Let’s Talk About the Oilers Chances of Making the Playoffs
— theScore NHL (@theScoreNHL) January 30, 2018
Cam Talbot, optimist.
Despite his Edmonton Oilers ranking ahead of just two teams in the Western Conference standings, the goaltender believes the disappointing season is not yet lost.
“We’re going to make the playoffs,” Talbot said, according to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector.
“We’re going to play like our lives are on the line every single night,” he added. “Until eight teams have an ‘X’ beside their name we’re not out of it. That’s how we have to approach it.”
First of all, love this move by the Iceman. Shout it with me:
Need your starting goalie who plays roughly 90 per cent of your team’s games to have all the faith. If this was Jujhar Khaira guaranteeing a playoff birth then I’d probably question the logic, but not the Iceman. No sir. He and his wife, Kelly – who have embedded themselves into our city’s culture, and fully embraced being Edmontonians – have unlimited pull when it comes to saying or doing anything in this magnificently frigid town. Cam could run for mayor and tell me that we’ll efficiently build bridges and create a functional and logical LRT system and I’d believe him. Cam could look me directly in the eyes and tell me that those useless balls on the Whitemud have a deep and subtle cultural context that benefits the spirit and foundation of our city and I’d say “hell ya, brother!” because he who made secks with gurl and produced twins and then magically transformed into the goaltending equivalent of the Great Wall of fucking China can tell me that the Earth is flat and I’d say sure. If Cam says we’re making the playoffs then dammit, we’re making the playoffs. If this is what it takes for him to go like four or more consecutive games without getting yanked then by all means, do that motivation.
But let’s quantifiably (or try to, because Christ, numbers) break down the chances of the Oilers playing hockey in mid-April and beyond.
Trigger Warning: This is optimist Shanny blogging right now. I have my optimism cap on and I’m ready to try and persuade you into believing in a playoff run through an Oil Change level of propaganda and a mouth full of fictional diarrhoea. If you do not want to get your hopes up because of the extreme-to-guaranteed possibility of having those same hopes violently annihilated by a colossal-sized wrecking ball called the Edmonton Oilers then I highly suggest you stop reading this piece and go about your life. If you’re ready for another two and a half months of adrenaline and life-threatening emotional nightmares then let’s go, fam.
- Games Remaining: 33
- Points Back: 12 (of division and final wild card position)
- Games Remaining (Against West): 23
- Games Remaining (Against Pacific): 17
So let’s look at a few things:
Current record: 10-2-0
We only have 33 games left, however, over half of them are against our own division. That means we have roughly 60 points in four point games, sans the outliers of games against Arizona and Vancouver, to either accumulate and use to climb by the teams above us and/or royally piss away. We can use up to 34 of those divisional points in our own favour and take away 26 meaningful points from teams like Calgary, Anaheim, San Jose and LA (and Vegas, because miracles). I’m specifically bringing the division up because we are 10-2 against the Pacific, and our best chance at getting into the dance will likely be making one of those final two PAC playoff spots, since Vegas has the first one all but locked up, and due to the fact that every Central team is well over .500. Yes, we need a few teams to regress, and yes, we need to play consistent hockey down the stretch, but for some inexplicable reason this team loves to rise up against our divisional rivals.
Calgary cannot beat us. They tried to cheat AND we spotted them a two goal lead and they still couldn’t win. Vegas beats everyone except the Oilers. Nobody is even remotely threatened by the Sharks. Anaheim has this widely unprecedented ability to shoot themselves directly in their own foot, and Leon Draisaitl is practically a minority owner at this point. Vancouver is willingly trying to resign Eric Gudbranson:
GM Benning confirms he'll try to re-sign Erik Gudbranson rather than trade him.
“As long as a player can play in today’s game, you’re always going to need a defencemen who can play physical, especially in our division. There’s always going to be room for a guy like that.”
— Iain MacIntyre (@imacSportsnet) January 31, 2018
LA is the only team I am marginally worried about and even they’re regressing into oblivion right now. The other team is Arizona. This is a division that the Oilers can seriously take advantage of. I know that sounds weird to say for the team that got cremated at home by Buffalo, but it’s true.
The Last 33:
Last year, the Oilers finished their last 33 games with a record of 21-11-1, good enough for 43 points. If they finished at that pace this year, they’d finish with 90 points. That will not be enough to get them into the playoffs. That means they’re going to have to finish even hotter than they did last year. For that to happen:
- The power play has to functionally exist.
- The penalty kill can’t continue to be historically bad. It can’t even be bad, actually. It needs to be good.
- The Iceman better make some saves.
- The forwards not named Connor better pitch in some offense.
Oh, and the team has to survive during the (approximately) six week absence of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is still leading the team in goals despite missing the last three games.
We’re looking at having to finish with a record of around 24-8-1 in our last 33 games, which would give the team 96 points and should just be enough to get them into the playoffs. And even then, that’s a bit of a prayer. However, it’s not impossible. In 2014-15, the Ottawa Senators finished the year on a goddamn tear that saw them go 23-6-4 in their final 33 and tally 50 points. What’s the difference between the 2014-15 Sens and the 2017-18 Oilers?:
That’s right Connor, the seats. They’re filled up, unlike that dump in Kanata. I already love our shot at matching/beating what Ottawa did three years ago. Plus, all it takes is like 8-10 straight and we’re laughing. And it feels like everyone has won 10 straight at some point this year.
Also the reigning MVP who has defined his NHL career by killing teams plays for us and so long as you keep Drake Caggiula off the top line and maybeeeeeee Connor shoots the puck a bit more on the power play then we can play against anybody and everybody.
Finally, let’s go back to the source of this promise. For as confident as I am in all of the above coming true, I’m equally as confident in Cam becoming the Iceman again. Possibly even more confident, actually. Cam is a perfectionist. Has he struggled like most of the boys this year? Yes. But I do not have any doubts about him returning to his career numbers between now and April. He works his dad ass off every day, every game, and every practice. And you know he will take this promise to heart. (Also he’s under the weather and officially questionable for tomorrow HOT START).
Still, if there’s anyone not named Connor who is more than capable of overcoming a mental hurdle it’s the Iceman. If we get good goaltending, improved special teams, and scoring depth… well, with all them divisional games coming up… I’m saying there’s a chance.
- We own the PAC.
- Do them special teams.
- Jesse fucks.
- Let’s go.