Oilers Have No Wiggle Room

There is no question the Edmonton Oilers are in the midst of playing their best hockey of the season. Unfortunately for them, said run has resulted in them posting a 4-3 record over the last two weeks and not surprisingly, they have made up almost no ground in the Western Conference standings. While they may still have 52 games left on their schedule, the reality of their situation remains unchanged.

Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The gap between the Oilers and the last place Arizona Coyotes may be widening, now a seven-point bulge with and three games in hand, the likelihood of chasing down a playoff spot remains as unlikely as ever. A quick glance at the standings shows us Edmonton still sitting second from the bottom, seven points out of the final playoff spot and nine points shy of third place in the Pacific Division.

Oilers Remain Well Back in Playoff Race

In other words, despite playing as well as they have, the Oilers are essentially in the same spot they were fourteen days ago and though some would suggest their improved play is a great sign, reality tells us nothing could be further from the truth. Like it or not folks but the task this group has staring them in the face is as daunting as ever and they could have little to no say in how it ultimately plays out.

As impressive as Connor McDavid and company looked in running the Auston Matthews-less Toronto Maple Leafs show on Sunday night, the fact of the matter is they came away from it empty-handed. Yes, they dominated the Leafs over the final forty minutes for the second time in just over of week but in their current predicament, it matters little in the grand scheme of things.

In fact, when you look at it from a standings standpoint, those two games had the same exact impact as their underwhelming showing against the Philadelphia Flyers earlier in the week. At the end of the day, a regulation loss is a loss and when the season comes to its conclusion, they all end up in the same pile. In order to have any shot of taking a run at the post-season, a game like last night simply cannot happen.

Loser Points a Must for Edmonton

Problem is, over the course of an 82-game schedule, every single team is going to have those nights. Be it the likes of a Curtis McElhinney standing on his head in the opposing teams net or an unlucky break that cost the team points in the standings, hello Kris Russell, it’s part of the deal. Just like the two points, the Oilers stole from the Coyotes at the end of last month are part of the equation.

The issue this group now faces is rather obvious. After allowing points to slip through their fingers on multiple occasions over the first thirty games of the season, Edmonton has absolutely no wiggle room. So while last night’s loss to the Maple Leafs should be viewed as nothing other than a positive, their current lot in life makes it next to impossible. That is of course if the goal is to still try to make the playoffs.

McLellan McDavid Lucic Oilers
Todd McLellan, Connor McDavid and Milan Lucic, Edmonton Oilers, Oct. 21, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Though fans and players alike continue to suggest the fact the Oilers have the vast majority of their games against the Pacific Division still on their schedule gives them a reasonable shot at doing exactly that, reality tells us that is not the case.  It is true, they are 4-1 against the Pacific this season but unless the plan is to go out and come close to running the table, I just don’t see it having the impact some think it will.

Pacific Division Games Are Great But…

Let’s not forget, they have yet to play the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings or San Jose Sharks and their wins have come against the Coyotes, Calgary Flames (x 2) and Vegas Golden Knights, who were downright awful in their first visit to the Rogers Place. In my mind, expecting the Oilers to go out and win most of those games in regulation, is about as unreasonable an ask as one could put on this group.

Remember if we go on the 2016-17 playoff cut line in the Western Conference, it will take 94 points to qualify for the playoffs. In order for the Edmonton Oilers to reach that point total, they are going to have to go 32-16-4 and there has been no evidence to suggest posting such a mark is even remotely possible. Is there a chance? Sure but it is about as slim as it gets and that won’t change anytime soon.

Edmonton Oilers

Also available from Rob Soria: 

Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One