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.
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.
— 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.