SUN Hockey Pool

Questions dog Oilers

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

An overpaid winger arrives on the roster. A defenceman raised in nearby Elk Point says he's happy to play here.

An aggressive pitch to buy the team gets sidetracked - deservedly, I think.

Next thing you know, the entire sports community is once again turned on by the Edmonton Oilers.

I only wish I could share the early enthusiasm, but there are questions, literally dozens of them, that need to be addressed.

In one man's opinion, Craig MacTavish and his coaching staff took too much criticism last season for things beyond their control.

A major target was Craig Simpson, who took his photogenic face and articulate manner back to the broadcast booth.

So who will replace him, and who is in line for the heat that Simpson and the feeble power-play took last year?

MacTavish, back from holidays, is on the record that he sees a major hole on the forward line. Agreed. I see more than one.

Besides, what guarantee is there that the defence will be as good as he has told us to expect?

Steve Staios, back from injury and two weeks past his 34th birthday, may be too old. Matt Greene and Tom Gilbert may still be too young.

Joni Pitkanen and Sheldon Souray may never learn to avert trouble in their own zone.

Up front, not counting the logical guessing about Dustin Penner's production level, I see at least three major puzzles.

Can Jarret Stoll rebound from his frightening late-season concussion? Will Shawn Horcoff return to his 73-point level of two years ago?

Most important, will the real Raffi Torres shake off his personal demons - lack of confidence or whatever - and bring his whole package of skills and power every night?

If not, MacTavish, Kevin Lowe and everybody else can count on another season of second-guessing wherever coffee or booze are consumed.

NICE JOB, SHERWOOD PARK!

- Congrats to the good people of Sherwood Park. The Western Canada Games, as expected, were a big success for athletes and the community.

I'd like someone to explain why an event like this gets so much support and the locally-owned Sherwood Park Crusaders of the AJHL draw only friends and family.

- It was a different CFL when Neil Lumsden played, In his day, he had as much value for the Eskimos as son Jesse is producing for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

A natural fullback, Neil loved creating collisions. Rival linebackers weren't as happy.

- I'm guessing the Ottawa Senators made a good move in signing Justin Mapletoft last week. The son of former Edmonton Oil King Frank Mapletoft once led the Western Hockey League in scoring and had some productive years in Europe.

For sure, the former Red Deer Rebel is pencilled in as a character AHL player who could help in an emergency, but don't be surprised if he winds up in the NHL to stay for a while.

- The World of Outlaws is coming to Castrol Raceway next weekend - and, no, that doesn't mean the RCMP should go on special alert. These guys put on a terrific show with their sprint cars. Car fanatic Ron Hodgson and others worked long and hard to bring this major-league show here. For me, sprint cars are more fun than NASCAR, Champ Car or any other series.


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