SQUARE ONE: BETTER DAYS AHEAD

Edmonton Oiler fans show their preference while attending the first round of the 2010 NHL hockey draft in Los Angeles, California June 25, 2010. The Oilers have the first pick overall in the draft. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY)

In a city where optimism about the Edmonton Oilers has been as scarce as teeth at a family reunion in Arkansas, there was more than enough to go around at Clareview Arena today.

With Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and Jordan Eberle headlining a list of 28 players on the ice for the first day of a four-day development camp, fans packed the joint to get a glimpse of the future.

After enduring four straight years out of the playoffs and a mind-numbing free-fall to 30th place last season, the stands at Clareview Arena were packed and fans stood 10-deep behind the net at one end of the rink as Hall, Paajarvi-Svensson (he’s listed only as Magnus Paajarvi on the camp fact sheet) and Eberle took a twirl.

I counted no fewer than seven TV cameras and 25 or so writers from the dailies and websites, TV reporters, radio types and team PR and website personnel in the rink with all eyes on the ice, even after the doughnuts and coffee were laid out.

Outside in the lobby, merchants flogged jerseys with "Hall" and "Eberle" emblazoned on the namebars. After the opening day session concluded, players signed autographs amid a swarm of fans.

Plenty of buzz. All of it good.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

"These young guys are at the front end of a very special relationship with these fans, so drink it up," coach Tom Renney said after putting the players through their paces.

"Development those bonds with these people. Be good to them, Respect them. Understand it’s important to be able to reach out and touch these people and give it your best shot every single day as an athlete. It’s an exciting time for them."

No argument from Hall, Paajarvi-Svensson or Eberle on that front. They signed themselves silly in the lobby as fans gave them the rock star treatment when the on-ice session was done.

"It’s been exciting for me ever since the draft," Hall said. "I’ve really gotten excited about this season, not that I wasn’t before, but it’s really hit home I’m coming to a great city with great fans and a young group of players. You can just tell there’s a lot of excitement in the city for this team."

Hall, the big name on the marquee, drew most of the attention, but their was plenty left for Paajarvi-Svensson and Eberle, not to mention the likes of Tyler Pitlick, Chris Vande Velde, Tony Rajala and Teemu Hartikainen.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Hall can flat-out fly.

In one drill, players were lashed together with a length of cord six or eight feet long. The idea was for the lead player to skate away from the trailing player, dancing and darting to create enough separation that the cord, attached to each player by Velcro, snapped.

On one pass at it, Eberle hung in with Hall, who tried to shake him with some quick moves. Another time, Hall simply kicked it into another gear and left Eberle in his wake like he was tied to a post.

Paajarvi-Svensson is no a slouch on the blades either. While he didn’t show the flat out speed Hall did, he’s got a silky, long stride and a long reach that makes him almost impossible to catch if he gains a step on a defender. He had at least one fan in the stands — some guy wearing a T-shirt with the Tre Kronor on the front.

Big Cam Abney might be a plough horse among thoroughbreds, seeing as he’s a grinder and tough guy amid a big whack of skill at a camp that’ll be a no-hitter, but he didn’t look out of place. For the most part, Abney, a six-foot-four winger with the Oil Kings, kept up. 

 MOORES PROMOTED

— Former assistant coach Bill Moores has been named Oilers co-ordinator of player development.

Moores, bounced into a scouting capacity in a purge behind the bench that included head coach Craig MacTavish and fellow assistant Charlie Huddy at the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, will work with director of player development Mike Sillinger.

 "We are extremely pleased to have Billy join the player development department," GM Steve Tambellini said in a news release.

"He brings a wealth of experience, expertise and knowledge, which we believe will be a tremendous asset to Mike Sillinger in developing our prospects."

I’m not sure if their duties will overlap with those of, ahem, senior advisor Pat Quinn. . 

BUCKY AND FLEMING OUT?

— Renney told Dan Barnes of the Journal and I he has a short-list of four candidates for his assistant coaching staff, and only one member of that foursome is incumbent Wayne Fleming. Might that mean both Fleming and Kelly Buchberger are out of the mix here?

If Buchberger is done as a bench coach with the Oilers, he’ll likely turn up in Oklahoma City. I’m expecting an announcement on Renney’s staff in the next 48 hours or so.

AND . . .

It looks the Edmonton Oil Kings will have a new play-by-play man next season as I’m told A.J. Jakubec has been let go by Astral Media and won’t be back.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • SurfacetoAirMissile

    I hear you bro, but it is too early to worry about the rookies next contracts. I believe the Oilers management have learned from their recent mistakes ie Horcoff and Souray contracts.

  • Banger

    “It looks the Edmonton Oil Kings will have a new play-by-play man next season as I’m told A.J. Jakubec has been let go by Astral Media and won’t be back.”

    I really like A.J.’s calls, that is too bad.

    • The Fish

      You cannot be serious. Jakubec is THE worst play by play man. There’s a reason he was fired by a junior team. The only way he’ll make it into an NHL rink is if he buys a ticket to a game.

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      Let’s see . . . the Oilers own the Oil Kings and influence every decision made in terms of selling and promoting their WHL product, including who does the play-by-play . . . while technically an Astral employee, in reality, removing Jackubec is the Oilers decision . . . so the chances of A.J. getting a promotion to do the play-by-play with the Oilers is . . . less-than-zero?

  • Banger

    RB what’s with Dreger, and Ryan throwing out Smitty comming back, I know it’s just them throwing crap at the wall but it does sound intresting he would be a great leader for the kids 1st one on the ice last one off, work ethic drive to win and toughness (take one in the mouth and keep on going)

  • Wow, the Oilers really are cleaning house. I wonder why let go of Jakubec? He seemed like a fairly stubborn guy, maybe the negotiations didnt go well. He also took a lot of vacations. Mind you, Astral seems pretty cold in letting employees go, remember Bryn and Jake? Where did old Bryn ever land anyways? Poor Buchy too, treating an alumni like that is harsh. I know all about a change in management regime and how they treat incumbent employees though, generally not very well. They like their own people. Its not what you know, its who you know.

  • I hate this part of the business. It isn’t so fun when you are that employee that gets taken for granted and let go on a whim. We’ve all been there. I thought Jakubec was pretty good for a junior play by play man. I mean, its not the NHL.

  • Petr's Jofa

    So many new blogs I’m not sure if I missed this comment, but it appears that Niedermayer has signed a 1 year $1 mil contract with Buffalo… Guess we dodged that bullet.

  • R.A. Slapshotzky

    Aj was nice guy
    so when they gonna let go Kyle Chase and Will Fraser this guy can’t do talk radio other than laughing . Chase is laways mubbling……

  • R.A. Slapshotzky

    HELLO oiler nation, i made that sign…i messed it up by putting the “4” to replace the “R” in “STARTS”…it should have been the “A”…but i didn’t have the letters centered to make it work. it irks me to see it every where with such an evident flaw. hah!

    anyways, i made that poster for my buddy. GO HABS GO!

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      Cool! I was wondering about the 4 there as an R and was trying to figure that out…now it makes sense.

      I can’t wait to see the 3-on-3 scrimmage at Development Camp today!!

  • Cowbell_Feva

    The one player that seems to be flying under the radar (to me) is Tony Rajala. Playing on a less talented team in the Mem Cup he tied for 4th in scoring (leading his team in PTS) with 2 G, 5 apples in 5 games. Pretty good for a European playing North American style hockey.

    Saying that, when you have the 2-time Mem Cup MVP (consecutively) and OHL co-scoring Champ, along side the CHL & WHL player of the year, not too many would stand out!

    OH- and thank god you guys are done with the stupid Dire Straights B.S. If you thought that was cool or funny try looking up: washed up 80’s band blogs, not Oilernation!

    • 1) It’s the Memorial Cup, not the Mem Cup. Have some respect.

      2) Dire Straights is STILL one of the greatest bands in the world, even if they’re not making albums anymore. Shove it, you SNL-loving hack.