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 emigres,
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."

--E.D.

Fast Fact

Last year Tommy Salo set an Oilers season record with a 2.33
goals-against average, breaking the mark (2.63) set by Curtis
Joseph in 1997-98.

Insider

CATEGORY SI RANKING SKINNY

FORWARDS 11 No team goes to the net harder

DEFENSE 14 Niinimaa and Poti must contribute more
offense

GOALTENDING 9 Salo allows Oilers to play an up-tempo
style

SPECIAL TEAMS 11 Marchant is among the NHL's top
penalty-killers

MANAGEMENT 21 Lowe and MacTavish are rookies but
well-regarded

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)