Enough already


“You have to get better from the inside. We have to get better as a group (and) individually. That’s the only way you’ll be able to sustain something… it’s difficult. Teams are looking for energy players. Teams are looking for defencemen. They’re looking for top-six forwards.”
— GM Steve Tambellini, Feb. 2, 2009

Tambellini doesn’t need advice from me, but having watched yet another emotionless, flat stinker by the Edmonton Oilers that wasn’t nearly as close on the ice as it was on score board in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, he’s going to get some.

With 50 games in the books, getting better from the inside isn’t working. It’s time to go outside. It’s time to get on the telephone. It’s time to make a trade to shake up a team clearly incapable of generating the emotion and intensity it’s going to take to secure a playoff spot in the next 32 games.

What? Rob Schremp is going to make a difference? Tim Sestito? How about the players in the dressing room now? Ethan Moreau? Shawn Horcoff? Tom Gilbert? Dustin Penner? Liam Reddox? Uh,no.

How much more of what the people who pay to get into Rexall Place have seen in recent days does Tambellini have to contemplate before he realizes this team isn’t good enough to make the playoffs?

It doesn’t need to be a blockbuster because that’s probably pie-in-the-sky stuff — unless Tambellini wants blow his wad and put everybody except Ales Hemsky on the table and see what happens — but it needs to be a trade to inject some enthusiasm, balls, jam, brass, whatever you want to call it, into a team profoundly lacking in it. If some of those qualities come attached to a mean-as-hell shut down defenceman or a proven penalty killer, all the better.

Don’t wait for the deadline. Do it now.

Tick, tick, tick…

The Oilers play seven of their next eight games on the road, they’ve lost three of their last four games and they’re packing for stops in St. Louis, Detroit and Minnesota without Lubomir Visnovsky.

They’re 25-22-3 and sitting in ninth place as they jump a jet for the Show Me State. They have absolutely no chance, none, of finishing these next eight games that high in the standings with this group of players.

For those who fancy firing coach Craig MacTavish as their default solution, let’s get off that, shall we? That isn’t going to happen right now. It isn’t going to happen next week. It isn’t going to happen until after a move’s been made to shake this line-up from the comfort zone it’s clearly fallen into. How else do you explain another heartless effort against the Blackhawks?

So, let’s dispense with the drama and make a move, or moves, now. With all of the time Tambellini’s spent on the phone, he’s got a pretty good picture of what’s out there and who’s available — even if he isn’t letting on. Can’t get Jason Spezza out of Ottawa via the big deal route in a swap of bad contracts for Horcoff as part of a package? Fine. Add somebody who competes. Send a message. Shake it up.

I get it that patience is a virtue. I get it that it’s better to make a deal from a position of strength. But with this group of players so obviously content with mediocrity, the only position the Oilers are destined to assume between now and the NHL trade deadline involves grabbing ones ankles.

It’s time to make a deal.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

  • Traktor

    Travis: you make a very good point about anonymity. Having said that I don't think it's unreasonable to hold a professional sports journalist to a higher standard.

    The fact that Robin basically tells the commentators that since MacT isn't going to get fired that we should just forget about it and move on is bush league journalism.

  • Deep Oil

    GSC wrote:

    This is where the Oilers miss Curtis Glencross the most. For a small raise, he could be in the lineup right now delivering exactly what this team desperately lacks: intensity and physicality. The failure to re-sign him has come back to sting Lowe in the rear, as now the club sorely lacks everything that Glencross brings as a player.
    Instead, Lowe would rather pay career 2nd centre Horcoff $5.5 MIL to do…what exactly? He’ll finish with maybe 50 points, and despite his good defensive play and decent faceoff percentage, it doesn’t justify the payment. Neither does $4.25 MIL for Penner, which most of us knew from the get go.
    Only when the overpayments for marginal players stop and the Oilers adopt the right sort of organizational mindset in assembling a roster (see: Calgary and their aquisitions of Bourque, Bertuzzi, Glencross, and Cammellieri) will we see this club truly take the next step into being a contender. Until then, mediocrity rules baby!

    It will take 3 – 4 years for these contracts to run their course – but in the meantime LOWE and TAMBO have the opportunity to overpay again for no performance. My vote for bad contracts with 20-20 hindsight is Horcoff, Pisani, Penner and Nillson seems to be the whipping boy last month….

  • Travis Dakin

    Traktor wrote:

    The fact that Robin basically tells the commentators that since MacT isn’t going to get fired that we should just forget about it and move on is bush league journalism

    My take on this was that pissing and moaning about the same thing over and over wasn't going to change a thing. Robin stated that, of all the options there are right now, firing the coach was down the list of likely to happen any time soon. He stated that the GM's first objective is to fix the team through personnel changes, so for better or for worse, that is the way he is going to run the team. Sorry, but you or I or anybody not named Katz or Lowe are not going to influence him. He wouldn't be doing his job if he made decisions based public opinion or what a reporter gave him sh*t for in a media scrum.

  • TDSM31

    Traktor wrote:

    I already stated my case; re: almost every forward not playing up to potential.
    You choose to ignore this inarguable fact. That’s the type of journalism I expect from you.
    Considering your audience, it’s much easier to throw out a couple red herrings and then everybody forgets that you don’t have the balls to tackle the real issue.
    In your words “For those who fancy firing coach Craig MacTavish as their default solution, let’s get off that, shall we?”
    Excellent work, Brownlee. Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish send their regards.

    "I already stated my case.."
    Traktor, you couldn't state your case if Jessica Alba sat on your lap. ZING, POP, BAM, ZOOOOOOOMMMMMMM!!!!!!!

  • Traktor

    Travis: You're right that Katz and Lowe wouldn't be doing their jobs if they made decisions based on public perception. Having said that, Katz expects the fans to fund his billion dollar arena so I don't think he can just ignore them either.

  • Risto

    I like OilerBear's comments #59.

    What I'm most disappointed in this season are the fans at the Coliseum. The Oilers have not often played well at home, but instead of sitting on your hands, or more likely staring into cellphones, PDAs and Crackberries (hey look, I saw you / me too!) Try paying attention to the game or maybe cheering your team, it leads to some kind of advantage I've heard about….wearing your new retro jersey does not give you the right to sit stonily quiet while you nurse heroin beer. WAKE UP PEOPLE!

    Leading to major lameness: it's so uncool to start cheering for YOUR team to only drown out more enthusiastic support by the opposition's fans, however deluded they are. Fellow ZZ Toppers (Gallery section) I am looking right at you. Gold Zone sitters, disgraceful.

    Bag skate for all you texters and Librarians. Go Oil!

  • Travis Dakin

    Traktor wrote:

    Having said that, Katz expects the fans to fund his billion dollar arena so I don’t think he can just ignore them either.

    I definately agree there. But, we as fans tend to be a little too emotionally invested at times to be given too much say in matters. Katz is a successful business man and he knows that you don't make decisions with your heart. You gotta think long term. In fairness, he has owned the team for 3/4 of the season and Tambellini has only been here a short time too, so it is going to take some time to cover the place with their finger prints.

    I definately don't like the direction the team appears to be taking (out in the public eye) but I really do believe that there are things being done behind the scene to make things better. And firing MacTavish now or even making a minor trade won't work right away. A serious house cleaning is in order.

  • Knobby


    Time to adjust your medication.

    Main Entry: LITHIUM
    Pronunciation: \ˈli-thē-əm\
    Function: noun

    Date: 1818
    1 : a soft silver-white element of the alkali metal group that is the lightest metal known and that is used especially in alloys and glass, in chemical synthesis, and in storage batteries — see element table
    2 : a salt of lithium (as lithium carbonate) used in PSYCHIATRIC MEDICINE.

    You made your point about 20 entries ago. Give it a rest already.

  • Travis Dakin

    @ Risto:

    People in a hockey market cheer for results. This team hasn't delivered and booing or not cheering is the public's way of showing displeasure. I sure as hell am not going to be standing on my feet watching Penner or nilsson yawning out on the ice when I've spent hundreds of bucks to see effort. You want me to stand up and yell? HIT! SCORE! SKATE!

    No Hit and no Skating makes Travis go… something… something….

  • Deep Oil

    David S wrote:

    First it was “The Warrior”, who was ably dispatched by Robin. Now it’s Traktor.
    Time to reactivate the seldom used IP ban button.

    Then traktor would just visit his cousin "kombine" and use his commodore 64….

  • RobinB

    @ Travis Dakin:
    Fans here appreciate effort, even if the results aren't always what they want. How can the Oilers possibly expect fans to sit back and keep digging into their pockets for what they're seeing now? It's not even close to good enough.

    That falls on the entire organization from the top down. Management, coaches and players. If some people who comment here can't grasp that — let's criticize the writers instead because so and so always blames the coach and not the players or vice-versa — then they aren't paying attention.

    Lowe built this team. Every player on the roster except Moreau was drafted, traded for or otherwise acquired on Lowe's watch as GM. If the team isn't good enough, that falls on him.

    MacTavish coaches this team. If the Oilers miss the playoffs for a third straight year after he deemed them a division contender, it would be insane for him not to wear that.

    And the players? There are under-achievers throughout the line-up with only a few exceptions. There's no consistency in effort. On and on . . .
    There's lot of blame to go around.

  • Jack "slacking off at work" Bauer

    I think it boils down to again what it means to be in the media with access to the people involved. Your not there to relay the fans point of veiw to the team, your there to relay the teams point of veiw to the fans.

  • Chris

    What exactly does build from "inside" mean Tambellini? Are you going to slip MacT Rexall Brand Smart Pills? Will he devise some new genius line combination like skating all our centers as a line? Are you going to feed Gags, and Cogs human growth hormone? Motivate Penner with Taco's? Are you going to turn Reddox into a legit first line player through the power of hypnotherapy? Or are you finally going to re-revamp a scouting department that hasn't drafted a single +100pt player since Stoll? A scouting Dept that wasted first round picks on Niinimaki, Dubnyk, and Schremp. A Scouting Department that picked Pouliot ahead of Corey Perry, Mike Richards, Shea Weber, Lee Stempniak, Patrick Eaves, Patrice Bergeron, Patrick O'Sullivan or even Ryan Kesler? A crew so out to lunch that they use a FIRST round pick on a Jr B player who plays thirty or so games a year at Cornell in the lowly ECAC? A scouting department whose nose for talent have Springfield sniffing the basement of the entire AHL? Why are the Rangers able to find Zidlicky in the sixth round, and Prucha in the eighth? Dallas found Jussi Jokinen in the sixth round; Colorado uncovered Svatos as a seventh rounder… Does the KLowe appointed Scouting have even ONE late round success story?

    So we are "building from the inside", eh? Are the fans being asked to accept a playoff no-show for the third straight season? Are we to wait five or so years for the team to renew itself through drafting and development? Can our current staff even accomplish this with high picks?

    I've asked a lot of questions Tambellini… Are there ever any answers?

  • David S

    Jack "slacking off at work" Bauer wrote:

    I think it boils down to again what it means to be in the media with access to the people involved. You're not there to relay the fans point of view to the team, you're there to relay the teams point of view to the fans.

    Nail hit squarely on the head there Jack.

  • rindog

    @ RobinB:

    I just don't know that you can convince me that any other new players will come in and do anything but underacheive (just like most of our recent acquisitions).

    Are the Oilers looking to just squeek in and get knocked out in the first round (and get their $2 million in gate receipts) or are they wanting to take a shot at a post season run?

    What makes us think that Mact is the guy to take us on a post season run when he can't get this team to beat the bottom feeders of the league?

    Before people bring up the point about MacT leading us in 06 – does anyone really think he is the guy to do it for us again?

    Or is MacT only good at coaching when the players do not need any extra incentive to play hard (ie. post season)?

    If that is the case – skid him now and take our chances….

  • Jack "slacking off at work" Bauer

    Well remember in 2006 the Oil were a crap team, with crap goaltending, and seemingly no hope of making the playoffs going into the deadline.

  • RobinB

    rindog wrote:

    I just don’t know that you can convince me that any other new players will come in and do anything but underacheive (just like most of our recent acquisitions).

    Fair comment. A move at this point isn't necessarily about bringing in a world-beater, it's just as often made to shake-up the other players still here and get them going. When a teammate/friend has to pack his bags, it tends to get everybody'd attention.

    rindog wrote:

    What makes us think that Mact is the guy to take us on a post season run when he can’t get this team to beat the bottom feeders of the league?

    No guarantees of that, either. But the approach the Oilers will take, disagree with it or not, is that they'll make a deal (or deals) first, and see how the team responds. If that doesn't work, the next step is looking at the coaching. I'm not saying doing it that way is right or wrong, but that's how they'll do it.

  • rindog

    @ RobinB:

    Okay – I can accept that. I don't agree with their approach (only because it seems to be a total repeat of '06). Correct me if I am wrong, but MacT was prepared to pack it if the didn't make the playoffs that year? If we make some trades and squeak into the playoffs – where does that leave the coaching situation going forward?

    While the cup run was great, it seemed to set us back more than we realize. We had to extend a coach that didn't really have the answers up to that year (and hasn't had them since). It also caused us to overpay alot of guys that didn't really deserve it (and almost forced us to give those players too much responsibility).

    As much as I don't think it is the right move – I would welcome Lowe going down behind the bench.

    I think it solves most of the problems (short term).

    We get the wake-up call that we desperately need. We get to see if our team is able to respond without giving up any of the players that management thought were good enough to start this season.

    And, the players will have a chance to show the club if they should be included in our future plans?

    However, conceding that a coaching move will not happen; do you think these deals are coming today, tomorrow, this week or right before the deadline?

  • rindog

    @ RobinB:

    I also wanted to ask your opinion on something else coaching related?

    A few days ago MacT suggested that he was going to play Hemsky as much as he could – I think he said something like, "If he isn't breathing heavy on the bench – he is going out!"

    Can you explain how Hemsky got only 2:48 more even strength icetime than Stortini did?

    It's not like it was a blowout game (on the scoreboard anyway)? It was a game that we needed to have and yet the coach couldn't get Hemsky anymore icetime?

    I have a comparison I would like to share with you – but I would like to see what your response is first???

  • troyboy

    @ Chris

    I agree in hindsight that there were definately better players out there in particular draft years, but part of the problem has been develoment, big problem. We are seeing the downside today, of not having a farm team 3-4 years ago. Having players like JDD, Dubnyk, Pouliot, Brodziak, etc playing for teams that never really had a vested interest in them, created a "step back" in many of there careers. Those 19-21 years are important ones in young hockey careers. Today our farm system is still a mess(as was metioned earlier). Drafting most years is a crap shoot, but having a great developmental process certainly up the chances for success. So as Tambo says we have build from within… from where. Schremp got lambaisted by MacT, so in the slim chance he ever gets the call, instant friction. Brule stays here on his next callup (which is a good idea) he has way more upside than Potulny or Reddox. After that who is ready, Trukno, Goulet? not this year. So I agree Chris that our depth isn't great But I don't neccesarily think you can solely hang scouting on it. The Oilers look deep on the backend but upfront are looking thinner and thinner. I hope Tambo has lots of irons in the fire. P.S wasn't part of Lowe's job as president of operations to fix our issues with our affiliates?

  • Chris

    @ troyboy:
    Fair point. Drafting AND Development… It still all falls on the GM. After years and years of waiting for improvement, It seems Oiler Fans are destined to wait some more…