You may remember back to the preseason, when ESPN predicted that the Edmonton Oilers were going to win the Stanley Cup. Finally, for the first time since 1990, they were going to hoist the Holy Grail.
Things then went ever so slightly awry, when the Oilers began the 2023-24 season with their worst ever record in franchise history through 12 games, and tied at the bottom of the NHL standings with the fewest points. Since Kris Knoblauch took over though, this team is on a tear.
Knoblauch has a stunning record of 22-6-0 ahead of Saturday's slate of games. As a result, the Oilers are now being predicted once again to win it all come seasons end, by no less an authority than The Athletic.
Every morning, The Athletic's Dom Lusczyszyn provides updated projections and probabilities, based on 50,000 simulations for the remainder of the season. These calculations factor in aspects such as each team’s projected strength, current health and strength of schedule.
Leading the way in projections
In this respect, at the time of posting the Oilers are a 98 percent certainty to qualify for the playoffs. Once there, they are 64 percent to make the division final, 42 percent for the conference final and 24 percent to qualify for the Stanley Cup final, which are the best percentages among all 32 NHL teams.
Most importantly of all, the Oilers lead the way with a 14 percent chance of winning the Stanley Cup final itself. For some context, the Winnipeg Jets are second-best at 11 percent, while the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes are tied third-best at nine percent.
If you want to break it down further, the Oilers currently have the second-best chance of winning the Pacific Division at 28 percent, behind the Vancouver Canucks at 59 percent. Interestingly the Vegas Golden Knights are only given a seven percent chance of winning the division despite currently being six points ahead of the Oilers, albeit having played four more games.
Regardless, the Oilers' chances of winning the Stanley Cup are one percent better than in the preseason, when The Athletic similarly gave them the best chance of going all the way. Evidently, the 12-game winning streak has had a significant impact on all of this.
The streak is the longest of the season, having beaten the Oilers' previous franchise record of nine straight wins. It is also tied for the best ever in NHL history by a Canadian team, matching the Montreal Canadiens in 1967-68.
The Oilers will aim to own the Canadian record outright after Saturday night, and it seems like fate that they must try to do it against their Alberta rivals in Calgary. Assuming they do manage to beat the Flames, they will then take aim at the all-time record of 17 consecutive wins, set by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992-93.
Of course winning games, setting standards and breaking records during the regular season only matters to a certain degree. While the aforementioned Penguins team won the Presidents' Trophy in 1992-93, they were subsequently knocked out by the New York Islanders in the division final.
For the Oilers specifically, last season they won 50 games, led the league in scoring and set an NHL record for best power play efficiency. When it came to crunch time though, they were also knocked out in the division round, by a Golden Knights team which went on to claim Lord Stanley's cup.
As for The Athletic's projections, they similarly only matter so much; plus, a 14 percent chance of winning the Stanley Cup is not exactly a sure bet. Regardless, at the least the Oilers are in the conversation and in with a chance, which is all you can ask for even at the halfway point of the regular season.