Steve Tambellini: It's Injuries, Guys

Jonathan Willis
November 22 2009 10:16AM

Vancouver Canucks

There's an interesting article up on NHL.com this morning, and Oilers' GM Steve Tambellini talks at some length about his team and the problems facing them.

I should warn you: he sounds pretty happy with his team.

Tambellini starts by explaining the injury situation his team has had to slog thorugh; H1N1, concussions, etc. But then he says something that I didn't expect at all. 

"We had a really good camp and a very strong start and I like the look of our team and I like the balance of scoring and grit. The focus now is keeping the group together."

That would be the Oilers 6-2-1 start to the season that Tambellini is referring to with those comments. It's identical to the argument David Staples made the other day, an argument I had an in-depth look at here. The short story is this: during that 6-2-1 start, the Oilers were getting outshot by even worse margins than they are now. After looking at the injuries, Dan Rosen of NHL.com said, "It's no wonder they were allowing nearly five more shots per game than they were taking", but the fact is that during that 6-2-1 start the Oilers were allowing eight more shots than they were taking. Maybe Tambellini's playing PR here, but if he honestly believes that his team's play warranted a 6-2-1 record, he ought to be kicked out of the GM's seat right now — or at the very least forced to listen to his coach's post-game press conferences over and over until he realizes that this team wasn't the picture of perfection indicated by that record.

Tambellini went on to explain what he expects to happen when the Oilers get back to (relative) health:

"The scoring will come when we have more balance in our lineup and that's just getting some bodies back,"

The only problem with that logic is that the scoring has actually been okay. The Oilers were ninth in the NHL in 5-on-5 offence and 12th in the NHL on the power play going into last night's game against Chicago. Those are playoff numbers.

No, the problem has been the teams goals against (25th in the league), penalty kill (just 1.5% better than last year's miserable number), 5-on-5 goal against (26th in the league), shot differential (27th in the league) and faceoffs (dead last in the NHL).  None of that has to do with scoring; it galls me that when listing the problems caused by injury the first thing that comes to Steve Tambellini's mind is scoring. Next quote.

"When you're watching the game from up top you can see overall energy in the team. You can see the way people move and sustain it, and the last couple of games you're starting to see signs of that coming back."

Presumably that comment was made before last night's game, a low-energy affair (aside from a few shifts by the fourth line) that saw the Oilers not only picked apart but also outworked by the Blackhawks. Finally:

"You want to see what your team looks like when you're healthy. That part I am really looking forward to."

In short: stay the course. If Steve Tambellini believes what he's saying here, there isn't going to be a move to fix the personnel problems on this team any time soon.

Meanwhile, Lowetide suggests that Tambellini's inertia will cost him his job.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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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#101 Chaz
November 23 2009, 08:14AM
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Gregor and RB,

Any insights to the team meeting held yesterday? I heard on the radio this morning that they were complaining about the coaches. Any truth to this rumor?

And for the record I heard this from Hallsy on 630 Ched (I was only tuning in there during the ads on 1260, I swear!)

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#102 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
November 23 2009, 08:19AM
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Reagan wrote:

Maybe a conversation Willis has had or overheard? People do hear talk. Maybe Jason also knows. I didn't see him to reply to the thread so why would I add his name to the question?

You comment about the leaders already being there really made me laugh. More like shake my head. Why not get it out? A perfect opportunity to challange the supposed leaders of this team. Come on man, that comment was a bit on the slow side. On teams in the past that I have played, we had no issues calling out the captain! That sometimes makes or breaks the teams confidence.

Identity really lacks on the Team, and in my mind there are several softies here and it shows. Some may find this offensive, but a guy like Sheldon Souray, or Steve Staios would be better suited at the official leadership qualities of this team. The Oilers struggle in the fact that there is a lot of Unproven players on this team IE, Horcoff, Hemsky, Penner, and Moreau that are the so called leaders? Not to say that they are not good, but lack superstar qualities. Then the next worst step that they have made is that they have taken these Unproven guys teaching the unproven youth. I'm afraid this still may not work out. I have no objections to these players playing here but, wake the HELL up Edmonton!

Do a pool for yourself across the league? Where does our Captain fit?

Lidstrom Iginla Blake Luongo Kovalchuk Toews Foote Nash Brown Richards Langenbrunner Drury Weight Arnott Crosby Ovechkin

Ok you get the point

Moreau...

isnt chris clark the captain of the capitals?

wiki has: 2006-present Chris Clark

comparable career PPG stats with moreau, injury problems the last couple years as well.

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#104 Hemmercules
November 23 2009, 08:51AM
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I'm predicting an all time low for oiler PPV sales tonight.

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#105 Ogden Brother
November 23 2009, 08:51AM
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GSC wrote:

2) Playing hurt is part of the deal for a pro hockey player. If you're dressing, then you're presumed to be healthy enough to play. Even in the playoffs where you hear of major injuries after the series ends, the walking wounded still find ways to contribute. That isn't happening for the Oilers.

3) In case you haven't noticed, the NHL has this thing called a "salary cap", which only allows for a team to spend a certain amount of money on their roster. Look it up, it's an interesting concept...

4) Staios is no where near consistent enough to be this team's veteran shutdown defenceman. He needs to be replaced, and his $2.7 MIL contract needs to be moved.

5) Then why do so many other teams seem to have little trouble in finding these players?

James Wisniewski (ANA), Steve Eminger (ANA), Jonas Hiller (ANA), Rich Peverley (ATL), Maxim Afinogenov (ATL), Marty Reasoner (ATL), Colby Armstrong (ATL), Steve Begin (BOS), Andrew Ference (BOS), Clarke MacArthur (BUF), Drew Stafford (BUF), Steve Montador (BUF), Jussi Jokinen (CAR), Tim Gleason (CAR), Nigel Dawes (CGY), Mark Giordano (CGY), Rene Bourque (CGY), Curtis Glencross (CGY), Troy Brouwer (CHI), Andrew Ladd (CHI), Duncan Keith (CHI), Craig Anderson (COL), Kyle Quincey (COL), David Jones (COL), Jan Hejda (CLB), Jason Chimera (CLB), James Neal (DAL), Loui Eriksson (DAL), Stephane Robidas (DAL), Todd Bertuzzi (DET), Jonathon Ericsson (DET), Niklas Kronwall (DET), Tomas Holmstrom (DET), Ville Leino (DET), Chris Osgood (DET), Steven Reinprecht (FLA), Dennis Seidenberg (FLA), Dominic Moore (FLA), Jarret Stoll (LA), Dustin Brown (LA), Wayne Simmonds (LA), Greg Zanon (MIN), Andrew Brunette (MIN), Cal Clutterback (MIN), Travis Moen (MTL), Glen Metropolit (MTL), Josh Gorges (MTL), Jaroslav Halak (MTL), Joel Ward (NSH), Dan Hamhuis (NSH), Pekka Rinne (NSH), David Clarkson (NJ), Andy Greene (NJ), Mike Mottau (NJ), Jamie Langenbrunner (NJ), Matt Moulson (NYI), Radek Martinek (NYI), Trent Hunter (NYI), Dan Girardi (NYR), Sean Avery (NYR), Vinny Prospal (NYR), Jarkko Ruutu (OTT), Matt Carkner (OTT), Anton Volchenkov (OTT), Chris Campoli (OTT), Blair Betts (PHI), Braydon Coburn (PHI), Ray Emery (PHI), Matthew Lombardi (PHO), Robert Lang (PHO), Adrian Aucoin (PHO), Vernon Fiddler (PHO), Scottie Upshall (PHO), Kurt Sauer (PHO), Bill Guerin (PIT), Matt Cooke (PIT), Jay McKee (PIT), Mike Rupp (PIT), Maxime Talbot (PIT), Manny Malhotra (SJ), Scott Nichol (SJ), Ken Huskins (SJ), B.J. Crombeen (STL), Jay McClement (STL), Carlo Colaiacovo (STL), Mike Weaver (STL), Matt Walker (TB), Kurtis Foster (TB), David Hale (TB), Alexei Ponikarovsky (TOR), Matt Stajan (TOR), Ian White (TOR), Alex Burrows (VAN), Christian Ehrhoff (VAN), Mikael Samuelsson (VAN), Andrew Raycroft (VAN), Brooks Laich (WSH), David Steckel (WSH), Brendan Morrison (WSH), Matt Bradley (WSH), John Erskine (WSH).

I tried to avoid listing any players who are still on entry-level contracts, or any players at/above $3 MIL in pay (the exceptions were Kronwall and Ehrhoff, 4th and 5th on their respective bluelines in terms of salary, but both in the top 5 in scoring and minutes for their teams).

My point is simple: there are obviously several players who produce a helluva lot for the meager salary that they command, and there are at least two on every team. Suffice to say, finding bang-for-buck contracts is not akin to "kicking over a stone and finding a twenty karat diamond ring under it". It's not hard to find value when it's sitting right in front of you. Gilbert Brule and Ladislav Smid are two Oilers that more than qualify for the bang-for-buck list, and perhaps Mike Comrie does as well. Management locked-up Smid at a good rate for 2 more years, will they do the same with Brule and/or Comrie?

The league might call it a hard cap, but in reality it's a soft cap. Ask Philly/Det/Chicago or any other team that's placed vets in the A or signed a long term, front loaded deal that is (highly) unlikely to be completed.

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#106 Leopard
November 23 2009, 08:57AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

More on Hemsky.

Quit teasing...

Don't want to spoil it, but does it have anything to do with a Dustin Penner that is tied for 10th in league scoring. Haven't we all been saying for years that Hemsky is a complimentary player? "If only we had someone who could score to take those Hemsky passes? etc.."

PS. Maybe just maybe, Tambo said what he said because you can't coach scoring, but you can coach faceoffs and PK and defensive coverage. So perhaps that all-star cast of coaches just needs a healthy lineup THAT LISTENS to them and we could start winning.

*Takes off Oiler goggles [strange shade of rose disappears] and goes back to work*

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#107 Librarian Mike
November 23 2009, 08:59AM
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Hemmercules wrote:

I'm predicting an all time low for oiler PPV sales tonight.

Oh, I don't know. As much as everyone* is unhappy with the team, nobody is going anywhere. How many people do you know that spouted off about how "I'm done with hockey" during the lockout?

With that in mind, I shudder to think what's going to happen if they don't show up against the Coyotes.

*Except Tambellini, of course.

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#108 GSC
November 23 2009, 09:06AM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

The league might call it a hard cap, but in reality it's a soft cap. Ask Philly/Det/Chicago or any other team that's placed vets in the A or signed a long term, front loaded deal that is (highly) unlikely to be completed.

Agreed, but it's not like a team can simply dish out bad contract after bad contract and hope that buyouts and waivers to the minors will cure all ills. It works for a few players, but at the end of the day there's only so much money to go around.

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#109 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 23 2009, 09:16AM
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Still think we have too many small players that get knocked around to easy and that don't get in the tough spots. Add to that, that most of those guys can't play two way hockey and we don't know where to be positionally and there lies the problems.

Maybe we just sit back and let these guys learn these things, I don't know. But what I do know is adding one piece isn't going to fix the problem as a whole, unless of course that piece is an Ovechkin or human rake.

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#110 Ogden Brother
November 23 2009, 09:30AM
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GSC wrote:

Agreed, but it's not like a team can simply dish out bad contract after bad contract and hope that buyouts and waivers to the minors will cure all ills. It works for a few players, but at the end of the day there's only so much money to go around.

Well in theory they could. Like Barry was saying, the teams salary limit is really how much Katz is willing to pay, not the number the league assigns.

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#111 roughneck
November 23 2009, 09:37AM
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"As a valued customer the Edmonton Oilers would like to invite you to a season seat holder event being held Wednesday, November 25th. The event provides the opportunity for us to hear your feedback and opinions about your experience with the Oilers. The event is being held at 6pm before the Los Angeles game at All Stars in Rexall Place where you and a guest can join us for dinner with Oilers management. I hope that you are able to attend."

Koolaid in fancy glasses!

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#112 David S
November 23 2009, 11:27AM
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Hemmercules wrote:

I'm predicting an all time low for oiler PPV sales tonight.

I'm predicting all time high site traffic for atdhe.net and justintv.com

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#113 Senator Theo
November 23 2009, 01:42PM
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Hemmercules wrote:

I'm predicting an all time low for oiler PPV sales tonight.

This whole team is at an all-time Lowe - that may be our problem.

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#114 Librarian Mike
November 23 2009, 01:50PM
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Senator Theo wrote:

This whole team is at an all-time Lowe - that may be our problem.

Oh-ho. Good one!

It also doesn't help that Phoenix is suffering from 'Wayne-ing' attendance. bwahaha.

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#115 Senator Theo
November 23 2009, 02:25PM
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@Librarian Mike

nice one - see what you can work out for "Tambellini".

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#116 Shawn Cronin
November 23 2009, 06:29PM
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@TigerUnderGlass

We need more people to take the time and effort to find the stats like you did before posting. That being said, the problem most have with ol Hemmer is the lack of effort that can be displayed. Good value for money? Sure, ok, but imagine how good he could be if he put the effort in and still be in that salary range. Is he good? Yes, but is he a winner?

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#117 TigerUnderGlass
November 23 2009, 10:48PM
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@Shawn Cronin

Even if what you say is true, and I'm not willing to concede that, why would a player who tries harder but does not perform as well be automatically more of a winner?

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