TIES THAT BIND

Robin Brownlee
April 15 2013 05:29PM

If there's anybody who is actually surprised Craig MacTavish was named the new GM of the Edmonton Oilers today after Steve Tambellini was fired and made the fall guy, they haven't been paying attention.

That doesn't make Kevin Lowe's end-around of anything remotely resembling due diligence and process in terms of scouring the NHL for other candidates – a fact that's been bemoaned at great length in the aftermath, and a criticism that certainly has merit – right, and it doesn't mean critics shouldn’t be hacked off about it, but it should surprise nobody.

This is a shot that could have been called, and was, the second MacTavish returned to the organization as vice-president of hockey operations under Lowe. The only real question about when – not if – what happened today would come was tied to the health of MacTavish, who has had non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for a couple of years now.

No matter what happened with the Oilers this season, Lowe was not going to be blown out by owner Daryl Katz because they’re friends. Again, you don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t make it less true. That remains so today and it isn’t going to change. That's a pound of flesh fans aren't going to get.

Likewise, if things went sideways, as they have, Tambellini was positioned as the fall guy. The first guy who'd be offered the job was MacTavish because he and Lowe go back more than 25 years – hell, they were teammates in New York with the Rangers in 1994 when they first discussed what it might be like one day to jump into coaching and the front office as a tandem. They like each other. They respect each other. They have history. Ties that bind.

No surprise. None.

SETS UP NICELY

Process (no small matter for debate) or lack of same aside, the bottom line for long-suffering Oilers fans facing a seventh straight season out of the playoffs has to be this: will the organization be more competently guided and better built for success under MacTavish than under Tambellini?

My best guess is the answer is yes, and there's plenty of reasons for that – not the least of which is that I believe, lack of experience aside, MacTavish has a better grasp of what it takes to build a team than Tambellini does (or at least a better grasp than the often indecisive Tambellini displayed).

I could be mistaken, of course, but my opinion of MacTavish was formed over many years of picking his brain about hockey – from the time he was captain here to his brief tenure as an assistant coach in New York to his return to Edmonton. We spent a lot of time in airports, hotels and hockey rinks across the continent.

Fact is, I think MacTavish's approach to the game and team building will see him more successful as the GM of this team than he was as head coach. And, as he said today (and I've seen first-hand), MacT's got an impatient streak – that in itself is a welcome change for fans frustrated by Tambellini's guarded approach to getting things done.

ALL IN THE TIMING

MacTavish is sharp. He's aggressive. He has very strong opinions about the kind of players he wants and what it takes to build a team. Those traits aside, MacTavish is taking over the big chair at the perfect time and it would take a face-plant of biblical proportions for him not to be more successful than was Tambellini, who, like departed coach Tom Renney, stepped into the breach with the team at its lowest point.

As disappointing as the last five games have been and as much as the weaknesses in the roster have been exposed during that stretch, this isn't a team that is hopelessly far off returning to contention in terms of the number of players needed and how much the mix must be tweaked. The core is going to continue to get better – no matter who is GM.

The trick, one Tambellini never did grasp or at least never did act on, is to plug in the right forward here, a defenseman or two there and veterans in support positions who can bring the kids along. MacTavish, rest assured, will move on that. Will he make the right moves? We'll see soon, which was never the case with Tambellini.

Bottom line is MacTavish, like returning Scott Howson, is stepping back into the Oilers fold at exactly the right time. From where I sit, they're set up to enjoy infinitely more success than Tambellini ever was. That, of course, has yet to be played out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a year or two from now the Oilers are right where fans want them to be.

If that happens, I'm guessing results will trump process, no?

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 JDP
April 15 2013, 06:04PM
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@Jed

No doubt

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#52 JOFA
April 15 2013, 06:04PM
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Lowe made the right call at the right time. The Oilers have accumulated and managed assets safely under Tambo's reign. It's time to take more risk in the management of those assets. Tambellini has given Oiler's fans no reason to believe that he can pull off the same type of moves that a Lombardi or a Chiarelli do. The rebuild has entered a new phase and with that, changes are to be expected when expectations are not met. McTavish is bright, knowledgeable and experienced. He's the right man for the job moving forward. Lowe deserves credit for making a critical move at a critical time.

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#53 Harlie
April 15 2013, 06:09PM
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Spydyr wrote:

You can't leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution.

Tyree Scott

Sounds like a quote from Michael Scott..

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#54 vetinari
April 15 2013, 06:10PM
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Being a good player doesn't equate to being a good general manager, and a lot of GMs on other teams over the years have been lawyers or other professionals. I like that MacT has his Masters in Business Admin and has experience with the city, the team and coaching. Frankly, aside from never having been a GM, he's worked more positions, from top to bottom, in organizations than most other GM's have. Give him a shot and do the first report card on him at the end of July when we see what he does with the draft, and UFA season.

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#55 JDP
April 15 2013, 06:12PM
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@vetinari

Another wait till next year approach!

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#56 DSF
April 15 2013, 06:14PM
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JOFA wrote:

Lowe made the right call at the right time. The Oilers have accumulated and managed assets safely under Tambo's reign. It's time to take more risk in the management of those assets. Tambellini has given Oiler's fans no reason to believe that he can pull off the same type of moves that a Lombardi or a Chiarelli do. The rebuild has entered a new phase and with that, changes are to be expected when expectations are not met. McTavish is bright, knowledgeable and experienced. He's the right man for the job moving forward. Lowe deserves credit for making a critical move at a critical time.

What, other than riding Chris Pronger to a cup final. has MacT ever accomplished?

Normally, in the business world, a hire or promotion is based on results and accomplishment.

MacT has accomplished nothing.

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#57 DSF
April 15 2013, 06:15PM
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JDP wrote:

Another wait till next year approach!

The year after.

Needs a year to evaluate.

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#58 outdoorzguy
April 15 2013, 06:16PM
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I never saw any of the loss to Calgary on Saturday night. Tonight on the news I saw a clip of the end of the game and despite losing 4-1, what really struck me was the fact the seats were still full at the end of the game. Amazing you put up with this!

I understand the fans love for their hockey team, but until such time they start to stand up, leave games like this, don't attend games and leave seats empty, stop buying Oiler items, this is what you'll get.

Make no mistake about it, despite what Loser Lowe said today, public pressure did have a role in Timid Tambellini's firing. Take a stand and hopefully sooner than later, Loser Lowe will be going out the door as well.

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#59 JDP
April 15 2013, 06:17PM
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And a year extra just for fun....always next time!

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#60 pezman
April 15 2013, 06:19PM
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With regards to a new arena: I think we are putting the cart before the horse. Don't we need a team before we build a new rink?

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#61 vetinari
April 15 2013, 06:19PM
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JDP wrote:

Another wait till next year approach!

Hey, I would have preferred that they looked outside of the organization first and held a real search before MacT, but he is definitely an upgrade on Tambellini.

I also would have liked to see Lowe get canned as well because in my mind, him and Tambellini are part of the same decision making structure and in any event, he let this train wreck continue for waaaayy too long. Either Lowe was blind and didn't see the problems or he saw the problems and didn't prompt Tambellini to act when needed. Either way, he has got be held accountable for his part in this matter.

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#62 count
April 15 2013, 06:22PM
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outdoorzguy wrote:

I never saw any of the loss to Calgary on Saturday night. Tonight on the news I saw a clip of the end of the game and despite losing 4-1, what really struck me was the fact the seats were still full at the end of the game. Amazing you put up with this!

I understand the fans love for their hockey team, but until such time they start to stand up, leave games like this, don't attend games and leave seats empty, stop buying Oiler items, this is what you'll get.

Make no mistake about it, despite what Loser Lowe said today, public pressure did have a role in Timid Tambellini's firing. Take a stand and hopefully sooner than later, Loser Lowe will be going out the door as well.

You are the loser.Do not post

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#63 Jerod
April 15 2013, 06:23PM
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If Oilers are targeting a Dman in the 2013 draft Oiler should trade their first round pick + Hemsky for Adam Larsson.

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#64 Vgood
April 15 2013, 06:25PM
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I wish Katz had the balls to fire head of this problem, Kevin Lowe. Lowe has a history of winning as a player but this team has never finished top five in the conference since he took over and it has been 8 long years since the run. TIME FOR A REAL CHANGE!!!!

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#65 Harlie
April 15 2013, 06:28PM
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FMNF!

http://oilersnation.com/2009/2/10/fmnf

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#66 outdoorzguy
April 15 2013, 06:36PM
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count wrote:

You are the loser.Do not post

You've become satisfied with the decade of mediocrity this team has found acceptable. You get what you wish for.

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#67 FSD
April 15 2013, 06:44PM
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Wharton has quite a few graduates this year however no GM'S

How strange.

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#68 EP
April 15 2013, 06:46PM
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This is a step in the right direction, but only a small one. I would have liked to have seen the whole management team go, but we all know Klowe isn't going anywhere. The timing of the firing is interesting, but probably has to do with optics. Firing Tambellini at the end of the season wouldn't have the same perceived impact that firing him during the season does. I like what MacT said during the press conference today, but talk is cheap. Let's see what the off season brings.

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#69 Oilcruzer
April 15 2013, 07:00PM
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Crap. There goes my plan to get the crowd working a "Good-bye Tambo" chant for Wednesday... Crap.

The easy move is to fire everyone. Last time I looked, everyone phoning in and posting on blog sites doesn't see the inner circle / workings of what is going on.

People who make billion dollar enterprises might just know a thing or two about running a business. And they might just know how to evaluate or the process for evaluation.

If they had "burned down the management team", I would seriously have questioned the logic in that.

But, like a disease, you cut til it's gone. Just cut faster than it spreads.

Lowe and MacT may or may not be in jeopardy but both Lowe and MacT are on a short leash. (I think Lowe's is a bit shorter.)

There's gonna be some big moves this summer. I bet 6, 7, or even 8 new players in the lineup next year. (New includes anyone who didn't suit up for 50% of the games this year).

If that doesn't sound like much - that's possibly greater than 1/3 of your lineup you went to war with this year.

Is Lowe the problem? Maybe, but I'm betting not - other than the choice to hire Tambo to begin with.

Tambo never fit the "Oiler" model of being a little snarky / oocky with a reason to be that way to back it up.

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#70 Naky
April 15 2013, 07:01PM
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I'm not all that impressed with MacTavish's opinion on players with grit and such. I remember all too well his man-crushes on the Toby Petersens, the Liam Reddoxes, and the Marty Reasoners of teams past. Sorry but he's going to have to work really, really hard to prove to me that he knows what it takes to build a team cuz I saw how he managed a roster and I'm still less than impressed even to this day. Unfortunately for him, the McBlender won't work as well when you're a GM then when you were a coach. Well... hopefully not anyway, god helps us all.

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#71 DSF
April 15 2013, 07:03PM
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Naky wrote:

I'm not all that impressed with MacTavish's opinion on players with grit and such. I remember all too well his man-crushes on the Toby Petersens, the Liam Reddoxes, and the Marty Reasoners of teams past. Sorry but he's going to have to work really, really hard to prove to me that he knows what it takes to build a team cuz I saw how he managed a roster and I'm still less than impressed even to this day. Unfortunately for him, the McBlender won't work as well when you're a GM then when you were a coach. Well... hopefully not anyway, god helps us all.

MacT presided over the exit (for nothing) of Jan Hejda, Kyle Brodziak and Curtis Glencross.

Tells you pretty much all you need to know.

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#72 voom04
April 15 2013, 07:12PM
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I`m TORN, tamby prrobably gets payed well to be the fall guy, MacT is probably as good as choice as any, Lowe probably is close to being successfull, but other than 3 1st picks and schultz falling in his lap what has he done to act so arrogant, are these the players he`s talking about that every team in the league would like, the rest on the whole is crap maybe not gags.

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#73 Quicksilver ballet
April 15 2013, 07:15PM
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@ Robin Brownlee

The trick, one Tambellini never did grasp or at least never did act on, is to plug in the right forward here, a defenseman or two there and veterans in support positions who can bring the kids along. MacTavish, rest assured, will move on that. Will he make the right moves? We'll see soon, which was never the case with Tambellini.

No tricks/trades were permitted to occur. Steves hands were tied at all times. He took on a difficult task and succeeded beyond Lowes/Katz's goals from the outset. What was accomplished took the pressure off of everyone from management, scouting and even the players. How could anyone botch up having the first selection 3 yrs in a row. They were set up to fail by management from the getgo.

Now that the most difficult part of the rebuild is in the rearview mirror. The fans have their pound of flesh, and Lowe as well as the rest of his crew can look like heroes again. That's a lot of loyalty from Katz for a guy who's won diddly squat for 20 yrs (1994) Fresh start again for Lowe, courtesy of Steven Tambellini.

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#74 OilersBrass
April 15 2013, 07:16PM
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Jerod wrote:

If Oilers are targeting a Dman in the 2013 draft Oiler should trade their first round pick + Hemsky for Adam Larsson.

That is way over paying. Larsson has taken a large step back in development, he's always injured and has been a healthy scratch many times this year. I'd give up Hemsky and a second at most for him.

As for the draft, they won't be targeting defenceman until the later rounds if they do at all, they have a ton of great defence prospects. Whats needed is a defenceman who's skilled and ready to play right now. What they should do is trade Hemsky and their first for a higher first round pick if possible. They need a Barkov type player badly.

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#75 DSF
April 15 2013, 07:20PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee

The trick, one Tambellini never did grasp or at least never did act on, is to plug in the right forward here, a defenseman or two there and veterans in support positions who can bring the kids along. MacTavish, rest assured, will move on that. Will he make the right moves? We'll see soon, which was never the case with Tambellini.

No tricks/trades were permitted to occur. Steves hands were tied at all times. He took on a difficult task and succeeded beyond Lowes/Katz's goals from the outset. What was accomplished took the pressure off of everyone from management, scouting and even the players. How could anyone botch up having the first selection 3 yrs in a row. They were set up to fail by management from the getgo.

Now that the most difficult part of the rebuild is in the rearview mirror. The fans have their pound of flesh, and Lowe as well as the rest of his crew can look like heroes again. That's a lot of loyalty from Katz for a guy who's won diddly squat for 20 yrs (1994) Fresh start again for Lowe, courtesy of Steven Tambellini.

Actually, the hard part is still to come.

Losing and acquiring high draft picks is the easy part.

Making the astute trades and free agent signings to fill out the roster with quality is the hard part.

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#76 DSF
April 15 2013, 07:21PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

I don't think "presided" means what you think it means.

Regarding your Pronger comment earlier - could you please point us to all those amazing coaches with championships who did NOT have superstar players to ride through the playoffs? I'd love to know who they are.

Cinderella had to go home after the ball.

How did MacT do after Pronger left?

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#77 TDSM31
April 15 2013, 07:24PM
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outdoorzguy wrote:

I never saw any of the loss to Calgary on Saturday night. Tonight on the news I saw a clip of the end of the game and despite losing 4-1, what really struck me was the fact the seats were still full at the end of the game. Amazing you put up with this!

I understand the fans love for their hockey team, but until such time they start to stand up, leave games like this, don't attend games and leave seats empty, stop buying Oiler items, this is what you'll get.

Make no mistake about it, despite what Loser Lowe said today, public pressure did have a role in Timid Tambellini's firing. Take a stand and hopefully sooner than later, Loser Lowe will be going out the door as well.

Everyone stuck around til the end of the Calgary game to make sure the Oilers got a good dose of the boo's on their way off the ice.

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#78 TigerUnderGlass
April 15 2013, 07:24PM
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DSF wrote:

Actually, the hard part is still to come.

Losing and acquiring high draft picks is the easy part.

Making the astute trades and free agent signings to fill out the roster with quality is the hard part.

This is indisputable.

I'm working on the theory that Lowe saw this day coming from the moment he hired Tambo.

He wanted scorched earth and brought in a GM to take the blame - meanwhile MacT gets to "step down" and conveniently return later with relatively clean hands to take over in the aftermath.

They get a bunch of high picks AND stick around to try and win later.

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#79 DSF
April 15 2013, 07:29PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

This is indisputable.

I'm working on the theory that Lowe saw this day coming from the moment he hired Tambo.

He wanted scorched earth and brought in a GM to take the blame - meanwhile MacT gets to "step down" and conveniently return later with relatively clean hands to take over in the aftermath.

They get a bunch of high picks AND stick around to try and win later.

Yes, I think this is accurate.

That Katz would allow him to effect this slight of hand is perplexing.

Given all that preceded the Tambellini hiring, I would think Lowe is now on double secret probation.

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#80 morgie99
April 15 2013, 07:30PM
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Spydyr wrote:

You can't leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution.

Tyree Scott

impressive quote spyder, and educational

Tyree Scott, who knew, obviously you, props

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#81 DSF
April 15 2013, 07:33PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

You mean Pronger and most of the rest of the team's defense? How would anybody do?

Not the point.

MacT has never been a winner since his playing days ended.

There are those including the Iraqi Information Minister (LT) who think MacT was responsible for the playoff run the only time he had a "balanced roster" but I'm of the opinion it was Pronger who took the team on his back and carried the team to the finals.

Now that MacT is responsible for building a "balanced roster" we'll see how that works out.

I would wager the team will spend another 3 years twisting in the wind and Katz will clean house just as the new arena is about to open.

He should have done that housecleaning today and Lowe's sad, sad performance today is exactly why that should have occurred.

We wait.

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#82 Battered
April 15 2013, 07:34PM
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@DSF your one smart dude, too bad your not an Oiler fan

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#83 DSF
April 15 2013, 07:51PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

Well I feel better about the GM today than I did yesterday.

You definitely have a point about what Katz should have done, but at least I believe MacTavish has a chance to prove me wrong. With Tambo I never, for even a second, believed he could do anything right.

Frankly I believe 10 minutes of conversation with Tambo should have been enough to convince anybody he was in over his head, which I why I believe he was a patsy all along.

With you all the way there.

MacT is at least intelligent but I'm still convinced Lowe won't be able to keep his fingers off the levers and, given their long relationship, I think it will be all but impossible for MacT to tell Lowe to perform his duties as "President of the Remembering the 80's" and leave hockey operations alone.

Listened to an interview with the venerable Doug Mclean today.

His view is that any organization that has a "President of Hockey Operations" doesn't have a GM but an assistant GM.

I expect he is right about that.

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#84 DSF
April 15 2013, 07:55PM
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In other news, after beating the Devils 2-0 tonight and after firing their GM and Coach, now have a 99.99% chance of making the playoffs.

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#85 The Soup Fascist
April 15 2013, 07:57PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

Well I feel better about the GM today than I did yesterday.

You definitely have a point about what Katz should have done, but at least I believe MacTavish has a chance to prove me wrong. With Tambo I never, for even a second, believed he could do anything right.

Frankly I believe 10 minutes of conversation with Tambo should have been enough to convince anybody he was in over his head, which I why I believe he was a patsy all along.

Lee Harvey Tambellini?

Interesting theory - but not sure anyone who thinks it is smart to alienate 99% of his fan base and play the "do you know who the hell I am" card, has that kind of game.

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#86 TDSM31
April 15 2013, 07:59PM
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DSF wrote:

Not the point.

MacT has never been a winner since his playing days ended.

There are those including the Iraqi Information Minister (LT) who think MacT was responsible for the playoff run the only time he had a "balanced roster" but I'm of the opinion it was Pronger who took the team on his back and carried the team to the finals.

Now that MacT is responsible for building a "balanced roster" we'll see how that works out.

I would wager the team will spend another 3 years twisting in the wind and Katz will clean house just as the new arena is about to open.

He should have done that housecleaning today and Lowe's sad, sad performance today is exactly why that should have occurred.

We wait.

Yes, but the point is that MacT was instrumental in getting Pronger to Edmonton in the first place.

How ironic that the 2006 run is one of the worst things that has ever happened to this franchise. Anyone employed during that run automatically got a lifetime 'stamp of approval'.

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#87 TDSM31
April 15 2013, 08:02PM
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DSF wrote:

In other news, after beating the Devils 2-0 tonight and after firing their GM and Coach, now have a 99.99% chance of making the playoffs.

Now Jersey...there's a prime trading partner. Zero offence.

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#88 DSF
April 15 2013, 08:06PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

Yes, but the point is that MacT was instrumental in getting Pronger to Edmonton in the first place.

How ironic that the 2006 run is one of the worst things that has ever happened to this franchise. Anyone employed during that run automatically got a lifetime 'stamp of approval'.

Was he?

I've never heard that before.

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#89 DSF
April 15 2013, 08:08PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

Now Jersey...there's a prime trading partner. Zero offence.

Could be.

What offence do the Oilers have to offer?

New Jersey and Edmonton both have 115 goals scored this season.

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#90 Harlie
April 15 2013, 08:11PM
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DSF wrote:

Yes, I think this is accurate.

That Katz would allow him to effect this slight of hand is perplexing.

Given all that preceded the Tambellini hiring, I would think Lowe is now on double secret probation.

More than a few of us saw the game plan...funny thing is how Tambo either never saw what was coming, or he saw it all along and cashed his checks accordingly.

http://oilersnation.com/2012/1/31/stay-the-course/page/3#comments

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#91 Butters
April 15 2013, 08:13PM
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I wonder how this is going to work. Pro scouting is suspect with this organization. Is MacT going to make changes there? I would think it would be difficult to be an effective GM without adequate scouting.

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#92 Lochenzo
April 15 2013, 08:14PM
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The last time the Oilers conducted their due diligence and hired the best person available, they hired Tambi, who at the time, was considered the best person not currently in a GM position. Be like George Constanza and do the opposite!

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#93 DSF
April 15 2013, 08:17PM
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Lochenzo wrote:

The last time the Oilers conducted their due diligence and hired the best person available, they hired Tambi, who at the time, was considered the best person not currently in a GM position. Be like George Constanza and do the opposite!

Tambellini was NOT the best person available.

The GM's in Florida, Montreal and Toronto, among others, would disagree.

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#94 TDSM31
April 15 2013, 08:17PM
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DSF wrote:

Could be.

What offence do the Oilers have to offer?

New Jersey and Edmonton both have 115 goals scored this season.

We have offensive players...just no size and grit to create the space they needed. There has to be a compliment of both for the whole team to be productive. I don't think anyone would argue that the Oilers don't have a decent amount of skill up front.

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#95 Gerald R. Ford
April 15 2013, 08:25PM
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MacT was partially correct about that "paying for the glory years" in one respect, at least. The megastar status of that team, combined with the later departure of 99 to a big U.S. market, helped to spawn nine more teams that the Oil have to compete with for players now. Another expansion down the road, and that means 31(!) competitors every time a prized free agent or available star comes on the market. Pray for contraction and for Mike Milbury to get another job somewhere soon.

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#96 Harlie
April 15 2013, 08:27PM
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Wonder if Lowe wanted to give McKinnon and Spec the Shawinigan handshake today?

http://www.poetv.com/video.php?vid=70667

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#97 DSF
April 15 2013, 08:28PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

We have offensive players...just no size and grit to create the space they needed. There has to be a compliment of both for the whole team to be productive. I don't think anyone would argue that the Oilers don't have a decent amount of skill up front.

It's decent but it might not be as good as you think it is.

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#98 Lochenzo
April 15 2013, 08:29PM
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DSF wrote:

Tambellini was NOT the best person available.

The GM's in Florida, Montreal and Toronto, among others, would disagree.

It was speculated as such. There were a lot of stories about Tambi at the time, biding his time in Van until the next GM job opened up.

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#99 DSF
April 15 2013, 08:32PM
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Lochenzo wrote:

It was speculated as such. There were a lot of stories about Tambi at the time, biding his time in Van until the next GM job opened up.

He was passed over twice in Vancouver.

That should have been a tell.

And it WAS Lowe who hired him.

You just can't erase those fingerprints.

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#100 Walter Sobchak
April 15 2013, 08:36PM
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I think Tambellini was way over his head.

I like a lot of what MacTavish was saying at the press conference, I like how he took accountability and spoke of his credibility, to put yourself out there means he won't piss around, I like that, shows balls.

I'm giving him this summer to make some changes, that's it.

If this roster isn't over hauled by training camp then all this was just good old fashion Oiler rhetoric.

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