SUN Hockey Pool

The Calgary Canucks?

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

Just one. That's all you want. One game that is somewhere close to being an NHL team against an NHL team. One look at something resembling your regular season team against somebody elses NHL team.

Last night, in their final home pre-season game, the Edmonton Oilers played 80% of their regular season lineup.

The Vancouver Canucks could have been the Calgary Canucks for all most fans knew.

(There are those in Vancouver who think that's what they'll look like in the regular season this year, too. But that's another story.)

The Oilers played their starting goaltender, starting six defencemen, and two and two-thirds of their starting lines.

WEAK CANUCKS LINEUP

The Canuck lineup came here with the grand total of two goals to show for their first five games of the pre-season. In contrast, Jarret Stoll scored his fourth for the Oilers in the first period.

While the score was 5-4, it was largely a waste according to MacTavish.

"You could have predicted the way that game would go," he said. "You want to see a more complete lineup at this stage."

MacTavish said going against something resembling an NHL lineup "would be a reasonable expectation at this time of year."

"I don't know where we are after that. We're certainly no further ahead. The checking is not what you want to see like it is when a roster is more complete."

GM Kevin Lowe wasn't about to carve the Canucks.

"Last Saturday when Calgary was here we had one guy with one game of NHL experience.

"We did it for a reason and I think our fans are knowledgeable enough to know why. Vancouver is trying to assess their team, too."

I'm pretty sure the Canucks, like the Oilers, know who they're going to go with at the start of the season. But you have to wonder if most of the players who were here will be Manitoba Moose tomorrow.

Admittedly, the Canucks were playing their fifth game in seven nights. But in there somewhere is the question.

Do we really need eight pre-season games if it isn't really necessary - as obviously it isn't - for these teams to play their final few pre-season games with NHL line-ups?

MacTavish said on a year like this, for his team, maybe yes.

"You need this many when you have the depth in the organization like we have. You want to give your guys the opportunity to play against some NHL players."

Lowe says he wavers on the topic.

"A lot of years we'd like to have six.

"Most years, seven would be perfect.

"The hockey answer is six or seven. The business answer is eight.

"Patrick (Oilers CEO Laforge) is a hockey guy, too. He realizes it. He'd like to find the answer for six in our financial set up."

GREAT PRE-SEASON DEBATE

Lowe said he debates it with himself.

"George McPhee in Washington got down to six this year and he says he can't play his young guys. A lot of our die-hard fans want to see our young guys," said Lowe. "They want to evaluate them, too. And with the new CBA, the fact of the matter is a lot of the young guys have to play for us real soon. It's good to get a good read on them.

"You look at some of our young guys like Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Jean-Francois Jacques, Rob Schremp, Alexei Mikhonov and Patrick Thoreson ... I expect all of them are going to play here this year. Certainly not all of them will start the year here but with every game you can see their confidence grow. That's a pure development thing.

"But I'd like at it six (games) because of the injury factor, if nothing else."

Personally, I'd like to see them take the whole pre-season elsewhere and show up for the home opener like they used to do in the original six.


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