Not since the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs has there been this much excitement for the Edmonton Oilers on the eve of the 2010/2011 season.
For the past four seasons, summers have come and gone for the Oilers building up copious amounts of excitement as they chased after prize free agents only to come up empty.
Marian Hossa and Dany Heatley were targets of Oilers owner Daryl Katz’s deep pockets in summer’s past, but Katz and Oilers management were left high and dry.
The summer of 2010 has been billed as the summer of change — a new era is about to unfold.
The arrival of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi has ignited a sense of belief and optimism in this city, missing since the 80s.
The Oilers trio of young guns are the new faces of the franchise, and with it comes the pressure of turning around a franchise that clearly hit rock bottom last season.
They enter a fishbowl atmosphere from the fans and media, and it’s going to be sink or swim for the fresh faced rookies. Can they handle it? Most definitely. All three have the pedigree to handle it in my mind.
What I’m looking forward most to seeing is how Oiler fans handle the bumps along the road in their development.
Oilers fans have had a history of jumping all over some of their high profile players during tough times, and it’s led to some venom spewed towards players like Jason Arnott, Mike Comrie, Joffrey Lupul, Tom Poti, Marc Pouliot and Steve Kelly.
Don’t forget the drama filled tenures of Chris Pronger and most recently Sheldon Souray in Oiler silks.
Tambellini is currently working on sorting out the Souray mess.
There will be times this season when fans will be calling in to sports radio stations and nit-picking every move that one of Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi make.
But during this summer of rebuild, I’ve noticed one thing about Oilers fans. I sense a more mature approach and many are willing to set their emotions aside for this season and sit back and enjoy it.
Expectations are for the first time in a long time low for this organization as they embark on a new season, but they know the future looks very bright.
Tambellini has quietly built a solid first stage in his rebuilding process and many pundits aren’t giving the Oilers much of a chance heading into this season.
He brought in two former Red Deer Rebels captains Colin Fraser and Jim Vandermeer. He signed Kurtis Foster away from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A healthy Nikolai Khabibulin and Ales Hemsky as well as a re-energized Shawn Horcoff and the Oilers could have the pieces to rise out of the ashes of the Western Conference basement and challenge for a playoff spot.
Nobody expected the Colorado Avalanche or the Phoenix Coyotes to be anywhere near a playoff berth come April and they showed what a young roster with limited to no expectations can do.
I’m not about to cement a prediction and say that the Oilers will be a playoff team this year.
If they do, in my mind that’s just gravy. As crazy as it sounds if the Oilers were to make the playoffs this year, there would be some Oilers fans who would be angry that they made the playoffs.
You’re bound to hear “We needed to get another top pick”, “We went away from the rebuild”
But that’s Oilers fans for you — they bleed passion and they’re hungry for a winner. They have a fast food mentality, they want their burger, and they want it now.
My advice to them this season is sit back — enjoy the show. This could be flashbacks of 1979 all over again.