April 16 2009 10:49AM
Now that MacTavish is gone, the focus will switch to who replaces him and which players will not be part of the Tambellini era. Since being announced as GM last summer, Tambellini has been very bland. He was careful with his words, protective of his players and coaches and at times you needed to put a spoon under his nose to see if he was breathing. He showed no emotion until yesterday.
Tambellini opened his press conference with a five-minute statement that was thoughtful, well-planned, to the point and filled with raw emotion. I sat in the front row and saw a side of Tambellini we'd never seen since he landed in Edmonton.
After calmly telling a packed conference room that MacTavish wouldn’t be back, he quickly turned his focus to the players.
“One thing I want to make clear, is that because we are changing our coach and moving in a different direction this DOES NOT absolve the players from their performance, or lack there of. “Do we need to address some of our personnel? Obviously we do. When I think about the Oilers and what they represent and the things that are important to the Oilers, and why there has been success here at times lately, it’s because of a passion, because of a commitment, because of a sacrifice to do anything to win. That’s the part that was the hardest to compete against the Oilers. “People say that maybe we weren’t gritty enough as a team. I agree with that. Do we need to get stronger? Yes we do. The job now is to think about how much of that can we get from what we have now, make that assessment, and if we don’t have that internally then how do we acquire it. One thing I will not put up with is an unemotional game, where we can’t dictate the outcome of the game by energy. “We have some good pieces in place here. We have some good young players, and some good veterans, that hopefully want to be a part of this going forward. But I can tell you things are going to change as far as expectations and preparation from the player’s standpoint and from us (management) to get better for the next step.”
When Tambellini spoke these words and later about MacTavish, his voice and body language showed energy, fire, passion, and frankly a pissed-off attitude. It was refreshing. It was nice to see Tambellini show that finally he is the leader of the ship.
Make no mistake; yesterday it became clear to everyone that this is now his team. He will choose the coach. He will have a major say in which players stay, and who goes. And to me he challenged his veterans to get on board, but also accept that the young kids need to spread their wings and become more of a factor.
NHL experience behind the bench
Near the end of his presser, I asked Tambellini if the next coach needed previous NHL head coaching experience.
“Not necessarily, but he would have to be a special person that you are confident in to walk in the room and command the respect, and have the knowledge that you felt was ready to compete against NHL situations. I think there could be opportunities for some people to be able to do that.”
We have seen that occur recently with Brent Sutter, Bruce Boudreau, Todd Mclellan, Cory Clouston and Dan Bylsma, but I don’t see that happening here. Tambellini will want someone with previous NHL experience.
Pat Quinn, Marc Crawford, Peter Laviolette, Guy Carbonneau, Tom Renney and Bob Hartley are all available. From talking to some people within the organization I don’t think it is a must that Tambellini has a long, or short, standing relationship with his next head coach.
He knows what type of coach he is looking for.
“I have a good idea of the type of coach I’m looking for. It's going to be somebody that matches up with the type of play we want to see here. We want an aggressive type of play, an emotional team, a team that isn’t standing on their heels, we want a team to be proactive because we have people here with skill, and I want to see it.”
Cross Jacques Lemaire off the list.
The other previous six could all fit the mold. Quinn, Hartley and Crawford are all fiery behind the bench, and they coach an up-tempo style. They also like their teams to have an array of sheet disturbers who play with an edge.
MacTavish rarely liked his team to be in your face. Even when the Oilers outworked the opposition, they rarely imposed their will or initiated some tomfoolery. Most Oiler fans hated the Avs and Canucks when Hartley and Crawford were behind the bench because both teams had players who were hard to play against.
Outside of Souray, Stortini, Smid, Strudwick and Moreau at times, do the Oilers have any other players that intimidate or infuriate the opposition? You need forwards who will engage in a face wash, or give a cheap slash when the ref isn’t watching, or a cheap punch in a scrum.
Don’t tell me Detroit wins without those guys, because Holmstrom and Maltby are two of the most hated players in the league.
It is clear the Tambellini wants a coach who will bring a system that combines skill with speed, grit and most of all a willingness to dictate the flow of the game. The Oilers were consistently reactionary during MacTavish’s tenure and expect that to change next October.
Souray looking to leave?
Robin Brownlee first wrote that the rumours about Souray possibly asking for a trade might have some legs. Dan Barnes said on the TEAM 1260 that Souray had told him that this season was tough because he didn’t get to see his kids very often. I believe both of them, so I went fishing for more...
Souray didn’t outright ask for a trade. He stated to his agent that he was frustrated and disappointed with a few areas of the team. Losing was the main one. He had some concerns about the coaching. He missed his kids. A losing environment makes the little things seem bigger and it makes coming to the rink a chore at times.
But according to my source from within the locker room, Souray, through his agent, never demanded a trade. He just wanted his concerns noted. Mission accomplished.
His absence during the final media availability, the same day where his former coach was the hot topic, suggests Souray didn’t want to comment on it, similar to when MacTavish stated he wouldn’t discuss Dustin Penner anymore during his final presser on Monday. Was Souray as frustrated with his coach as the coach was with Penner? “No,” said my source.
But it is clear that coaching was one of his concerns, just not the main one.
Tambellini was asked if the any of the rumours about a player asking for a trade were true. One word, ‘No,” was his response. Of course, I wouldn’t have expected him to saying anything different.
But Tambellini’s comment regarding veterans who “hopefully want to be here,” suggests he heard some discontent. But according to my source it was not a blatant, “I want to be traded.”
A coaching change has given new hope for many here on the Nation, and you can bet that many players have the same renewed optimism. It's human nature. When a change is made you always believe it will lead to better things.
A new coach won’t make Souray miss his kids any less, and if his longing to see them becomes too much for him to handle, then it would be hard not to respect him for wanting out. But a new coach, a new system and some wins might make that separation easier to handle.