January 18 2008 12:41AM
The Edmonton Oilers are a young team, the third youngest in the league. But should the Oilers be considered a good young team?
Looking at the current youth movement in Edmonton, I'm not convinced. Sam Gagner has three goals—I know he's probably one of the best shootout performers in the league, but put five angry millionaires in front of the opponent’s net and the breathtaking moves start to look a lot more like dump-ins. He's only 18 years old and there's certainly room for growth. But take age out of the analysis; Gagner is responsible defensively, smart, great hockey sense and occasionally does something that makes you say “wow.”
I just described Toby Peterson.
Of the others in the group—Robert Nilsson, Andrew Cogliano, Kyle Brodziak, Dustin Penner, Denis Grebeshkov and Ladislav Smid—only Penner looks like a player who could be dominant one day. Don't forget Robbie Schremp, the one-time blue chipper couldn't crack the Oilers line up this year. Ouch.
Certainly all of these players have the potential to develop, but keep in mind every team that isn't winning now will tell you how much they love their young players, and whisper about growing pains and development. Take the Kings for example. They're in 30th place, but with Anze Kopitar, Mike Cammileri, Alexander Frolov, Patrick O'Sullivan, Dustin Brown, Jonathan Bernier and Jack Johnson as their young core, the Kings have a lot more to be excited about than the Oilers.
There are, however, reasons to smile if you're an Oilers fan:
- Ales Hemsky: ‘nuff said.
- Matthieu Garon: a team as prone to defensive lapses as the Oilers needs a gymnast in goal, and they have one.
- Dustin Penner: Started the year to a chorus of uh-ohs, Penner looked more like a white Laraque without the pugilistic resumé than a player worth a first-, second- and third-round draft pick. He deserves a lot of credit for turning it around in year one.
- Joni Pitkanen: Can't figure out whether he looks more like a giant baby or Finnish Frankenstein. Cheap shots aside this guy could be the next Scott Niedermayer.