Did you see that? Did you see what I did there? I took Bon Jovi's popular 80's song and related it to the Oilers marking the halfway point on the season. Especially that livin' on a prayer part. That's exactly what we are all doing. #PrayForMcDavid
Did you also notice Anaheim winning some games and jumping up the standings in the Pacific Division? Many did not. If the Oilers had beat them last week, 'tis the Oilers who would be back in that playoff spot. One goal. That was it. That's all it took. One pass. One shot. One save. One blink.
(Note: the Oilers' schedule continually has them with more games played, so everyone else in the Pacific except Vancouver hasn't hit the halfway mark yet. But I digress...)
That's how tight this race is. Is it possible? It is. You bet it is.
The Oilers were so far down in the basement standings last year, at 82 games, they had 24 wins. At the halfway mark this year, they are only 7 games away from the same number of wins. That's how much they've improved--again, despite the injuries...
The injuries curse continues....Despite the injury curse that continues to plague this team, the Oilers were blessed this year with a new POHO/GM, head coach, assistant coaches, and McDavid. That encouraged Andrej Sekera to come here and he's definitely our top d-man right now.
However, the Oilers have the most man games lost to injury this year than any other team and have the most important players injured to boot. Those major injuries included:
Jordan Eberle (RW) - 13 games
Connor McDavid (C) - 27 games
Nail Yakupov (RW) - 18 games
Benoit Pouliot (LW) - 8 games
Bottom 6 fowards:
Matt Hendricks (LW) - 10 games
Lauri Korpikoski (F) - 8 games
Rob Klinkhammer (F) - 27 games
Defense:Oscar Klefbom (LD) - 10 games
Justin Schultz (RD) - 14 games
Brandon Davidson (LD) - 6 games
Griffin Reinhart (LD) - 6 games
There's a few more but those are the major ones. In total, it's 155 games. Yikes. Turrible. So turrible.
It reminds me of when Tom Renney (now seeminly failed Canada Hockey President after the Junior team debacle) was the coach and the Oilers became the OKC Barons with the number of call-ups filling rolls left by NHL player injuries. It was endless. It wasn't Renney's fault but he was fired anyway.
The two big injury losses here are McDavid and Klefbom. Why did I not include Yak? Well, I don't think he can produce and play as well without McDavid, so Yak's status here depends on McDavid returning--even then, I'm hearing Yak's fluke ankle injury has him out for much longer. Since Klefbom got injured, the defense was left with a hole so big, you could score even more easily on the Oilers.
Hope...That said, good coaching has improved the lot of d-men to improve on their advanced stats and over the last 28 games, the defense is no longer being on the negative side of good chances for and against differentials.
My point in all of this is despite the Oilers being near the bottom of the league again, they are blessed by being in the worst division, allowing them to grab a 3rd place playoff spot. But this won't happen unless...
Unite McDavid and Eberle please...Can you imagine if they didn't have all those injuries to good players? Let's have a quick look at my forward lineup prediction when McDavid returns.
Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Draisaitl
Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle
Hendricks - Letestu - Purcell
Klinkhammer - Lander - Korpikoski
If Yakupov returns, you're looking at three scoring lines (bold highlighted pairs).
Hall - Draisaitl - Purcell
Pouliot - McDavid - Yakupov
Hendricks - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Klinkhammer - Letestu - Korpikoski
Kassian?...There has been a lot of speculation that newly acquired forward Zack Kassian will get a call up from Bakersfield on another injury. That's tough to say that will happen sooner than later, but my guess is later. The only forward that could easily go back down without waivers is Khaira. Even with Pakarinen still injured, Gazdic is the leftover forward and he'll have to go on waivers, which I'm not sure if he'll clear, but that's okay. You see, I believe Chiarelli hasn't seen much from Gazdic, and brought in Kassian to potentially fill that gap. Plus, Khaira is a big guy, can fight, AND has skill.
Hall Star...Speaking of Hall, there is a really good chance he goes to the All-Star game--we find out tomorrow. Draisaitl should get to go too, but dumb fans want John Scott. Although an Edmonton-born guy, and the 3 on 3 thingy seems interesting, the All-Star Game has turned into a total joke--so much so that Jagr doesn't really want to go "to play 3 on 3?"
And speaking of Hall again, on another fun note, I was at the Oilers Signature Event and got Taylor Hall to sign a stick I have already signed by Gretzky and Messier. He said, "Boy, that sure is big company." I said, "Yep. You deserve it." Also got signatures from Letestu, Khaira, Hendricks, Pouliot, Purcell, and Eberle. The McDavid line was already full to max of 300 people even before I entered the building from the massive lineups. So my McDavid jersey will have to wait for his signature.
But how rare is THAT stick? And yes, it's a Titan.