SUN Hockey Pool

Offensive not offensive

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

An offence that ranked 30th in the NHL.

The only team in the league that didn't even make it to 200 goals.

Shut out 10 times.

Held to one or zero goals in 14 of their last 20 games.

A power play that ranked 27th in the league.

Hmmmm, wonder if lack of scoring had anything to do with Edmonton's woeful 2006-07 season?

And you have to wonder if they did enough in the off-season to remedy that pop-gun attack - especially given the fact Edmonton also lost three of its leading scorers from last season: Ryan Smyth, Petr Sykora and, believe it or not, Joffrey Lupul.

"When you finish last there's lots of room for improvement offensively," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "Getting healthy is going to help us immensely. So are some of the changes we've made in personnel and the evolution of our young players. We feel we're definitely going to be improved, that's a given."

Players like Robert Nilsson and Andrew Cogliano have shown tremendous flair in training camp, but producing consistently through an 82-game regular season is quite another story - the team is counting heavily on their kids to deliver.

They're counting heavily on everyone, because once you get past the brilliant Ales Hemsky, there aren't any superstars in the lineup.

"We still have to do it together, collectively," said Jarret Stoll, a key contributor who missed almost half the season with concussion problems. "I don't think we have one or two guys who are going to lead the league in scoring, but we definitely have some guys with the skill to do it together. It's a matter of finding the right chemistry, getting the right guys with the right linemates."

It's ironic that a team so starved for offence made most of its off-season moves on defence (save for the offer sheet that brought Dustin Penner here), but they're convinced Sheldon Souray and Joni Pitkanen will help immensely.

Most offence starts from the breakout, and if you can't orchestrate a decent one, you're in trouble.

"It makes everything work," said Stoll. "Once you get the puck moving from the back end to the forwards quicker you're spending less time in your own zone and more time in the O-zone and things start to happen offensively. And you're getting goals, too, from the D-men, which is huge.

"It's not like we didn't have it all last year, but we're definitely going to have more this year. We have added threats all over the place."

Souray knows what's expected of him.

"They didn't get a lot of offence from the back end last year and with the game the way it is now you need everybody contributing," he said.

"Bringing in a guy like Joni Pitkanen, (with) Dick Tarnstrom and myself, you have little bit more of an offensive presence.

"We have a pretty good mix of guys who like to stay home a little bit more and take care of their own end and guys who move the puck a little better and get involved in the play a little more."

MacTavish longed all last season for a puck-moving defenceman.

Now that he has one in Pitkanen, and a serious offensive threat from the point in Souray, he says everything else will fall into place.

"If you're predictable that you can't get the puck out of your end in any avenue other than around the boards, it's difficult," he said.

"Now we're going to see a whole lot more direct passes. It frees up a lot of ice when one guy can make a really good, heady play, tape-to-tape. That will open the ice up."


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