It’s March and the Oilers are playing meaningful games. They have 69 points through 69 games and they’re in the mix for a playoff spot, while that certainly doesn’t meet expectations we all had for the fourth seasons of the McDavid era, it’s nice.
The Oilers sit five points back of the Minnesota Wild for the final wild-card seed. They have a game in hand on the Wild but they also have to jump over the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche and they have the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks right on their tail. The team will likely need to go something like 10-3 in their final 13 games to squeak in. It’s a steep climb but given the fact they’re 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and they have a fairly light schedule the rest of the way, there’s some reason to believe.
I’ll take cheering for a faint playoff push over looking at draft rankings any day of the week.
8. Minnesota Wild
33-29-8 (74 points)
The Wild have a tough schedule the rest of the way. They have 12 games left and none of them come against weak teams. The weakest team left on the schedule is the New York Rangers, who, as we saw on Monday night, are a formidable opponent. Beyond that, they also play six different top-10 teams.
9. Arizona Coyotes
Like the Oilers, the Coyotes have 13 games left to play. They have a much easier schedule than Minnesota does as they face sub-.500 points percentage teams like Florida, New Jersey, Anaheim, and Los Angeles. That said, two those games against the Devils and Panthers come on an Eastern swing, which is never easy.
10. Colorado Avalanche
The Avs have a middling schedule the rest of the way. They have two easy games against sub-.500 points percentage teams right off the hop and then they finish off with games against Winnipeg and San Jose at the end of the season. Between those games, they’re facing a bunch of middling teams. They also control their own destiny more than the other teams as they have five games against other teams in this race.
11. Edmonton Oilers
As I said earlier, Edmonton likely has the softest schedule down the stretch. They have four games against sub-.500 points percentage teams, three of which come on a five-game homestand. Their hardest games come at the very end of the season against San Jose and Calgary. Their head-to-head games against Arizona and Colorado will be massive.
12. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks have kind of come out of nowhere to pull themselves back into the playoff mix. They had a statement 7-1 win over Arizona on Monday and sit tied with the Oilers just five points out. Unlike the Oilers, though, they have a tough schedule as the only sub-.500 points percentage team they face down the stretch is Vancouver.
What does it all mean?
As it stands right now, Arizona appears to be the team in the best position to grab that final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They’re one point behind the Wild and they have one game in hand and a not-so-difficult schedule. The Wild, of course, are in tough because of how challenging their schedule is in the final few weeks of the year.
Edmonton looks to have the easiest schedule of the group. Four of their remaining 13 games come against teams with a sub-.500 points percentage and they only have two games against teams in the top-10 in the league’s standings. The key here will be how the team plays during a tough three-game stretch this weekend. They have a must-win game against the Coyotes in Arizona and then tough games against Vegas and St. Louis. If they can get through that with a win in Arizona and a win in either Vegas or Srt. Louis, they’re set up quite nicely for their soft finish to the year.
Realistically, I figure the Oilers need to go 10-3 in their final 13 games to have a chance. There’s no room for error in the Arizona and Colorado head-to-head games and the team needs to also win their easy games against L.A., Anaheim, Ottawa, and New Jersey in order to give themselves some breathing room in tough games against Vegas, Calgary, and San Jose.