Work in Sports
NORTHWEST DIVISION |
2 Edmonton Oilers
Team Page | 2000-2001 Schedule | Roster
Sports Illustrated Ranking: 15
By Eric Duhatschek
Life after Sather has begun. The architect of five Stanley Cup championships, Glen Sather left Edmonton after two decades and beat a path to New York, following in the footsteps of nearly a dozen Oilers. Fortunately for Edmonton, two of those émigrés, Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish, have returned. The 41-year-old Lowe, a former All-Star defenseman, is Edmonton's rookie general manager, and the 42-year-old MacTavish, once a wily center, is the team's first-year coach. Whatever they lack in experience, they'll make up in enthusiasm.
Unlike Sather, who always seemed to have players holding out in contract disputes, Lowe has all hands on deck. "There's not a lot of talk about the sideshow, the business aspect," says captain Doug Weight. "To know everybody's in shape and everybody's playing for each other is exciting. We're ready to take the next step."
With Weight and right wing Bill Guerin, the Oilers have two-thirds of a bona fide first line. Left wing Ryan Smyth, who had a team-leading 28 goals last season, is a banging presence no matter which line he plays on. But once you get past that trio, the question marks begin. The Oilers lost a handful of useful forwards to free agency or in the expansion draft, so MacTavish's pet project is to make 6'3", 215-pound Chad Kilger, who has already played for five teams even though he's only 24, into his second-line center. Much of the ice time on the back line will go to the improving Tom Poti and Janne Niinimaa, and Eric Brewer, the fifth pick in the 1997 draft who was acquired as part of the deal that sent defenseman Roman Hamrlik to the Islanders in June, may eventually play in the top four. The Oilers hope to have as much success with Brewer as they did with another Islander castoff, goaltender Tommy Salo, who had an exceptional season in 1999-2000. Salo is a workhorse (he played in 70 games) who finished in the top 10 in four goaltending categories.
MacTavish believes in the Oilers' tradition of playing an up-tempo, puck-possession style. However, there is a more recent tradition MacTavish would like to end: The club has lost more games than it has won for eight seasons running. "Our team has matured the last three or four years and grown through our postseason experiences," MacTavish says. "There's no reason we cannot exceed what's been a pretty mediocre last few years.
Issue date: October 16, 2000
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