November Could Be Oilers’ Big Test

The Edmonton Oilers got off to a great start to the season in October, going 7-2-0 and sat first overall in the Western Conference at the end of the month. It was a much-deserved start for a team that has been at the bottom of the standings for the past decade and the best start in franchise history in over 30 years. That said, the Oilers will really have to dig in with a tough November schedule that lies ahead.

The team plays 15 games in 30 nights and only five of them will be on home ice. The Oilers will play 10 road games this month after being spoiled in October with just three. Edmonton will play just five of those 15 total games in November at Rogers Place.

The real kicker is the fact that after playing seven of nine games in October against 2015-16 non-playoff teams, the Oilers will play 10 of 15 games in November against playoff teams from last season.

10 Games Against 2015-16 Playoff Teams

Sidney Crosby (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Sidney Crosby (Photo: Amy Irvin – THW)

The brunt of the schedule will be against eight different playoff teams from 2015-16. The Oilers will play both the New York Rangers and Dallas Stars twice. The rest of the field sees them playing the New York Islanders, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks.

The Oilers were decimated by those four Western Conference playoff teams last year going 2-12-2  and registering a whopping six points in 16 games. They were better against those four Eastern Conference playoff teams last year as they finished with a 4-3-1 record and earned nine of a possible 16 points.

Against those eight playoff teams, the Oilers went 6-15-3 in 24 games, a 0.313 win percentage. If you delve into the stats, they went 13-28-4 last year against all playoff teams, a 0.333 win percentage.

This is clearly an area the Oilers will need to make up ground. So far this season the Oilers have shown to play against the level of talent they’re playing. In October, the Oilers played just two games against playoff teams (St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals), they won both and outscored the opposition 7-2.

Edmonton can’t afford to take a night off, and if you’re looking for them to take the next step, they’ll need to perform better against these playoff teams.

4 Games Against Division Rivals

Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) during the NHL game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC Arena.
Anze Kopitar (Photo: Andy Martin Jr.)

The Oilers will have to make the most of what will be eight points up for grabs between divisional opponents this month. It’s a small sample of the total 29 inter-divisional games throughout the year, but eight of those 66 points could make a huge difference in making the playoffs.

Against the Anaheim, Arizona and Los Angeles, the Oilers went 2-11-2 last season. For comparison’s sake if they had won just half of those games, that would’ve been an additional ten points in the standings and seen the Oilers finish fourth in the division with 80 points — two ahead of the Coyotes. Sure they wouldn’t have been a playoff team, but they would’ve just missed the postseason by a mere seven points.

The point is that these games in October and November will be meaningful points at the end of the year, and eight points will make a substantial difference in April.

10 Games in 19 Nights

Oilers Benefit World Championship Success
Cam Talbot (Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

This is the stretch that could make or break the month. The Oilers play 10 games in 19 nights between Nov. 11 and Nov. 29, ending the month back against the team they started it against — the Toronto Maple Leafs. One of the biggest reasons for the Oilers’ early success has been the play of goaltender Cam Talbot.

The 29-year-old has kept the Oilers in most games, and the Oilers frankly can’t rely on him to play every game through that stretch. Jonas Gustavsson, the Oilers backup, has played just 11 minutes this season. Edmonton won’t realistically expect to start Talbot through all 82 games this season, and it’ll be time for Gustavsson to draw in during this stretch. If Gustavsson falters, the Oilers could be in tough and potentially burn out Talbot.

If Edmonton is going to survive this horrid stretch, they’ll need the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi to start converting on some of their chances. Puljujarvi at times has been a shot-producing machine. The 18-year-old had seven the other night against the Leafs, but no goals. There have been nights where RNH has been the Oilers’ best forward, but the points aren’t coming. Go down the list with Leon Draisaitl, Benoit Pouliot and even Jordan Eberle.

This Oilers team needs to prove they are more than just Connor McDavid and some hot goaltending. If Edmonton is going to survive a tough November schedule, the rest of the roster is going to have to step up and show the NHL they’re ready for the next step.

It’s one thing to win the “October Cup”, but it’s another to be potentially competing for one in April. If Edmonton wants meaningful games in April, they’ve got to whether the storm here in November.



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