When the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated Detroit by a 3-0 score on Saturday, they returned the Oilers to a place they’ve become all too familiar with over the last few seasons: 15th in the Western Conference. It’s where the Oilers have finished in two of the last three seasons, with the lone exception being a 2011-12 campaign that saw the Blue Jackets finish below them. More superficially encouraging is the fact that even in 15th, the Oilers are only six points out of the post-season, with 24 games to go. But digging into the numbers, that six-point deficit will be a formidable obstacle to overcome. Over the last five seasons, the eighth-place team in the Western Conference has averaged 94 points; in the last three seasons, no team with fewer than 95 points has made the playoffs. That suggests a 55-56 point pace will be needed over a 48-game campaign to appear in the post-season. Right now Detroit owns the eighth-best record in the West (adjusting for games played) and they’re on pace for 54 points. The Oilers currently have 21 points over their first 24 games, meaning that they would need 34 points over the final 24 to get to our magic number of 55 points. A record of 17-7-0 would get them there, as would a 16-6-2 run or a 15-5-4 stretch (and so on). It’s a tall order for a team that so far has lost twice as many contests as they’ve won.
Oilers fall to last place in the Western Conference
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