Erratic form both a cause for hope AND concern with the Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers have been up and down for the majority of the 2023-24 season, but how will this impact them come playoff time?

Edmonton Oilers v Boston Bruins
Edmonton Oilers v Boston Bruins / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages
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In some respects, you can make the case that this has been one of the more stressful seasons for Edmonton Oilers fans. Of course we appreciate this take should be explained, given at one point the franchise had the worst run in team history, with no playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons and some of the poorest rosters to ever wear the uniform.

The reason for this take, is the erratic form of the Oilers so far in 2023-24. The stress is caused for Oilers fans, by never quite knowing which version of the team is going to show up on any given night.

Consider that the Oilers began this season with a humiliating 8-1 loss to the Canucks in Vancouver and just one win in their opening seven games. This set the stage for a 2-9-1 record, which was their worst ever start to a campaign through 12 games.

Then, to coincide with Kris Knoblauch taking over from the unfortunate Jay Woodcroft as coach, the Oilers managed to win three games in a row. However, this was then quickly followed by a three-game losing streak, and a 5-12-1 record which was the fourth-worst in team history through 18 games.

The first of two long winning streaks

After adjusting to Knoblauch's style, calm leadership and cerebral game-planning, the Oilers seemed to finally put it all together. This resulted in an eight-game winning run, which fell one short of the franchise record.

However, the erratic form continued with three consecutive losses, before the Oilers embarked on one of the most impressive streaks in NHL history. They won 16 straight games, falling just one short of the all-time league record of 17 by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After a period of essentially playing .500 hockey over seven games, the Oilers then embarked on a three-game losing run. This was subsequently followed by a five-game winning streak.

However, any hope of continuing this winning run was ruined in the past few days. Despite playing two of the NHL's worst teams, the Oilers endured a couple of losses and only picked up one point.

A couple of inexcusable losses

In many ways it was alarming to see how unprepared the Oilers were, to play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. Knoblauch's players might have thought it didn't matter versus a team holding up the Eastern Conference standings, but it came back to bite them in the ass.

The Blue Jackets stormed out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and although the Oilers fought back, they ultimately -- and deservedly -- lost 4-2. They then had almost the opposite problem on Saturday in Buffalo.

On this occasion the Oilers did seem ready to play, as they took an early 2-0 lead. However, they then took their foot off the pedal, and the Sabres came back to win 3-2 via the shootout, and even then only after having a goal disallowed with just two seconds remaining in overtime.

In terms of individual games, the two contests against the Blue Jackets and Sabres further highlight the erratic nature of the Oilers. This is a roster which will lose games they should win, and vice versa.

Don't forget this is the same team which recently beat the Boston Bruins 2-1 on the road, versus an opponent with the second-most points in the NHL at the time of writing. So what does all of this really mean in the long run?

In one respect, the Oilers' ability to go on lengthy winning streaks has all but secured another playoff spot. On the flip side, they have been erratic enough, that they will only likely have home-ice advantage for the first round, if that.

Next. Connor McDavid continues his assault on the record books. Connor McDavid continues his assault on the record books. dark

In fairness though, home-ice advantage may not even be an issue for the Oilers. It's more about which version of the team turns up, when it matters most.

Based on the evidence of this season, the Oilers are equally capable of being swept out of the first round and going all the way to capture the Stanley Cup. Effectively, the erratic nature of the 2023-24 version of this team is what will make or break them come playoff time.

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