For Edmonton Oilers fans long since embittered by their team’s lengthy playoff drought, the club’s performance this season has been a welcome change. Now, in mid-February, the club is in such a good position that it would take a historic collapse to miss the playoffs.
What prompted this piece was an interesting exchange during (skip to the 12:20 mark above) Peter Chiarelli’s Valentine’s Day media availability about how making the playoffs this season fit into the Oilers long-term plans.
Question: “As far as where you guys are in the plan, the five-year plan or however long [inaudible] does this team have to make the playoffs this year in that scope? Or if they come up short, will you still say ‘we’ve made a lot of progress this year’?
Answer: “I’m satisfied with where we are. I haven’t liked our last little bit, but it’s a long season. I wanted to be in the conversation; we are. So if we make the playoffs I’d be ecstatic, because it really helps the development of these players to see what a playoff series or two is like. The fact that they’re competing right now and they’re feeling the pressures, that’s really positive for their development as well. But of course I’d like to make the playoffs.”
I was surprised at the tenure of the exchange. I hadn’t expected to hear a question framed around making or missing the playoffs as if they had relatively equal probabilities of occurring.
Chiarelli’s answer was less surprising in that he’s stressed the Oilers as a developing team than a true contender this year. Answer with an “of course they’re going to make the playoffs” and one not only risks looking silly if the team collapses down the stretch but also invites questions as to why the trade deadline strategy isn’t more aggressive.
Nevertheless, it’s relatively certain that Edmonton is heading to the postseason. One only need look at the standings.
That 11-point gap on Winnipeg looks pretty good right now, as does the fact that four different teams would need to pass the Oilers in order to knock them out of a postseason position. But hypothetically, what would it take?
Let’s imagine for a moment that every team in the West continues at exactly their current pace, and narrow the focus to the six teams with at least some semi-plausible path to getting ahead of the Oilers:
- Edmonton: 102 points
- Anaheim: 98 points
- Nashville: 90 points
- Calgary: 86 points
- Los Angeles: 85 points
- Winnipeg: 81 points
- Vancouver: 79 points
Remember, four teams have to leapfrog the Oilers, which means that Edmonton would have to fall behind the Kings, which means a finish somewhere in the 85-point range. For the Oilers to drop to that level, they would have to collect just 13 points in their final 23 games. That’s a 6-16-1 or 5-15-3 collapse.
The team’s worst run this season was a 2-7-1 run starting on October 30; the Oilers could do that, and then do it again, and as long as they won two of their three other games they’d still be on-pace to make the playoffs.
There’s been a lot of talk about Edmonton’s great record against the West this year, but the West just isn’t the powerhouse conference it once was. In 2014-15, the eighth place team had a plus-20 goal differential and 99 points; L.A. missed the playoffs with 95 points and a plus-15 rating. This year there’s a chance that multiple negative goal differential teams will make the playoffs in the West and the Flames are on-pace to make it even with a losing record.
It’s also difficult to foresee a scenario where multiple Western teams make big pushes, because all these teams play each other a ton. Los Angeles has nine games against the other teams that have to push past Edmonton; even if the Kings make a big jump, they’re going to cost Calgary, Vancouver and Anaheim in the process. The Flames are in the same boat and with a strong run would depress other teams on this list in the standings.
In a normal year, 72 points in mid-February wouldn’t guarantee the Oilers anything. But with the conference collapsing the way it has, it’s going to take a truly epic implosion for Edmonton to slide out of playoff position now.
THE #PRAYFORPLAYOFFS PARTY
As you probably expected, the Pray for Playoffs party will be happening at the Pint Downtown on Friday, February 24th, with doors opening at 4pm and the hockey game starting at 5pm. Aside from making sure we’re all well hydrated, we’ve got the usual swag bags planned along with raffles, giveaways, and more. I encourage you to start coughing now so that your boss won’t be suspicious when you call in sick.
As always, it wouldn’t be a Nation party without trying to raise as much money as possible for our charity partner, Sport Central. If you’re unfamiliar with their work, Sport Central is a local organization dedicated to making resources available to assist kids in sports in the Edmonton area as well as central and northern Alberta.
Your $20 ticket gets you:
- A Pray for Playoffs Party t-shirt
- A $20 Pint GC
- $10 worth of Oodle Noodle GCs
- A lottery ticket for our door prizes
- Access to the exclusive Pray for Playoffs NationGear launch
- You’ll be in attendance for the re-launch of NationBeer! Yes, we have our own beer now. Not only that, we’ll buy a beer for the first 100 people to show up with their ticket as a thank you for your support.
As always, all proceeds from ticket sales will be donated directly to Sport Central so bring your friends, get involved, and help us support a community in need. You can get your tickets here before they sell out.
This is a party that’s been 10 years in the making and you’re going to want to be a part of it.