Armchair GM III: Tambellini takes the wheel

Robin Brownlee
April 12 2009 11:06AM

If coaching is the only problem, everything will be just fine when Craig MacTavish hands Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz his resignation in coming days.

But it isn't so it won't be, and that's why there had better be some people following MacTavish out the door if the Oilers are serious about exiting the express lane to mediocrity the Boys on the Bus have been stuck on with the pedal to the metal for far too long.

With the Oilers packing up the dressing room Monday without a playoff date to keep for the third straight season, I expect it won't take long until we see GM Steve Tambellini handing out walking papers on a team that hit the ditch in the stretch on the way to an 11th-place finish.

Out of the playoffs five of the last seven seasons -- with the second-lowest point total in the eight seasons since Kevin Lowe took over from Glen Sather as GM in the summer of 2000 -- I can't see a reason why Tambellini would want to maintain the status quo.

It's time to take a different route.

Express to nowhere

While there's been a perception Tambellini hasn't been calling the shots this season without Lowe, in his new position as president of hockey operations, and Katz pulling the strings, that's not necessarily so. Rest assured, we'll see Tambellini make his mark on the organization in coming months.

A lot of fans, with reason, would look like to see changes start at the top with Lowe, but people wanting that pound of flesh likely won't get it because Lowe has already taken a step back with his new position.

Yes, Lowe is the architect of what fans see now. He built this team, and assembled the hockey operations staff. The failures and mediocrity -- as well as the unlikely run to the 2006 Stanley Cup final -- come back to him.

That said, Lowe isn't going anywhere. Piss and moan if you'd like, but that's the way I see the cards playing out. What fans can expect is to see Lowe further removed from hockey decisions and Tambellini given the latitude he needs to hire and fire as he sees fit.

Make no mistake, Tambellini will be steering this thing from now on. I wouldn't be surprised if Katz steps forward at Rexall Place Monday to make that clear -- just a hunch.

The Middle Men

Unless I've got the wrong read on things, the most significant changes will come in middle-management and the coaching staff.

MacTavish's decision to step aside will have the greatest impact, as that'll not only open up position to a list of candidates Tambellini had relationships with before he joined the Oilers, but prompt changes to the rest of the coaching staff.

No matter who takes over from MacTavish -- discussing candidates now is guess-work and nothing more -- it'll obviously impact the future of assistants Charlie Huddy, Bill Moores and Kelly Buchberger.

I'm told Buchberger will survive any purge, although he won't necessarily be back behind the bench. I expect Rob Daum, who took over the mess in Springfield this season, to be in the mix, but that'll be up to the new man. Moores? Huddy? That's less clear to me.

What is obvious is Tambellini has to take a look at Kevin Prendergast, the assistant GM and vice-president of hockey operations, which makes him the point man for the Cal Clutterbuck that's been the AHL farm.

Prendergast also oversees the professional and amateur scouting staff, a group that, from where I sit, needs a significant overhaul.

As for player moves, we'll be slicing and dicing that one to no end in coming days, and that's a whole other column or six.

I’m telling you

  • Rod Phillips is going to take some time at his off-season home in Arizona to decide whether he's going to retire after 36 seasons as the Oilers radio voice and he'll make an announcement in May. While Phillips, 67, isn't saying which way he's leaning, I suspect The Skipper, one of the best ever to pick up a microphone in the NHL, will decide it's time to kick back, leave the white-knuckle flying to somebody else and retire. After so many years travelling with Phillips, I can yell you this much: there isn't anybody on the face of the planet who loves this organization more than he does or who has been prouder to be a part of it.
  • If the Oilers are serious about overhauling the front office, they should make room in the mix for Ritch Winter, who is best known as a player agent and founder of the Sports Corporation in Edmonton, but has one of the sharper minds in the game.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm 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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#101 Ogden Brother
April 13 2009, 01:23PM
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topshelf wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: Oh, so when our best point producer is out we fill that hole with a defensive forward with 12 career points and have a ~great~ checking line instead. I suppose every move MacT made this year was a good one then. My bad.

With Hemsky out, the first line was that in name only. And again, he rarely (if ever) spent the whole game there.

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#102 RossCreek
April 13 2009, 01:23PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I wonder if we’re getting more foreshadowing of MacTavish’s next move with the news he got no sniff on the coaching staff with Team Canada for the World Championship? MacTavish was supposedly in line for a look, but he’s nowhere on the staff — it’s Lindy Ruff with Barry Trotz and Dave Tippett. Did Team Canada ask MacTavish only to have him say, “No thanks?”

Bang on Robin! I was thinking the same thing - he must've turned them down because I find it hard to believe they didn't extend the invitation. What are you thinking - MacT may indeed be staying put with Edmonton in a management capacity and step out of the coaching ranks?

Will Craig MacTavish be the Oilers new Assistant GM?

President Hockey Ops - Kevin Lowe General Manager - Steve Tambellini Assistant GM - Craig MacTavish Director of Scouting - ? (someone outside the organization to replace KP - Craig Button??) Head Coach - Scott Arniel Associate Coach - Charlie Huddy Assiatant Coaches - Perry Pearn & Rob Daum Goalie Coach - ? (Pete Peeters can take a hike - maybe Billy Ranford??)

Moores & Prendergast can also take a hike.

As for Bucky, would he have any interest in either a) goin back to Springfield as head coach, or b) becoming the head coach of the Oil Kings (thus firing or promoting Steve Pleau to the Springfield job)??

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#103 Ogden Brother
April 13 2009, 01:24PM
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David S wrote:

topshelf wrote: @ Ogden Brother: Oh, so when our best point producer is out we fill that hole with a defensive forward with 12 career points and have a ~great~ checking line instead. I suppose every move MacT made this year was a good one then. My bad. Maybe it was judged less detrimental not to mess up the other lines than to put a filler guy in place of Hemsky. That’s more telling of how thin our depth was. Again, coach makes the call and lives with the results.

Bingo, at the time, line 2 and 3 were actually playing decent... why mess them up and potentially have all the lines screwed up.

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#104 firemactandkloweallready
April 13 2009, 01:44PM
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Jasmine wrote:

firemactandkloweallready wrote: Jasmine wrote: Your username makes you look like an idiot. You hate everything Edmonton and I know this by your constant bashing of anything the Oilers do.

My username has nothing to do with anything,like I said before pull your head out of your arse and grow up,you dont have a clue as to what is happening with this team and might suprise you to know I am a season seat holder so your comment about me constantly bashing the Oilers just goes to show you are a idiot

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#105 topshelf
April 13 2009, 01:57PM
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@ Ogden Brother: So MacT did everything right this year and as fans we should never question the decisions he makes?

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#106 Ogden Brother
April 13 2009, 02:02PM
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@ topshelf:

Did I say that?

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#107 topshelf
April 13 2009, 02:04PM
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It would seem that's how you feel.

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#108 Ogden Brother
April 13 2009, 02:06PM
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@ topshelf:

I said:

"Opinions are fine, but to actually think your ideas are superior to a proffesionals are laughable at best"

Looks pretty clear to me

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#109 David S
April 13 2009, 02:37PM
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firemactandkloweallready wrote:

Your username makes you look like an idiot. You hate everything Edmonton and I know this by your constant bashing of anything the Oilers do. My username has nothing to do with anything,like I said before pull your head out of your arse and grow up,you dont have a clue as to what is happening with this team and might suprise you to know I am a season seat holder so your comment about me constantly bashing the Oilers just goes to show you are a idiot

After that stellar grammar, I am reminded of the "people in glass houses" saying.

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#110 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 03:24PM
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RossCreek wrote:

Will Craig MacTavish be the Oilers new Assistant GM? President Hockey Ops - Kevin Lowe General Manager - Steve Tambellini Assistant GM - Craig MacTavish Director of Scouting - ? (someone outside the organization to replace KP - Craig Button??) Head Coach - Scott Arniel Associate Coach - Charlie Huddy Assiatant Coaches - Perry Pearn & Rob Daum Goalie Coach - ? (Pete Peeters can take a hike - maybe Billy Ranford??) Moores & Prendergast can also take a hike.

For the record, the Oilers currently have two assistant GM's - Kevin Prendergast and Olczyk. The current head of scouting is Stu MacGregor, who replaced Prendergast prior to the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

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#111 RossCreek
April 13 2009, 03:57PM
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Rod Phillips is overrated. There. I said it. I don't care how good a guy he is. Have you ever watched a game and listened to him? Two totally different games. I don't know how many times I heard Morley Scott correct him in the past. Its like he doesn't even know the rules at times. Thats probably why Morley's gone. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying I could do better. I'm sure its a difficult job, and when your watching the puck, its probably difficult to see some of the other things going on. I know its probably not a lot different anywhere else, but he's a homer. His fight calls leave me wondering if he even has eyes. Much like Bryan Hall, he seems lost at times. I don't expect much support on this topic given the forum I'm speaking in, but he makes me sick. I only listen in occasionally for comedy purposes. Friggin hilarious.

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#112 Chris
April 13 2009, 04:58PM
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@ RossCreek:

Man you are going to get spanked. One iron clad rule of Edmonton is you don't diss a scared cow.

I never listen to Rod... I go to the games or watch them on TV. If I can't do either, I PVR the event and shun the radio to avoid ruining the surprise...

But I totally aggree with your assessment of Bryan Hall though. I love the Eskimo's and with my summer work schedule combined with TV blackouts; I'm forced to listen to CHED radio coverage... I can hardly tell what's going on. Hallsie is so busy plugging his sponsers and blabbering on about nonsense he often misses calling plays altogether: "BLAH BLAH BLAH, Tony Roma's....Oh... and the Eskimo's kicked a field goal by the way"

It's so frustrating I listen to the opposing team's coverage (if possible) and have stopped eating at Tony Roma's.

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#113 Robin Brownlee
April 13 2009, 05:00PM
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@ RossCreek: Rod Phillips make you sick?

Let's get some things straight, OK? Rod's call of the game isn't what it once was, but you're way over the top with your comments, and, frankly, what you say pisses me off.

Not many people, whether they're radio announcers, plumbers or grocery clerks, do what Rod has done for as long as he's done it and as well as he's done it. He's in the broadcaster's wing of the HHOF. That means something where I come from. Rod's been the voice of this team for 36 years and, like I pointed out in the item I wrote, nobody cares for this organization or has been prouder to be a part of it than him. I've seen it first hand for over 20 years.

Yes, it's probably time for Rod to go, and he knows that, so you won't have to put up with him anymore. What Rod doesn't need is for some clown to crap on what's been a brilliant career in the name of what? Being honest? The man is about to walk away from a career and a team he loves -- and I can tell you he's torn up about it -- and you're talking this shit? Show some class.

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#114 RossCreek
April 13 2009, 05:42PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Robin. A little fired up are we? Ok, I can understand that. And as I said: "I don’t care how good a guy he is." If it seemed like a personal attack on Rod, I apologize. But I'm just giving my opinion. And I stand by that. Am I not entitled to that? As John Short used to say "Everybody has a democratic right to be wrong". I can't stand listening to Rod, and as far back as I can remember, that statement rings true (IMO). I don't remember him much in the glory years, and perhaps his "game" was better. I'm sure he loves the Oilers (so sure I'd bet my life on it the way he calls games), and he's no doubt torn up about it. Robin, I agree with a lot of your sentiments, whether it be on The Team with Bob, on The Team with Jason, here on OilersNation, or where ever. Obviously you have a friendship with Rod dating back years, and I don't begrudge you at all for standing up for him, as I'd do the same. Having said that "to each his own". You're not going to change my opinion on him and I'm not going to change yours. I'm sure Rod's a great guy and has a million stories I'm sure I'd love to hear. Nothing personal. I respect your opinion, and although I know you disagree with it, I hope you could respect my opinion (or at least the right to have my own opinion). Keep it up Robin, I love your work, and I hope you won't let my thoughts on Rod affect your thoughts on me (~because I know you you must spend all your waking hours worrying about pions like me~).

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#115 David S
April 13 2009, 06:28PM
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@ RossCreek

Have you heard any radio broadcasts from other cities? They'll all homers. The good ones call 'em as a fan would and Rod is/was one of the best. Far as I can tell, truly objective sports broadcasting doesn't exist. I don't think there's anything wrong with that because if I'm a fan listening to Rod, I can be guaranteed he'll paint great pictures in my mind. He's believable because he's one of the biggest fans of our team, so it's that much more entertaining. At the end of the day, pro sports is entertainment and Rod was one of the best entertainers of all time.

If you don't like his game broadcasts, you don't have to listen. But calling him overrated is baseless and only makes you look like a goof. The guy's probably retiring after how long and only now you choose to "call a spade a spade"? And anonyMOUSEly at that. Not cool man. Not cool.

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#116 RossCreek
April 13 2009, 07:07PM
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@ David S: Oh really David S? "I know its probably not a lot different anywhere else, but he’s a homer." Like I said to Robin, everyone is entitled to their opinion. You call me a goof and a mouse? I'm right here big fella - Tyler M. Schacher. "I only listen in occasionally for comedy purposes. Friggin hilarious." He may paint a picture, but it rarely tells the whole story. I choose now to "call a spade a spade"? Did you just echo my sentiment? Your words, not mine. Why would I randonly state my opinion on Mr. Phillips on any other post that isn't about him? His name came up in Robin's article, and I gave MY OPINION on him. Again, like I said to Robin, nothing personal, but I don't like listening to the guy and don't. I'm sure Rod is a great guy and if I knew him personally, my opinion on him likely would be different. Just like my opinion on Robin - I like him, but if I knew him, or you for that matter, maybe he's an A-hole. (I don't know that, nor do I think it). If one cannot give his opinion, then why even post here? We can give our opinions on MacT or KLowe or Glen Sather or Robin Brownlee, but God forbid we state our opinion on one Mr. Rod Phillips?? Give me a freakin break!

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#117 David S
April 13 2009, 07:29PM
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A little fired up are we?

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#118 RossCreek
April 13 2009, 07:46PM
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@ David S: Touche David S :-)

(If you are indeed "stealing my line")

I just don't understand how sometimes we can give our opinions and other times its not "classy" to do so. I understand that maybe Robin's a little too close to the situation with Rod, and I applaud him for sticking up for his longtime friend. But I'm still entitled to my opinion whether it pisses Brownlee (or anyone else for that matter) off. How is it unclassy to state one's opinion. As I wrote it, I knew I'd take some flack for it, but never woulda guessed Robin would get so "fired up" about it. As I stated, I hope RB, yourself & others can "look passed it". If I ever wanna get a rise out of somebody here, I now know what to do. If Rod is indeed finished, I congratulate him on a lengthy career and wish him well in retirement, afterall, he is a human being. It doesn't, however, change my opinion on him as an announcer. For the record, I dislike Kevin Quinn just as much. I like Bob Stauffer, I like RB, I like Spector, I liked Morley Scott, I liked Craig Simpson, I like Jason Gregor, and I completely dislike the arena announcer (theeeeeeeeee Oilers goal, his 20th of the season, 98th as an Oiler, 140th in the NHL & 300th of his entire hockey playing career scored by...). But hey, thats just me.

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#119 David S
April 13 2009, 08:56PM
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@RossCreek - OK. I get where you're coming from. Maybe it's an etiquette thing. But I think leaning on a local media legend when he retires would be just asking for it. While all opinions are valid, sometimes ya gotta know when and how to express them. At the same time, when you throw a whopper out there, you have to expect some kickback.

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#120 Mentallydull
April 16 2009, 02:33PM
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Just read over this and thought I would voice my 'opinion' on the last few comments ;)

Just because you have an opinion doesn't mean you should voice it. I'm not saying you should never voice it, I'm just suggesting that you choose the proper time and place to do so.

If you come onto this particular website and choose to voice your opinion on something that's still fresh and probably (emotionally) painful then you can bet you're going to get verbally "spanked".

If you choose to wait a little while and let things calm down a bit before you share your opinion then I'm sure it would find a less hostile reception.

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