Hoops to go through, but we'll get WHL team

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers will likely get the WHL franchise they're after for 2006-07, but it's not simply a matter of having the decision rubber-stamped at a meeting of league governors in the next 48 hours.

On one hand, the Oilers clearly set the table for the WHL team they covet by suspending operation of the Road Runners.

The AHL wouldn't have been a clash in terms of overlapping seasons - the commitment was through 2005-06 - but the move tidies things up.

The Oilers pressed the flesh during the Memorial Cup and they made a good case for joining Chilliwack if the WHL expands to 22 teams, which makes a lot of sense in terms of alignment and scheduling.

On the other hand, WHL commissioner Ron Robison hasn't committed to a vote this week, saying only expansion will be on the agenda as part of a discussion about the direction his league is heading.

In fact, Robison was quoted as saying it's "unlikely" the WHL will expand by two teams in 2006-07.

When putting a team in Edmonton comes to a vote - that will happen at a secondary meeting after the concept is debated in Calgary - the Oilers will have two issues to contend with.

First, many CHL officials, including boss David Branch, worry about watering down the product. That's not breaking news, but it's an ongoing and legitimate concern.

Second, there's a faction, including WHL chairman Ed Chynoweth, that vividly remembers the failure of the Ice in Edmonton. Of course, the regime in place with the Oilers is different from when Chynoweth tried to make a go of it, but anybody who thinks the demise of the Ice isn't a factor is naive.

Bottom line?

It'll get done after plenty of backroom debate because the model the Oilers present has worked wonders in Calgary with the Flames and Hitmen.

Likewise, the partnership in Vancouver between the Canucks and the Giants has been very successful.

It's good business, plain and simple.

IT SAYS HERE: One way or another, the Oilers will find a way to keep former captain Kelly Buchberger, an assistant coach with the Road Runners last season, in the organization.

Bet the farm Buchberger will top the list of coaching candidates when the Oilers get a WHL team.

It's a natural fit for Buchberger, who had a big role in the development of Kyle Brodziak last season, and one he'd definitely be interested in.

TAKE THIS AND THAT TOO: Sidney Crosby impressed the Oilers in interviews at the NHL combine, but let's face it, he could've shown up for the poke-and-prods in a dress and he'd still be a lock as No. 1 pick ... To prove Kevin Lefsrud isn't as lead-footed as all the reporters at the Eskimos' training camp say he is, I called out Team 1260 big-mouth Sponge Bob Stauffer for a, ahem, 40-yard dash the other day and was beaten by a full stride ... Coach Bill Macdermott could climb out of his golf cart and whip us both ... Rookie cornerback J.R. LaRose of the Edmonton Huskies, a.k.a. Junior Gone Wild, has been the feel-good story of Esks' camp ... Tough call by Danny Maciocia, who cut 12-year veteran long-snapper and good guy Roger Reinson in favour of youngster Taylor Inglis.

WHILE I'M AT IT: So, the Cracker-Cats get back into town for a long homestand and the weather turns to poop and hurts the team at the gate? The league has changed, but the weather trends around here remain the same.


Videos

Photos