More than a few Screen Shots readers have inquired as to my thoughts on which teams currently fighting for a playoff spot will actually wind up qualifying for one.
Well, with less than two weeks until the Feb. 27th trade deadline and the bipolar nature of nearly every team nowadays, I'm nowhere near brave enough to predict who'll be on the inside of the postseason looking out.
That said, I'm much more comfortable predicting who'll be on the outside looking in. Want to know which two teams almost assuredly won't make it? Not if you're a fan of the New York Rangers or Edmonton Oilers, you don't.
Yeah, I'm singling out the Blueshirts and Oilers to fail in this season's playoff race. And yeah, I'm fully prepared for the onslaught of vicious feedback that will come my way because of it.
In fact, I've grown accustomed to feeling the wrath of Edmontonians since last summer. That was when my colleagues at The Hockey News and I collectively predicted the Oilers to go from Western Conference Champions in 2005-06 to a non-playoff team this season.
Almost immediately, we were inundated with the plaintive wails of offended Oilers fans, many of who swore they would have their great-great-great-great-grandchildren write equally nasty letters to our great-great-great-great-grandchildren.
With the Oilers seven points out of a playoff spot in mid-February, we don't get many of those types of e-mails these days. And with 15 of Edmonton's final 25 games on the road -- including a six-game trip that starts tonight, and another six-gamer to finish the season -- it's unlikely we'll get many more.
Of the three teams (Calgary, Vancouver and Minnesota) the Oilers are chasing for a playoff berth, it would appear they have the best chance of catching the Wild. The problem is, despite the fact the two teams will play five more times before the end of the regular season, three of those games are in Minnesota (where the Wild are an impressive 20-5-1-3 at the Xcel Energy Center).
True, the Oilers are used to rallying in the second half of the season to squeak into the playoffs, but things seem different this year. They don't have the confidence, horses or momentum to turn the tide, and there's no impact player along the lines of Dwayne Roloson on the horizon to give them a boost.
The Rangers, on the other hand, were a team I had high expectations for this season. And they started out the campaign looking solid, building an 18-10-4 record through mid-December.
However, Tom Renney's charges were pummeled 9-2 by Toronto on Dec. 16 and lost their next six games after that. Since then, they've put together a mediocre 9-8 record, which isn't close to good enough to make up the ground they lost.
And now, with 16 of their final 26 games at Madison Square Garden (where they've only won 11 games all year, tying them for second-worst home mark in the league), the Blueshirts are up against it -- even if, rather predictably, their coach doesn't believe they're in trouble.
"I do feel [like we'll make the playoffs]," Renney told The Canadian Press Wednesday. "It's not just yapping, it's the real deal. I've seen the way we've played in the last two weeks. If we were in the playoffs and they were starting tomorrow, I would feel very, very good about playing anybody."
Ah, but anybody would feel very, very much better about playing your team, Tom. Especially after the world-class flameout the Rangers had against New Jersey last spring.
Call it the Glen Sather effect if you have to -- although in fairness to the Rangers GM, he left Edmonton seven years ago and he only stopped working for the Blueshirts a couple years back.
In any case, Sather's former and current team are beginning to look like also-rans. And with each passing day, I'm feeling very, very good about calling them exactly that.
Material from The Hockey News.
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