SUN Hockey Pool

Building for the future

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:45 PM ET

Hey brother, can you spare $30 million?

The Edmonton Investment Group still owes that much on the purchase of the Oilers and from money lost during the work stoppage, so chairman Cal Nichols cautions anyone who thinks the new CBA means there are truckloads of money backing into Rexall Place.

But a stable, realistic business model in the NHL has him optimistic they'll be free and clear within a decade - just in time to get a new building.

"We're sold out every night, we're in the middle of the pack in gross revenues and we're barely more than breaking even right now,'' he said. "I call this the re-entry year, we have a lot of sponsorship relationships to rebuild, but we have to make this profitable, for no other reason than to retire the debt over the next five or 10 years.''

After watching them negotiate the stormy waters of the last decade, commissioner Gary Bettman is convinced they will.

"Based on what the Edmonton ownership group and management has demonstrated they can do in the midst of chaos,'' he said. "I am certain they can succeed under a system that is more orderly and well balanced.''

DREAM HOME

As for the new digs, Edmonton will have the second oldest building in the league (after the Isles) once Pittsburgh upgrades. Rexall is in remarkably good shape for its age, but is sadly lacking in amenities, seating room, luxury suites and concourse space. For the money they're charging fans, Nichols says they deserve top-of-the-line treatment.

"If you only go to our building it kind of looks OK, but when you start going around to other buildings and see all of the other amenities they're providing ... it comes to the point of, can you do it in the building we've got? We're getting old, we have to look at it, and I don't think it's in the best interest of this franchise to leave it until the 11th hour.''

DEVILS MAY CARE

Lou Lamoriello, widely regarded as one of the best GMs in the game, doesn't make many mistakes, but consider the summer of 2005 one great big one. He brought in three big-ticket acquisitions, Alexander Mogilny, Dan McGillis and Vladimir Malakhov and by the halfway mark of the season all three are gone (waivers, minors and not playing anywhere). And we're not even counting Krzysztof Oliwa, whose season was over before it started. No wonder Larry Robinson resigned from the stress.

JUNIOR GONE MILD

Anybody still griping about Robbie Schremp not making the Oilers out of training camp, or was another year in junior maybe for the best? ... Former Oiler D Alex Semenov isn't making the inroads he'd hoped in Florida. He's playing 11 minutes a night, on the nights that he actually does play. He's played in just seven games with the Panthers since being traded there on Dec 1.

FLAT CATS

Why is Florida struggling? Lots of reasons, but chief among them is that trapping teams don't forecheck, and teams that don't forecheck don't draw penalties and aren't reaping the benefits of the new NHL. The Panthers have had fewest power plays in the NHL (213), miles behind skating teams like Atlanta (286) and Edmonton (263). "It's hard to explain,'' Panthers coach Jacques Martin told Florida reporters. "You would like to have more power plays, but why we aren't getting more, I can't answer that.''

SPELLBOUND

NHLers whose parents were probably better at math than spelling:

- Shaone Morrisonn

- Krys Kolanos

- Joffrey Lupul

- Jassen Cullimore

- Either Jere Lehtinen or Jiri Fischer

- Kevyn Adams

- Filip Kuba

- Lubomir Visnovsky (come on, one of those names has to be way off)

- Krzysztof Oliwa

- Dany Heatley

- Alyn McCauley

GAZING PRIVATE RYAN

Hawks coach Trent Yawney says a young team like his can learn a lot from watching the dogged determination of Ryan Smyth. It turned out a lot of the Hawks were standing around watching a lot of the Oilers in Edmonton's 5-0 win, but his point is this: "Little things are what make certain guys really good. Watch Ryan Smyth go to the net. Players on his own team feed off of that, but our young guys need to see that, too, because that's what they're being told. If you want to score you have to go to the net.''

MAKING NO PROMISES

If the NHL sticks to its scheduling guns we won't see Toronto or Montreal for three years and might not see Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin until 2008. What seemed like a good idea, isn't. Bettman's heard the griping and says the situation will be revisited, but makes no promises.

"We're going to look at it. On the one hand the Battle of Alberta occurs eight times and that's a good thing. On the other, you don't get to see the eastern teams more frequently. You can't have both. We're going to take stock of how the schedule performed for all the clubs this year and decide what to do moving forward.''

DOT, DOT, DOT

The Pens stocked up with vets in the off-season, but they still dressed an incredible nine rookies Tuesday against Montreal ... Next time anyone wants to gripe about their travel, they can call the Flyers, who play 11-straight road games between Dec. 23 and Jan. 12. They're 6-0-1 through the first seven ... Speaking of scheduling screw-ups, wasn't the divisional rivalry thing supposed to create great stretch drive duels. It will in Philly, where they'll play eight of their last 10 games against the Atlantic Division, but Edmonton only plays two of its last 10 against the Northwest.

SECOND OPINIONS

Mighty Ducks defenceman Sandis Ozolinsh entered substance-abuse treatment, where he will be treated by Dr. Dave Lewis on behalf of the NHL and Dr. Brian Shaw on behalf of the NHLPA. There's concern that the league and union doctors, unable to agree on a treatment, will lock him out of rehab for a year.

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BIG GAMES THIS WEEK

TODAY

LEAFS AT OILERS: Enjoy it. Unless the league gets wise Toronto won't be back until 2008-2009.

TUESDAY, JAN. 10

SHARKS AT BRUINS: Joe Thornton returns to Boston. Wonder if there'll be any extra coverage?

THURSDAY, JAN. 12

OILERS AT RANGERS: In addition to a showdown between two NHL powers, they'll be retiring No. 11.

THURSDAY, JAN. 12

FLYERS AT RED WINGS: No. 1 in the West vs. No. 2 in the East. As good an inter-conference showdown as you'll get.


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