Three points out

Jonathan Willis
March 21 2013 12:19AM

The Edmonton Oilers played what might have been there most important game in three seasons on Wednesday night. A hot run, and some help in other cities had put them in a position to tie for the final playoff spot in the West. Their shootout loss to San Jose means that they’re now three points out of both that post-season berth and dead last in the West.

An eye on the post-season

According to, six teams in the West have an 80 percent or better chance of making the playoffs. The exceptions are Detroit and San Jose – the Red Wings took a hit with their loss to Minnesota, but remain ahead of the Sharks (who were significantly boosted by their win over Edmonton). Both the Sharks and Red Wings are rated as over 50 percent likely to hang on to their spots, with the other six teams on the chart above all somewhere between 10 and 30 percent likely to make it to the post-season.

Edmonton closes out the month with very little chance to damage the hopes of those other teams. They play Nashville on March 25, and Columbus on March 28 – with three other games against St. Louis (twice) and Vancouver. A good run here, and despite tonight’s loss they’ll be in decent shape. Needless to say, they need a good run.

Some good news: Detroit and San Jose don’t have an easy schedule to conclude March - between them they will play a combined five of their final 10 games in the month against Chicago and Anaheim.

An eye on draft position

I completely understand that (virtually) nobody wants to watch the draft rankings. The organization is at a point where wins, not losses, are what will advance the rebuild. This remains the silver lining to a potential ugly losing streak, though. Colorado’s regulation win over Dallas on Wednesday worked out well for the Oilers, come what may. It kept the Stars tied with Edmonton, hurting playoff hopes in Texas, and moved Colorado up two points, hurting their draft position (and while nobody’s really out of the race in the West, Colorado is as close as it gets).

It’s March. A streak of wins, and the Oilers are buying at the deadline. A streak of losses, and the Oilers are buying at the draft. The Oilers’ on-ice results haven’t been this interesting this late in the season since the spring of 2009.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including the Edmonton Journal, Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.