Last week, when the Oilers were in position to make the playoffs, yours truly looked at Edmonton’s remaining regular-season games and attempted to discern which ones Craig MacTavish’s charges should and should win.
Of the four games Edmonton has played since that column was filed, the Oilers won just once (I thought they should’ve at the very least split those games).
Consequently, they’re in a world of hurt: in 11th place in the Western Conference, a handful of points away from the West’s final playoff berth.
However, as I’ve mentioned in this space a couple times, if Edmontonians are honest with themselves, they ought to acknowledge the Oilers simply squeaking into the post-season — and becoming fodder for the likes of the Red Wings or Sharks — doesn’t do much good for the franchise.
I know, I know — the 2005-06 edition of the Oilers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final. But take a gander at how other eighth-seeded teams have fared in recent years.
In 2007, the Calgary Flames finished eighth in the West and fell to the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. That same year, the New York Islanders secured the eighth position in the Eastern Conference and won one lousy game against Buffalo in the first round.
Last spring, the eighth-seeded Nashville Predators were eliminated by Detroit in the first round. The Boston Bruins (a.k.a. the East’s eighth seed in 2008) also failed to make it past the first round after Montreal narrowly defeated them in seven games.
Similarly, both No. 8 seeds (Nashville and the Isles) in the 2004 post-season lost their first-round matchups against San Jose and Tampa Bay, respectively.
Detecting a pattern? The pattern is that the ’05-06 Oilers were the exception rather than the rule.
The best thing for Edmonton’s Cup hopes is to miss this year’s playoffs, take a good, hard look at what organizational changes should be made, and retool over the summer.
Finishing eighth may be enough for some fans, but more often than not, it’s simply not enough for hockey’s ultimate prize.