Oilers Watch: Think about the future

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Happy New Year.

Now that all the niceties are out of the way, did you hear about the 55-year-old (!!!) Edmonton-area prostitute who blamed her 2006 arrest for soliciting sex from a police officer on the Oilers’ Stanley Cup playoff run?

I’ve heard of blaming Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish for a lot of things, but that’s a little much.

Speaking of blame – who deserves to shoulder it for the Oilers’ so-so 2008-09 campaign? Lowe? Steve Tambellini? The legacy of Peter Pocklington? None of the above?

I’m going with the last option, because, to paraphrase a legendary, shouted quote from former NFL coach Dennis Green, THE OILERS ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!

(Quieting down a great deal…)

That’s right, the 2008-09 Oilers are almost exactly who we thought they were: a team that undoubtedly was better than the Edmonton squads that missed the playoffs the last two seasons; a team that by most accounts should qualify for the post-season this time; but a team that likely won’t make it to the Western Conference final, let alone to a championship round victory.

There’s really nobody to blame for that. It’s the natural evolution that must happen if you want to build a perennial contender the right way.

Sure, the Oilers have soft spots and a few soft players, but look at their future.

At the conclusion of this season, unrestricted free agents such as Dwayne Roloson, Erik Cole and Mathieu Garon will come off the books, leaving Edmonton with close to $10 million in salary cap space.

Thanks to the challenging economic times ahead, there aren’t likely to be too many teams engaging in bidding wars this summer. And that means a talent like Marian Hossa thinks longer and harder about rejecting a truckload of Oilers owner Daryl Katz’s money.

Even if the free agency market doesn’t yield huge dividends, some teams will be looking to dump salary via a trade. And the Oilers still have enough prospects in their system to send to a cash-strapped club in return.

Patience, grasshoppers. The future may not be now, but it’s not far off, either.

This column also appears in the Edmonton Metro newspaper.

Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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