Thursday, September 13, 2007

Don't go jumping off any bridges yet, Oilers fans!

Seeing as how I meant to post this last week, training camp is definitely underway throughout the NHL. I thought it would be a good time for me to reflect on the past year in hockey and in particular on my favorite team: the Edmonton Oilers.

I tell you, this time last year I was on top of the world. My team had just gone to game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. We had come this close to hockey greatness. A lot of people I know would have been extremely disapointed to have come that close and failed. Not I, because I was extremely optimistic about the season to come.

You have to understand that at the time, the Oilers' offense was being called "the most talented offensive corps in the NHL," by many hockey analysts. Everyone gave them a good chance of going deep into the playoffs again. Players like Ales Hemsky, Fernando Pisani and Jarret Stoll were going to have career seasons, according to these so-called "experts". Never mind Chris Pronger. "Who needs him?" I thought. We had star rookie Ladislav Smid, and grizzled veterans Jason Smith and Steve Staios. Our blue line was just fine. The only thing we needed was a good puck-moving defenseman, but I was sure that Kevin Lowe would be able to land one before the trade deadline. It was going to be an awesome year!!!

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Over the next year I would see my Oilers get off to a slow start, then fail to make any headway in the extremely competitive Northwest Division. They hovered around the eighth playoff spot for most of the season. They never seemed to get going despite decent goaltending from Dwayne Roloson and the phenomenal play of Ryan Smyth.

Then came Trade Deadline Day, the second worst day in Oiler's franchise history. Ryan Smyth traded to the Islanders! I sat there at my work computer, stunned, when I found out about the trade. Like all Oilers fans out there, I was PISSED! I could not believe it. I came up with all kinds of rationalizations for the trade. I believed that Smyth would come back to the Oilers in the off season, much like Doug Weight and Mark Recchi had after winning the Stanley Cup with Carolina. I basically was in denial.

That trade would start the almost comedic series of events that became the disastrous end of the season for the Copper and Blue. Two wins in the last twenty games. Almost every one of their starting players injured at some point. By the end of the season it looked like thay were starting training camp early, they had so many rookies on the team.

But all that is behind us now. It's time to start a new season, and boy does my team look shitty. I know that it's hard for any Oilers fan to be optimistic at this point, but Kevin Lowe did manage to sign a big name defenseman. And, after a foiled attempt to poach Thomas Vanek from the Sabres, Lowe stole us a decent first line winger in Dustin Penner. Don't get me wrong, we still need a few more pieces before we can contend for Stanley again. That's what I'd really like to talk about today. Because any good feelings that Oiler fans have about the upcoming campaign can be summed up into one word: Prospects.

1. Sam Gagner - this kid had an awesome Super Series, won the gold for Team Canada in the World Juniors last year and is looking good in training camp, having hooked up with Hemsky for all three goals scored during the Joey Moss cup this past weekend. He may actually crack the big squad right out of Junior, and that kind of thing usually only happens for the Crosbys and Ovechkins of the world.

2.Andrew Cogliano - WOTS is that this guy is fast, like Teemu Selanne fast. Or Pavel Bure fast, if you will. He also captured gold at the WJC last year and has now forsaken his last two years at Michigan State to turn pro. Let's hope he's ready for the big leagues.

3. Rob Schremp - this american-born centre tore up the OHL during his final year with the London Knights, but had a so-so season in the AHL last year. You probably remember him, he was the guy who pulled that crazy "puck on the blade of his stick" move during a charity shootout last pre-season. This guy's got skills and he has been a late cut in the last two training camps for the Oilers. I'm pretty sure he will make it this year. He's just got to work on his defensive game a bit.

That's all I will get into for now, I've already gone on for too long. The good news is that the future is bright for the Edmonton Oilers. The bad news is that it isn't likely to gel this year. I refer to it as the "three year plan." Year two is about to begin.

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