The Boss wades in

Robin Brownlee
January 07 2009 12:19PM

What's this I hear about GM Steve Tambellini letting his coaching staff know he was less than impressed with the Edmonton Oilers mistake-filled 3-2 win over the New York Islanders Monday?

I've got it from a reliable source that was indeed the case, as Tambellini met with head coach Craig MacTavish and the rest of his coaches in the dressing room area after the game. I'm led to believe it was not a happy bunch that emerged from the meeting of the minds.

Now, admittedly, I don't know what was discussed, but it definitely wasn't a session of high-fives after the Oilers needed a couple of lucky goals by Kyle Brodziak and Jason Strudwick to send the hapless Isles to their 13th straight defeat on the road.

What seems clear is that Tambellini, now 38 games into his tenure as GM, is starting to make his voice known after sitting back and assessing what's what since taking over from Kevin Lowe. Maybe Tambellini was unhappy with the Oilers fumbling and stumbling through the first 20 minutes against the worst team in the NHL. Given how the Oilers had already blown off points against the awful Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators, that would be understandable.

Maybe it was a broader discussion than that, given how wildly inconsistent the Oilers have been and that they've delivered far too many, shall we say, uneven performances this season. That would make sense, too.

Maybe it was a bit of both.

JUST WONDERING

Now, I'm just speculating here, but I wonder if anything that was said by Tambellini Monday played into the fact that Gilbert Brule is finally getting a shot on the top line as a fill-in for Ales Hemsky?

Could it be Tambellini, like a lot of fans, was mystified by MacTavish's decision to put Liam Reddox on right wing on the top line with Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner while Hemsky recovers from a concussion?

I never did get it that MacTavish seemed to suggest that Brule didn't have the experience to take that role, despite having more than 150 games on his NHL resume, while Reddox, who now has 18 games, did.

Tonight, after, ahem, reconsidering that stance, MacTavish will give Brule his chance to shine when Mats Sundin and the Vancouver Canucks come calling. Hmm.I wonder -- and again, this is just speculation on my part -- if Tambellini has asked himself some of the same questions many fans and some of us on press row have about personnel choices by the head coach?

Time will tell. One thing's certain, at least I think it is -- Tambellini isn't just here as a puppet for Kevin Lowe, now the president of hockey operations. I get the sense Tambellini's done sitting back and that we'll see him start to make his imprint on this team before very long.

From where I sit, the sooner the better.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Wanye Gretz
January 07 2009, 03:26PM
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OOOH Yeah Tambo run that game!

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#2 Rick
January 07 2009, 03:36PM
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It's about time he's done sitting back, count me in with the group that believes Tambellini has been more of a puppet to Klowe than truly a GM.

I don't recall another instance where a GM was hired and then waited 5 or 6 months before putting some kind of his own stamp on the team which is what we are still in the process of witnessing. Two waiver pick-ups certainly don't count in that regard.

...

As for not being happy about the Islander game, good. I don't necessarily believe that all the problems drop at MacT's feet but if I have to hear him talk about how the Oilers weathered the pressure from the opposition one more time I will puke.

It's a novel approach I know but how about forcing the opposition to try and weather the Oilers pressure for once, particularily on home ice. Maybe the Brule move is a sign of that, or hopefully it is anyways.

Maybe it's an indicator of a slight shift from trying to play it safe and by not losing as opposed to actually trying to win...

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#3 Rick
January 07 2009, 03:44PM
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Sorry for the double post but...

I am wondering how MacT essentially letting the players off the hook by giving them yesterday off fits into Tambellini going off the rails on him on Monday?

Seems unusual that in this case the crap didn't seem to flow downhill. After all when all was said and done it was the players on the ice executed the game plan like a beer league team.

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#4 Joe
January 07 2009, 03:51PM
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Good.

I know that coaches and fans see things in the short term (game to game) whereas upper management sees things in the long term. I'm happy that he's finally stepped in. Systems are sloppy and stale, and maybe this will finally be a step in the direction of rectifying these problems. We can only hope at this point.

Tonight's game will be a good starting point to see what direction these coaches will take this team in from here on out.

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#5 The Towel Boy
January 07 2009, 03:52PM
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Who saw this coming?!?

Good job Tambo!

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#6 Chris
January 07 2009, 03:52PM
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Tambo IS beginning to assert himself... and it's about time. Tambellini was on Gregor's show last night, and Gregor did a nice job of pressing him for an explanation of how the front office group dynamic functioned. After some tap dancing, and the usual platitudes like; "Decisions are made as a group", and; "I came here because of Kevin", and so on... Gregor asked him who had the final decision or veto as it were and Tambo said, "I don't know if it's veto, but at the end of the day, I'll have to stand up and make any decision as manager of the team..." to be followed by many qualifying and softening remarks. It all on the just a game home page.

Finally the Lowe reign of ineptitude may be at an end... Sort of. In an Oiler kind of way...

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#7 Al Hamilton
January 07 2009, 03:53PM
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Rick wrote:

Sorry for the double post but… I am wondering how MacT essentially letting the players off the hook by giving them yesterday off fits into Tambellini going off the rails on him on Monday? Seems unusual that in this case the crap didn’t seem to flow downhill. After all when all was said and done it was the players on the ice executed the game plan like a beer league team.

Maybe Tambo bag skated MacT and staff so the players got the day off......

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#8 swany
January 07 2009, 03:59PM
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If we see another effort like the Islander game a meeting with the players might be next. Remember Brian the idiot Burke did that with the Ducks and they sure picked it up after that.

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#9 jeanshorts
January 07 2009, 04:00PM
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Thank god it looks like the gears are finally starting to be put into motion. Although, does it seem a little odd to anyone else that Tambo started kicking chairs around the same day the Kevin Lowe was in Ottawa for the WJC? Remember the first time dad left you the keys to his car? ANYBODY????

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#10 RobinB
January 07 2009, 04:02PM
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jeanshorts wrote:

Remember the first time dad left you the keys to his car? ANYBODY????

So why didn't you go down into the garage, close the door tight and fire up the family wagon like he was hoping?

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#11 Rick
January 07 2009, 04:03PM
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jeanshorts wrote:

Remember the first time dad left you the keys to his car? ANYBODY????

I remember that day well...I drove it up a telephone pole.

So does that mean the Oilers are heading for an even bigger train wreck than they have been?

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#12 Steele
January 07 2009, 04:04PM
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Hmmm, all of this is pretty interesting, but - tell me if I am wrong - isn't the brunt of the "Oilers loosing" really fall on the offence? I mean, sure WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES, but, besides Gilbert (teetering on the edge of failure/fame) & Staios (getting old - was never a big physical conditioning guy) the D has been solid. It's the forwards that are not putting the puck in the net.

If Tambo went Rambo on anyone, it should be the forward units. Not the coaching staff (very good), nor the D (including the 3 headed G-unit).

~Steele

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#13 Wanye Gretz
January 07 2009, 04:06PM
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@ Steele:

including the 3 headed G-unit

How has this name escaped me for so long?

I bow before you my nickname master

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#14 jeanshorts
January 07 2009, 04:07PM
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@ RobinB:

Looks like the Christmas season is officially over!

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#15 Chris
January 07 2009, 04:08PM
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Steele wrote:

If Tambo went Rambo on anyone, it should be the forward units. Not the coaching staff

Or the coaching staff that thinks Reddox is a first line forward.

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#16 RobinB
January 07 2009, 04:09PM
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Steele wrote:

Not the coaching staff (very good)

Pardon? You don't have questions about a coaching staff that: -- Tried to make Pisani a centre -- Took weeks to put Penner on LW with Horcoff where he belonged after trying to make in a RW -- Had Cole on LW instead of RW -- Played a ham-and-egger like Reddox on the first line instead of Brule.

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#17 jeanshorts
January 07 2009, 04:12PM
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RobinB wrote:

Steele wrote: Not the coaching staff (very good) Pardon? You don’t have questions about a coaching staff that: – Tried to make Pisani a centre – Took weeks to put Penner on LW with Horcoff where he belonged after trying to make in a RW – Had Cole on LW instead of RW – Played a ham-and-egger like Reddox on the first line instead of Brule.

Yeah but come on Brownlee. CLEARLY none of that was MacT's fault. Our piss poor special teams, flat starts almost every night, and no goalie getting more than 2 starts in a row wasn't the coaching staffs fault either. Something about a new arena, the economic crisis, small market, Gary Bettman, etc.

MacT can do no wrong!!!!!

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#18 baggedmilk
January 07 2009, 04:14PM
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RobinB wrote:

So why didn’t you go down into the garage, close the door tight and fire up the family wagon like he was hoping?

The Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day...

Albeit that was hilarious...

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#19 swany
January 07 2009, 04:16PM
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RobinB wrote:

Steele wrote: Not the coaching staff (very good) Pardon? You don’t have questions about a coaching staff that: – Tried to make Pisani a centre – Took weeks to put Penner on LW with Horcoff where he belonged after trying to make in a RW – Had Cole on LW instead of RW – Played a ham-and-egger like Reddox on the first line instead of Brule.

All good points, but didn't Lowebelli say there would be a trade BEFORE the coach, stranger yet is the stupid romour that popped up about Horc and Spezza, could he have said that if they don't get it together that he would chop the core of this team?

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#20 Hockey Gods
January 07 2009, 04:28PM
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Good for Tambo, Mact preaches accountibility for players actions on the ice, and now he forced to accountible for his actions/questionable decisions.

jeanshorts wrote:

Although, does it seem a little odd to anyone else that Tambo started kicking chairs around the same day the Kevin Lowe was in Ottawa for the WJC?

Or we could focus on the fact he started kicking chairs the same day a quality replacement became availible... Pat Quinn.

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#21 CurtisS
January 07 2009, 04:30PM
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Best thing I have heard this year.

Wonder if Katz gave Tambellini a little pressure first, I think the heat is on. Though I have been saying that since November.

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#22 Jonathan Willis
January 07 2009, 04:34PM
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Hockey Gods wrote:

Or we could focus on the fact he started kicking chairs the same day a quality replacement became availible… Pat Quinn.

There's plenty of other quality replacements available besides Quinn... including a bunch of guys I'd look at before I looked at him.

I don't believe in hiring disposable coaches; were I a GM I'd only hire a guy I could see coaching the team in five years, and I don't think Quinn is that guy.

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#23 Corbs
January 07 2009, 04:34PM
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RobinB January 7 2009, 4:02 pm.

jeanshorts wrote:

Remember the first time dad left you the keys to his car? ANYBODY????

So why didn’t you go down into the garage, close the door tight and fire up the family wagon like he was hoping?

-------------------------------------------------

OUCH... im assuming there werent any comments about this because they were either censored, or you people have become apathetic to how mean this guy is... Robin, chill dude...

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#24 Ender the Dragon
January 07 2009, 04:36PM
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jeanshorts wrote:

. . .does it seem a little odd to anyone else that Tambo started kicking chairs around the same day the Kevin Lowe was in Ottawa for the WJC? Remember the first time dad left you the keys to his car? ANYBODY????

Maybe Tambo is spreading his wings a little bit, but I don't think we're going to see him going off in any kind of direction that Kevin wouldn't have. Someone who takes this kind of time to generate even this small notice on a site as rigorous as ON isn't the type of GM to distinguish himself from his predecessor. Tambo is essentially the grafted genetic thumbprint of Lowe, but with the convenience of being in a separate body if the blame needs to shift to a different tangible target. Prove me wrong, Tambo, but to me you're still just a Klowne.

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#25 Bruthah
January 07 2009, 04:37PM
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@ swany

As pointed out by many others in articles before, maybe they didn't get a dance partner they liked when it came to trades. And last time I checked, you don't need a dance partner to fire somebody.

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#26 jeanshorts
January 07 2009, 04:43PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

There’s plenty of other quality replacements available besides Quinn… including a bunch of guys I’d look at before I looked at him. I don’t believe in hiring disposable coaches; were I a GM I’d only hire a guy I could see coaching the team in five years, and I don’t think Quinn is that guy.

Because Pat Quinn is pushing 90 years old, and his ticker only has a few more miles left on it.

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#27 jeanshorts
January 07 2009, 04:44PM
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Corbs wrote:

OUCH… im assuming there werent any comments about this because they were either censored, or you people have become apathetic to how mean this guy is… Robin, chill dude…

We've just come to accept Robin as the internets version of a bitter old man that sits on his porch with a shot gun and yells at anyone that comes near his lawn.

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#28 CurtisS
January 07 2009, 04:44PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

I dont know Jonathan, 5 years is a long time for coaching now a days. There isnt too many coaches that deserve a 5 year tenure. Unless they continually get their teams to overachieve not underachieve after that time period.

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#29 Dennis Castro
January 07 2009, 04:46PM
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Couple things: Jason Spezza is not coming to Edmonton, dont trust Eklund, his rumors are thinner than single ply ass wipe. As well the Oilers dont want to mortgage their future for Spezza, Horcoff and one of our 3 goalies will not get Spezza.

Reddox is not a top line forward, third line at best. With Hemky out and if I were Mac T I would move Gagner and Cole to the top line with Penner. Nilsson, Horcoff and Brule on he second and leave the third and fourth lines as they are. That way you have grit and skill on 3 of the 4 lines as the fourth is nothing but grit.

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#30 Rick
January 07 2009, 04:55PM
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Why would Spezza even be on the table right now?

I thought there were more legitimate rumours regarding both the GM and the coach having one foot out the door in Ottawa right now.

There is no way Melnyk lets such a major move happen if he isn't sure what he is doing with his management team anyways.

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#31 Steele
January 07 2009, 05:03PM
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Folks,

The Coaches are not the problem. Most of 'em are the same ones that took us to the Final Game in the cup, albeit a few years back. Look at the scoring. None of our players hold a scoring lead, not even a top 20 scorer among them. Coaches can't put the puck in the net and niether do the forwards. In fact, most of the times we trade for a sniper, they go cold. Face it. You can't score in Edmonton..........becuse Gretz used up all of our "Scoring Karma."

~Steele P.S. - I could have gone miles with "you can't score in Edmonton...."

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#32 Chris
January 07 2009, 05:15PM
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@ Steele: Didn't Marleau see a huge increase in his production after Ron Wilson left San Jose?

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#33 Steele
January 07 2009, 05:22PM
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Chris wrote:

@ Steele: Didn’t Marleau see a huge increase in his production after Ron Wilson left San Jose?

Dear Chris,

If a professional hockey player cannot find a way to contribute in spite of the coaching they recieve, they are not long a "professional." Sure, the Coach (and Staff) can have a "over-ride" affect on a player, but if you are a top 6 F you have to score. Ours don't. Truly, I think Hemsky is "out" because the Oilers need to score without his help. Once they figure out where the back of the net is (Hemsky has known since he knew how to walk - obviously), and find a few pucks to go there, Hemsky will be back.

~Steele

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#34 rindog
January 07 2009, 05:24PM
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@ RobinB:

Be careful what you say Robin or Al will type a hissy fit aimed at your direction.

On a lighter note...do you know of any other time where Tambo or Lowe have pulled the coaches aside like in this case?

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#35 rindog
January 07 2009, 05:25PM
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Steele wrote:

Chris wrote: @ Steele: Didn’t Marleau see a huge increase in his production after Ron Wilson left San Jose? Dear Chris, If a professional hockey player cannot find a way to contribute in spite of the coaching they recieve, they are not long a “professional.” Sure, the Coach (and Staff) can have a “over-ride” affect on a player, but if you are a top 6 F you have to score. Ours don’t. Truly, I think Hemsky is “out” because the Oilers need to score without his help. Once they figure out where the back of the net is (Hemsky has known since he knew how to walk - obviously), and find a few pucks to go there, Hemsky will be back. ~Steele

Are you being sarcastic???

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#36 Chris
January 07 2009, 05:28PM
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Steele wrote:

If a professional hockey player cannot find a way to contribute in spite of the coaching they recieve, they are not long a “professional.”

We have many fine professionals in Oiler silks who find a way to contribute "in spite" of the coaching they recieve. Well put. Maybe I should coach. Do you think Souray would still be able to score "in spite" of me?

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#37 Chris
January 07 2009, 05:34PM
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Cole found a way to score at least one goal in his first 10 games as an Oiler "in spite" of being played on the wrong wing... He must be a true professional hockey player.

~Chris

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#38 CurtisS
January 07 2009, 05:34PM
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Quote from RobinB in the article

Now, I’m just speculating here, but I wonder if anything that was said by Tambellini Monday played into the fact that Gilbert Brule is finally getting a shot on the top line as a fill-in for Ales Hemsky?

Now call me crazy but this is more than just speculation IMO.

Remember before last game Mact said the following

"If Reddox's last name was Brule everyone would be talking about how great he is." - Craig MacTavish from todays pregame scrum

I think its fair to say that this isnt Mact's way its someone elses. How else can you get words like that 1 game than the next be in the pressbox.

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#39 Jonathan Willis
January 07 2009, 06:01PM
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There isnt too many coaches that deserve a 5 year tenure. Unless they continually get their teams to overachieve not underachieve after that time period.

If a coach isn't capable of running a team over the long haul, he shouldn't be entrusted with it over the short term. Period.

I think the fans general calls for bloodletting ("the coach's message has grown old, they've tuned him out") are crap. At some point a coach is due to be fired; once they've shown themselves unable or unwilling to work with a roster as given them.

I know that my boss doesn't get fired every two years because we've tuned him out; granted we aren't primadonna sports stars but a good coach should be adaptable, and a good, secure GM should hang on to a decent coach and weed out uncoachable players.

A coach should only be hired/fired on the basis of his decisions and his competence; only an incompetent coach loses his entire team.

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#40 Jonathan Willis
January 07 2009, 06:02PM
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@ Chris:

Is Souray having his career season in spite of or because of the coaching staff?

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#41 Rev
January 07 2009, 06:04PM
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Um - how come no one here thinks that Lowe gave Tambo direction to "have the talk"?

Just saying.

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#42 Chris
January 07 2009, 06:08PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Do coaches have a shelf life? Would it be bad to shake things up and re-establish the pecking order in the locker room with a coaching change? The trade first policy should only to apply if a trade can be made...

Are we happy with where we are at?

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#43 CurtisS
January 07 2009, 06:09PM
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@ Rev:

Lowe was in Ottawa that night....Unless he called Tambo first but I hardly doubt it.

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#44 Jonathan Willis
January 07 2009, 06:12PM
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@ Chris:

No, I don't think coaches have a shelf life. If a general manager has hired himself a good coach, he doesn't move him out for individual players. Likewise, a good coach doesn't lose the entire room; he may lose individual players, but he won't lose the whole team.

Bottom line, if a player refuses to respond to a good coach, I don't blame the coach.

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#45 Maverick
January 07 2009, 06:14PM
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This organization is a joke. Same story every season, wait until January to take notice that this team blows.

Didn't MacT say at the start of the year "this is the most skilled team I've coached here". Wow if that's the case, you obviously cannot coach skill, but rather third and forth line pluggers.

Look at #99 all skill, can't stand watching his team of non-skilled nhlers. MacT here can't stand watching offence so he puts defensive minded robots on every line.

Until MacT is gone this team is lost forever, lets wait until he makes the decade mark shall we?

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#46 Chris
January 07 2009, 06:17PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Chris: Is Souray having his career season in spite of or because of the coaching staff?

Sheldon is such a "professional hockey player" he could have a career year if Ted Green was coach.

MacT is not the biggest problem with this club...But you have to admit he has made some bizarre decisions this year. I think MacT would have better results with better players. I also think our current players could get better results with a different coach... Problem is: I don't trust Lowe to hire the best possible replacement candidate.

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#47 Jonathan Willis
January 07 2009, 06:27PM
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@ Chris:

I think MacTavish has been a big problem this year; and I haven't thought that very often in preceding years.

Honestly, if I were the GM and I couldn't bring a player in, I'd probably fire him.

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#48 Harold Druken
January 07 2009, 06:29PM
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Now maybe MacT can pull his dick out od Stauffers and Tencers mouth and do some coaching

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#49 Hockey Gods
January 07 2009, 06:30PM
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Steele wrote:

I think Hemsky is “out” because the Oilers need to score without his help. Once they figure out where the back of the net is (Hemsky has known since he knew how to walk - obviously), and find a few pucks to go there, Hemsky will be back

OK lemme get this straight... are you trying to say Hemsky is being sat with a fakre injury so the rest of the team can learn to score? I seriously hope you being sarcastic, if you weren't that is THE stupidest conspiricy theory I have heard yet. Give me break man, please explain further I would love to hear it.

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#50 Dennis
January 07 2009, 07:02PM
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RB: you are very good at questioning the coaching staff.

Where was all this objectivity when it came to the moves of Kevin Lowe?

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