One of two things will happen once the nine-game road trip that the Edmonton Oilers are embarking on today ends: Their season will be over, or they will go to the playoffs. Currently tied for 12th in the West with the Calgary Flames, their 17 points is only two back of the eighth place Dallas Stars, so they’re still hanging in there, but the results of this trip will define where they go from here.
Jim Matheson of The Edmonton Journal recently made an interesting post concerning the Oilers’ woes on road trips of five games or more since the 2004-05 lockout. And aside from the most brilliant six-game stretch of Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers‘ career (remember him?) during the fall of 2009 when the Oilers managed to go 5-1-0 on a road trip, the Oilers have been a below-.500 on their last eight road trips of five games or more and it hasn’t been close.
During those stretches, even when you add in the point for making it into overtime, and the miracle run of 2009, the Oilers have only secured a point in 17 of those 44 road contests, which is less than 40%. A lot of teams don’t do well on the road, so that’s not surprising, but when you have a nine-gamer staring you in the face, a stat like this doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Let’s say the Oilers can manage to go .500 or better on this trip, say 4-4-1. Not only would this be a .500 record for an obscenely long trip, but it would keep them around the .500 mark for the season (they are currently 7-7-3). This would be an enormous boost to their confidence, especially if they can somehow do better than this mark because it would keep them in the playoff hunt against all odds. Add to this the fact that 14 of their 22 games after this would be at home, and the confidence they get from a successful road trip will lead to them becoming a completely different team and they will definitely find a way to get into the playoffs.
Of course there is the other end of the spectrum too. In the fourteen extended road trips they have had since the 2004-05 lockout, the Oilers have only been able to win more than two games three times. Since the wheels completely fell off for the Oilers in 2009-10 and started the recent parade of #1 draft picks, that stretch in 2009 has been far away their best showing, as all but one of their other seven most recent road trips have resulted in only one victory per trip.
If the losses begin piling up, their season will be done well before St. Patrick’s Day and you can start wondering whether they will get a fourth straight #1 pick because this team’s confidence will be completely obliterated yet again.
But then again, if they can string a few wins together, this could become a team of destiny.