Tambo, meet MacT

Jonathan Willis
August 02 2008 04:00PM

One of the three hundred or so questions buzzing through my head as I learned that Steve Tambellini was to become the new General Manager of the Oilers was what his relationship would be like with Craig MacTavish. I wasn’t the only person to have this thought. Given, however, that the HFBoards thread spends more time discussing caning and Dan Tencer (separately) then it does Craig MacTavish and Steve Tambellini, I think there’s some room to expand on this topic.

According to the story on Tambellini’s hire from the Canadian Press, “Tambellini's first orders of business will be to speak with head coach Craig MacTavish and meet with veterans Shawn Horcoff, Steve Staois and Sheldon Souray, all of whom he knows from various international teams. That will help give him a better read on a squad that went to the Stanley Cup final in 2006 but has finished out of the playoffs the past two seasons.”

This makes a good deal of sense, given that Tambellini and MacTavish have had a good deal of experience working together on Team Canada’s various entries at the World Championships. As per various reports, Tambellini leaned on his coaching staff to some degree in determining which players to approach about playing for Team Canada, and it seems likely that both MacTavish and Tambellini have respect for each other’s level of knowledge and expertise.

Still, I don’t think that this is especially good news for MacTavish. While I think MacTavish is an excellent coach, Lowe stuck with him through some awfully hard times, times when a less loyal GM would certainly have fired him (the seven game losing streak near the start of 2005-06 stands out here). Unlike Lowe, Tambellini never played with MacTavish; their personal history is far less, and despite the fact that Lowe is technically Tambellini’s boss, I really believe that at some point this will be Tambellini’s decision to make. Things look good for MacTavish for the immediate future, but if the team starts slumping a little ways down the line, he could be in trouble.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 David S
August 02 2008, 04:35PM
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Well, I would think that this is the flip side of the coin in a situation where your new owner is doing everything he can to make sure you have the tools you need to win. No doubt expectations are being raised at every level of the organization.

Still, MacT has had huge impediments in front of him over the past two years. I'm really interested to see how he does this year with a decent roster.

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#2 Ted Saskin
August 02 2008, 08:50PM
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Hey Rin, I didn't say Tencers last name. I said peewee herman. and yes both he and MacT should both be "canned"

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#3 PunjabiOil
August 02 2008, 10:07PM
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It all depends. Will Lowe continue holding the hammer for all hockey related moves? Further, I'm sure MacTavish will be given a full year before any sort of change will be even considered.

I'm not sure how much MacT should be worried about.

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#4 OregonStateFan
August 02 2008, 10:11PM
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I think if anything, the Oilers management has done a good job at not being reactionary when the team is slumping. Unless MacT does something really stupid, I wouldn't expect any coaching changes until the off season - that is, if the team misses the playoffs with a healthy roster.

Trades appear to make more sense in lighting a fire under lazy players compared to sacking the coach and spending 10-15 games teaching a new system to your existing team.

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#5 Jonathan
August 03 2008, 12:01AM
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Further, I’m sure MacTavish will be given a full year before any sort of change will be even considered. I’m not sure how much MacT should be worried about.

I agree; in the slightly-longer than short-term however MacTavish is likely less secure than he was.

Trades appear to make more sense in lighting a fire under lazy players compared to sacking the coach and spending 10-15 games teaching a new system to your existing team.

Most teams seem to react well to mid-season coaching changes. New Jersey's made it a formula.

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#6 Milli
August 03 2008, 09:02AM
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I don't alwayslove MacT, but I do have a lot of respect for the organization for not being reactionary, as some are. He would have been fired long ago elsewhere, but alot of things (like all the injuries, that gap toothed moron) he had no control over. But ya, it seems like Katz is saying, here are the tools, now WIN ME A CUP OR 6!!!!!

can't wait for hockey.

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#7 OregonStateFan
August 03 2008, 11:28AM
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Most teams seem to react well to mid-season coaching changes. New Jersey’s made it a formula.

Oh, I don't disagree that firing a coach can get results. I'm getting at the fact that firing the coach mid-season may get results but it also may hurt the team in the process. Trading a player for another one that achieves the same result and keeps the same coach in place can have much better results in the long run. Or, perhaps let the team try to right the ship. I mean, just look at your referenced losing streak of seven games in 2005-2006. That was a bumpy season that all came together at the end.

"You don't always judge by wins and losses as far as where you are at," -Lou Lamoriello, after he fired Claude Julien with three games left in the regular season.

Even Lamoriello doesn't look at stats when he's deciding to fire a coach. He just appears to be uncomfortable with anyone at the reins when it comes to the playoffs. That, and he managed to get knocked out by the Sens in round 2 in a 4-1 drubbing. I can't see Jersey being a recent good example of why coaching changes work.

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#8 Jonathan
August 03 2008, 01:53PM
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Even Lamoriello doesn’t look at stats when he’s deciding to fire a coach. He just appears to be uncomfortable with anyone at the reins when it comes to the playoffs. That, and he managed to get knocked out by the Sens in round 2 in a 4-1 drubbing. I can’t see Jersey being a recent good example of why coaching changes work.

I was thinking of Robbie Ftorek, actually.

As for Julien, he seems like a good coach, but some of the (unconfirmed) reports out of Jersey were pretty disturbing.

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#9 Braden
August 03 2008, 06:48PM
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"Further, I’m sure MacTavish will be given a full year before any sort of change will be even considered.

I’m not sure how much MacT should be worried about."

It takes missing the playoffs 4 out of 5 times to even consider making a change? Pathetic.

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#10 cgrey
August 03 2008, 07:12PM
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Would not shock me if MacT slumps and Katz replaces him with someone else. Then we'll watch MacT wipe the dirt off his shoulder and mosey his way on up to complete this new four horsemen crew (Lowe/Tambo/Prendergast).

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#11 Pat
August 04 2008, 08:24AM
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Jonathan:

I suppose I don't follow HFBoards enough, but I wasn't able to link anything when you alluded to Dan Tencer. Although I used to think of him as nothing but a servile homer, I think he's evolved tremendously, to. I think people who remain harshly critical of him are way off base.

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#12 Jonathan
August 04 2008, 12:30PM
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I suppose I don’t follow HFBoards enough, but I wasn’t able to link anything when you alluded to Dan Tencer. Although I used to think of him as nothing but a servile homer, I think he’s evolved tremendously, to. I think people who remain harshly critical of him are way off base.

Yeah, I'm not sure what's going on with the links- Wanye, DJ, any ideas?

Here's the thread: http://hfboards.com/showthread.php?t=540790

And I just linked to Tencer's blog at the Oilers official website.

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#13 Jonathan
August 04 2008, 12:31PM
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It takes missing the playoffs 4 out of 5 times to even consider making a change? Pathetic.

No, they made a change. Lowe isn't running the team any more; and that, IMO, is where the blame should lie.

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#14 Braden
August 04 2008, 12:50PM
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"No, they made a change. Lowe isn’t running the team any more; and that, IMO, is where the blame should lie."

Lowe stock-piled assets to be a competitive for the next decade. Anyone who doesn't think Lowe did a good job is in Maple Leaf mentality. Dean Lombardi is doing the same thing in LA. He isn't setting his team up for a playoff run, he is setting them up to be successful for a decade like the Avs or Stars, this past decade.

Let's just hope that the new GM doesn't go and mess up what Lowe had been building by trading young assets for vet 6th defensemen and utility players. I know picking up Mike Johnson, Dvo, Martin Gelinas and veteran 6th defensemen that make over 2 million is what the blog people wanted Lowe to do, but trust me, it's Leaf Mentality.

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#15 fyvmvv
August 04 2008, 01:18PM
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I can't see Lowe hiring a new GM and then cutting him off at the knees and render him totally ineffective. T-man has already said he expects to manage by committee and that makes total sense.Furthermore is T-man was not totally on board with that scheme of things then I doubt he would have signed on.

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#16 DJ Spyn Cycle
August 04 2008, 01:18PM
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Links were formatted incorrectly. Now they should work normally.

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#17 Unknown Author
August 04 2008, 01:31PM
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Lowe stock-piled assets to be a competitive for the next decade. Anyone who doesn’t think Lowe did a good job is in Maple Leaf mentality.

I think Lowe is a league-average GM; he isn't bad, isn't great. He did a good job stockpiling, yes, but the question was whether he really needed to burn down the 05-06 squad and start from scratch (which he did when he traded Pronger exclusively for futures).

Additionally, were you expecting MacTavish to make the playoffs every year when Lowe was planning for five years down the road?

I know picking up Mike Johnson, Dvo, Martin Gelinas and veteran 6th defensemen that make over 2 million is what the blog people wanted Lowe to do, but trust me, it’s Leaf Mentality.

I can only speak for myself, but my personal preference is to add cheap veterans who can outperform their contracts; one year of Mike Johnson at 750K to cover for Pisani while he wasi njured wouldn't have hurt anything- it would have been a way better bet than Geoff Sanderson at twice the price.

I like players who outperform contracts. End of story.

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#18 Dennis
August 06 2008, 11:08AM
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I wouldn't worry for MacT; Lowe's still gonna be making all the big decisions and the fate of the bench boss should certainly fit into that catergory.

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