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Playing In The Pacific Division Is Keeping The Oilers' Season, And Playoff Hopes Alive

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Despite sitting in 26th place overall, the Oilers are within shouting distance of a playoff spot. Thank you, Pacific Division.

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Thanks to a three game winning streak the Oilers now have a 11-15-2 record after 28 games, and are no longer in last place in the NHL, having ascended all the way to 26th place in the overall standings. In the Western Conference they now sit 12th out of 14 teams. And they are also just three points out of a playoff spot. How is this possible? Because they play in the pacific Division and the Pacific Division is terrible. A quick look at the standings will tell you this is true.

Pacific Division

Overall Team W L T Points 82 Game Pace
5 Los Angeles Kings 17 8 1 35 110
18 San Jose Sharks 14 12 0 28 88
20 Arizona Coyotes 13 13 1 27 82
21 Anaheim Ducks 11 12 5 27 79
23 Vancouver Canucks 9 11 8 26 76
25 Edmonton Oilers 11 15 2 24 70
30 Calgary Flames 10 14 2 22 69

Central Division

Overall Team W L T Points 82 Game Pace
1 Dallas Stars 20 5 2 42 128
11 Minnesota Wild 14 7 4 32 105
8 St. Louis Blues 15 8 4 34 103
14 Nashville Predators 13 8 5 31 98
10 Chicago Blackhawks 14 9 4 32 97
19 Winnipeg Jets 13 13 2 28 82
27 Colorado Avalanche 11 15 1 23 70

For those who might not be familiar with the playoff format, and since the format hasn’t mattered to Oilers fans for almost a decade it’s possible that a few of you might not be, the top three teams in each division make the playoffs and then the next two best teams from the conference qualify in the Wild Card spots. Based on the 82 games pace in the tables above, the Predators and Blackhawks will be those Wild Card teams coming out of the Western Conference.

And unless Anders Nilsson plays the rest of the season like he did the last three games (with a 0.957 save percentage) the Oilers aren’t going to come close to catching those teams. But to make the playoffs they don’t have to catch either, they just have to be better than four of the other lousy teams in the Pacific Division. The Coyotes right now are on pace to make the playoffs as the third place team in the Pacific Division with 82 points. That would be the fewest of any playoff teams since the Sharks and Oilers made the playoffs (yes, the Oilers) with 80 and 78 points respectively in 1998/99, when the league still allowed games to end in a tie.

Before you get too excited though, the Oilers finishing the season with 82 points is still probably a stretch at this point. To get to 82 points the Oilers would need 58 points in the their last 54 games, the equivalent of 88 points over 82 games, or nine wins better than the 82 game pace they’ve played at so far this season. And as bad as the Pacific Division has been, I still can’t imagine the third place team finishing with just 82 points, something in the mid to high 80s - which is still lousy - seems much more likely, and even more out of reach for the Oilers.

If the Oilers are going to have any sort of chance of hanging around the playoff race it’s going to come down to their games against their Pacific Division rivals. With 22 games left to play within their division (12 at home and 10 on the road) their fate will likely be decided by how they play in those games. If they can tread water against the rest of the league and win two out of three within the division it’ll at least be good enough to keep them in the conversation for a little while. Maybe not the meaningful hockey games we’ve longed for in Edmonton, but beggars can’t be choosers.