Reasonable Expectations for the Edmonton Oilers

Birthday boy Connor McDavid (97) gets love from his teammates after scoring a goal during the first period in a game against the San Jose Sharks Jan 13, 2023 (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez) (Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)
Birthday boy Connor McDavid (97) gets love from his teammates after scoring a goal during the first period in a game against the San Jose Sharks Jan 13, 2023 (Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)

If we turned the calendar back exactly a year, we’d see the Edmonton Oilers in a glaringly similar position as they are today. A 6-4 loss at home against the lowly Ottawa Senators on January 15 dropped the Oilers’ record to 18-15-2, and the season’s outlook would seem even more grim after fans watched their squad get pummelled to the tune of a 6-0 blanking by the red-hot Florida Panthers only five days later.

What followed the loss to the Panthers was an encouraging four-game win streak. Still, the optimism quickly faded as Edmonton would go on to lose three of their next four games – with two of the losses coming to the Ottawa Senators (again) and the Chicago Blackhawks – two teams who would finish the season closer to last place than they were to a playoff spot. The result? A change of guard behind the bench as Dave Tippett would be sent packing, and it would be up to newly inserted rookie head coach Jay Woodcroft to salvage the season.

Fast forward 365 days and a thrilling Western Conference Final appearance later, and the Edmonton Oilers sit in a familiar position. A lackluster first half of the season has them currently occupying the second Wild Card slot. Sounds reasonable, no? Well, what if I told you the team sitting directly beneath them in the standings was the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, followed by the Blues, who seem to make it to the dance year after year? Suddenly the skepticism shown by Oilers’ faithful becomes warranted. Rather than competing for the top spot in the Western Conference as predicted before the season, Connor McDavid and co. are hanging onto the final Wild Card seat with a pair of dangerous teams on their tail.

Pacific Division & Wild Card NHL Standings – January 16, 2023

Reason for optimism

The Edmonton Oilers have sorely missed a key piece of their top-6 forwards. Evander Kane has been on Long Term Injured Reserve since his wrist was sliced open in a November 8 matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The good news? It sounds like he might be returning to the lineup this week – and potentially as early as Tuesday when the streaking Seattle Kraken roll into town.

What’s more, eight of their next ten games will come against teams who make up seven of the bottom ten teams in the NHL overall standings. In order of opponent appearance on the schedule: Seattle, Tampa, Vancouver, Columbus, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Ottawa, Montreal, Detroit.

Of the 37 games remaining on Edmonton’s schedule after today, 22 are against squads currently outside the playoff picture (18 of them against bottom-10 teams). An (ultra-conservative) projection of a 14-8-0 record against these teams is certainly possible and will be expected. This would put the Oilers at 79 points. A split of the remaining 15 games against playoff teams would account for another 14 points at least and have them end the season with 93 points – the average cut-off for playoff teams in the Western Conference if we look back since 2013-14.

The time is now for the Oilers to make up ground on their Pacific Division rivals.

Even the most skeptical of Oilers fans have reason to believe that the team’s performance is on the rise – just as it was a year ago at roughly the same mark. With Evander Kane re-joining the team this week and the high likelihood of further roster bolstering by GM Ken Holland before the NHL Trade Deadline, the team is set for a strong second half to their season. Rather than sleepwalking their way to the end of the campaign, expect Edmonton to make a push and eclipse the 100-point mark for a second consecutive year.

What say you? Will the Oilers be able to make a strong push and get back to the Stanley Cup Contender status that they started the season with, or will they get surpassed in the standings and end up on the outside of the playoff picture?

Stanley Cup Aspirations Cue’ the Duck Boats Pod

The boys are back after a long break but have plenty to talk about as the playoffs are in full swing. We go series by series, looking at how teams have fared so far and who will come out on top. Thanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at www.insidetherink.com for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Stanley Cup Aspirations
  2. The Final Countdown
  3. Here Come the Playoffs
  4. Home Stretch
  5. Kevy Cooks

Kevin Sean

Kevin covers the Edmonton Oilers for Inside the Rink. He also focuses on graphic design for Social Media as well as for ITR-hosted podcasts and other brand purposes.

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