SUN Hockey Pool

No surprises from Bettman

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

It was extremely kind of Gary Bettman to deliver his Christmas gift so early to Daryl Katz, complete with wrapping paper and bows.

But there's no way the present was a surprise.

Many of us remember when the same commissioner said Edmonton could only be a world-class city if the Oilers stayed here, no matter what it took to correct Peter Pocklington's ongoing errors and make a commitment to keep the Oilers here.

At the time, I wrote that we don't need a visiting lawyer to tell us what kind of city we have.

It's great that Cal Nichols and his group kept the franchise out of Houston or the other locations Pockington had in mind, but I still feel the same way about any league official popping off about what's wrong here.

This is a different chapter, but it comes from the same book.

Let's get real: for any hired hand to say he sees exactly the same picture as a team owner sees -- that's no story.

It's a public relations exercise, nothing more.

I'd have liked to have heard Bettman say that redesigning the existing hockey palace was a good idea, or that a billionaire should be able to pay mere millions for his own requirements.

Now, that would have been a story!

And it probably would have ended the tiny, perfect spokesman's reign as commissioner.

Which is another story altogether.

VALUABLE LESSONS

The first 60 minutes of the Oilers' extended streak of home games -- that terrible loss to the Florida Panthers -- was extremely valuable.

The same value must be attached to the hour Edmonton spent being embarrassed by the Chicago Blackhawks and the hard-work hour in which the Oilers mustered all their offensive power and scored only two goals against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Serious lessons were learned, or should have been, in three separate sessions: they aren't a good hockey team.

One major problem is the lack of leadership among the players.

It's too easy to throw rocks at the coaching staff or to make excuses because of goaltending confusion or sophomore jinxes, but the real problem -- lack of championship knowledge -- goes much deeper.

Among the respected veterans who set the competitive tone in the dressing room and in tough situations against their rivals, there has been a full-career shortage of championships.

All the right things are said after a loss or a disappointing performance: the guys are trying, the only missing element is consistency, etc., etc.

Nobody talks about the reality that almost the only winners are behind the bench or in the front office.

Check the current roster and count the Stanley Cup rings.

Then add up the trips to the throne room at other hockey levels.

You'll run out of titles before you run out of fingers.


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