SUN Hockey Pool

Change must come

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

To me, Denis Grebeshkov is the perfect on-ice representative of the Edmonton Oilers.

He can be brilliant and shabby, conservative and aggressive, enticing and discouraging, innovative and backward - often in the same 40-second shift.

After his skating ability puts him in great position offensively or defensively, he's likely to treat the puck as if it were a live and frightening thing.

No outsider can possibly tell why it's an adventure every time he takes a pass, but we can be sure he wouldn't have reached the world's best league by doing the same throughout his career.

In only one area does Grebeshkov show consistency, in common with almost all of his teammates: physical play. After any mild collision for more than half the roster, I figure a mistake has been made.

For some reason, I never - well, almost never - get the feeling that non-contact Oilers are timid. It's their style, that's all. You can't turn dancers into grinders.

By now, it's a simple truth that most Oilers are not at home in tight quarters. As a result, they reach for the puck rather than bumping somebody to get it.

One day, this will change. It has to.

DON'T BLAME MACT

The bad bounce that left Grebeshkov looking inept on a shorthanded goal by the Vancouver Canucks last week made two things crystal clear:

First, Craig MacTavish continues to get a bad rap from critics of his approach to young players; second, the ice at Northlands, once the best in the league, now is close to the worst.

After the bad bounce left Grebeshkov with his feet tangled, the coach left the young defender on the ice. Moments later came a power-play goal. Grebeshkov didn't get a point, but he was part of the structure that led to it.

For some reason, outspoken Oiler-watchers still maintain MacTavish does not "like" Robbie Schremp. It's a silly observation.

The kid was a first-round draft choice. The Oilers are tied to a big investment. Every time a scout or a front-office denizen takes another look, their fingers are crossed that he finally takes the next step and fits in the NHL for good.

Here's my suggestion for the snipers: every time you think of Schremp, look back at the record of Peter Sarno, the defensively questionable Ontario junior scoring champ who was drafted by the Oilers and never got - more important, never earned - a long stay in the NHL.

CHILL IN THE AIR

Remember the Edmonton Skyhawks? Fortunately, most fans don't.

Several years ago, some foolhardy investors thought this community would be a perfect place for minor-pro basketball.

Wrong.

Soon, we'll find out how much, if anything, has changed from the Skyhawks to the new Edmonton Chill.

Whatever happens, let it be known that the Chill has done several things right, including their commitment to local players.

Jermaine Bucknor and Steve Sir were worth watching in high school. They created university careers that had NBA scouts considering them as draft material, then played successfully in Europe.

Now, they're coming home. It's a good start.


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