January finds the Oilers' playoff chances in growing jeopardy. Some fans advocate throwing in the towel right now, arguing that a freefall in the standings will secure them another valuable first or second overall draft pick in June. But the coaches and players are proud professionals and refuse to give up. As the team grinds their way through a long prairie winter, the true character of the squad reveals itself. The rookies gain valuable seasoning; the vets show their leadership qualities. Some players fulfill expectations, while others slip back on the depth chart as the team moves forward. Meanwhile, Oilers brass and scouts are busy looking at the progress of their AHL farm hands down in Oklahoma City, at possible draft picks in June, and at previous draft picks back playing in the juniors. This will be a very intense time for the new Oilers. If the team does well over the next month and a half and exceeds expectations, it could be back in playoff contention when the February 28th trade deadline approaches.
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