Dan Barnes’ Must-Read Column

Jonathan Willis
April 09 2009 09:38AM

even-keel

As happens with astonishing regularity, Dan Barnes has once again written a must-read piece on the future of the Edmonton Oilers. It’s both wide-ranging and incriminating of much of the roster, although I’m only going to focus on a couple of excerpts.

Much of the article is based on a conversation with a surprisingly candid Sheldon Souray; although for my money the best quote is this one:

"It would be like Mardi Gras in here after a win and then we would lose in such a poor fashion that all momentum was lost. There was none of this," Souray said while holding his arm straight out to simulate an even keel. "Even to consistently be average, we couldn't do that."

We’ve heard tales of rifts in the room before, but to my knowledge no other player has talked so plainly about the emotional roller-coaster in the dressing room. Craig MacTavish has hinted broadly that the team was far too up and down (“the vortex of death”) but this is the most explicit statement and there’s no reason to disbelieve Souray – all the evidence is there.

That even keel shouldn’t be viewed solely as the fault of the youngsters either – it seems to be a common enough problem in young players, and it’s up to the veterans and the coaching staff to instill the professional culture that the team needs. Souray, refreshingly, painted with a broad brush, omitting only goaltender Dwayne Roloson from criticism.

President of hockey operations Kevin Lowe will ease further into the background and general manager Steve Tambellini will step forward to put his mark on the team. This will not be a Lowellini roster next September.

I have been told MacTavish will not be here to see it through, that he will step away because he has failed to achieve the desired results more often than not. He surely knows how damaging this season has been for the organization and is cognizant of exactly where this buck stops. While a host of players should take the rap for their terrible seasons, and there will undoubtedly be significant roster changes, MacTavish will pay the biggest price.

Lowetide wrote about this at some length yesterday, but this summer is going to show one way or the other which direction the Oilers are going. Here’s the comment I made on one of his posts:

If the Oilers do the right thing (hire a coach from outside the org), we're not going to note it as the start of a trend. We'll note it as the continuation of a trend that saw Steve Tambellini, Rob Daum, Jeff Truitt and Rick Olczyk hired from elsewhere.

The news today that Kevin Lowe will step back from the team (and the reiteration that Mactavish will not return) means that in just a year of ownership, Daryl Katz will have completely overturned the brain-trust in Edmonton. People playing significant roles on the team have come from outside the organization, and if Katz holds true to form, the next head coach will as well. Scott Arniel should be one of the names considered (and is a logical candidate since he has some past history with Tambellini), but the important thing is that whoever is brought in be the best candidate for the job; an experienced coach, someone with (at least) an extensive track record in the AHL or as an NHL assistant.

For all the negativity this season (and there’s more to come), if the Oilers make the right changes this summer we could be watching the renewal of the team and a cultural change taking place right before our eyes.

Tambellini wants a bigger and stronger top-six corps of forwards and will probably have to move a defenceman to do it. Because, by playing their way out of the playoffs, the Oilers sent a strong signal to potential free agents; this is not a team ready to win much more than it loses.

I hope that the team realizes that Barnes is correct and avoids a likely-fruitless run at Marian Hossa. If another top-six forward is brought in, it seems to me that some of the current group (Robert Nilsson being the likeliest name) will not be brought back. Although from the sounds of it (and not solely from Barnes – both Brownlee and Gregor have said similar things) the trade that Barnes refers to will be just the tip of the iceberg.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, 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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#1 Ogden Brother
April 09 2009, 09:44AM
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This teams alot closer then people think. 2 key moves and a long term tending solution and you should see substantial improvements.

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#2 Rick
April 09 2009, 09:49AM
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Regarding Coaching, guy that hasn't gotten much play but on many levels would be an Oiler type move in terms of hiring is Geoff Ward.

They were high on him before, he was in the organization but obviously isn't anymore, he has experience...

Alot of ducks line up on that one, although I don't honestly know if that would be a positive move or not.

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#3 Reggie
April 09 2009, 09:57AM
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I like what I am hearing from Souray and seeing from him on the ice. I would like to see him be the next Captain.

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#4 Milli
April 09 2009, 09:58AM
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Nice read.

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#5 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 09:59AM
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Marc Habschied - former Oiler player has earned his coaching stripes and could be a happy-medium. I wouldn't consider him one of "the old boys cub" Perry Pearn - has been an assistant coach at the NHL level for over a decade and has ties to Edmonton from his NAIT days obviously. Scott Arniel - Connections with Tambellini from Van. If I'm not mistaken, he also ran the Sabres powerplay a few years back (with pretty good results if memory serves). Dale Hunter - has had success at the junior level, he may be ready to make the jump. Coached Gagner in London. Marc Crawford - obvious ties to Tambellini, it'd just be nice to get him off the airwaves. Decent coach with decent track record. Pat Quinn - again, obvious connection to Tambellini. Not sure if he'd be the right fit. Tom Renney - also coached in Van before, prob too similar to MacT.

Who else?

I like Habschied & Arniel.

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#6 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 10:00AM
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@ Rick: Ya Geoff Ward is another possible name to look at.

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#7 Ogden Brother
April 09 2009, 10:03AM
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Interesting that we always complain about hiring friends but then turn to those with connections to Tambs when discussing who should be brought in next....

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#8 Mr P
April 09 2009, 10:03AM
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I doesn't sound like souray was referring to a rift in the dressing roomto me. Sounds like he is saying collectively they had to many ups and downs. Everyone happy after a win and eveeyone down after losses. When there is a rift in the room guys form clicks and the room empties out and people go there own way. I don't know if this is the case.

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#9 bdubya
April 09 2009, 10:03AM
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Sign Johan Franzen. He's big and plays big. He also scores. That should kill 2 birds with one stone.

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#10 Archaeologuy
April 09 2009, 10:04AM
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"If the Oilers do the right thing (hire a coach from outside the org), we’re not going to note it as the start of a trend. We’ll note it as the continuation of a trend that saw Steve Tambellini, Rob Daum, Jeff Truitt and Rick Olczyk hired from elsewhere."

Rob Daum was run out of Edmonton in favour of a card carrying member of the Dynasty group. Truitt was already the asst coach of the AHL club, wasnt he? Steve Tambellini was hired but not given any control of the team, and Rick Olczyk is an accountant. Who cares where we get the accountant from?

In one year of ownership Katz has refused to allow his GM to make the changes that were in obvious need and the club took a big step back. He was also accused by Mark Spector of having a hand in giving Horcoff that insane contract. Then there's the issue of his busy thumbs trying to shut up the fan base. I would hardly consider this last year a movement in wiping the slate clean of the Oilers' Brain-trust. Quite the opposite in fact.

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#11 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 10:06AM
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Reggie wrote:

I like what I am hearing from Souray and seeing from him on the ice. I would like to see him be the next Captain.

The captain of this current group of players should be Souray or Horcoff. Check the ice time stats of all the captains throughout the league - Moreau is at or near the bottom of that list. Both Souray & Horcoff play the minutes. Horcoff is a leader - a key faceoff guy, key PK guy, key shutdown guy. Basically the most responsible guy on the team. And although his offensive production was disappointing, thats no excuse to argue that he shouldn't be the captain. Chopper, Gator, Bucky, MacT, Lowe - not exactly a lot of offensive threats on that list. And if he were able to be used more efficiently, he'd probably produce better.

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#12 Archaeologuy
April 09 2009, 10:09AM
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RossCreek wrote:

The captain of this current group of players should be Souray or Horcoff.

*throws up in mouth at the thought of Horcoff wearing a C on his sweater*

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#13 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 10:12AM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Interesting that we always complain about hiring friends but then turn to those with connections to Tambs when discussing who should be brought in next….

People often hire people they are familiar with (Burke hired his buddy Dave Nonis). No one (at least not me) is suggesting you can't hire your friends. The sentiment is no more "old boys club/former Oilers" getting hired just cuz of who they are. If Tambellini has connections to certain individuals he is comfortable with and in his mind, deserving of the job, then by all means, I would expect him to hire that man. What is he supposed to do... hire someone he knows nothing about just to bring in someone thay makes the fans happy?

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#14 Rob
April 09 2009, 10:13AM
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When can I expect some good news about this team???

*crickets*

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#15 Ogden Brother
April 09 2009, 10:14AM
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RossCreek wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: Interesting that we always complain about hiring friends but then turn to those with connections to Tambs when discussing who should be brought in next…. People often hire people they are familiar with (Burke hired his buddy Dave Nonis). No one (at least not me) is suggesting you can’t hire your friends. The sentiment is no more “old boys club/former Oilers” getting hired just cuz of who they are. If Tambellini has connections to certain individuals he is comfortable with and in his mind, deserving of the job, then by all means, I would expect him to hire that man. What is he supposed to do… hire someone he knows nothing about just to bring in someone thay makes the fans happy?

Nice contradiction.

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#16 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 10:16AM
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DArchaeologuy wrote:

RossCreek wrote: The captain of this current group of players should be Souray or Horcoff. *throws up in mouth at the thought of Horcoff wearing a C on his sweater*

Why is that? Does he not provide the effort a leader should? Does he not take key faceoffs at every spot on the ice? The ink on the contract is dry. He will be here for the next 6 years. He produces 2nd line numbers and can play 1st line minutes. But don't hold any of that against him. There is not another forward to even consider.

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#17 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 10:18AM
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@ Ogden Brother: How?

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#18 Rob
April 09 2009, 10:18AM
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"The news today that Kevin Lowe will step back from the team (and the reiteration that Mactavish will not return) means that in just a year of ownership, Daryl Katz will have completely overturned the brain-trust in Edmonton."

I missed the part that said Lowe is stepping back, or was that just speculation???

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#19 topshelf FMNF
April 09 2009, 10:20AM
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Rob wrote:

“The news today that Kevin Lowe will step back from the team (and the reiteration that Mactavish will not return

I too would like to know where this information came from..

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#20 Rob
April 09 2009, 10:21AM
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@ topshelf FMNF:

I see in the article it says it will be "Tambellini's team come september".......is that just Barnes opinion or is that fact??

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#21 Darren
April 09 2009, 10:22AM
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Reggie, couldn't agree more.

I believe in the early 90s we needed to start looking at this team differently than we had during the glory years and it was important for the team leaders to change our perception of the players and let them off the hook because, at that time, they WERE playing their best, because they were a team without much, if any, talent. I believe that attitude has been passed down and now we still have that attitude in the dressing room with our team's leaders.

For the longest time it seems like this team has had the attitude of "oh well, we did the best we could" every year and just accept losing, instead of rocking the boat. We need to get a captain in here who will look to change the attitude and the culture in the dressing room. Ever since the glory days it seems it has been more important for the Oilers leaders to tell the fans everything is okay and to lay off the players. It has been almost 2 decades since we hosted a playoff series and everything "is not okay".

Moreau is awesome at what he does, but I do feel someone from outside of the organization, like Souray, could be the breath of fresh air this franchise needs to bring back the competitive nature this team once had.

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#22 topshelf FMNF
April 09 2009, 10:24AM
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@ Rob: That's what I meant. I'd like to know what or who his sources are.

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#23 Archaeologuy
April 09 2009, 10:26AM
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@ RossCreek: Ok so Horc takes faceoffs, so did Marty Reasoner. Why dont we sign him and make him the Captain. He doesnt score goals or rack up assists. He doesnt hit or block all that many shots. He kills penalties, well based on our our PK he doesnt do that very well either. But he's great defensively! He's a plus 5 on the year. Not that great for such a defensively responsible forward. He's such a great leader that he helped bring us to an early end for the majority of his career.

Just because a guy is signed for 6 years doesnt mean he will be here for 6 years. If he cant regain some kind of form (not that he ever had it for much more than half of one season) then he will be buried in the minors like so many other over rated players in the salary cap era.

Why consider another forward? you dont have to, it isnt required.

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#24 ultimateoiler
April 09 2009, 10:27AM
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This is a great read. I hope this organization is truly taking a good look at itself for the long term. I am really impressed with Souray's comments they come across with sincerity. As for the next coach we need a very experienced one. Looking at Scott Arneil record and his background he wouldn't be a bad choice.

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#25 Rob
April 09 2009, 10:27AM
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@ topshelf FMNF:

Sorry, I didnt mean to direct that at you, just following along with the discussion.

@ Darren:

"Moreau is awesome at what he does"......take bad penalties at key moments in the game and miss wide open nets??? lol, had to say it. Agreed though, give that C to anyone else. Shit, i would give it to Roli if he signs here again!

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#26 Jonathan Willis
April 09 2009, 10:29AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Rob Daum was run out of Edmonton in favour of a card carrying member of the Dynasty group. Truitt was already the asst coach of the AHL club, wasnt he?

Daum was not "run out of town". It seems that the original plan was to move Bucky on to MacTavish's staff following some AHL seasoning. rumour has it that Jeff Truitt (an outside hire with a nice junior record) was promised the head coaching job after one season as an assistant.

Steve Tambellini was hired but not given any control of the team, and Rick Olczyk is an accountant. Who cares where we get the accountant from?

a) You don't know how much control Tambellini has. b) Olczyk's an assistant GM - and the point man on contract negotiation. If you don't think that's a significant role, I have some news articles talking about a "salary cap" that was introduced after the lockout. You must have missed them ;)

In one year of ownership Katz has refused to allow his GM to make the changes that were in obvious need and the club took a big step back.

Which changes has Katz blocked?

He was also accused by Mark Spector of having a hand in giving Horcoff that insane contract.

Something Horcoff denied today. All things being equal, I'm just a little hesitant to take Spector's word on this one.

Then there’s the issue of his busy thumbs trying to shut up the fan base.

Irritating and short-sighted, but hardly connected to the management hiring process.

I would hardly consider this last year a movement in wiping the slate clean of the Oilers’ Brain-trust. Quite the opposite in fact.

So, if the Oilers enter next season with a) a new GM, hired from outside the organization, b) a new coach, hired from outside the organization, c) a new Assistant GM, hired from outside the organization and d) Mr. Oiler himself, Kevin Lowe, pulled away from the actual hockey decisions, you wouldn't consider it a makeover? We're half there already.

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#27 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 10:29AM
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@ Archaeologuy: And more doesn't rack up points either, yet he's the captain. You don't have to rack up points to wear the C, but it'd be nice to have the guy wearing it play at least 20 min. So who is your choice.

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#28 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 10:31AM
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@ RossCreek: Should read " Moreau doesn't rack up points..."

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#29 Dan from Wainwright
April 09 2009, 10:31AM
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Reggie wrote:

I like what I am hearing from Souray and seeing from him on the ice. I would like to see him be the next Captain.

Agreed. But how to handle that if Moreau isn't being moved (the Mike Modano type situation). Moreau is a class act but that might still cause ill feelings. Hmmm.

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#30 Jonathan Willis
April 09 2009, 10:32AM
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RE: Lowe stepping back

From Barnes' article (excerpt quoted above):

President of hockey operations Kevin Lowe will ease further into the background and general manager Steve Tambellini will step forward to put his mark on the team. This will not be a Lowellini roster next September.

That's the most significant paragraph in the entire piece. I don't know who Barnes' sources are, but his track record is unimpeachable, and if he says it's happening I'd bet heavily that he's right.

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#31 Ogden Brother
April 09 2009, 10:36AM
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RossCreek wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: How?

No more "old boys club" because of who they are but Tambs can hire his friends because of who they are?

I'd like to see someone brought in from outside the orginization as well, just find it laughable how many people critize the Oil for hiring friends when a large % of teams do the same thing.

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#32 Rob
April 09 2009, 10:38AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Thanks for the reply Jon, I'll take your word on it (or Branes' word I guess).

I knew things would get bad before they got better but every article I have read in the last two days has been really eye opening. I'm starting to wonder if one summer is going to be enough to get us even slightly better than this season???

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#33 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 10:43AM
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I say MacT steps down, then gets hired on as an assistant with the Olympic team. Lowe will make it happen. Then as a non-NHL coach, MacT could step up as an assistant to whomever the Head Coach is (likely an NHL coach with less time available to prepare...maybe Babcock). MacT could put all his focus toward the Olympics and do a lot of pre-scouting to ensure they are well prepared. He could actually have a pretty big roll. After the Olympics I would expect him to decide on his future... take another head coaching gig somewhere else in the league?...or take on a full-time management position with the Oilers committing to become Tambellini's right hand man (and GM in waiting). Of course, he could always decide that latter part is something he's ready for April 12th.

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#34 Rob
April 09 2009, 10:44AM
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@ Ogden Brother:

We seem to hire based on who you are, not what you have done. big difference.

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#35 topshelf FMNF
April 09 2009, 10:46AM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Well then I guess there is some reason to be optimistic heading into the summer. I will remain cautiously optimistic though...

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#36 Darren
April 09 2009, 10:46AM
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Here's betting it will take much longer than one season to fix this mess. That's okay, mind you...all that matters is that this team is turned around so we can actually make some noise in the future. Build for the future, boys; short-term pain for long term gain! (After how many years of mediocrity?)

:) at last!

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#37 Mike Krushelnyski
April 09 2009, 10:48AM
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@ RossCreek:

Well it would be interesting to see Canada line up with Reddox-Crosby-Iginla

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#38 swany
April 09 2009, 10:48AM
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Bigger forwards agree completly I think you can bet on Cogs, Nilsson, Bule, Pattyo, MAP, and Schremp will all be on the table. Cogs+Gilbert could just about be enough to get Kovy from the Thrashers, and If you could find a home for Penner (even for a 3rd round pick) that would leave enough room to sign JayBo. They still need a shut down guy and a third line centre that wins faceoffs and kills Penaties. Good luck Stevie.

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#39 Archaeologuy
April 09 2009, 10:49AM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Ok, Daum wasnt run out of town. He was told that no matter how well he did his job it would be given to somebody incredibly less qualified. My bad.

Truitt WAS the asst for one year. so I wasnt wrong on that. I'm not saying he was an obviously bad choice, just that he wasnt from outside the club.

Tambi's control of the team is negligable. Of that I am sure. Based on what, you will ask. He's been absolutely invisible all season and hasnt made a stamp on this club that Lowe wasnt also a part of. Do i KNOW he has no power? Of course not. But if he wants me to think that he isnt a puppet GM then he should have had a voice. Personally, i think he didnt have many conferences because we would all see K-Lowe's lips moving.

Move Katz blocked? He didnt want the fans to think about firing MacT, what happened in the conversation that MUST have come up when Pinocchio suggested a change? Absolute speculation, but I'm not a journalist. I'm allowed to speculate.

Ofcourse Horc denied Katz's involvement. Katz signed the checks and he's not about to bite the hand that feeds. I never said it was true, just an accusation. And despite Spec's short comings I wouldnt disregard his claims based on the word of the people in question.

Jonathan Willis wrote:

So, if the Oilers enter next season with a) a new GM, hired from outside the organization, b) a new coach, hired from outside the organization, c) a new Assistant GM, hired from outside the organization and d) Mr. Oiler himself, Kevin Lowe, pulled away from the actual hockey decisions, you wouldn’t consider it a makeover?

None of those things have happened yet, in the sense that A has been neutralized and C is the asst to the powerless guy. So If and When those things do happen (and come into effect) I WILL consider that a makeover, but I wouldnt say that those changes started last summer.

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#40 Ogden Brother
April 09 2009, 10:50AM
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Rob wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: We seem to hire based on who you are, not what you have done. big difference.

And that's different then other guys hiring friends?

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#41 Rick
April 09 2009, 10:51AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Something Horcoff denied today. All things being equal, I’m just a little hesitant to take Spector’s word on this one.

I dunno Jonathan, Horcoff's denial doesn't exactly leave you without questions.

Obvious ones being, why wait so long to announce the deal if the contract was done before Katz bought the team (even that is open ended because he effectively bought the team in the spring and the July 1 NHL approval was basically a technicality - still 2 weeks before Horcoff's deal was announced) and why would Horcoff cite Katz's vision for the team as part of the reason for signing?

I am not saying Spector had all his facts lined up on this one but a little self preservation from negative public opinion on Horcoff's behalf wouldn't surprise me either.

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#42 Archaeologuy
April 09 2009, 10:52AM
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@ RossCreek: I'm not a fan of Moreau either. Apparently I'm in a negative mood today.

Honestly, I dont think the Oilers had a choice after Gator left. But if the slate was clean then Souray would be my choice without hesitation.

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#43 DRoy
April 09 2009, 10:52AM
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Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

@ RossCreek: Well it would be interesting to see Canada line up with Reddox-Crosby-Iginla

You just couldn't beat a line like that.

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#44 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 10:52AM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

RossCreek wrote: @ Ogden Brother: How? No more “old boys club” because of who they are but Tambs can hire his friends because of who they are? I’d like to see someone brought in from outside the orginization as well, just find it laughable how many people critize the Oil for hiring friends when a large % of teams do the same thing.

The point is people are sick of the Oilers naming Bucky or McSorely or Simpson or Anderson or whomever as their new coach. Tambellini may hire friends or people he has connections with, but at least they're qualified. Can you not see that? Crawford has his own pedigree, but a connection to Tambellini could bring him here. Thats a good thing. Yes every team does it. But not to the extent the Oilers have. Calgary's management and coaches aren't made up of Jim Peplinski, Lanny McDonald, Theoren Fleury & Mike Vernon. I'm not even saying it so much myself, the people are. They want someone new. They don't care if its Tambellini's buddy (as long as he's qualified). They just don't want an ex-Oiler.

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#45 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 10:53AM
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Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

@ RossCreek: Well it would be interesting to see Canada line up with Reddox-Crosby-Iginla

LOL

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#46 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 10:57AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ RossCreek: I’m not a fan of Moreau either. Apparently I’m in a negative mood today. Honestly, I dont think the Oilers had a choice after Gator left. But if the slate was clean then Souray would be my choice without hesitation.

Nothing wrong with Souray as the choice (at least until news of him wanting out leaks). I just threw out 2 names. There aren't more than 2 that I can think of.

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#47 Rob
April 09 2009, 10:58AM
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@ Ogden Brother:

RossCreek pretty much summed it up for me. As far as I know, Lowe, Mact, Huddy and Bucky didn't have successful track records as managers and coaches before they got hired here. If Tambo wants to hire friends with succesful careers as coaches I'm all for it. Obviously other teams hire friends, but they also fire them when they suck or dont hie them at all unless they have already proven they could do the job.

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#48 Archaeologuy
April 09 2009, 10:59AM
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RossCreek wrote:

There aren’t more than 2 that I can think of.

I cant think of any more either. This saddens me.

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#49 Ogden Brother
April 09 2009, 11:00AM
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RossCreek wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: RossCreek wrote: @ Ogden Brother: How? No more “old boys club” because of who they are but Tambs can hire his friends because of who they are? I’d like to see someone brought in from outside the orginization as well, just find it laughable how many people critize the Oil for hiring friends when a large % of teams do the same thing. The point is people are sick of the Oilers naming Bucky or McSorely or Simpson or Anderson or whomever as their new coach. Tambellini may hire friends or people he has connections with, but at least they’re qualified. Can you not see that? Crawford has his own pedigree, but a connection to Tambellini could bring him here. Thats a good thing. Yes every team does it. But not to the extent the Oilers have. Calgary’s management and coaches aren’t made up of Jim Peplinski, Lanny McDonald, Theoren Fleury & Mike Vernon. I’m not even saying it so much myself, the people are. They want someone new. They don’t care if its Tambellini’s buddy (as long as he’s qualified). They just don’t want an ex-Oiler.

Nope, but Keenan is buddies with Sutter, and it's often hinted that, that is why he got the job.

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#50 Darren
April 09 2009, 11:01AM
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OMG, Mike Krushelnyski, that is friggin' great!

You know what - we couldn't lose with a line like that, because or Iggy's power, Crosby's vision, and because Reddox does all the little things well. I'd say mostly because Reddox does all the little things well, probably moreso than the other two.

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