)

I’ve had a hard time taking Vancouver seriously as a playoff contender all season but here we are. It’s the All-Star break and the Canucks are tied for a playoff spot. They managed to go 2-1-2 while Elias Pettersson was injured and are thoroughly in the mix with the trade deadline approaching. I can’t see them buying, given their long-term plans, but the may opt not to sell given the playoffs are in reach.

10. Anaheim Ducks

21-21-9 (51 points) / 120 Goals For (30th) / 153 Goals Against (19th)

Three things on this planet will survive the apocalypse — twinkies, cockroaches, and the Anaheim Ducks. Despite a 12-game losing streak, the Ducks are one point out of a playoff spot at the All-Star break. They’re old, slow, decimated by injuries, and they can’t score, but Anaheim still finds a way to squeak out wins (and those ever-important overtime losses).

Jan 2, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes right wing Richard Panik (14) carries the puck as Edmonton Oilers defenseman Brandon Manning (26) and goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) defend during the first period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

11. Arizona Coyotes

23-23-4 (50 points) / 132 Goals For (28th) / 142 Goals Against (9th)

After a miserable start to the season, some solid play since the New Year has the Coyotes in the mix for a playoff spot. Arizona has won six of their last nine games and have passed the Oilers in the standings. They’ve been excellent at keeping the puck out of the net all year and now their offence is starting to come around a little bit. They might be the dark horse to watch in the West.

12. St. Louis Blues

22-22-5 (49 points) / 139 Goals For (26th) / 149 Goals Against (14th)

Oh man, even the Blues are in the mix now. It looked like the Blues were dead just a few weeks ago, but all it takes to bring you to life in the playoff race in the West is a solid stretch. The Blues have gone 5-2-1 in their last eight games and they now sit three points out of a playoff spot.

13. Edmonton Oilers

23-24-3 (49 points) / 144 Goals For (20th) / 163 Goals Against (23rd)

The Oilers badly need Oscar Klefbom back. They’ve been terrible in their top defender’s absence, going 5-12-1. The poor streak has dropped them to 13th in the standings. While they’re only three points out, they’ll have to jump over a lot of teams to get into a playoff spot.

14. Chicago Blackhawks

18-24-9 (45 points) / 156 Goals For (11th) / 190 Goals Against (31st)

I said last time four teams — including Arizona and St. Louis — were out of the picture and it turned out that wasn’t accurate at all so I don’t even feel comfortable writing off Chicago. I mean, given the way the West is, a stretch where they go 6-3-1 would have the Blackhawks right in the mix. It’s hard to imagine that happening, but you never know.

15. Los Angeles Kings

20-26-4 (44 points) / 114 Goals For (31st) / 150 Goals Against (17th)

I am confident saying L.A. is out of the picture. They began their firesale on Monday shipping Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs and guys like Alec Martinez, Tyler Toffoli, and Jeff Carter could be next.

What does it all mean?

Only six points separate the Minnesota Wild, who sit sixth in the West, and the Edmonton Oilers, who sit 13th. Last time, I broke the West into three tiers. The first was the locks: Calgary, San Jose, Vegas, Nashville, and Winnipeg. That hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is two teams from the basement tier have moved into the middle tier. Arizona and St. Louis are thoroughly in the playoff mix, further convoluting the Western Conference race for the final few playoff spots.

The Oilers aren’t in an admirable position right now. As I said earlier, while three points isn’t a huge hurdle, they have to jump a handful of teams to get back into a playoff spot. The key for the Oilers, and this isn’t rocket science by any stretch, will be winning games against the teams they have to hop. They have 32 games left, and nine of them will come against teams fighting with them in that middle tier. If the Oilers can win a good chunk of those games, it’ll go a long way in salvaging their season.

  • Guy5354

    Wonderful article. It’s fun to talk about the Oilers in January about having a shot at making the playoffs. It’s up to the players and coaching staff to do it. Go Oilers.

    • The future never comes

      This is wonderful? Having the best player in the world in year 4 outside of a playoff picture (I would bet my last dollar they wont make it) ? Your standards have been grossly lowered.

      • Guy5354

        Agreed, my standards have been lowered by this organization. My comment is about the article and the fact the Oilers are still in it in January. I am trying to be supportive and positive about right now and, as of today, they are in the race so Go Oilers!

    • Ratt McNuge

      No, “wonderful” would be talking about how it’s going to be great watching the Oilers and Flames in a dogfight the rest of the season for 1st in the Pacific, but…I feel ya.

  • Gravis82

    “Only six points separate the Minnesota Wild, who sit sixth in the West, and the Edmonton Oilers, who sit 13th”

    Ok, but is this normal??? What was it like last year at this time? You just left out the most important comparison

    Historically at this point in the season, how many teams make it when they are 6 points out? This is not that hard to do, we expect this kind of analysis here

    • nijames

      Exactly what is Koskinen form? A guy that has played like 30 NHL games not sure he has a form. He may have been playing way over his head for those 7 games or else I believe he would have been in the NHL before he was 30

  • nijames

    They still have a shot. This is a turtle race for the last 2 wild card spots. Its kind of like who can get out of their own way first. The Oil have a lot of teams to jump over and that is the key, teams start playing for those overtime points now.

  • Lazarus

    Let’s go Edmonton! You can do it! Sneak in there! Standing them up to be cannon fodder for the Flames will get the Red Mile nice and warmed up for the playoff run!
    Don’t give up Conner..I know the rest of the team had but you CAN do it

      • Lazarus

        What you think would happen? You already lucked into a 1-0 win head to head. Surely you don’t think you can pull that off 4 times in a 7 game series??!
        Everyone knows..score at least 3 and you have a 80% chance of overcoming Conner. Score less and it’s up for grabs. Score 4 and its pretty much in the bag

  • Stickhandler

    laughable, no wonder the leagues comedy central routine still comes from the tundra called Edmonton. Playoffs??? bahahahaha, good luck with that. By Feb 15 you guys will contemplating the theme for the draft parties and renewing your season tickets like good katz sheep.

    • hockeyartist

      At first I thought your nickname implied a hockey skill you had back in the day, but after reading your comment I now realize it is for your trolling abilities. Nice dangle.

  • KootenayDan

    Why do trolls come here only to denegrate Oiler fans? we know our organization has let us down but just like life itself hope is eternal. I wish the Flames, Canucks and all Canadian teams to have success it makes for great playoff hockey. Kicking fans when their team is down is the lowest form of fanaticism, there is enough hate in the world without the hockey world at each others throats. Whatever happened to friendly rivalries must be a millenial thing. Flames are playing great! and the Leafs made a really good trade for Muzzin, there I said it.

  • Hemmercules

    I’m just waiting for that trade that we are all going to be groaning about. I’m sure its coming. Bobby said it wont be something bad but why should we trust these guys any further? The OBC wants to make the playoffs badly, that much is clear. Cant do that without making at least one move. I just hope Keith has more common sense than Chiapete.

    • Spydyr

      The only reason the OBC and Katz want to make the playoffs is money. It is all about season ticket, skyboxes and club seat renewals.

      That scares me. They may be willing to sacrifice the future for one round of playoffs.

      The Katz curse continues.

  • Gary

    Nicholson has no clue, he’s so arrogant that he thinks something is in the water. Think for a minute, if a construction project failed, or an LRT system did not work and the headlines read, project failed, managers claim somethings in the water is why we failed. FAIL! Incompetence at its finest.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    The Oilers have a 10.5% chance of making the playoffs according to Sports Club Stats website. With failing goaltending lately, even with the addition of Klefbom, the Oilers are done for this year. I hate to say it but it’s true. I would love nothing more to be wrong, but time and time again the Oilers have proven to be a club that can’t do it when it matters. We need new management, and not revolving GMs and coaches to blame it on…but new management above them. Everybody over them should be fired who has been here for longer than a year or two. It’s unthinkable that the same people who have been with this organization for over a decade of misery are allowed to continue to mess it up!

  • camdog

    Oilers are all in on Koskinen being the next Kiprusoff. With Klefbom back the defence will be stabilized. Contrary to the sentiment out there, this top 4 on defence is fairly good when healthy – 2 good pairings.

    Forward group however is an unmitigated disaster. I thought this team was going to make the playoffs at beginning of year, but changed direction when Strome was dealt, that’s when I realized coaching and management were panicking to save their jobs. Nobody scored when that line was on the ice, it was a low event line on a team that needed a low event lines. They have Connor after all – bottom 2 lines just can’t bleed goals. I’m still in disbelief that everybody in the media both those that pretend to be “eye” guys and “analytics” guys supported this deal.

    If the Oilers can find a low event centre so they can roll out 4 lines, they still have a shot at playoffs, but they need to be able to play 4 line hockey to make it, otherwise they’ll burn out.

    • Hemmercules

      This team needs more high event players. They are already stacked with low event guys. Search for impact players, not more of the same non-scoring junk players.

  • HelpMeBabyJesus

    I love the Oilers but they haven’t got a hope in hell of making the playoffs. Learn to set your expectations very low and maybe, just maybe there may be a little ray of sunshine in our day. Let’s cheer for Connor winning the Art Ross instead…much better odds.