For fans of the Edmonton Oilers, the past couple of weeks must have felt rather odd. As if watching this team win six straight games wasn’t already enough of a foreign feeling, the fact they climbed their way back into the Pacific Division playoff picture is downright staggering. Let’s not forget this is the same team that most had left for dead after an ugly 3-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 30th.
The Oilers………… are in a playoff spot? Everyone to their bunkers.
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) December 15, 2015
Heading into tonight’s tilt with the Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton has 50 games left on their schedule and currently sit in a four-way tie with the Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks for third place in the division and are just one point back of the San Jose Sharks for second. Despite the holes on the current roster, this team actually has a shot at earning a playoff spot. As hard as that might be to process, it does not change the reality of the situation.
A Weak Pacific Division Changes Everything
While the Anaheim Ducks may currently find themselves in the cellar of the Pacific, the chances of them not joining the Los Angeles Kings in the post-season are still rather unlikely. Meaning the Canucks, Coyotes, Flames, Sharks and Oilers will battle it out for that final spot. Not sure about all of you but in my mind, Todd McLellan’s crew has more than a fighting chance against that group…especially with the return of Connor McDavid in the not too distant future.
[Related Article: Hurry Back Connor, the Oilers Power Play Misses You]
If the tandem of Anders Nilsson and Cam Talbot continue to find a way to keep this team in games and help overcome the shortcomings of their blueline, my guess is the offence will hold up its end of the bargain and outscore those mistakes on more than a few occasions. Should things happen to play out in this manner, it will certainly put general manager Peter Chiarelli in very interesting position at the NHL Trade Deadline.
The chances of Edmonton getting over the hump without upgrading their backend is probably not very good. Problem being, they are not an organization that has many movable parts for the time of year. We all know that come February 29th teams who are out of the playoff picture will be looking for prospects and/or picks in return for their pending free agents and the Oilers are in no position to part with either for a rental.
The Future Remains Priority One In Edmonton
Contrary to what some seem to think, this organization does have some promising talent in the system and there is zero chance of any of it being shipped out town for a “maybe “at making the post-season. Same holds true for any of the players on the current roster not named Nikita Nikitin or Teddy Purcell and there is some doubt as to whether or not they would even move the latter if the playoffs are still in reach. Bringing us to the elephant in the room…draft picks.
[Related Article: Is Now the Right Time to Upgrade the Defence?]
While previous management teams appeared to be almost scared to part with draft picks, the former Boston Bruins GM wasted little time in showing his willingness to move them in hopes of improving his roster. He has already sent multiple picks to the New York Islanders and New York Rangers in trades that saw Griffin Reinhart and Cam Talbot make their way to the Alberta capital. The want to improve the roster is obvious, but the focus remains on the future and not the 2015-16 campaign.
With that said, making a move would go a long way in helping the players inside that dressing room believe they can get over that final hurdle, but it has to make sense. It may not be what the fan base or even the players want to hear but barring a no-brainer of a deal falling into Peter Chiarelli’s lap, veering off course for short-term gain would make absolutely no sense for this franchise and at the end of the day, that is all that truly matters.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.