HOPE AND OPTIMISM: IT’S ABOUT TIME

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Taylor Hall, drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers, poses for a portrait during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

"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.

A STAIN

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.

COGLIANO SIGNS

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.

  • SirBastich

    Good Read…love the otimism

    “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.”

    How can you not love this kid…

  • Robin,

    I’m surprised you didn’t at least mention the Rush. I hear you say on Gregor’s show how you loved playing Lacrosse. The Rush were the only good pro team in town and they have the best player in the game in Brodie Merrill. So I bet they will be very good again. At least they aren’t a “stain”..ha

  • R.A. Slapshotzky

    I thought it was interesting to hear Cogs interviewed on radio yesterday. He said he and his agent were trying to sell the Oil on his last 3 seasons production as an average of his overall performance and worth to the team. Clearly the Oil had him tightly wedged into a corner and took full advantage of it. Tambs should maybe remember this the next time negotiations start. What goes around comes around…

    There was no sign of pouting from Cogs and I hope he gets used more effectively by the coach and his finish improves.

    I wonder what the rookies think of the veteran players performance. The rooks sound and conduct themselves in a much more professional and circumspect manner than suck-babies Souray and Khab. The Oilers vets need to grow up and should maybe have a real good look in the mirror. I wonder if there are any other festering wounds waiting to pop in the dressing-room.

  • R.A. Slapshotzky

    Now that we have a new Hallsy in town maybe they can finally pull the life support plug on the other one in town, or destroy the bunker he’s set up at 630 ched. Edmonton needs relevant radio people.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It’s different going to camp without the “man, did we suck last year” label hanging over head. Instead of the veterans running up the bill at a restaurant and sticking a rookie with the bill, maybe it should be the other way around this year.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    “Clearly the Oil had him tightly wedged into a corner and took full advantage of it. Tambs should maybe remember this the next time negotiations start. What goes around comes around”

    Maybe ST is just restoring balance after the overpays to Pisani, Staois, Horcoff, Torres, Gilbert….getting control of crippling high cap hits.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Love your take Robin. I like that you give your opinion in these articles. My take: I think that the team is on the cusp of something great, it feels like the Calgary Flames, circa 2003, right before they took off to become a strong franchise for several years. If that is our result, I would be happy, because the Flames are heading toward the end of their cycle and back to the beginning. My prediction is that this team will compile lots of goals, and get scored on a lot, but will head in the right direction and finish 10th this year. Pretty good for year 1.