"Whatever goes down must come up, so I think there’s a lot of excitement in this city. There’s a lot of excitement in this dressing room."
The first part of the quote Taylor Hall offered up to reporters this morning at Rexall Place could be written off by cynics as blind naivete by the new face of the Edmonton Oilers franchise. C’mon, kid. It ain’t that simple.
Hall, 18, fresh-scrubbed and coifed after his medical and fitness testing in the Oilers dressing room, is obviously turning a blind eye to the Edmonton Eskimos, who have stayed down like they’ve been shot in the head since the CFL season began and will take another bullet for good measure tonight against the Calgary Stampeders.
Still, I prefer to characterize Hall as optimistic rather than naive. And, with how badly things have been going in the City of Champions lately, who is to say it isn’t about time for some of that? It’s overdue, even.
Edmonton’s sports teams have been little more than a stain on the city in recent times, so a little optimism is better than the same old, same old sports fans have had shoved down their throats for too long.
— The 2-7 Eskimos have gone from being the flagship franchise of the CFL to laughing stocks in the wake of the bowel movement that was the reign of now-fired GM Danny Maciocia.
— The Edmonton Capitals of the Golden Baseball League disgraced the city and themselves with the profanity-laced homophobic tirade manager Brent Bowers levelled at gay umpire Billy Vanraaphorst this summer. The Capitals, owned by the Oilers, got more headlines for Bowers rant than for any baseball they’ve played these past two seasons.
— The Oilers? We know. Four straight years out of the playoffs. They were 30th by the $5 cab ride last season, which the reason they got a crack at Hall in the first place.
— Just this week, it came to light that former Oiler captain Jason Smith, one of the most respected players to wear Edmonton silks, has been accused of domestic battery involving his wife and his daughter. Accused does not mean guilty, but it’s more bad news.
WHY NOT HOPE?
Add up the embarrassment, disappointment and defeat, and local sports fans have got to feel like they’ve been kicked in the pills repeatedly. City of Champions? Uh, no.
Given that, Hall’s optimism, and that of Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle, feels like a breath of fresh air, so I’m not going to dissect it too rabidly before the puck has even dropped on the rookie tournament in Penticton and with main camp a week away.
Hall’s no slack-jawed dummy. He’s well aware dragging the Oilers from the depths is going to take more than talk, not to mention time. The shortcomings we know.
The distractions, an unhappy and seemingly un-tradable Sheldon Souray and convicted drunk driver Nikolai Khabibulin, yes, we know. Nonetheless, I’m guessing fans will happily take what Hall’s selling.
"I’ve always wanted to be a player that, with my play on the ice, I put myself in the spotlight," Hall said. "I put myself in a position to have a lot of pressure.
"I’ve always been able to adapt to that. Obviously, this is a whole different animal. It’s the NHL. It’s a Canadian city and it’s a little bit of a fishbowl, but I think it’s a good balance of a fishbowl and pressure, but I can also go out and have fun."
Fun? That’s crazy talk, kid.
I had Andrew Cogliano pegged for a one-year contract in the range of $1.25 in an item I wrote September 3. While some of our readers were of the mind I was low-balling Cogliano, it turns out I wasn’t nearly as stingy with the dough as GM Steve Tambellini.
Cogliano, 23, signed a one-year deal with the Oilers today worth $1 million after making $883,000, plus more in bonuses, last season. Without arbitration rights and coming off a season in which he tallied a disappointing 10-18-28, it goes without saying Cogliano and agent Anton Thun had no leverage.
If you want my take, I’m saying Cogliano will look like a bargain, make that a steal, at that price eight months from now.
AND . . .
— While Hall is most commonly listed at weighing 185 pounds, he tipped the scales at 194 pounds during fitness testing today . . . Eberle checked in at 185.2 pounds . . . Ales Hemsky welcomed Paajarvi to the fold by concocting a "protein" shake for him that apparently would make a dog puke.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.