Nothin' to get ya giddy!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

All the average fan really wants out of the pre-season is to be able to get excited, to get lathered up, to get dialled up for what's ahead.

This year, that was supposed to be easy.

But when Edmonton Oilers fans went to Rexall Place for the final home pre-season game last night, they weren't so sure.

I mean, it was the Oilers' sixth pre-season game and they hadn't won a game in regulation time yet. They were 25th of the 30 teams in the New NHL on the power play, up from 29th in the Old NHL.

Shawn Horcoff hadn't convinced anybody that he's returned from his great year in Sweden as the first line centre the Oilers have been missing.

Fans hadn't been able to convince themselves that the goaltending situation was solved. And the Oilers didn't seem to be taking advantage of the new rules to suddenly look like they were going to start filling the net with pucks.

OILERS MADE DEALS

I'm not sure a 4-0 win over a Calgary Flames team without Jarome Iginla and several other top players was able to get the fans as excited today as when the Oilers made deals for Chris Pronger and Michael Peca.

But 14,349 fans -- 1,680 more than showed up to watch Sidney Crosby's first game in Pittsburgh -- left the place happy.

The next time those fans will see the Oilers here will be the season-opener a week tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. Which made me wonder. Have the Oilers themselves been able to see what most of the fans hadn't really been able to see until maybe last night?

Have they been able to convince themselves this team is going to be better?

"Oh, yeah," said GM Kevin Lowe. "Just seeing the kind of plays Pronger is making out there," he said of watching the rust being removed from the defenceman The Hockey News has rated No. 4 in their Top 50 going into the new season.

"Yeah," said Lowe, ticking things off on his fingers.

"The poise of Peca and Pronger. The maturing of Ales Hemsky. Watching Ethan Moreau and seeing him coming back looking like he was at the end of the last season. There's no reason he's not going to score 20. Oh, yeah. We're a better team."

Coach Craig MacTavish says he's not going to kid himself that winning 4-0 over that version of the Calgary Flames last night means anything.

"We looked all right tonight. But Calgary came here with a depleted roster. They were missing four or five top guys. You can't draw too many conclusions off a game like that. It would be difficult to assess where we are after that particular game."

Exactly. Thus the question.

"Tonight we had our most complete line-up so far and I looked down the bench looking at the backs of the sweaters and that brought me a lot of faith and a lot of confidence.

"I know we're better. I know we have a better team. It's not just the players we added. It's the players we've developed."

You look at four players alone, Pronger, Peca, Hemsky and Raffi Torres."

Moreau, who had quietly developed into a real pro the last time we saw him, said maybe it's good that nobody seems to know what to make of the Oilers going into this season.

"Nobody around here is making any predictions. We're just saying, 'Let's wait and see the first month.'

"But day-to-day I think most of us in this room can see how our skill level is much higher and I think our biggest improvement is depth.

DON'T SEE REAL WEAKNESSES

"I think we're going to have a fourth line which can score 15 goals a guy.

"Most of us look around and don't see real weaknesses like maybe we've had before.

"I think the thing that's most exciting is we're going into the season not feeling inferior to anybody in the entire league."

Steve Staios says you might not have seen it watching any of the pre-season games here, but the returning Oilers feel something building here now.

"I think we all see that. But it's difficult to predict what we're going to do. And the bottom line is we have to go and do it."

The bottom line is that you didn't really see anything in the home pre-season games to get you giddy.

But if everybody involved thinks they see what they think they see ...

The next time you see them will be showtime.

"We're right where we want to be right now," said MacTavish.


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