SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers will be fun to watch

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

They won’t win ’em all. In fact, there’s every chance they won’t even win half of ’em, but the Edmonton Oilers will be fun to watch.

Finally.

Nothing against any of the hard-working veterans who’ve played here in the recent past, but if I had to watch one more ham-handed forward turn a five-star scoring chance into a black rubber scuff on the opposition goalie’s crest, I was going to pull my hair out.

For two decades, the Oilers led us to believe that “picking the corner” meant deciding where to dump the puck after you crossed centre. Watching them was like watching a ditch-digging video … that didn’t even end with a good ditch.

But those days could be over. A once-glaring weakness that reduced Edmonton to a second-tier franchise — first round drafting — is finally providing hope. Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle change everything.

Creativity, finish, instinct, flair and an organizational willingness to let the kids who’ve got it, flaunt it, make this a season worth getting excited about.

“You can tell there’s a lot of talent to go around in this room,” said centre Shawn Horcoff, who figures Edmonton will be able to ice nine legitimate scoring threats a night. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had those kinds of forwards here, the first time since I’ve been here.

“Even the year we went to the finals we had two full lines that could score and then a checking line. This is probably the first time I’ve seen this much skill in the lineup. We’re having fun.”

Hockey needs to be fun. And soft, low-scoring teams that always miss the playoffs aren’t fun. Not to watch, not to play on.

But the current mix of youth and skill represents an instant cure for all those years of Copper and Bleah.

“We have some terrific young players here right now who help bring (the veterans) back home to what they were once, and how much fun playing can be,” said head coach Tom Renney. “They’re getting reacquainted with how much fun it can be to work hard.”

We’ve all seen enough Alexandre Daigles to know that you never count your pickens before they hatch. There will be a lot of losses, a lot of glaring mistakes, a lot of times when doubt will creep into the analysis. And there are no guarantees that any of these kids will be able to fill the shoes created by the enormous expectations.

But this year is more about process than results, and if the kind of goals they scored in preseason are any indication, watching the process should be a rare treat.

“There’s going to be hiccups on the road, we know that, but we’re going to stick with our plan of going forward regardless,” said GM Steve Tambellini. “We’re going to stick with our plan of trying to develop some good young people with solid veteran people around them.”

Brawn factor

And some solid veterans who’ll be busting a few people in the mouth. With Steve MacIntyre back, joined by the likes of Zack Stortini, Jason Strudwick, Jim Vandermeer, maybe Theo Peckham, and eventually JF Jacques, the Oilers addressed another weakness: weakness.

There’s enough strength here that the Oilers should never have to feel intimidated by anybody. There could be just as many fireworks after the whistles as between.

So you’ve got young electrifying skill and enough muscle to win in the alley if they need to?

What’s not to like?

“I think everybody is excited — coaches, us, fans, you guys (media),” said Hemsky. “There’s a lot of skill guys who played really good in pre-season. They showed on the ice that they do have the skills. It’ll be fun to see how this works out.”

Real fun.


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