The National Hockey League released its latest schedule today, and the Edmonton Oilers have a very favorable start to their next season.
While the team will still face four of the best teams in the league within their division, the reality is the Oilers play quite a few games against “weaker” teams, particularly in the first half of the season.
After four games on the road to start the season, the Oilers come home for a seven game homestand. This represents the opportunity to make a good start out of the gate. The homestand is bookended by two games with the Vancouver Canucks. In between? Games with Carolina, Washington, Montreal, Tampa Bay and Nashville. These are not overtly tough teams, so if Eakins and company can get the group started well, they could see themselves still in the picture come Remembrance Day.
While the Oilers open the season in Calgary on October 9th, they won’t see the Flames again until December 27th. They rematch on New Year’s Eve at Brian Burke’s Embarass-o-Dome. Then, once in January and once in April. On the other hand, the Oilers play Vancouver four times in forty days, all by November 19th. Go figure.
In one of the strangest passages in the schedule, the team plays San Jose at home on a Sunday, then in the Shark Tank on the Tuesday. Following that, they play Anaheim the next night, with the Ducks in Rexall two days later. It’s slightly odd scheduling, but more so, its an important quartet of games. Taking place over 6 days, they are 8 critical points available against divisional rivals at a time when the team usually starts its annual implosion.
The Oilers are capable of good starts. in 2009-10, under Pat Quinn, the team started the year at 6-2. I remember saying how solid they looked to some fellow fans. 62 points and 74 games later, I was whistling a mighty different tune. In 2011-12, they burst out of the gate at 9-2-2, and led the Western Conference, with momentum on their side. It led to yet another poor finish.
This year, the team has better coaches, better forwards, and a better schedule. Here’s hoping it all adds up to around 95 points.