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Will the New Pacific Division Give the Oilers Trouble?

Along with the brand new collective bargaining agreement, the NHL has received a bit of a facelift in the redesigned division format. Starting in the 2013/14 NHL season, the Oilers will join the Pacific division in which they will battle a brand new set of division rivals. Rounding out the seven-team division are the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Phoenix Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks.

Being an unproven team on the rise, the orange and blue might be looked at as a team to falter down the stretch this season as the team plays a majority of their games against these tough division rivals towards the end of their schedule. With 9 of their final 11 games played within their division, the Oilers could be in a tough position to snag one of the top three seeds that secure a playoff spot, especially when you consider that the Oilers have had trouble with rivals, putting up a 5-17 record against the Calgary Flames and a 6-16 record against Minnesota since the beginning of the rebuild. However, looking at the team’s history, it isn’t their tough division match-ups that give them the most trouble. In the past three seasons the team has hit at least one miserable stretch per season.

These are the Oilers last three years of results by month, organized in the standard win-loss-overtime loss format.

2010-11 – October: 3-5-2, November: 4-8-2, December: 5-5-3, January: 3-9-1, February: 5-9-0, March: 3-8-3, April: 2-2-1

Key Stretch: December 21st to February 13th – 25 game stretch during which the Oilers won 5 games. Key Injury: Captain Shawn Horcoff’s injury played a major role in this down swing. Before his absence he was playing top six, first line penalty kill and first line power play minutes while taking a majority of defensive zone draws. 

2011-12 – October: 7-2-2, November: 5-8-1, December: 3-9-0, January: 4-7-2, February: 6-6-1, March: 6-6-2, April: 1-2-1

Key Stretch: November 26th to January 24th – 27 game stretch during which the Oilers won 6 games. Key Injury: Taylor Hall was crushed by Colorado forward Ryan Wilson on Nov. 26th and although he returned to finish the game, he did not return to the lineup until December 15th, although after another hit later in the season from Cory Sarich, it was revealed that Hall’s shoulder had never truly healed and his season was cut short to undergo surgery.

2012-13 – January: 4-2-1, February: 4-5-3, March, 6-6-3, April: 5-9-0

Key Stretch: April 4th to April 24th – 10 game stretch where the Oilers won 1 game and accrued 2 standings points. This was a crucial point in the season where Edmonton dropped from a playoff berth to mathematical elimination from the playoffs in one 6 game losing streak. Key Injury: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was removed from the lineup after the team was eliminated from the post-season to undergo shoulder surgery. Jordan Eberle was revealed to have played through the month of march with a broken finger that he explained in an offseason interview as severe enough that for a few games, he could hardly hold his stick.

As you can see, this club has faced some major issues over the past three seasons. The fact that they can now be regarded as the worst team in the NHL since the 04-05 lockout is a testament to how poorly they have dealt with those issues. Looking back, the past three seasons are textbook example of how important organizational depth really is and the attention GM MacTavish has paid to the depth chart is a plain indication that this team shouldn’t be facing the same issue this season.

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Tags: Ducks Eberle Edmonton Edmonton Oilers Hall Kings Nugent-hopkins Oilers Sharks

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