These kids are playing like seasoned vets as of late. The only reason the oilers are even making a late season push for that #8 seed is these kids.
No, the Oilers won't get that 8th seed, but every point counts. Why? 'cause every move in the standings will give Anaheim a higher or lower pick in this years upcoming entry draft. See, the Oilers have something to play for this season.
The fact that they don't want a conference rival to have a high pick due to their failure might not have been enough motivation for the Oilers to make a late season surge, but the fact that Brian Burke was bad-mouthing their GM Kevin Lowe in the off-season might have been enough to push this squad to want to win this late in the season. What these guys have to play for is not only the playoffs or the first round draft position Anaheim will get; it's for the honor of their GM.
Kevin Lowe did a good job this past off-season signing some key players (Garon, Souray, and even Grebeshkov). Kevin also took a lot of heat for signing Dustin Penner, who has been average at best for the Oiler's lately. He took heat from the fans, the media, and who could forget the heat he took from Brian Burke. I do not have any quotes off hand, but anyone who follows hockey heard them.
Kevin did something very odd at this years trade deadline; he did nothing. Instead of shaking up his team by being a buyer or a seller, he was a nothing. I believe the players seen this as a sign of good faith from Kevin. He kept the team chemistry going and look where they are now. At the trade deadline, the only thing I was worried about was giving up a top 5 pick to Anaheim. Now, it's actually mathematically possible the oilers make the playoffs.
But enough about Kevin Lowe, this blog is supposed to be about the young guns on this team: The almighty kid line (or the Apprentice line as I've recently heard them called). Gagner, Nilsson, and the recent local celebrity Cogliano. I'm pretty sure all of these guys' ages added up comes out to be a few years younger than Chelios.
Cogliano has been a monster clutch player as of late. I'm sure everyone has seen the highlights of his last 3 game winning OT goals. If this kid can keep doing what he's doing, he will be an elite level player for sure. I believe Cogliano can be a consistent 30-goal scorer in this league for years to come and even make a couple all-star games in his career. The knock on Cogliano for me has been his consistency. This kid looked like a possible rookie of the year candidate early in the season. He was by far their best looking rookie the Oilers had. After a quick start for Andrew, he tailed off quite a bit. I watched whole games wondering "Is cogs even playing tonight?". All of a sudden Cogs has heated up as of late, and one word comes to mind, Gagner.
Sam Gagner looked like a boy playing a man's game early in the season. Sam looked like he didnt belong out there (except during the shootout) . After the all-star break this kid started eating his wheaties or something, 'cause he started getting better every game. Since then, every game I have watched the oilers play #89 has been catching my eye more and more. You can see the creativity this guy has in him. Not only is he creative with the puck both defensively and offensively, but he's creative without the puck. Sam is an extremely smart player. The Oilers havent had a superstar in their organization for the better part of 2 decades. Sam Gagner is the next superstar for the Oilers. Sam will be an elite NHL level player, a perennial all-star and the face of this franchise for years to come. This kid could end up with a few 100+ point seasons under his belt before he retires.
Robert Nilsson is a UFA come this off season, and the way he's playing, I wouldn't be surprised to see if someone were to offer him somewhere in the range of $1.9 over 3 years. This guy has shown that he can be a dynamic offensive catalyst. Robert is a playmaker with a good shot and a beautiful set of hands. Robert will probably end up being a 65-75 point man in the NHL in the prime of his career.
Yes, the Oilers' future looks bright, and who knows, maybe they can make it into the playoffs sometime in the next decade with out barely squeaking into the 8th spot. Now, who can tell me how Schremp is doing down there in the minors?