Oilers’ Remaining 2022-23 Schedule Broken Down by Importance

As the NHL All-Star break is upon us, the Edmonton Oilers sit in the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference with games in hand on some teams ahead of them. They have a relatively easy schedule going forward, but they can’t let off the gas. The team has won seven of their past eight games, earning 15 of a possible 16 points.

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The Oilers are in the midst of an easy stretch that will continue after the break. Broken down by category, the Oilers will have games against bad teams, games against teams in their division that are also battling for a playoff spot and positioning, which have the biggest stakes, and finally, games against the toughest competition that won’t necessarily impact the Oilers’ standing.

Oilers’ Must-Win Games

The Oilers have 32 games remaining in the regular season, and 15 of them are against teams I would consider bad. They are all ranked 22nd or lower and sit at least nine points back of the club. Coming out of the break, Edmonton has five games in a row against teams in this group.

Leon Draisaitl Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

They are: Ottawa Senators (2), Philadelphia Flyers (2), Detroit Red Wings (2), Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks (3), Arizona Coyotes (2), Anaheim Ducks (2), and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Related: Oilers Have Great Rental Options to Upgrade Defence at Deadline

Seven of their final 12 games are played against the Sharks, Coyotes, and Ducks. The Oilers must continue on pace against weaker opponents as they are still in the thick of the playoff battle. By the end of the season, when they match up more often against bottom-feeders, they should be firmly in a playoff spot and fighting for home-ice advantage.

Considering their schedule in the second half compared to the first, Edmonton is in a great spot. Over the past four seasons, they have a .566 win percentage in the first half but have upped that to a .674 win percentage in the second half (from “Edmonton Oilers: Second half has to be a lot better than the first half”, Edmonton Sun, Jan. 9, 2023).

Oilers’ Must-Win Divisional Games

The Oilers play their division rivals a lot near the end of the season, more so than right after the All-Star break. They have no more games against the Calgary Flames, having won the season series. But they do have five more games against the Seattle Kraken, Vegas Golden Knights (2), and Los Angeles Kings (2), all played in the final 13 games of the season, so the stakes will be high. All four teams are within three points, and Edmonton has one game in hand on the Golden Knights, who have struggled, and two on the Kings, who have major goaltending issues.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon skates against Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Though divisional games are the most important, especially if the Oilers are expected to be fighting for a spot in the top three of their division, the Colorado Avalanche need to be included here. The Avalanche are three points back of the Oilers with two games in hand. They have struggled due to injuries and a Stanley Cup hangover but are right with the Oilers in a wild-card spot. If Edmonton doesn’t get into the top three, the Avalanche seem like a team they will be contending with. These teams match up twice more, and their games are highly competitive and entertaining. The Oilers have to take at least one of the final two games against the reigning champions.

Tough Test Ahead

These aren’t necessarily must-win games, but they would be nice to win and are going to give the Oilers a better understanding of what will be expected of them in the playoffs. This group includes top teams and those in contention for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Oilers have a few games against these teams, which won’t directly impact their standing unless they string a few losses together. If the Oilers can at least go .500 against these 10 good teams, they will be in good shape.

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This group of teams includes the Boston Bruins (2), Toronto Maple Leafs (2), Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets (2), New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Buffalo Sabres. All of them are in a playoff spot except the Sabres, who are one point out and have played very well lately. The Oilers play seven of the 10 games in a seven-game stretch, including all four against the Bruins and Maple Leafs, who rank first and third in the league. This will be a very tough test, and they must win at least three games.

What’s fortunate about the seven-game stretch is that no games are played in the final 13 of the season. The Oilers get this over with before they have to really have to clean up heading into playoffs. Their chances this season may have seemed in jeopardy at times, but they are healthy, winning and should only get better from here.