I’ve seen teams suck before but the teams involved in the wild card race this year are the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked…and that’s great news for the Edmonton Oilers!!
How crazy is it that while many people in Edmonton are suggesting the Oilers make their second coaching change of the season, the team is actually just three points out of the final playoff spot in the west?
With another important battle looming against the Wild, I’ve decided to break down all of the “contenders” in what can adequately be described as the worst race ever.
MINNESOTA WILD: 57 points (1st Wild Card)
Why They Will Get In: Bruce Boudreau finds a way to make the playoffs. That’s what he has always done and that’s what he’s likely going to do again this season. Zach Parise is having a very nice bounce back season for the Wild with 21 goals and 46 points in 52 games. If Devan Dubnyk can maintain the numbers he’s put up so far this season, which are good but not great, I think they’ll be alright. Boudreau has only missed the playoffs once in his career and he’s never missed while spending a full season with a club.
Why They Won’t Get In: They just got the news that Mikko Koivu will miss the rest of the season. Koivu was not having a great season offensively but is a key faceoff guy and very important to the club defensively. He plays over 18 minutes a night for the Wild. That’s third on the team among forwards but just a few seconds behind Parise and Granlund. He will be missed.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS: 54 points (2nd Wild Card)
Why They Will Get In: Two words, Elias Pettersson. This kid is absolutely phenomenal. He leads the team in basically every single offensive category including an all-important seven game winning goals. The rest of the Canucks forwards have combined for 12 game winners. I knew he was going to be good, I knew he would eventually become great, but I certainly wasn’t expecting this type of immediate impact. If they make the playoffs, he will likely get more than a few Hart Trophy votes tossed his way.
Why They Won’t Get In: I’m not sure they have another gear and, in the end, I think one or two teams will find another level to pull away from the group. The good news for the Canucks is that they could remain in this wild card race the rest of the way and still end up with another high draft pick, which would be the best of both worlds.
ST. LOUIS BLUES: 53 points (9th in West)
Why They Will Get In: They are the hottest team in this race with a 7-2-1 record in their past ten games. Ryan O’Reilly might be one of the most consistent offensive players that nobody talks about. O’Reilly has been even better than I think the Blues were expecting when they brought him over from Buffalo. He leads the team with 53 points, a 17-point cushion over Tarasenko. One of the main reasons for this turn around has been the play of Jordan Binnington. He has been brilliant while going 7-1-1 in nine starts with a save percentage of .921 and a goals against average of 1.88.
Why They Won’t Get In: I’ll be interested in seeing how their overall team speed holds up as games get even quicker and more intense down the stretch. The Blues made their team slower in the off-season; does it come back to bite them in the end?
COLORADO AVALANCHE: 52 points (10th in West)
Why They Will Get In: They have one of the best lines in hockey and if they are going to make the playoffs that trio of players is going to have to carry them all the way. Rantanen and MacKinnon are 5th and 6th in NHL scoring while Landeskog currently sits 28th but is averaging 1.04 points per game. Landeskog leads the trio in goals with 29 on the season. At this point I’d be stunned if the entire line doesn’t hit the 30-goal mark.
Why They Won’t Get In: Goaltending. The Avalanche have the 8th worst goals against average in the league despite allowing the 12th fewest shots. Semyon Varlamov is 13-13-5 with a .905% and 2.89 G.A.A while Philipp Grubauer has not lived up to expectations with a 3.47 G.A.A. and a .890%.
ARIZONA COYOTES: 51 points (11th in West)
Why They Will Get In: They are likely feeling the least pressure out of all of the teams in this race — maybe that gives them some sort of weird advantage. I didn’t expect them to make the jump to the playoffs this season, especially without Antti Raanta for the majority of the season. Clayton Keller has been good in his second season but hasn’t been good enough to get this team to where they need to be just yet.
Why They Won’t Get In: They just aren’t good enough in all aspects of the game.
EDMONTON OILERS: 51 points (12th in West)
Why They Will Get In: The Oilers get into the playoffs in one of two ways. They’ll need one of their goaltenders to go on a heater to end all heaters, or Connor McDavid will need to go full blown supernova the rest of the way. It’s much more likely that McDavid averages 2.5 points per game the rest of the way than Talbot or Koskinen start standing on their head. Some support scoring would go a long way but if you are expecting it at this point you are a fool.
Why They Won’t Get In: There are a number of reasons why the Oilers won’t make it to the post-season but I think I’ll go with a general lack of defensive awareness ahead of everything else. Support scoring, a questionable blueline and subpar goaltending are all excellent answers but if the team continues to run around in their own end, and I’m talking about EVERYONE, they don’t have a hope in hell.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: 51 points (12th in West)
Why They Will Get In: The core of this team is winners, they always have been. Pat Kane is absolutely scorching the league right now and Jonathan Toews has regained his offensive touch. Dylan Strome has 24 points in 30 games since joining the Hawks which is an excellent contribution for a guy that many people were writing off.
Why They Won’t Get In: The Hawks are horrible defensively. They are second last in the entire league in goals against per game and shots allowed per game. I have a hard time believing they can work their way up the standings while continuing to hemorrhage scoring chances.
ANAHEIM DUCKS: 51 points (12th in West)
Why They Will Get In: They’ve lost 17 of 19. They are done. The real question here is if Dallas Eakins gets an opportunity to save the season.
Why They Won’t Get In: I know teams don’t want to use injuries as an excuse but this team has been hammered by them this season.
So, there you have it, the worst race ever. If I was a betting man, I’d probably go with the final standings looking something like this.
Minnesota (1st WC)
St. Louis (2nd WC)
Los Angeles (15th)
Enjoy what will certainly be the most pathetic, yet thrilling, race to the finish we’ve ever seen.
Previously by Dustin Nielson:
- Mid-Season Top 10 Prospects
- Fits the Bill?
- Doing Nothing Would Have Been Better Than Chiarelli’s Plan
- The Nielson Rankings: Battle of Alberta Edition
- Breaking down the Bait