July 01 2012 08:17PM
Steve Tambellini held a press conference late in the first day of NHL free agency, and had some revealing comments about the team and what might happen in the days ahead.
It was, I thought, a strong press conference on the heels of a pretty strong day or two for the organization. A few particulars stood out to me; I’m just going to quickly run through them.
I believe Ryan Smyth needs to remain an Oiler, and I’m happy that he made the decision to remain here with us. This is where he should be. We talked about a lot of different things of where he could play, open to playing top-six forward, open to playing bottom-six forward.
Tambellini’s comments on Smyth suggest to me that it was the player, rather than the team, that made the final move when it came down to making a decision. I may be reading too much into the phrasing, but the ‘Ryan made a decision’ line really makes me think that the team made an offer and Smyth dropped his demands to accept it. Either way, it would seem that Smyth’s position on the depth chart is somewhat fluid, and I’d argue that makes sense.
A lot of teams have extra bodies at this time of the year. The positive side of that is that it presents options for you to maybe make a deal.
This came in response to a question about the number of bodies the Oilers have been stockpiling. As noted earlier today, the Oilers have an excess of personnel both up front and on the back end, and a trade is the logical route to clearing some space.
A lot of it, [Khabibulin has] had such a good couple of months at a time there and then his health really kind of prohibited him from sustaining anything. I don’t know if that’s a result of maybe playing too many games in too many days, but we think we need a more balanced approach here and Devan’s going to see a lot of hockey.
If a general manager is hanging on to Nikolai Khabibulin, this is the most sensible explanation for the decision. Khabibulin started well, and if there’s a belief that injuries or fatigue knocked his play down, it’s easier to understand why the Oilers would feel comfortable using him as a backup next season. The problem is that even prior to Christmas in 2010-11, Khabibulin was wretched – that reads more like his early performance in 2011-12 was the aberration, rather than what he’d manage all the time if only he were healthy/rested.
We feel we need that element in our hockey club at this time.
I don’t want to speak for Ralph but I think if Darcy’s in the lineup he may see more minutes than what he did last year.
Both of the above comments refer to Darcy Hordichuk. The first one really jumped out at me, because the “at this time” suggests to at least some degree that Tambellini doesn’t necessarily view an enforcer as a permanent and necessary position on an NHL team. It’s always a little risky to read too much into the words of someone who at times struggles to get his point across, but it will be interesting to see if a Hordichuk-type is still on the roster when players get older or if the Oilers succeed in adding skilled size to the roster.
I don’t know if we can ever have too many top-six forwards. You look at the best teams in the game, teams that are winning Cups, you need a lot of talent, a lot of skill… I can’t say that we have too many.
The only possible answer to the ridiculous idea that the Oilers have too much talent up front. Like Tyler Dellow, I’ve always found the notion that top-six and bottom-six forwards are different species to be a little crazy. Teams collect good players; players who aren’t good enough for top-six minutes play bottom-six minutes.
They’re both very young players with regards to the NHL. They’re both going to be very good NHL players in the future… the worst thing that could have happened to Magnus was that he sat in the pressbox… There’s no sense of failure if you have to spend time in the American Hockey League. I think they’re both okay with that.
Anton Lander and Magnus Paaarvi are the two players referred to in the comment above, with Tambellini answering a question on whether the pair could start next season in the AHL. That’s definitely not a ‘no.’
Ralph feels that he and [Belanger] can find a way to get him back to where he’s been for most of his career. That was the most difficult year that he’s had as far as production... Ralph really believes that he can work with Eric and get him back to where he should be. He feels very positive about that.
Remember all those Eric Belanger trade rumours? Steve Tambellini’s comments above cast some cold water on them. The Oilers’ new head coach, perhaps unsurprisingly, sees a useful player in Belanger, and Tambellini was emphatic that on this particular point.
Tambellini also made brief comments on a few other items. He confirmed that the decision to qualify Omark was to keep his rights and protect him as an asset, and that he’s still actively looking to make a trade. He refused to comment on the Ales Hemsky trade rumours making the rounds today, except to say that he hadn’t heard them. Beyond that, he was also vaguely supportive of the possibility of trying Taylor Hall at centre, and a little more supportive of getting some of the skill players out on the penalty kill next season.
All things considered, while I may not agree on every point, it was a solid press conference. Tambellini did a good job of expressing his take on the team, and more often than not that take was entirely sensible. More importantly, the Oilers’ actions on the day were prudent, and the team is looking to do more in the days ahead.
This week by Jonathan Willis
- Bargain signing: Guillaume Latendresse goes to Ottawa
- Bargain signing: Brad Boyes joins the Islanders
- Darcy Hordichuk re-signs in Edmonton
- Ray Whitney signs with the Dallas Stars: Two years, $9.0 million
- Ryan Smyth re-signs with the Edmonton Oilers
- Free agency: It's a $70 million cap world, now.
- Jay Grossman talks about the Khabibulin contract
- The UFA market for defensemen: it's going to get ugly
- Ralph Krueger: in the driver's seat
- Oilers' development camp invites
- Jets re-sign Ondrej Pavelec, pay top dollar
- Oilers issue qualifying offers to seven
- Report: Oilers interested in Blackhawks' defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson
- The 2012 NHL Entry Draft: Recap
- Should the Oilers have made a pitch for Zbynek Michalek?
- The Oilers select forward Mitch Moroz 32nd overall
- The Jets select Lukas Sutter 39th overall
- The Canucks select Alexandre Mallet 57th overall