Edmonton Oilers' Strong Finish Sparks Hope of Reaching Next Level

Cody MillardCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2008

After a stretch drive of 14-1-2, the Oilers were able to earn themselves a ninth place finish in the Western Conference last season, just three points away from a playoff berth.

After the injuries that were suffered, that is quite a huge feat. Even youngster Sam Gagner stepped up and proved why he was taken sixth overall when he led the team in scoring after the all-star break.

This sudden surge left many asking what the Oilers could do to jump to that next level without ruining the chemistry that was evidently forming in the locker room. Kevin Lowe seemed to work his magic again in landing a few marquee players, but will it be enough?

With the likes of Lubomir Visnovsky (LAK), Erik Cole (CAR), Gilbert Brule (CBJ), and Jason Strudwick (NYR) joining the roster, it seems the Oilers are ready to make that jump. There's been a sizable increase in payroll thanks to new owner Daryl Katz.

Liabilities in struggling center Jarret Stoll and streaky winger Raffi Torres were among the few that were packaged in three deals Lowe made; Pitkanen and Greene were also amongst those traded. While Strudwick was brought in, most likely to be a reliable seventh defenceman.

With all the changes made, even a new General Manager was introduced. Steve Tambellini takes the reins while Kevin Lowe is now the President of Hockey Operations for Rexall Sports. When asked if the move was made for certain...aspects of Lowe's tenure as the GM, he replied.

"It wasn't done for that (reason)," joked Lowe. "But perhaps it can open the door."

Bringing back most of the free agents, the Oilers also re-signed No. 1 center Shawn Horcoff to a six-year contract. Horcoff's '08 campaign ended early when he went down with an injury, but he still managed 50 points in 53 games.

After all this has taken place, all that is left to say as an Oilers fan is hopefully chemistry evolves and it takes the team to great places.