Tambellini’s Take On Sutton, Oilers Rebuild

Jonathan Willis
February 13 2012 01:14PM

The Oilers’ official website has posted Steve Tambellini’s take on Andy Sutton’s new deal, and the general manager speaks about Sutton and the direction of the Oilers in general.

The video above is an interesting one, and a few lines stood out to me.

He expressed a real strong interest in staying in Edmonton; likes the city, likes the direction of the team, and we’re happy he’s back.

The idea that it is important to sign guys who want to play in Edmonton stretches back to the early days of Tambellini’s time with the Oilers. This isn’t new. The comment that Sutton “likes the direction of the team” strikes me as interesting, though, since it’s something we’ve heard more recently.

On Oil Change, Tambellini mentioned the third year of Eric Belanger’s contract in a significant way, saying, “One of the reasons why he wanted a three year deal is because he sees what’s happening, not next year, in year two and three, and ‘if I’m gonna go there, I wanna be part of that, in year two and three,’” (tip of the hat here to Tyler Dellow, who has made this point before).

It’s an interesting comment, and I wonder if it’s something Tambellini believes or something he says to try and emphasize what a good job he’s doing. Either way, if I were the player agent for Ales Hemsky or Cam Barker or any other player negotiating with the Oilers, I’d be sure to mention how much my client believes in the team’s current direction. Probably right before I asked for money.

It says a lot, I think, to the recognition of we know where we’re going. It’s hard at times, but we know that we’re acquiring elite talent.

Sutton’s place in the Oilers’ rebuild is an interesting one. He’s old enough that he won’t be a major contributor even if everything goes well and the Tambellini rebuild turns the Oilers into a Stanley Cup contender. His signing, however, now brings the number of NHL defenseman who are either under contract to the Oilers for next season or approaching RFA status to a total of eight – the eight guys currently with the team. The Oilers might dump Peckham or opt not to re-sign Barker, but Petry’s sure to be back and one imagines that Corey Potter will be too. Even if both Peckham and Barker leave the team this summer, that leaves only one spot for the Oilers to use on new defensive talent. If the Oilers decide to keep one of Peckham/Barker, their blue-line for next year could already be set.

We have a much better team than what the results and standings show, we know that.

This is Tambellini’s most interesting comment. Do the Oilers deserve to be higher than 14th in the West? Is the talent on their roster such that Tambellini’s comment is justified, that this season represents underachievement? If – and with NHL managers, there’s always an ‘if’ – Tambellini really believes that this team is better than their record, what does that suggest about the decisions he’ll make this summer, at the draft and during free agency?

Tambellini comes across as content that the Oilers are improving, that they’re moving in the right direction, and that no major changes are required. Time will tell whether that viewpoint is justified.

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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 a lg dubl dubl
February 13 2012, 09:42PM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

That's why he was suspended, i.e., for not showing up to the game (it's a diss to the league and the fans).

This coppernblue post had me rethinking the draft D in the lottery zone:

http://www.coppernblue.com/2012/2/8/2784727/big-picture-questions-to-be-asked-before-the-trade-deadline

a sample:

The issue that the Oilers are faced with for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft is that defensemen tend to develop at a slower rate than forwards, especially elite-level forward prospects like Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Sure, every now and then there is a Drew Doughty, but he is the exception, not the rule. Recent examples like Victor Hedman, Alex Pietrangelo and Luke Schenn are more demonstrative of a reasonable development curve for even the most elite defensive prospects. While they may be able to contribute at the NHL level at an early age, it is likely to be years before they realize their potential to become impact players. And that's assuming you don't end up with the next Cam Barker.

Still not sure myself... but as a general rule BPA in the top 3 if not top 5 is probably the safest bet.

And ppl want Yakupov Y?! Sounds like hes all ego to me.

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#102 Romulus' Apotheosis
February 13 2012, 09:44PM
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justDOit wrote:

Take the best player, and sort it out later. Who knows, maybe RNH is dangled for a high-end defenceman? I know... I know... but if these things can't be considered, then the GM isn't doing his job.

Or maybe by that time, Gagner is back to being somewhat of a goat.

Do you think they should go for D? I don't know enough about the current defence prospects this year, but 'they' say that they take too long to develop (Larsson, Fowler, Hedman aside).

It looks to me like you take the bpa, and try to even out the back end via trade or free agency.

Originally I was all D all the time... but I was still nursing the idea that we might pick as late as 5-8... now that we are firmly in the lottery camp, I think you got to go BPA and hope to snag one of Yak or Grig

Beyond that though, I think that article at Copper and Blue makes a good point that maybe in the early first you stick with forwards anyway... I don't know enough to have a settled opinion, however.

It certainly seems that the longer the development period the harder it is to project... ie., D are just much trickier to find young.

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#103 A-Mc
February 13 2012, 09:52PM
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With regards to taking a D instead of a forward If you draft top 2-3;

Something tells me that the oil aren't going to have to make that choice. With the lotto, and with how well the team has played lately (now that we're healthy), I actually think we're going to be picking in the 4-5 range.

There are 5 teams ahead of us with 5 or less points between; with a healthy squad I don't think 30/29 is a lock for this year.

PS: it made me really happy to see fedun skating. I'm not sure what the turn around time is on a femur break but I would love for him to be back in camp next season!!

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#104 A-Mc
February 13 2012, 09:55PM
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@Romulus' Apotheosis

I don't think we are firmly in the lotto yet. It's still close! A couple wins here and some losses up top and suddenly were in 5th last

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#105 Romulus' Apotheosis
February 13 2012, 10:02PM
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@A-Mc

you're a step more optimistic than me. Either way the season will be both better than last year and still disappointing (so far from playoffs still).

MacKenzie's special really seemed to emphasize the draft was a crap shoot after #2 this year... so hopefully we get in there, or luck out with our roll of the die (Stu has been picking pretty well so far!).

I have no idea what breaking your biggest bone does to you... but just thinking about it is horrible. I hope he makes it on the team! that would be an amazing story... part of me, though, worries we'll put too much pressure on the kid...

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#106 justDOit
February 13 2012, 10:06PM
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@A-Mc

Kind of like 06/07, when they won the last game of the year and hopped over the blackhawks into 25th spot.

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#107 A-Mc
February 13 2012, 10:18PM
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@justDOit

Hah yep. Bad enough to be bad but not bad enough to get a good draft position!

Using foster as a case study for a femur break; he was injured on march 20, 2008 and returned to play on Feb 9,2009. Fedun went down preseason, so there is a chance that we DO see him again at camp later this year!

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#108 Kevin
February 13 2012, 10:40PM
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David S wrote:

Yeah. Because this team could REALLLLLY use more "assets/prospects" instead of a proven top-six veteran capable of going up against the other team's best players on a nightly basis.

http://www.mc79hockey.com/?p=4313

Note: Boychuk or any other highly regarded D-man is NOT going to voluntarily go from a cup contender to a double winner of the coveted green jacket in the NHL overall standings. NOT going to happen. Doesn't matter how much NHL 12 (or Hockeybuzz *spits*) says it will.

Well if you were a GM would you even trade for Hemsky. It will be a bonus if we can get a bag of pucks. This trade should have happened last year. We have to many so called proven top 6 skilled forwards who can't take a hit/made of glass. One can argue too- what have they done for us lately. Last I checked- we are a toilet bowl contender yet again. Good teams build from the D out with strength down the middle. Where are we on those two fronts not to mention question marks in goal and our best D-man is playing on one leg. Also, Horcoffs contract makes signing Hemmer to term impossible. If you're Hemsky are you signing here for less than your centermans $$$.

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#109 Oiler AL
February 14 2012, 12:10AM
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We have a much better team than the standings show.. unquote... What Tambilini is saying here very clearly ... " the coaching was subpar".

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#110 Yourmomthinksimhot
February 14 2012, 02:28AM
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Oiler AL wrote:

We have a much better team than the standings show.. unquote... What Tambilini is saying here very clearly ... " the coaching was subpar".

Or quite possibly what he is saying is... "Edmonton fans are stupid and if I can deflect any blame from myself, I will do it by throwing my coach under the bus."

I tell you, the guy doesnt speak much but when he does I get a chuckle. I wish for once he'd just quit insulting our intelligence and just admit this team isn't quite there yet.

I can accept him saying he's working on it, but telling everyone we're basically there and for some reason it just hasn't shown in the standings, is flat out insulting. If he honestly feels this way, then it sickens me how far out of touch with reality he is.

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#111 Time Travelling Sean
February 14 2012, 06:23AM
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@David S

If Hemmer wants 5 years and 5.5M per then yes I'd rather have some prospects.

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#112 Saytalk
February 14 2012, 06:48AM
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On Belanger and Sutton, if I'm an NHL player nearing the end of his career, and a GM offers me over a million to play until I'm 36/37, then I would like "the direction of the team" too.

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#113 jr_christ
February 14 2012, 08:56AM
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The only thing that is justafiable at this point is getting playoff tickets to see the Oil Kings kick some serious butt.

That Gernat kid is something...

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#114 vetinari
February 14 2012, 01:03PM
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Sean Avery is to manners and etiquette as Steve Tambellini is to building winning hockey teams.

Of note during the Tambellini interview, you can't see Lowe moving his hand to make Tambellini talk.

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