It seems as though that the leagues second worst team, the Edmonton Oilers (7-15-2), are smack dab in the middle of turning their season into something more respectable for themselves and their fans but before we get ahead of ourselves lets take a look at what the have to do the rest of the season.
The NHL‘s Oilers are now 24 games into their season. A season that has been difficult on the the team on a number of levels. The expectations for the young and talented Oilers squad was different at the beginning of the 2013-14 NHL season depending on weather you talked to fans, players, coaches or management but they all had the same basic consistency and that was that they wanted the team to make the playoffs and to compete at a high level night in and night out. Unfortunately for the Oilers it was obvious early in the season that this would be a difficult task.
You can put the blame on the rookie head coach Dallas Eakins who has come in and tried to put his stamp on the team. You can try to blame it on the Oilers front office and the lack of drafting, trading and developing a defensive core that can shut down other teams in the NHL. Or you can blame it on the players and the fact that that a majority of them have not been playing even close to their potential. It seems that all three of these things have combined to be the blame, but can the Oilers right the ship? Here is a look at what the Oilers have done to this point of the season and what we can expect from them in the remainder.
Early in the season the Oilers played a bunch of road games. Out of the first 19 games, they only played 6 at Rexall Place. If you looked at these first 24 games on paper at the beginning of the season you would think that, even with all of the road games, the Oilers schedule looked good. For the most part, they we playing against the ‘middle of the pack’ type teams and that is where the Oilers were expected to be so they should be able to win even on the road. It turned out that the Oilers only won 7 games and 4 of those we against teams with a record below .500. They played terrible defensively and were out scored 74-47 in one of the teams worst starts ever. In their last 5, the Oilers are 3-2-0 and have outscored the opposition 16-9, finally finding some offense at home.
The Oilers have 58 games left to the season and while the playoffs are now out of the picture the Oilers will have to use remaining games to right the ship. The good news is the Oilers are winners of their last three games and they are currently a confident young team. If they can keep playing the way they have in their last 3 they will be a difficult team to beat during the remainder of the season.
The bad news is the Oilers schedule. To finish out the season the Oilers will only play 15 games against teams that are bellow .500 and two of these teams, Flyers & Hurricanes, are rebounding from bad starts. The Flyers are 7-1-2 in their last ten with one of those wins against the Oilers and the Canes just got back their 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner in Cam Ward.
Out of the remaining games, 17 will be played against the top 5 teams in the league and 30 of the 58 games are against the top 10 teams in the league. Teams like the Ducks, Hawks, Blues and Sharks who don’t lose a lot to begin with will make the rest of the season very difficult. Even if this team has gotten it turned around to gain any sort of momentum will be a difficult task.
I do want to be optimistic for the Oilers, but the truth is they have not been very good. Even if they have figured out Eakins systems, and even if the young trio of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got themselves back on track, the Oilers have a schedule that is not favorable to winning especially if you are not a top tier team in the NHL. They will need to play above and beyond expectations to finish out of the season with a respectable record. Even if the Oilers finish the remainder of the season with a .500 record (29-29), they will only have 78 point on the season which would more then likely get them another top 5 pick. So as good as the Oilers looked this last three games I think there will be more doom and gloom for the team and their fans to finish out this season and, barring any major trade during the season, this team will not be able to compete with the teams on the second half of their schedule.
If I were to make a prediction I would have to say the Oilers would have to consider themselves lucky if they win between 22 and 26 games of those remaining and would be lucky finish the season with 70 points. There will need to be moves made in the off-season to bring in a top defenceman to help this team take the next step of competing for a playoff spot so no matter how this season finishes the Oilers management should be busy in the off-season and at the 2014 Entry Draft.