Wait until next year!
That’s what the Edmonton Oilers are selling after missing playoffs for a second straight season despite a torrid stretch drive in which they want 14-5-1 in their final 20 games.
Given the positives in that span -- the play of youngsters Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Robert Nilsson, Kyle Brodziak and Denis Grebeshkov, to name just five — many fans are buying it.
Fair enough, but it’s a mistake to assume the Oilers will simply pick up where they left off next season and be that much better because they’ll have Shawn Horcoff, Raffi Torres, captain Ethan Moreau and Sheldon Souray in the mix.
Possible? Yes. A certainty? No.
“We’ve got so many guys, when you analyze our line-up, who right now are playing better than they’ve ever played before,” coach Craig MacTavish said.
“The objective for them is to come in at this level next year, start at this level. I think it’s realistic that they can because of the skill level of a lot of these guys.”
As good as rookies like Gagner and Cogliano looked in the final 20 games, success in 2008-09 will hinge on them replicating that from the start of the season.
The same goes for Dustin Penner. For my money, Penner didn’t deliver enough bang for the buck. He scored 23-24-47 and was minus-12 in the first year of the five-year contract worth $21.25 million US. Next season, he can’t take 20 games to get in shape and get going.
“It took him awhile to realize the increased responsibility, and the burden of that responsibility coming from Anaheim,” MacTavish said.
“There’s a still a considerable distance he has to go as a player. He’s got the ability to be much more than he was this year. That’s the thought I hope he leaves with.”
• Any chance Craig Simpson could leave the broadcast booth again to join the Oilers front office? I’m hearing there is.
Simpson, who put down the microphone to serve as an assistant on MacTavish’s coaching staff, has a high-profile gig as the color man with Jim Hughson, but his ties to the Oilers are strong. Strong enough a position as assistant GM under Kevin Lowe might do it.
• After running the Oilers AHL show in Springfield, Kelly Buchberger could join MacTavish’s staff next season. The question is: will it be as an addition to Charlie Huddy, Bill Moores and Rob Daum, or in place of one of them?
• The Oilers might opt to take restricted free agent Jarret Stoll to arbitration after a season in which he scored just 14-22-36 and was a team-worst minus-23 … Lowe doesn’t have arbitration as an option with Joni Pitkanen because Philadelphia filed for a hearing, even though it was never held because he was traded to the Oilers by the Flyers.