Man of Action


Craig MacTavish, like any general manager of a losing team, has taken some heat this season. The heat’s been made worse by things he said in the summer, when he sold Oilers fans on "bold moves" and promised action.

The funny thing is that by Edmonton standards, we’ve seen that action.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Steve Tambellini Mid-Season

The entire list of trades and signings made to add players by Steve Tambellini during mid-season follows below:

  • March 2009: Patrick O’Sullivan and a second round pick acquired for Erik Cole and a fifth round pick
  • March 2009: Ales Kotalik acquired for a second round pick
  • March 2010: Ryan Whitney and a sixth round pick acquired for Lubomir Visnovsky
  • February 2012: Nick Schultz acquired for Tom Gilbert
  • April 2013: Jerred Smithson acquired for a fourth round pick
  • March 2013: Mike Brown acquired for a fourth round pick

There’s an old line about some skaters having to play their way into midseason form after a summer spent getting out of shape; Tambellini was the general manager equivalent of that, spending the winter in hibernation and then coming to life at the trade deadline to make like-for-slightly-inferior trades or acquire irrelevant pieces for draft picks.

Jerred Smithson is the ultimate Tambellini player. Edmonton needed a centre months earlier, and the solution Tambellini came up with was a marginal fourth-liner two months after he might have been useful.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Ilya Bryzgalov

Craig MacTavish hasn’t made a midseason trade to add players yet either – though he’s shipped out Ladislav Smid and Jason LaBarbera and Mike Brown – but he did make a free agent signing to bolster his team.

Ilya Bryzgalov was signed as the solution to a problem.

The problem, of course, was Devan Dubnyk’s implosion, an implosion that cost the Oilers dearly. For all the harping about how Edmonton is no better this year than last, if Dubnyk had managed the 0.920 save percentage he did one season ago the team would be 21 goals better than it is and likely be ahead of both Calgary and Nashville. It’s an implosion that represents more than half the gap between where Edmonton is and being a break-even team by goal differential.

The difference between MacTavish and his predecessor was that he didn’t wait until March before getting proactive. He gave Dubnyk as much time as he could, and then made a move. On a team that once handed the reins over to Jeff Deslauriers after its starter got hurt, this is a novelty.

It’s also an encouraging sign. I’ve had many people tell me they can’t tell the difference between the Oilers under Tambellini and the Oilers under MacTavish. This is a big one. And while the picture’s awfully black right now, and lots more changes need to be made, Edmonton already made the most crucial decision it could have: firing the man who led the descent into the abyss, and replacing him with someone willing to make moves before March. 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • A-Mc

    This team is years away from being any significant force in the playoffs. It’s likely that you’ll have a solid 3-4 years of making the playoffs before you get the right mix to actually get up to conference finals. Right now, the Oilers aren’t even close to being competitive to Making the playoffs to begin with.

    So what is the real time line here?

    2 years, with solid #’s of moves in each, before this team can even hope to be in that playoff spot (remember: with the new alignment, we need to upend some extremely tough teams to make the playoffs).

    Then a solid 3-4 years (with good moves in each) to get the right mix of playoff experience and player longevity to even make it past round 2.

    Thinking that it’ll be a solid 5-6 years before the oilers get anywhere competitive, cup wise, is quite discouraging but luckily that’s not what we need as fans. We just need to be competitive every night. When we no longer look at a stretch of games, like our last 6, and think “Well we’ll be lucky to get ANY points”, that’s when fans will re-engage.

    We may only be 1-2 seasons away from that if Mac T can get his CHit together, soooooo…. Stay tuned?

  • A-Mc

    Also: I dont think the team is getting worse, i think they are getting better and it’s resulting in a worse record. Here’s why!

    For the last few years, we’ve played extremely risky hockey. At any given moment, the Oilers could pounce on a team with endless cheats for offense. unfortunately, cheating most often results in goals against.

    Fast forward to this year. Guys still cheat but i dont see it nearly as much. What i Do see is that guys are legitimately playing harder and trying to do the right thing. Unfortunately for them, With out the risky plays, all that is left is team defense and the team’s defense is simply not good (for various reasons).


    In a round about way, i think the fire wagon hockey was actually hiding mistakes that we’ve always made. Now that the wagon fire has be put out and the team is trying to play the right way (more often than it used to), we’re coming up short in the wins column.

    Fire wagon was our edge but it was unhealthy. We remove that and we’re left playing PROPER hockey which the team doesnt know how to do yet. We’ve regressed in the standings but i think that regression is healthy. Improvements from the basement will be made doing things the right way – like bricks building a wall.

    I dont think we’ve become a worse team. I think we’re better.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Looking forward to tonight’s game. I am super hopeful that the Oilers can pull a nice win for the fans. A nice xmas gift for the fans, I wish:
    1. A 6-1 victory; looks good for the cosmonaut and the D. 2. Yaks gets two goals. 3. Justin S gets a few assists and looks defensively aware. 4. All star type dominance by Hall.

  • I admittedly was a proponent of khabi being signed, but only if Anderson wasn’t. I am not sure the Oilers even made an attempt at him. Also, when I saw the contract khabi got, I was immediately sick. It was obviously terrible even though I thought he’d be good here. Too long.. Too much money. Very much like Horcoff’s 5.5m deal.. A player I loved but said… “wtf??” when hearing the deal.

  • reaperfunkss

    Wow Tambellini really was Satan wasn’t he? The way he totally disregarded Lowes thoughts on everything (Cause Oil Change season 1 showed us that tambo didn’t make a move without Lowe involved but we can ignore that) Lowe`s mandate publicly was that the Oilers were gonna let youth develop and not make any big moves. The team is in a totally different place from when tambo came in to when MacT came in. To compare the 2 this way makes me think Lowe came over to your place for a brew to explain how what we see is all Tambo`s fault. I am not gonna give any big credit to tambellini for anything but I am certainly not gonna lay this mess on him when Lowe has been the architect

    You been drinking from the Stauffer revisionist cup?

  • I do not like how Edmonton media likes to “backstab” previous players/management when they have already left town. MacTavish has failed to any support for our top forwards with bottom six forwards, NHL caliber defenceman or goalies. This should have been addressed in the off-season. “Bold moves” MacTavish and “Six-Rings” Lowe should have known this as they made careers living off of upper end talent as role players.

  • S cottV

    MacT really blew it hiring Eakins.

    No way Dubie delivers a .920 with what was and is still – going on in front of him.

    Dubie hasnt been great but Eakins trial and error learning curve is as much or more to blame for those unwarranted ga’s. I mean c’mon, the defensive zone coverage has been and is still horrific.

    These next 4 games to close out the year will be very interesting. I believe that they will get a couple of wins, however if they dont – it probably cements what appears to be a sizeable disconnect between Eakins and the player group.

    The big problem with the Eakins hiring, is that it has set the program backwards rather than advancing it. I mean – there is not one area of play that looks better – that is taking shape. The club is in 29th place and has not played a meaningful game since being effectively out of the playoffs in mid Nov.

    While the Jets will be tired tonight, they still have faint hope to make the playoffs and the game has meaning for them. Eakins should have been able to direct the club into a similar position and failure to do so, may still be his undoing.

    These next 4 games will have tell tale implications and undertones for what is going on and what may have to be done.

    MacT may have to fess up…

  • Spydyr

    The coach is solid , the players and upper management are not . Both Lowe and Mc Tavish have been involved with this team far to long and its time to change gears Mr Katz. Both have not delivered in the long or short term and for the most part created Edmonton as a non destination for quality players. Now as we see the young players realizing this is not where you want to be , they are probably wishing to be traded because the grass is greener on the other side of the rink most nights . Dallas Eakins as a person and coach is a leader and wont quit on the players even if some nights they quit on him , the ones who work will stay and the rest may get their wish to play in the AHL or retirement league. Fresh management of non oiler history is needed to give the team a chance , quality players are available that could help this team within your own organization but you have to give them a chance . New energy , life and heart . Lots to gain little to lose .

  • Chris.

    Remember when Tambellini hired a new coach and crashed a team expected to compete for a playoff spot into last place?

    Remember when the pundits said he deserved more time because he hadn’t really been GM for very long?

    How did that work out?

  • Johnnydapunk

    I’m still on the fence about MacT, I will always be impressed with the fact he was the one who decided that the “responsible forechecking system” (the trap) was the way forward for the Oil in the 2005-06 playoffs which was in my view one of the keys in the Oil getting as far as they did. That was coaching to me.

    So far he tried to address goaltending, trying to trade for Schneider, making it clear that Dubnyk was walking a fine line, and signing LaBarbera, who shouldn’t have been as rubbish as he was based on his past history, and when that didn’t work, trading him off and signing The Bryz on a fairly friendly trial deal for the season. I also give him credit for signing Bachman who I think could be resigned and be a good number 2 next season as I think he has been alright and putting up good numbers in the AHL.

    His trade for Perron was also very good, Boyd Gordon has been decent, Belov needs time, but is gonna be a good solid 3-4 defenceman, maybe a number 2, early to say. Grebs wasn’t that bad of a signing, he was an experiment that didn’t work, it may have also helped get Belov here and settled a bit so there was some value in signing him. MacIntyre was signed as a reaction to the fact the Oil didn’t have enough toughness and was an “impulse” signing. And when he was injured, Gazdic was a great find on waivers and he has done what has seemingly asked.

    I think the problem Eakins has and will have now is that he got everyone’s hopes all up and someone “pumped his tyres” a bit much and now he is looking like a right muppet. I agree with what he is trying to do, though I don’t know if it will work tonight and I wouldn’t be overtly shocked if he got the sack or he walks out on the job. Having a pop at the fan who threw the jersey is not the thing to do though, the dude did it because he was frustrated and rightfully so after the horror show of that game. Think it would be wise to keep the fans not necessarily on his side, but cool enough that they aren’t screaming for his head every home game. If the team loses like that again, it will be like the teddy bear toss of jerseys.

    I am surprised saying this, but a player like Ryan Smyth is incredibly valuable to the Oil right now as he is one of the few, few players who bleeds for the Oil, I mean have you ever heard of a player requesting a trade to Edmonton in the last 15 years? Sure players come here, but that is sadly rare, and the Oil don’t have enough players like that. Gags could be one of those, I really hope he improves his game to get the donkey off his back.

    The season is a write off, and I’ve accepted that. This summer is gonna be big for MacT as a lot of contracts are up and some decisions are gonna be made. I would like to see 6Rings out of that process and someone from the outside with no loyalties to come in and see what the mess is really all about as someone neutral would be able to make some more objective decisions. I doubt it though, but one can only hope.

  • paul wodehouse

    …katz can’t clean house chris…put your self in katz place right now…take each of those names you have mentioned and replace each name with a new one …

    we’re hooped bud …

  • S cottV


    Answer me two questions:

    1. Why was MacTavish hired in Edmonton? Was it for his burnished CV? His rugged good-looks? Why was he hired?

    2. The Oilers have regressed, in nearly every way, under Eakins in spite of the ‘core’ getting older and more experienced. Is that not Eakin’s fault? If it is, is that not MacTavish’s fault for hiring a inadequate coach?

    • Oilers4Ever

      In regards to #2, it isn’t the coaches fault that he doesn’t have enough NHL caliber defencemen or goalies to fill out the starting lineup, let alone the game day roster.

      I think Eakins is over his head as well, but it isn’t fair to blame him for problems that originate over his head and that he can’t correct as a head coach.

  • S cottV

    Giving Lowe as pass on the decisions of his general managers is naive. As a consultant I have worked with senior executives across almost every industry and you know what they all have in common? Formally or informally they get approval from their bosses before making critical decisions and they all have their strategies and priorities confirmed as well.

    And in every other industry, when the president doesn’t like what he hears he provides clear direction on what he or she wants.

    There is no way, none, that Lowe is president in name only. Everything material that Tambo did or didn’t do came with Lowe’s approval. Ditto for MacT.

  • Oilers4Ever

    Nice way to paint lip stick on a pig. For too long we the fan have shelled out huge amounts of after tax dollars to support this team- our beloved oilers and far too often there have countless promises for hope. More false hope. Coaches and GMs have come and gone, certain other coaches and scouting staff have survived when the axe has fallen. Yet we the paying fans are played for idiots by this group of millionaires professing to be builders of NHL calibre teams. As players we can not take aways their winning and cup victories. Our Patience has allowed former players to try their hats as coaches, General managers and Team Presidents. Time and proven that the current formula is not working and has not worked and there is no sign that this ship will ever sail in the right direction again. In fact the team has digressed and is on pace to champion the worst record.
    It is time for change. May the new year bring about change from the top and right the way through to scouting and development on all levels. Let’s not continue to say- ya but in 2006 we were one game from the cup. Real, knowledgeable hockey watchers know that during that year they were badly out played and outshoot in all series leading up to the final and should have never made it past the third round. Let’s call a spade a spade. Lets not find and create excuses.
    Let’s not put lip stick on a pig- in this case ugly is ugly.
    This is down right ugliness, no question about it.

  • Oilers4Ever

    the only thing i have to say is this; it is no doubt that every oiler fan is goin through hard times with no end in sight. the past 7 to 8 yrs have been brutal. numerous changes, coaching (assistants & head coach),gms,scouts( top to bottom)different farm teams, new positions created or added and one new owner not to mention the countless number of players over the years. All of these changes and still the same results. there is only two factors that still remain, 1) loses and 2)kevin lowe. There has been plenty of puppets infront of him to take the fall as he treads above water. i’m not putting the blame all on him but the evidence speaks for itself. on more than one occassion players have left edmonton on bad terms. there is also players that have come out and said that they would not play for kevin lowe. i read comments above rookie gms on teams having success and rookie coaches on other teams having it too. what team has success with a rookie team,coach, gm, and owner. not one team ever in the history of the nhl has had a rookie in all positions at the same time. and thats the puppets im referring to. i dont care how many cups lowe has won we have to ask our selves how is he still employed with the oilers. countless fall guys have come and gone. the evidence speaks for itself. i also want to comment on articles relating to edmonton rebuilding there team like pittsburg and chicago. we are quite different from those clubs. first order of business for those teams was cleaning house, the vetern players and management. we have yet to do this, infact we are opposite from that by bringing guys back like mac t and ryan smyth(luv the guy but come on). again not pointing fingers at mac because so far seems to be ok in a bad situation and cap frozen season but why is he there? kevin lowe! it was planned from the time mac left his coaching position. some might disagree with all i have said but one burning question remains which in my mind sums up everything. WHAT GM/PREZ OF HOCKEY OPPS/GOD, HAS HAD A JOB WITH ONE FRANCHISE WITH A RECORD LIKE KEVIN LOWES??? the answer is no one.