The Edmonton Oilers are about to head into a brand new season with Jay Woodcroft coaching all 82 games. After his arrival midway through 2021–22, the Oilers continuously improved, and by the time the playoffs rolled around, the team looked as big of a threat as any.
Now that Woodcroft has a full training camp and preseason, there’s hopes that the Oilers can not only repeat but even improve their standing position by the team the 2022–23 regular season is over. Just where might the Oilers finish in the Pacific Division? We asked, you answered.
Want to take part in Sunday Census polls? We send them out every week on our Twitter at @oilrigEDM. Follow along or send in ideas for the next poll!
Where Edmonton fits in the Pacific
Last year, the Oilers finished with a 49–27–6 record, good for 104 points and a second place finish in the Pacific Division behind the Calgary Flames. The two teams were the only two in the division to finish with over 100 points, as the Los Angeles Kings clocked in third with 99.
Looking at offseason changes this summer, the Oilers look poised to compete with the Flames for the top spot again for this coming season. However, the rest of the Pacific has seen changes too. Like the Oilers, the Vancouver Canucks had a new coach come aboard in Bruce Boudreau which elevated their play.
The Vegas Golden Knights are a complete mystery now having top-end talent but also losing Max Pacioretty to a weird trade and losing Robin Lehner to a lengthy injury. This is all happening while the Kings and Canucks definitely have their sights set on sneaking into the playoffs in a seemingly wide open division.
That’s on top of the remaining three teams in the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, and Seattle Kraken all undergoing changes too. If Seattle’s goaltending regresses upwards toward the mean and their young prospects takeover, there’s a good chance they can steal some games too.
So, with all the uncertainty in the Pacific, it’s realistically up to the two Alberta teams to control their destiny and take care of themselves let the other teams fight it out. Does that match with fan sentiment? Let’s see how this week’s poll broke down.
The best in the Pacific
A whopping 74% of votes expect the Oilers to come in first in the Pacific. This is well within the realm of plausibility and it wouldn’t be surprising. As mentioned, the two Alberta teams will likely vie for the top two positions.
However, the Flames have undergone major changes unlike any other team has seen before. While they have talent on deck, it may take time for that team to gel as a cohesive unit. If they start out slow, that’s all it might take for the Oilers to cement themselves as the top dogs in the Pacific.
Last season, the Flames ended with 111 points, just 3.5 games ahead of Edmonton. If Edmonton is able to handle themselves, they might be the sole team in the division who’s steady enough to cruise right to the top.
Playing the bridesmaid
The flipside to this is that maybe the Flames do get themselves sorted out early on and the it’s instead the Oilers who stumble. After all, they’re set to debut a new starting goaltender for the first time in years, and Jack Campbell isn’t among the league’s best.
However, Campbell’s expected to be an improvement that will be more consistent throughout the season. If they do get a good enough performance out of him, then Edmonton can easily coast to a second place finish if the Flames end up also improving upon themselves.
Just as it happened last playoffs, a second place finish in the regular season allowed the Oilers to avoid the tougher Central opponent in the wild card spot. Maybe the Pacific’s third place team will be well weaker. Not a bad outcome to see and it can be highly strategic and favourable.
Not quite among the top
No one is really expecting the Oilers to finish third at all. This requires two teams to be ahead of them in the standings and that’s looking quite unlikely. If we assume that it’s the Flames that are one of the two, the other team will need to really string together a Cinderella season.
Every other team looks weaker on paper. The Oilers would have to be unlikely or having some major setbacks like injury woes to really tumble down the rankings. Calling for a third place finish is an unhealthy mix of pessimism and buffoonery.
From the bottom looking up
Now, if the Oilers end up in a wild card position, that’d be nearly unprecedented. This is asking for a complete meltdown of the team in ways no one could predict. It’d take multiple setbacks all strung together to really have this even be possible.
We’re taking multiple lengthy injuries to key players, we’re talking a complete void of puck luck with bounces going against the team for games upon games. It’d be a complete shock if the Oilers find themselves fighting for a playoff spot in the final games of the season.
Shared optimism on the Oilers
Predicting how the NHL can play out is always tougher than other sports—hockey being one of the most random sports after all. However, the Oilers do genuinely look poised to do great things this season.
With the firepower they already have and the up-and-comers, the new guys, and again, a full season under Woodcroft, things look far better this preseason than ever before.
Let’s see if the Oilers live up to expectations.
How are you feeling about where the Oilers might finish in the Pacific? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @oilrigEDM.