Edmonton Oilers 2001-2002 Regular Season Review

The key players. The coach, general manager. In what kind of po$ition is this team in? A review of the Edmonton Oilers’ 2001-2002 regular season as the missed the playoffs, finishing the season with 92 points.It was an awkward season for the Edmonton Oilers. This team has the ingredients to make the playoffs and they could have had a chance to beat the playoff rivals Dallas Stars, but both might want to fight it in a golf tournament. At one point, the Oilers seemed as if they were going to make the playoffs without any doubts, but it was a long slump and the rise of the Coyotes and Canucks in the second half of the season that eliminated the Oilers. It is the budget that limits GM Kevin Lowe to make a sharp trade to land a playoff player. This team, could not have done much else but to get a young talented player to boost their offense.

The Key Players

Although this kid is small, he will be the team’s future talent and all-star. Mike Comrie has improved by a large margin this season, and finally became the Oilers’ offensive weapon to score 30+ goals a season, scoring 33 this season. Comrie also had a +18 rating. This kid has the ability to lead the Oilers in the playoffs for seasons to come, but with more help. Comrie will be an untouchable player for other teams. He has marvelous puck-moving and stick handling abilities, is also a sharp passer, and can put the puck in the net. Comrie did his job and had a very good season.

Anson Carter did his job as well, finishing the season with 28 goals, 32 assists (60), but a normal plus minus rating of +5. He posted career highs and contributed as much as he could, although after having a strong 1st half, Carter’s 2nd half was not as strong as the 1st, but he did end up with 28 goals. Carter is a pretty big player, has speed, and is strong, he could get better and better each season, especially with Comrie and Mike York on the team. Overall, Anson Carter had a good season.

Ryan Smyth was supposed to be the key player for the offense this season. He was injured, which must have affected his game. Smyth has the offensive talents to score 25+ goals a season, he has the scoring touch, and he must show that next season. Smyth has to keep his pace up, especially now since Comrie, Carter, and probably York will start posting up 20+ goals a season. Smyth finished the season playing 60 games, scoring 15 goals and 34 assists (49) with a +7. Because of the injury, Smyth’s was not strong this season, but will definitely improve for next regular season, this team has a very bright future ahead, and Smyth is and remains a part of it, unless the Oilers would be willing to trade him.

Janne Niinimaa’s numbers have always been consistent in the past three seasons. Niinimaa only scored 5 goals this season, but posted 39 assists with a +13. He is a solid defenseman and should remain with the club for many seasons, as he should get better each season. He has a good shot from the point, but his PPG numbers dramatically dropped this season. Last season he scored 8 PPG and this season only one. He should be more effective on the PP, which is important for the Oilers since their offense is not that strong.Overall, Niinimaa’s numbers look good with little difference from last season.

There is still higher expectations from this young German player, Jochen Hecht. Coming from St. Louis in the Doug Weight trade, Hecht finished the season with 16 goals and 23 assists (39) and a +3. Much more was expected from Hecht as he showed less than what he showed last season with a Blues jersey. Hecht is still young however, and could always have a good season in 6 months. Hecht is good on the PK and very useful on the PP as well. He has the talent and if he has the potential to be a top player for this club, making it a young talented team. Overall, Hecht had a weak season.

Another Islander giveaway, Eric Brewer showed many signs that he will be a very solid, stay-at-home and physical defenseman. Although he has that potential, Brewer dropped his plus minus rating from a +15 last season to a –6 this season. That being a negative, the extra positive is that Brewer has also contributed offensively, recording 7 goals for two straight seasons. He is still very young, only 22 years of age, and will become a top defenseman in the league, the potential is certainly there. Overall, Brewer had a mediocre season, improving his offensive stats but a big decline in his defensive stats.

This player was definitely affected by the Olympics, Tommy Salo. Salo had a good start, but after the Olympics where he was brutally beaten by Swedish words, Salo hit one of his worst slumps of his career. Salo was out of focus, but proven to be a true and a solid starter, Salo regained his confidence and started to play above his level of potential for the Oilers. He should be considered as one of the leagues most underrated goalies. His statistics prove that he is a starter. Although he is well liked by most Oilers fans, the fans and GM Lowe must realize that Salo’s future as an Oiler could come to an end. Salo has reached age 31, and the years of unrestricted free agency lie ahead of him, and not too far. Salo’s asking price for a new contract could be too expensive for the Oilers to buy, making Jussi Markkanen an important goaltender. Overall, Salo had a good season, but his emotion reaction from the Olympics did affect the team.

The Coach

Craig MacTavish still remains the perfect coach for this team. It is still very young, and the future is still as bright as the sun, very bright. McTavish has many young players to work with, especially young talented ones. York does add depth to this team since it needs a stronger 2nd line. MacTavish knows how to work young players and understands the Edmonton Oilers glory. If the Oilers miss the playoffs next season (highly doubtable), then MacTavish’s future as an Oilers coach could come close to a dead end. As of now though, he is the right coach.

The General Manager

Kevin Lowe must have a real hard time managing this team, as it could be the hardest one to manage. Financially, this team is still in trouble, except all eyes are on the Calgary Flames. Little attention will be given to this team’s financial struggle, as successful and as talented as it is, the NHL is only worrying about the Flames and Iginla. Kevin Lowe is in a position where he does not have the ability to acquire anyone in the off-season, maybe one player at a cost of 2.5 million dollars a season. It is also hard to say if Lowe can keep some players for next season. His players will get more expensive as they will improve, meaning one or two players will be traded. So far Lowe has done a good job as the team’s GM, but a lot of things will have to be fixed and done in the next couple of seasons.

The Positives and Negatives

The main positives are that the Oilers are young, very talented, and that young players have improved, especially Mike Comrie. The addition of York was a positive. Whether this kid will score 15 to 30 goals, he will make an impact on the Oilers next season. He works hard and is young, improves the team. The negatives are that the Oilers cannot face the long bad slumps. They also have to recognize the fact that the West is extremely competitive, and next season will be harder to make the playoffs. Missing the playoffs was a huge negative for financial reasons as well as the experience that this team needs.

In the Off-season

Little will be done in the off-season with the free agency market. The only thing this team is able to do now is trade. The trades will be significant and will show how good of a general manager Kevin Lowe is.

Thank you for reading. Next will be the Washington Capitals.

Micki Peroni