Edmonton Oilers Will Make The Stanley Cup Playoffs
What’s the difference between a good team and a bad team?
A good team has very few questions and a lot of answers. A bad team has a lot of questions and very few answers.
Entering the 2016-2017 season, no NHL team had more questions than the record-setting Edmonton Oilers.
Record-setting? Yes, the Oilers are record setters. Unfortunately, it’s not the type of record fans want their team to set.
Last season, the Oilers tied the mark for longest playoff draught in NHL history. They completed their 10th consecutive seasons without qualifying for the postseason.
They don’t hold that dubious mark all by themselves. They are tied for longest postseason famine with the Florida Panthers of 2001 to 2011.
The last time the Edmonton Oilers were in the playoffs they fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Edmonton Oilers’ 10-Year Playoff Draught
Before the start of the 2016-2017 campaign, many NHL pundits believed the Oilers were going to make it eleven-in-a-row and hold the record for playoff futility all by themselves.
Yet, with more than half the NHL season in the books, it looks like the Oilers will prove a lot of naysayers wrong.
After 42 games, Edmonton is 21-14-7 for a total of 49 points. That has them third place in the Pacific Division.
At the time of writing this article, the Oilers are heading into a tilt with the Pacific Division leading San Jose Sharks. The winner of the game will be tops in the Pacific (at least until the Anaheim Ducks play later that same evening).
Conference-wise, the club is in fifth place. In other words, if the playoffs started today they’d the fifth seed.
The Oilers are two points ahead of the current sixth-place franchise and just one point behind places third and fourth. Although, two of those three teams, the third-place Anaheim Ducks and the sixth-place St. Louis Blues, have played two fewer games.
Even better, the Oilers are five points ahead of eighth place.
So, the Oilers are not only looking at qualifying for the postseason but possibly, maybe, if things go well, hosting a series!
Playing For First!
Sure, a lot can happen in the final forty games, but you have to like their chances at maintaining their current pace and reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
At the very least, it’s January and the Oilers are playing for first place. As the EdmontonJournal.com puts it:
“Let’s take a moment to stop and savour the rare combination of words: “first place implications” … “Oilers” … “January”.”
McDavid is McAwesome
Remember how we said good teams have few questions and a lot of answers? For the 2016-2017 Oilers, the man providing most of the answers is Connor McDavid.
According to Fansided, “Connor McDavid is their heir apparent to Sidney Crosby.”
At the time of writing this article, McDavid is leading the league in points and assists. He also has 14 goals and a plus/minus of 12.
As good as McDavid has been, he can’t do it alone. Entering the season, many thought he’d get help from Jordan Eberle.
Back in 2011-2012, when Eberle was 21, he amassed a 76-point season. Since then, he’s posted campaigns of 37, 65, 63, and 47. Even if you account for the games he missed, his best points per 82 games was 67.
Eberle entered this year as a 26-year-old forward. In other words, he’s in his hockey prime.
How’s he doing? Through 42 games he has 26 points. Compute that out for an entire season and we’re looking at 50 points.
Even worse, already this season Eberle has had four goalless streaks of six games or longer.
Fortunately for the Oilers, winger Leon Draisaitl is picking up the slack. The German has 15 goals and 20 assists through 42 games.
Coach Todd McLellan has recently put Draisaitl on the same line as McDavid and Patrick Maroon. Maroon leads the Oilers in goals, 16, and plus/minus, 14.
The sample size is small, but the line of McDavid, Draisaitl, and Maroon could be one of the best offensive lines in the league.
Meanwhile, goalie Cam Talbot is having a solid year with a 2.44 goals against average and a save percentage of .920. He’s sixth in the league in both wins and shutouts.
Now For The Bad News…
While the Oilers may end their playoff drought, fans shouldn’t expect much more.
Beyond the previously mentioned McDavid-Draisaitl-Maroon line, the Oilers offense is average at best and they need help on their blue line.
The team is really riding McDavid’s talent, as they should. If they want to make a deep run, they’re going to need offensive consistency from at least one more line.
Also, 22 out of their last 40 games are against (probable) playoff teams. That includes five out of their last seven.
Oilers Won’t Spoil
Before the calendar changed, the Oilers suffered four losing streaks of three of more games. For all that they’re doing well, the Oilers can still play like a franchise that hasn’t reached the postseason in a tenth of a century.
Obviously, the Oilers continue to have questions they don’t have answers to. Even so, they are headed in the right direction, and more than likely, headed to the postseason.
That’s got to make Oilers fans feel very good especially after experiencing literally the worst decade in NHL history.