SUN Hockey Pool

Are you experienced?

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Why hold training camp?

The guys with the contracts made the team. Again. As usual. As always.

The emotional investment you made as a fan in new young talent, as ever, was a waste of time and ticket money.

"If you were making out a roster prior to training camp, that's basically what we have now," admitted coach Craig MacTavish as he picked his team yesterday, keeping all his contract players no matter how poorly they played or how good any of the kids looked.

"As a coach I don't like to make a lot of conclusions based on pre-season hockey. I give the benefit to those who have done it before. The intensity level goes up."

So what if the fans fell in love with guys like Robbie Schremp and Dan Syvret? They were sent back to junior and down to the farm, respectively.

"The fans want a winner," said the coach, offering no apologies.

Sun hockey writer Robin Brownlee wrote it before training camp. There was only one job in question: Jani Rita or Robbie Schremp. But Rita had a one-way contract. Schremp didn't.

"Rita is getting an opportunity. We owe him a chance," said MacTavish, who at least did admit it could be seen as a last chance.

"I think so for him."

So, again, what's the point? Why not take the main team to camp, practise together, play the games together and get a real jump on the season?

"You get to know how close they are," said MacTavish. "You get to see what your team is going to look like down the road."

The conclusions?

TICKED THEM OFF

"We have a lot of guys who are close but who are not ready yet. We watched a lot of young guys here this year who are going to be Oilers," said MacTavish.

One by one he ticked them off. Schremp. Syvret. Zack Stortini. Jean-Francois Jacques. Matt Greene. Maybe Marc-Antoine Pouliot. And definitely Yan Stastny, who will probably be the first guy you see back here -- and sooner rather than later.

Schremp? "He was close. I told him he needs to work on strength and quickness. Those are the only things keeping him out," he said, not mentioning that if he doesn't play here this year, his six years before free agency under the new collective bargaining agreement don't start until a year later.

"I told him he should feel good about his camp. He has the skill level. Both his skill level and hockey sense are really impressive. We wrestled with keeping him here and not playing him much. The thing that made the decision toughest was that we knew he'd put the work in.

'SMART KID'

"He's a smart kid. He knows what he's looking at to get to the next level. We think going back to junior for one more year will enable him to enhance his leadership ability and to force his personality on his hockey club," he added of the defending Memorial Cup champion London Knights.

In recent years, the only real time the Oilers watched a kid break through the got-a-contract-got-a-job reality was Ales Hemsky. In retrospect, it might have hurt him more than helped him. Only now does he seem ready to be Ales Hemsky.

"Hemsky was a little bit ahead of where Robbie is right now. And we sure weren't as deep then as we are now," said MacTavish.

More than one veteran defenceman on this team didn't look like a ready-for-prime-time player.

"We were very unsettled," says MacTavish of some of his 'D' who got that on their training camp report cards.

"We went with the experience," he said.

Syvret could be looking at a "quick call up" according to MacTavish.

There are individuals (Cory Cross made Fedor Fedorov look like Sergei Fedorov in Vancouver the other night and Alexei Semenov didn't do anything to take the big question mark off the back of his jersey) who might not be here today off pre-season play.

It's time to go back to training camps the way they were in the Original Six, when the Detroit Red Wings held them here and the fans in Detroit didn't see Gordie Howe and the gang until the first home game of the regular season. They're a waste to watch.


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