SUN Hockey Pool

Dealing with the debris

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Debris from the worst season in franchise history is right where the Oilers left it, scattered around Edmonton like a train wreck's charred and twisted aftermath.

Having spent all summer both haunted and motivated by the mess they left behind, the players, new and old, gather at Rexall Place this morning to start picking up the pieces.

Clean up day couldn't come soon enough.

"Everybody has a lot to prove," said veteran, and candidate for captain, Ethan Moreau, as eager as anyone to hit the ice for the first day of training camp this morning.

"Guys have a lot of pride. We didn't like what happened last year. We were embarrassed. We want to get that feeling back where we can walk around the city and be proud of our team and our organization.

"Everybody's worked extremely hard. We had a lot of time and guys used the time wisely."

TOO MUCH TIME

They had a lot more time than any of them wanted after a winning just two of their last 20 games and finishing 25th overall. They're two years removed from a Stanley Cup final and one year removed from the toilet bowl, anxious to show everyone which end of the spectrum was the aberration.

"Everybody has something to prove again," said Jarret Stoll, who wants to show he is fully recovered from the concussion that cost him 31 games last year.

"Everybody had a disappointing season. Everybody took it upon themselves to have a good summer, work out hard, work on things they need to improve on for their game and come back with a fresh start and a new attitude."

Defenceman Sheldon Souray said one of the first things he noticed about the Oilers veterans at their offseason training camp in Los Angeles was the fire in everyone's eyes.

"Absolutely,"he said, after team medicals yesterday at the University of Alberta.

"They've gone from something that was pretty spectacular two years ago to last year being a pretty big disappointment.

"I think everybody is looking to redeem themsleves this year. They knew they fell short of what was expected of them and the guys really accepted responsibility.

"That's one thing I really admire about these guys - they know that they had more to give. I think they were really hungry over the summer to make sure they came to camp and prove how fast they want to put last year behind them."

NEW LOOK

It's definitely a new-look team.

Since last year's trade deadline the Oilers said goodbye to Ryan Smyth, Joffrey Lupul, Jason Smith, Petr Sykora, Brad Winchester, Jan Hejda, Jussi Markkanen and Toby Petersen, while adding Souray, Joni Pitkanen, Dustin Penner, Mathieu Garon, Dick Tarnstrom and Geoff Sanderson.

A couple of blue chippers will also stick this season and you might as well say they added Moreau, too, since he missed 74 games with a shoulder injury.

"The organization has shown a willingness to go out and get some guys who are going to fill the holes," said Souray. "It's exciting. The guys who've been here a long time are excited, the guys who coming in are excited.

"Guys have a lot to prove, whether they're old or young."

Do they ever.

And there are plenty of reasons to believe these Oilers will be markedly better than last season's - first and foremost being they can't get much worse - but there are also plenty of question marks surrounding the squad. Like, where is the offence going to come from now that the lowest scoring team in the NHL is without three of its leading scorers from last year?

And what about those glaring minus totals (Souray was -28 and Pitkanen -25 last season) And can the leaders stay healthy this year?

One thing's for certain, it's going to be interesting.

"As players we feel good about what we have in the room," said defenceman Steve Staios.

"Now it's up to us to put it together."


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