Oilers can't be worse

JOHN SHORT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

Several guarantees are easy to present in advance for the 2009-10 edition of the Edmonton Oilers.

They will be tougher. They will be bigger. They will be more consistent.

You know why I'm so sure? Because there's no way on earth for them to be as soft, small and erratic as in the season just past.

To me, the brightest sign for the future of this organization came after a dull, meaningless final game: the paying customers stood to applaud a group that mailed in too many points late in the year with a playoff berth within easy reach.

The Rexall equivalent of a group hug delivered a clear message that fans will be back in the fall, hoping that many members of the current team - pray, not all of them - will be back as well.

A candidate for the funniest message of the Oilers' closing week came at a high school basketball banquet on Friday. After showing justifiable pride at the effort of his son at Jasper Place, a parent told me he felt sorry for overpaid, overweight Dustin Penner.

"You'd be tired, too," he said, "if you had to carry $4 million in your wallet every day.

"And if you didn't get tired carrying it, you'd probably sprain a knee trying to step over it."

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Edmonton Energy assistant coach Darrell Cleave was impressed, big time, by the athletic ability on display at the minor-pro basketball team's one-day tryout camp.

"Boy, they're fast," he said. "This is my first year (at this level) and the way they move the ball and get around the court is almost unbeliavable."

Head coach Paul Sir's pre-season roster doesn't have much room for walk-ons, but Toronto product Kevin Shand, a 6-foot-10 pivot who shone at Duquesne University, had more than height going for him. "I'll be sharper when I get into game shape," he promised.

More good news surfaced when Kyle Landry's name appeared as a future possibility. The Calgarian was absolutely terrific in his university career at Northern Arizona.

Two holdovers, J.R. Patrick and Alex Steele, were as solid as ever and Lunzya Nianda, a Congolese citizen who recently moved to Edmonton, had some good moments, too.

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One thing you should know about Milan Lubovac, who trains Jelena Mrdjenovich: he tells it the way he sees it.

After Jelena followed the loss of her boxing title with some habitual criticism of Edmonton judges, Lubovac set everybody straight by saying the (now-former) champ was not in shape.

To Jelena's credit, she later conceded, "It was not my night."

In shape, she can probably beat any Canadian in her weight class. Next time - if there is a next time - we're likely to see her at her best.

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Just in closing ...

To Kevin Martin: go, Canada, go!

To Adam Braidwood: please stick to football.

To Frank Morris: thanks for the memories and the years of friendship.

JCSHORT@SHAW.CA


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