Turn this ship around! Time to head north!
Those are some of the rallying cries we’re hearing from the fan bases of some of the teams languishing in the doldrums in the Pacific Division with only 11 days before the start of the NHL regular season.
Cult of Hockey blogger David Staples penned a blog last night that essentially says the Oilers need to compete for a playoff position this season or else:
Enough with the excuses. Enough with the chaos. Enough with debacles.
This Oilers team needs to contend for the playoffs or Oilers owner Daryl Katz has got to completely clear the house in management, scouting and coaching.
There are others, including much respected poster Woodguy who are saying pretty much the same thing:
That and being a former Marlie means he might stick around despite not being the 8th best Dman in camp.
I sure as hell hope not.
The time for that kind of fuckery is done.
Head north or get out of the game.
After 8 years and counting out of the playoffs, you can certainly expect the Oilers to show some improvement this season but is a playoff berth even possible given the overall and improving strength of teams in the Central and, especially, in the Pacific?
Expectations elsewhere in the Pacific are much different.
In Arizona, the Coyotes are going to try and rely on a renewed emphasis on defensively locking down games to attempt to win more games but they’ve actually lost offence with the departures of two of their top scoring forwards in Radim Vrbata and Mike Ribiero so, unless rookies Henrik Samuelsson, Max Domi and Tobias Rieder can make an immediate impact, I would imagine their fan base is pretty much resigned to another season out of the playoffs.
The Calgary fan base seems to have accepted that their team won’t compete for a playoff berth anytime soon but they, like Oiler fans in past seasons, seem genuinely excited (for good reason) about the high end young talent on the verge of making an impact. I would imagine they would be pretty pleased if Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau had impact seasons. There really is no pressure from fans on the Flames this season but I expect they would consider it a success if the Flames finished ahead of the Oilers agin.
In Vancouver, after the departure of Mike Gillis and John Tortorella, the fan base is, I think it’s fairly safe to say, guardedly optimistic that the ship will turn around this season with the end of the 3 ring circus of last season and the addition of some accomplished veterans in Ryan Miller and Radim Vrbata as well as the potential infusion of some youth into a lineup that Torts perhaps accurately described as stale. Living here on the Left Coast gives me an opportunity to take the temperature of fans, media and the verbal of the team management and coaching staffs and I think it’s accurate to say all are looking for the Canucks to compete for a playoff spot although I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who expects the team to win anything else.
Referring back to the Staples article above, nearly half (49.58%) of fans who voted in the poll at the bottom of the post expect the Oilers to compete for a playoff position this season.
But, is that a “reasonable” expectation.
These are the records of the Pacific Division teams that missed the playoffs last year against WC opponents. I believe these numbers give us a pretty good snapshot of the relative strength of these teams since they play 50 games within the conference and only 32 against the EC and, of course, these are basically 4 (or 5, thanks Gary) point games since they are against teams you need to beat for either a regular or wildcard playoff spot.
And, for reference, these are the VS WC records of the 2 wild card teams in the WC.
Now, Phoenix finished a mere 2 points out of the playoffs last season but they were just behind the team that likely improved the most in the offseason, the Dallas Stars, so things are likely to be harder, not easier this season.
Vancouver had a season where virtually everything went wrong and I expect they will be more competitive this season but with the improvements in both Dallas and Minnesota (Vanek) this offseason, they’ll have to be MUCH better if they hope for a return to the playoffs.
Which brings us to the bottom of the barrel.
It is almost certain the Oilers would need to finish with an above .500 record to be anywhere near the playoffs…likely having to exceed the in conference record of all of Vancouver, Dallas and Minnesota.
In other words, unless the Oilers were able to somehow run the table against the EC, they will likely need to win an additional 12-13 games against WC opposition this season.
Good luck with that.