April 15 2009 11:51AM
Steve Tambellini is giving a press conference at 12:00. Video is available at the Oilers official site . This is the official OilersNation live blog for the conference, and material will be added as the conference continues.
[11:50] - Dan Tencer seems to be finished playing around with the microphone, so I'm assuming the sound is set up. Since there's nothing else to discuss as of yet, he seems to be dressed pretty casually for this sort of thing - aren't reporters supposed to wear suits?
[11:52] - The back of Dan Tencer's head is all that I can see from this camera (aside from the two water bottles on either side of the microphone). The back of his head appears to be itchy.
[11:54] - The zoom function on the camera seems to work.
[11:56] - The feed seems a little choppy. Hopefully that doesn't continue.
[11:56] - As per the comment below and now confirmed on their official site, Sportsnet is reporting that MacTavish is finished.
[12:01] - The Spector article says that the decision was made by MacTavish to step down, as opposed to being fired. Still waiting for Tambellini.
[12:03] - He's here.
[12:04] - The season was a disappointment, they aren't where they wanted to be. Issues need to be addressed - they've had discussions internally.
[12:05] - Tambellini confirms that the Oilers will be pursuing a new head coach. Tambellini says it was "the right thing for Craig and for the Oilers at this point". He says the team needs a "new voice", but calls the decision a mutual one between Tambellini, Lowe and MacTavish.
[12:06] - There will be personnel changes; he is not letting the players off of the hook.
[12:07] - Tambellini says that a "commitment to win at any cost" was the hallmark of old Oiler teams. He agrees that grit and size were issues this season, and says that the team will be identifying players who can add that internally and then acquiring what they need from outside the team.
[12:09] - The ownership, Kevin Lowe, and Craig MacTavish are the three reasons why Tambellini accepted the job. He thanked MacTavish for his service.
[12:10] - Calls MacT "a quality coach and a quality person, but decisions have to be made for us to get better".
[12:10] - Tambellini leaves the door open, but doesn't expect MacTavish back in another capacity. He thinks he will be coaching in the NHL next season for another team.
[12:11] - MacTavish's remaining year on his contract is "not an issue".
[12:12] - Tambellini still sees "an incredible amount of potential in this group". He said that the pressure on this group to perform immediately is "what you want" and identifies how players react to that kind of pressure as a key evaluation of their value.
[12:14] - Tambellini "will not put up with" an "unemotional game". He says the team needs more strength, energy, and grit, and again hints that trades will be made to acquire those qualities.
[12:14] - He keeps coming back to the theme that there "has been success at times". He has a specific type of coach in mind, and says that a new coach will be in place "when we get the right guy". It sounds like a decision won't be made until the options are clear; Tambellini hinted strongly that more options would be available once teams were eliminated from the playoffs. The first name that comes to my mind when he says that is Brent Sutter.
[12:16] - Tambellini has yet to talk to the assistant coaches but expects to deal with them "within the week".
[12:17] - He wants at least one top-six player, and guys that are hard to play against in general. He also reemphasizes the need to get more out of players that are currently in the organization. I'd guess that means that not all of MacTavish's whipping boys are considered irredeemable.
[12:17] - Tambellini identified scouting and development as areas where there is "a lot of work to do", and rather heavily implied there will be changes. Don't get too comfortable, Kevin Prendergast.
[12:18] - "It's time to stop looking back; we have to look forward." I'd imagine that the Oilers glory days job offerings are going to become fewer under Tambellini's watch.
[12:20] - "It's important that we take our time right now and that we review all aspects." No hasty decisions to be made, supposedly. Tambellini also was asked if any players had expressed a desire to leave. His response: "No."
[12:22] - Although I'm a little concerned that this team is going to go overboard to pick up size at the expense of other things, on the whole he's saying all the right things. He seems reasonable and even-handed, and says that there are definitely some positives to the current group that need to be kept. Change for the sake of change doesn't sound like it's going to be happening here, although I suppose time will tell.
[12:24] - Tambellini says that the coach doesn't neccessarily need NHL experience, but for an inexperienced guy he'd need to be "a special person". Based on his reaction, I'm guessing the next guy has NHL experience - his face pretty much gave that away.
[12:26] - Tambellini says that he "needs to be wide open right now" with respect to where the next head coach comes from, but I'm rather cautiously optimistic based on what he's said so far that it won't be someone from inside the organization.
Well, that's it for the press conference. On the whole, I think Tambellini said the right things and got the right message out; the team is in the midst of a top-to-bottom review of both players and management, and will set a course going forward to address areas identified as deficient. Naturally, the G.M. isn't going to criticize ownership, but I really think that for the most part it's a non-issue, and that was the message Tambellini stressed in that regard.
Tambellini praised MacTavish and spoke about him accurately; it does sound like he will be leaving the organization entirely and continue to coach, just somewhere else. I'm quite confident that there is another NHL job in the near future for MacTavish. As for his replacement, all the signs were there that Tambellini already has a short list; he said that he had a "specific type" of coach in mind, and it sounds like that coach will both a) have NHL experience and b) come from outside the organization. It also sounds like that coach is currently in the playoffs, and off the top of my head, my best guess would be Brent Sutter.
Obviously, time will tell, but based on this press conference I think this organization is in good hands.
On Second Thought...
I guessed Brent Sutter off of the top of my head, but Tambellini never specified that the coach had to have experience as a head coach at the NHL level; he just strongly hinted that the next coach would have NHL experience and was running a team with games left to play. Looking at my short list from the other day (and excluding Sutter), there are four names on the list; three of whom I think are the likeliest bets. Those three are:
- Scott Arniel. The Manitoba Moose coach is currently busy in the AHL playoffs, but given that Tambellini was the Vancouver Canucks executive responsible for overseeing their farm team, Arniel would be a known quantity for him. Arniel has previous NHL experience as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres.
- Don Lever. An assistant coach in Montreal, Lever's AHL record is distinguished and he's been an assistant coach in Buffalo and St. Louis as well. Plus, it would be nice to pay the Canadiens back in kind for snatching up Claude Julien.
- Paul MacLean. Stealing Detroit assistant coaches could get to be something of a trend. MacLean followed Babcock over to Detroit from Anaheim, and he was also previously an assistant coach in Phoenix. He spent eight seasons as a minor league head coach, putting up a nice record in the IHL and a championship win with the UHL's Quad City Mallards.
Like I said, if I had to bet, I'd bet on one of those three.