With all due respect to David Staples, there's a difference between the Oilers offers to Vanek and Penner, and the offers made by other teams for Fedorov, Ohlund, Gratton, and Sakic. Furthermore, it's a bit of a misdirection (somebody less charitably inclined might say error of attribution) to say, as Staples did:
"Look at that list -- the only player who got an offer sheet who didn't pan out was Gratton, though even he has had a long NHL career."
Or maybe Staples just misspoke. The fact those guys got sheets had nothing to do with their success (and while the sentence implies that, I don't think that's what he meant). But there's a good reason why those guys were successful after their offers - they were successful before them too, they were of undeniable quality.
Sergei Fedorov in 1998 was 29 years old and had played 506 NHL games, scoring 592 points, including two 100+ seasons. In his rookie year, he was better than a point a game, and 96-97 was the first year he didn't at least match that, although he had a few short seasons and there was the lockout in there as well.
Chris Gratton in 1997 was weeks or days shy of 22. He'd played four full NHL seasons by then - 292 games in total (strike-shortened season again). 3rd OA pick, C with great size, looked like he was starting to get it with a 62 point season under his belt.
Joe Sakic in 1997 was 28. He'd played 9 seasons, 655 NHL games for 820 points, including 4 100+ point seasons. His worst total was 62 - his rookie season and the strike-shortened season.
Mattias Ohlund is the exception. He, however, had been a highly-touted first round pick - 13th overall. Vanek was 5th OA and in his second season, Penner was a college grad and a free agent signing with one season (and a Stanley Cup). Vanek played a couple of years in college too.
The offer sheets by Lowe don't (necessarily) show great insight, but what they do show is that he loves the college boys. Horcoff, Pisani, Gilbert, Cogliano... Gagner almost went the NCAA route as well, if I recall correctly, and was persuaded to give the O a try by his father - a fact for which all us Oilers fans should be eternally grateful. I believe that Lowe is betting those couple of years spent in college mature the players more quickly than time in juniors - I wouldn't bet against him, either.
Previously, almost all offer sheets were made to players who were already very successful. Lowe's were to players that looked like they might be. I think making an historical comparison is a mistake though; there's not much in common between the players mentioned by the Copper Blue Dreams folks and the players Lowe grabbed for.