G32 Game Notes: Sharks host Oilers, projections for the rest of the season, and more

Photo credit:San Jose Sharks
Cam Lewis
6 months ago
1. The Edmonton Oilers are back in action following a five-day Christmas break. They’re kicking off a three-game trip through California in San Jose against the Sharks and then they’ll play a back-to-back against the L.A. Kings and Anaheim Ducks on Saturday and Sunday. The Sharks, meanwhile, are playing again after losing to the Kings by a score of 5-1 on Wednesday in their first game back.
2. The Sharks beat the Oilers in the only other meeting between the two teams so far this season. They started off the season on an 11-game losing streak, got their first win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and then won their next game against the Oilers despite being outshot 41 to 18.
Those two wins came after general manager Mike Grier called out the team for their terrible play. The Sharks were pounded 10-1 by the Vancouver Canucks and 10-2 by former captain Erik Karlsson and the Pittsburgh Penguins, prompting Grier to tell the team changes would be coming if the team’s play didn’t improve.
“I just felt they needed to hear from me and what I’m seeing and what I expect from them,” Grier told reporters on November 6. “There are certain things I won’t tolerate and some of that stuff has been happening, and I kind of let them know that.”
“The fans deserve more. The owner has been supportive and backing me and the team forever. (It deserves) to be better for everyone. If the response isn’t there and I’m not seeing what I need to see then everything will be evaluated, and I’m sure there’ll be some changes made.”
After that, the Sharks put together a respectable stretch for about a month before falling back into their losing ways. They started off 0-10-1, got called out by Grier, went 9-7-2 over the few weeks, and are now riding a six-game losing streak, their second-longest of the season. None of the losses in this current losing streak were as bad as the 10-goal beatings from Vancouver and Pittsburgh, though.
3. Edmonton’s loss in San Jose earlier this season also marked the end of the Jay Woodcroft era with the Oilers. Though he was behind the bench a couple of nights later to finish off a three-game trip, Woodcroft seemed to know after the loss to the Sharks that the move was coming. As Woodcroft walked off the ice alongside assistant coach Dave Manson, he appeared to say, “That might be it!”
A few days later, Woodcroft and Manson were dismissed and Kris Knoblauch and Paul Coffey took over their roles. The Oilers have gone 12-6-0 since the change, highlighted by an eight-game winning streak, but a pair of three-game losing skids offer a reminder that this team still has a ways to go.
4. Wins over the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers on December 21 and 22 put the Oilers at 15-15-1 at the break. A .500 points percentage has the Oilers on pace to finish the season with 82 points, though it’s pretty safe to assume they’ll do better in the remaining 51 games than they did in the first 31. But how good do the Oilers need to be to compensate for their poor start and get into a favourable playoff spot come spring?
The number that we generally look at as a cutoff to make the playoffs is 95 points, which would mean the Oilers need to pick up 64 points over those 51 games. The Minnesota Wild, who fired their coach after starting 5-10-4, occupy the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings and are on pace to have 89 points when the season comes to an end, so aiming for 95 might even be generous this year.
Winning 31 games and losing 20 the rest of the way should be enough to get the Oilers into the playoffs. The more daunting challenge for this team than jumping over the likes of the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, and Wild and into a Wild Card spot will be getting home-ice advantage in the playoffs. In order to do so, they’ll have to pass at least two of the Vegas Golden Knights, Vancouver Canucks, and L.A. Kings in the standings.
The Canucks are on pace for 115 points, so they can have a significant shooting or save percentage cool-off period and cruise to 100 points with a .500-ish record. The Golden Knights have slowed down since their torrid start but are still on pace for 107 points. The Oilers have quite a few games in hand on Vancouver and Vegas, but they’ve played the same number of games as the Kings, who have the best points percentage in the Pacific Division and are on pace for 116 points.
It’ll be a steep climb to get within reach of the top three teams of the Pacific Division but the Oilers have themselves a favourable schedule on the horizon to make up ground. Starting with this game against the Sharks, 11 of Edmonton’s 14 games between now and the All-Star break will be against teams who don’t currently occupy a playoff spot.

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