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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#1 Harlie
April 15 2013, 05:32PM
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Well, at least MacT has fire in his gut and he ain't afraid to say it. And of course he will have more power and say than Tambellini ever did. Time will tell but with Howson doing the metrics and MacT doing the wheeling and dealing this just may work. Time will tell..

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#2 Spydyr
April 15 2013, 05:36PM
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You can't leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution.

Tyree Scott

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#3 Will
April 15 2013, 05:39PM
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I like some of the aggressive moves Howson made in Columbus recently, and I also think Mac T will bring in the exact players needed to build around the talented core. He also understands the defense first side of things.

But he also lost the room the last time, and now he's running the team? And look at the turn around in Columbus when Howson left?

These things make me worry one of these two guys is going to screw it all up (not that screwing up isn't already happening). I'm worried about a brash move, like in the old days, that will see a player be traded, then blossom somewhere else, for a player that becomes ineffective when brought into the Oilers. Then, much like Greene, Glencross, and Brodziak, we will whine and complain and the brass will talk abut the exact type of player needed, is the one they just sent away, but didn't give enough time or circumstance to develop.

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#4 The Soup Fascist
April 15 2013, 05:41PM
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Tambellini's fatal flaw was the "stand pat" approach. In retrospect, that may end up being a good thing for the organization versus him making dumb moves, but sitting on the fence cannot be tolerated going forward.

I realize I am restating the obvious, but fans tired of the dithering "paralysis by analysis" approach Tambellini employed in putting a team on the ice. MacT will make a few errors, certainly - but at this point the fans (season ticket holders and non-season ticket holders alike) would rather see mistakes of comission rather than mistakes of omission.

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#5 warren
April 15 2013, 05:43PM
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I'm just happy I don't have to listen to a boring steve t. interview again.

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#6 positivebrontefan
April 15 2013, 05:45PM
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I for one hope K-Lowe made the right decision here today. What scares me is how good a friends him and Katz are and how much of a slide or sharp downward turn(if that's even possible) they will have to take before Lowe gets the trigger pulled on him. This team needed patience to get where it is. From the GM from the Owner and from the fans. The time for patience is over and while I thought Tambo was in a tough spot at the deadline because the Oilers went and put themselves in contention for a game or two, it was he who ultimately made the choice to sit on his hands. Trading away Whitney at that point may have been a sign that he didn't have faith in this group and might have sent the wrong message. What the team then did is seal his fate by going ahead and losing five in a row. Tough spot to be. Good luck MacT. At least he has some passion.

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#7 JohnnySkidmarks
April 15 2013, 05:45PM
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Bringing in MacT has everyone reeling....part of the good ole boys from the glory days. I say give it time, but my patience has slowly ran out. Changes need to be made NOW.

I dunno what to think anymore. Golf anyone?

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#8 JohnnySkidmarks
April 15 2013, 05:45PM
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And shout out to Wanye.

Dude is a pimp....werd to ya mutha.

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#9 Smokey
April 15 2013, 05:49PM
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You gotta wonder if Tambo reluctance to make a decent move or the right move at the trade line was due to him being a lame due to him being a lame duck GM.

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#10 JDP
April 15 2013, 05:49PM
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Say What! Good timing? Good timing to hire a GM with no experience? Okay...lets all wait now for the rebuild of our new GM...geez

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#11 Craig
April 15 2013, 05:51PM
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To have an attitude like Lowe has he must have gotten his way all the time. He obviously has an enormous ego. He probably thinks he did nothing wrong. I truly feel sorry for his family. This guy is a bully.

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#12 Rama Lama
April 15 2013, 05:56PM
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I for one am okay with MacT making mistakes.........not necessairly the same one over and over again mind you.

Watching Tamby do what Tamby does........nothing, will be a very refreshing change. It seems to me all the hockey pundits, fans, commentators, were all asking for the same thing. That being something, anything that resembles a change in direction. It's too bad Tamby was frozen, like a deer in the headlights.

I do believe that an organization with all the talent in the world, could benefit from a Tamby type......maintainer. What we need here in Oile country is a builder, someone who has a vision, and for me today, Mac T reflected more of a vision in twenty minutes that Tamby did in six years.

As a fan, we all know what was coming, and now it's here..........let's all rejoice!

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#13 Craig
April 15 2013, 05:57PM
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This behaviour reminds me of Pres Clinton when he was having sex with interns, he could never get around fact that he did anything wrong. He was so use to getting his way , it never occurred to him he did anything wrong.

Lowe has this ego, that has been fed for years. He is truly a little man whose family I'm sure knows the real Kevin.

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#14 T__Bone88
April 15 2013, 05:57PM
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I don't mind this change. This team does need a shake up in the roster and hopefully Mac T is the one to make the correct bold move. Not maybe GM's are still with the team from start to finish of a rebuild. I think Tambellini was a prospect minded GM which is good for the start of a rebuild but now the team needs a GM that values veterans and Mac T has a better outlook on NHL veterans. I wish people would get off the idea that Lowe was the man pulling all the strings among trades and signings and the 'Old Boy's Club', its kinda getting old. I am sure all of GM's have to get the 'ok' from the higher ups on player movement.

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#15 T__Bone88
April 15 2013, 05:57PM
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I don't mind this change. This team does need a shake up in the roster and hopefully Mac T is the one to make the correct bold move. Not maybe GM's are still with the team from start to finish of a rebuild. I think Tambellini was a prospect minded GM which is good for the start of a rebuild but now the team needs a GM that values veterans and Mac T has a better outlook on NHL veterans. I wish people would get off the idea that Lowe was the man pulling all the strings among trades and signings and the 'Old Boy's Club', its kinda getting old. I am sure all of GM's have to get the 'ok' from the higher ups on player movement.

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#16 DoubleJ
April 15 2013, 05:59PM
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I would love to know some of the moves Tambi was approached with, that he was scared to move on. I bet there was some too good to be true if "hind sight is 20/20".

I'm glad tambi was let go. I think Lowe should of waited to see if some other GM's became available or interviewed a few other candidates with more experience.

I think MacT is smart, just wish he could of tutored under an experienced gm a year or two first.

Either way there will be movement this offseason. Hope for the best.

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#17 JDP
April 15 2013, 05:59PM
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No experience people

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#18 Jed
April 15 2013, 06:02PM
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If being smart was the answer for a GM, there would be millions of Good GM's out there.

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#19 JDP
April 15 2013, 06:04PM
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@Jed

No doubt

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#20 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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#21 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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#22 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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#23 JDP
April 15 2013, 06:12PM
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@vetinari

Another wait till next year approach!

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#24 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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#25 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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#26 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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#27 JDP
April 15 2013, 06:17PM
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And a year extra just for fun....always next time!

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#28 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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#29 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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#30 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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#31 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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#32 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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#33 Harlie
April 15 2013, 06:28PM
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FMNF!

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

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#34 JOFA
April 15 2013, 06:32PM
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@DSF

1000 NHL games played, 4 Stanley Cup rings, 300 coaching wins, a trip to the finals as coach, an MBA at 50.

That's a whole lot of 'accomplishing nothing'.

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#35 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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#36 DSF
April 15 2013, 06:41PM
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JOFA wrote:

1000 NHL games played, 4 Stanley Cup rings, 300 coaching wins, a trip to the finals as coach, an MBA at 50.

That's a whole lot of 'accomplishing nothing'.

301 wins and 308 losses as a head coach.

3rd or 4th in the NW every season but his first when they finished 2nd. It was all down hill from there.

Made the playoffs 3 times in 8 years as head coach going out in the first round twice.

Games played as a player and an MBA have nothing to do with knowing how to build a winning team.

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#37 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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#38 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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#39 Curcro
April 15 2013, 06:54PM
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DSF wrote:

301 wins and 308 losses as a head coach.

3rd or 4th in the NW every season but his first when they finished 2nd. It was all down hill from there.

Made the playoffs 3 times in 8 years as head coach going out in the first round twice.

Games played as a player and an MBA have nothing to do with knowing how to build a winning team.

Surprisingly, being opinionated in a blog also has nothing to do with knowing how to build a winning team OR for that matter in knowing who the right person to hire in the situation is.

He has accomplished allot more than you DSF. (unless 40,000 posts indicating your own stupidity is counted as an accomplishment?)

--

I think the logical thing to discern here is that Tambellini made his last stand on the activity at the trade deadline. And that MacTavish disagreed with that approach. And I would suggest that Lowe said something to the effect that if Tambellini was wrong he was gone.

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#40 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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#41 DSF
April 15 2013, 07:00PM
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@Curcro

You have no idea what I've accomplished and calling someone who has clearly more intelligence than you do "stupid" is really ironic.

Would you like me to correct your spelling mistakes or can you handle that on your own?

Watch out for those dangling participles.

And never, ever begin a sentence with "And".

It's a conjunction.

It makes you look stupid.

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#42 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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#43 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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#44 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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#45 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
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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#46 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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#47 TigerUnderGlass
April 15 2013, 07:17PM
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DSF wrote:

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

Tells you pretty much all you need to know.

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.

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#48 DSF
April 15 2013, 07:20PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. 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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#49 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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#50 PutzStew
April 15 2013, 07:22PM
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I'm glad Tambi is gone but I started feeling sorry for him, last night (Sunday), when I realized, he never really had a chance. Has Klowe never fully stepped aside and let him run the show? A proper rebuild requires getting rid of the old and starting over. Tambi (Like, Hall and company) never had a full clean slate to build off of because of the people standing in front of them.

So Mr. Tambi, I'm sorry you got completely backed door in this. I don't know if you totally deserved the fate you got or if you would have been a better GM if you didn't have Klowe standing above you, but I would like to thank you for your time and I wish you the best of luck in the future.

As for Mr. Lowe. Go F*** yourself. You were a great man at one time in that town but moments like todays just proves what a looser you are. How can we except the players to be accountable, when you don't. That was embarrassing. Enjoy being a bottom feeder because you don't deserve any better.

To bad, SIX RINGS can't plug a hole either....

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