While the odds of the Edmonton Oilers actually making the playoffs is dwindling faster than Sean Avery's chances of winning the Lady Byng, the faithful still believe there is a Lloyd Christmas dating Mary Swanson chance of making it. And while Scarlett at Only Oil has come up with a number I agree with, I would like clarify it even further.
The Oilers play the currently in 8th place, the Minnesota Wild, a total of FIVE times over the last 30 odd games of the season. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that if the Oilers can take all 5 games in regulation, they will squeak into the playoffs for a second straight year.
In fact, taken another way, the future of this year's Edmonton Oiler team is more in their hands than perhaps any other season before. Of the final 27 games of the season, including tonight's against the Thrashers, the Oilers play, 10 of them are against Northwest opponents, 13 against Western Conference teams currently ahead of them in the standings.
Of course, actually winning those games will depend on a couple key factors:
1. Will Jarret Stoll return from his headache break? Oil fans are holding their breath waiting for this mid season Oiler MVP to get back into the lineup after taking a stick to the helmet. If you're thinking about Tim Connolly it may be a bit premature, but not out of the question.
2. Will Smytty sign and carry this team into the playoffs? He's done about everything humanly possible to keep this team in the black and the Oilers have no hope without him.
3. Will the Oilers make a trade for a depth defenceman, or will Tjarnqvist return? The Oilers cannot afford any more callups on defence. They're shaky enough as it is with their current lineup.
4. Can Sean Horcoff continue his recent strong play? Since being reunited with Smyth and Hemsky the never say die centre has been able to return to doing the simple things right. His defensive zone coverage has totally turned around and he's been buzzing around the opposition net a lot more.
5. Lupul-Pouliot-Sykora - Will these three step up, or step out?
6. Buyers or sellers? I'm not of the opinion the Oilers are either. I think they have a good group in general and keeping the core together for next year is of the utmost importance. Its not worth it for them to give up a solid player like Raffi Torres for a rental guy that most likely won't be able to impact this team enough to create any short term success. On the other hand, I don't think its necessary to unload guys like Jason Smith for prospects as I believe he still fits in with the gameplan for next season.
7. The defence is still undermanned. That's not a question.
I think in general, these are the questions Oilers fans will see answered over the course of the next two-three weeks, and the answers will determine whether or not the Oilers can put together enough solid games to beat the teams they need to in order to reach the playoffs. That was a very convoluted sentence, but you get the idea.
At its very core, this season will come down to simple math: 5/5 = playoffs.