After a two-day break (sorry about that), today is a look at the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers went into full-fledged rebuilding mode last season, but proved to be peskier than many had predicted. Now they’ve augmented their stable of young players with a couple of nice veteran players and look like a team that will make a run at the playoffs.
2007-08: 41-35-6, 88 points (fourth in Northwest)
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Oilers went young in ’07-08, and for the most part the kids proved they belong in the NHL. Forwards Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano looked like future stars, while Robert Nilsson, Kyle Brodziak and tough guy Zack Stortini all could be nice role players. Rookie defenseman Tom Gilbert was also a revelation. Shawn Horcoff was averaging nearly a point per game before getting hurt.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The big free agent acquisition, defenseman Sheldon Souray, played only 26 games because of injury, and scored 21 less goals than the year before. RFA heist Dustin Penner led the team with 23 goals, but for the money and draft picks lost, he needs to be better. The goaltending was inconsistent, but it appears that Mathieu Garon will enter this year as the No. 1 guy.
ARRIVALS: LW Erik Cole, D Lubomir Visnovsky, C Gilbert Brule
DEPARTURES: D Joni Pitkanen, D Matt Greene, C Jarrett Stoll, LW Raffi Torres
IMPACT PROSPECTS: C Rob Schremp, D Taylor Chorney
Where does Erik Cole fit?
Cole can be a big addition to Edmonton’s offense, but it will be interesting which line he group he skates with. If the kid line of Nilsson-Cogliano-Gagner sticks together, then presumably either Cole or Penner will play on the top line and the other on the third.
Is it really Garon’s job?
Roloson was great in the summer of 2006, but hasn’t been the same since. Garon asserted himself in the second half last year, but his hold on the job can’t be considered rock solid. One of them needs to prove he’s the guy, or the Oilers could be shopping for a goalie at the deadline.
PROGNOSIS: With a couple of interesting additions and the way this team finished the season, the Oilers are expected to be a playoff contender in the West. They are probably behind Chicago but ahead of Phoenix in the trio of teams that could push 2008 playoff teams out of the picture. They are young and exciting to watch, but also remember this team had considerable shootout success last year. That is not something that has necessarily been proven to be consistent from year-to-year, so it would help if they figured out a way to win more games in regulation.
||Marc Pouliot/Gilbert Brule
||Zack Stortini/Rob Schremp
*NOTE: This is not necessarily an attempt to guess line combinations