Ordinarily, Edmontonians would be grateful that an NHL lockout-delayed the season 119 days — it's January, after all, and the Oilers aren't out of it yet.

But if the growing number of predictions are correct, this will be no ordinary hockey season in Edmonton.

This year they're expected, and expecting, to be good.

The buzz surrounding the Oilers as they open training camp is deafening. Everybody in the NHL wants to see what this team is all about, if they're as good as the hype.

"We feel the excitement, the energy and the optimism of what's potentially here," said new head coach Ralph Krueger, less than a week away unleashing his young thoroughbreds. "We have that within our own room, so if it's happening outside, great."

It is happening outside. People are predicting a lot of big things from a team that finished 29th last year.

"There's a lot of excitement that skill alone will bring us up really quickly," said Krueger. "But the respect we have in the NHL from other teams, we felt it growing last year even though we were 14th in the conference. They were ready to play us."

And will be again.

It's to the point now that we're about to witness an early season phenomenon rarely, if ever, seen before in the NHL: Teams actually targetting an opponent that hasn't made the playoffs in seven years. Getting up for them. Circling them on their calendar.

"We have to know that all this hype is only going to prepare teams even better for the Edmonton Oilers," said Krueger, adding it's a long road from where they were to where they want to be. "We realize that with all the euphoria and all this excitement and energy, there's going to be some hardships here in these next weeks and we're going to have to fight through those."


The Oilers have to establish a winning culture right off the bat because there's no time to feel their way into a 48-game season that includes a nine-game road trip late in the year.

"It's exciting," said Devan Dubnyk, adding the Oilers need to believe in themselves as much as everyone else does. "I think last year we were a lot better than a 29th place finish. It's going to be important that we understand that we're significantly better than that ranking. We have to believe that right from the start."