Armchair GM VI: No news is bad news

With the Edmonton Oilers back home for five straight games at Rexall Place and slowly returning to health, an optimist might suggest there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately for Pat Quinn’s outfit, it’s probably a train.

Back from Columbus after dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to the Blue Jackets Monday, the Oilers could use some home cooking as they try to put the brakes on a four-game losing streak after getting four of a possible 10 points from a five-game road swing.

The problem for the Oil, now sitting in 12th place in the Western Conference at 8-10-3, is that this homestand, and three road games that come after it, will be against teams higher than them in the standings.

The Oilers open the stand Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche, who have to be sour about getting clipped by Edmonton 5-3 Oct. 8 in Denver to open the last swing. Then, it’s Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Jose.

After that, it’s six straight on the road, with the first three in Vancouver, Detroit and Dallas before stops in Florida, Tampa Bay and St. Louis.

Anybody see the Oilers getting more than, what, eight points from those next eight games?

Do it now

I’m baffled why GM Steve Tambellini has yet to make a personnel move to address two glaring and connected needs that date back to last season — a defensive centre who can win face-offs and kill penalties.

While I get it that Tambellini hasn’t had a full roster to assess because of injuries and illness, the players he’s been without to this point aren’t going to address the issues even when they return, so I don’t understand what he’s waiting for. More time to assess, perhaps.

Unless I’m mistaken, and I’m not, the Oilers weren’t good enough on the dot last season, when they finished ranked 25th at 47.9 per cent. Anybody with two eyes and half-a-brain could see it, no?

Chasing me-first guy Dany Heatley this off-season made for great intrigue and inking Mike Comrie in what seemed an unlikely return made for a good kiss-and-make-up story, but neither pursuit addressed the need.

Same old same old

Twenty-one games into this season, the Oilers are ranked 29th in the NHL in face-offs at 46.1 per cent. Apparently, Tambellini thinks he’s good enough down the middle with Shawn Horcoff (50.0 per cent), Sam Gagner (46.4), Andrew Cogliano (40.3) and Gilbert Brule (52.0).

Or maybe Dustin Penner (42.6), who has been taking a lot of draws to minimize wear and tear on Horcoff’s shoulder, is the answer. I think not.

If Manny Malhotra or Blair Betts weren’t perceived as the answer over the summer — Malhotra was asking for way too much money and the Oilers were only lukewarm on Betts — fine. But what about now?

Finding another centre more proficient at winning face-offs isn’t going to solve all that ails the Oilers, the penalty killing being high on that list, but failure to address the need is going to be a costly blind spot for Tambellini.

By the numbers

With special teams, the good news is the power play has looked better despite playing most of the season without Sheldon Souray. The bad news, as I mentioned earlier, is that the penalty killing again stinks worse than a minivan full of carnival workers in mid-July.

— With two goals on the power play in Columbus, the Oilers are 19-for-86 for 22.1 per cent, leaving them 11th going into play Tuesday. In 2008-09, the Oilers finished 22nd on the power play at 17 per cent.

— The penalty killing, which most thought would be considerably better this season, is operating at almost the same dismal clip as it did a year ago, when a 77.5 per cent success rate left the Oilers ranked 27th. They’re at 77.6 per cent right now, leaving them 24th.

— Even with four straight losses, the Oilers aren’t far off last season’s pace after 21 games. In 2008-09 they were 9-10-2 for 20 points. They’re sitting at 19 points as the Avalanche come calling.

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

    • BarryS

      Wanye (or Bingofuel, JS, anybody else at ON with pull…):

      When will the new Nation Gear be available for public consumption?

      Christmas is a little over a month a month away and my list is short:

      1- AN OILERS NATION T-SHIRT

      a distant second is

      2- Barcelo Imperial Rum

      So, on the shelves in time for St. Nick?

    • Not to slag an entire segment of our society, many of whom are Oilersnation readers, but unclean people smelling of ass with narrow-set eyes, tiny little hands and that pasty white stuff in the corners of their mouth make me uncomfortable.
      Scientist . . . and let's not address any obvious needs, either. Fine. If calling it as I see it is doom and gloom, well . . .

  • Kind of hard for them to play many teams that are lower in the standings. God, haven't we seen this movie before. Year after year it's the same thing. Makes you want to drink, unless you're already drinking, then it makes you want to drink more.

  • Dyckster

    RB side note what's this with PJ Stock in Montreal saying talks between Edmonton and the Habs they want Cogs and PJ is saying we are after Chipchura, and the brother who played with Gags I call bull

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    RB couldn't agree more, this lets take our time and see how things are is nonsense, is it going to be like last year where we were told it's comming it's comming and nothing happens. It's time to unload some guys or waive a couple players to make room for another body. Nilsson is just taking up a spot plus it would save 2 mil off the cap. RB with Quinn liking the play of Chorney could we see one of Gilbert or Grebs traded away also. Chorney looks like he's ready to play here and he might not have Grebs passing he also doesn't have the giavawayitus either. What could you get if you packaged up Gilbert and Cogs with a pick, the reason I ask is we have Horc, Gags, Brule down the middle and as you say we need that shutdown centre so Cogs could go as for the D-man like I said above I think Chorney could step in your thoughts.

  • Tambo is faced with some hard decisions. Does he stand pat and give the team a chance to gel again now that he some bodies back? Or, does he take a chance and make a deal or two to help address the weaknesses? Can he make a fair assessment of all of the team's needs due to all of the injuries and illnesses they have had to deal with? It is fun to play armchair GM but I do not envy Tambo in this situation.

    • What is to assess?
      Is there anybody coming back from injury or in the system now that can address the need for a centre who can win face-offs?
      Who is out now that's going to make a difference to the PK when they return?

      • Hemmertime

        @Brownlee
        Qoute:The problem for the Oil, now sitting in 12th place in the Western Conference at 8-10-3, is that this homestand, and three road games that come after it, will be against teams higher than them in the standings.

        76% of the league is above us in the standings right now. Kinda hard for that not to be the problem.

        • It's not "kinda hard" at all. Seven teams below them in the standings and they don't get any of them in a stretch of eight games.

          Fact is, with any help from the schedule-maker, the Oilers could have caught a home-and-home with one of the teams below them in the conference and single or two against one of the other six teams. But that wasn't going to stop you from contributing, was it?

          And Randy Jones wouldn't have helped.

      • Well said about a need to get a defensive-minded centre who can win faceoffs. Rather than being so focused on getting Heatley way back in July 1 (probably the biggest mistake ever made by Tambo), I really wished the Oilers would have signed a guy like John Madden.

        He is something that would have addressed their dilemmas on the dot and at $2.5 million, a contract he inked with Chicago, he would have made huge gains for the Oil.

        Compare that to Comrie's contact and Tambo would have definitely needed to shed some payroll. It would have been a solid move, however. And guess what? Madden is 20th in faceoffs won so far this season and he's eighth in faceoffs won while shorthanded.

        • HansBaurMesserschmittWatson

          i think the trade that didnt go through, was a good thing. well atleast i like to think so. i like to think it lit a little flame under the bumm of DP and also gave Smido's head a shake. all for the better, lets move on.

          why would you assume that tambo didnt try to get madden and that madden wanted to come here. maybe he wanted to go play for the hawks, even with there being an offer from the oilers.

          way to stick it to tambo with the stats.

          • You're absolutely right about the trade that never happened was the right thing for the Oilers.

            Spending part of June and all of July to lure a malcontent was the wrong thing to do by Tambo. He should have moved on after the first "no" and signed someone else like Madden.

          • HansBaurMesserschmittWatson

            i think a lot of the drag-ooon had to do with the weaselness of heatley and his agent. i believe he knew all along that he was going to the sharks and they(weasels) were just trying to save some face.

      • Harlie

        I hear you. I am just saying that the team started off well, but soon after got bit by the injury/flu bug. I know that the need for a face-off man and PK were still there, but when I say assess, I meant that Tambo has other important areas that need to be addressed. How about a bigger forward or two to beef up the team? What about another goal scorer? Sure the Oil need to be better on the dot and on the PK, but wouldn't it be nice be more physical and spread the scoring out? Just my two cents…

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          I think we should fix the areas that are easy to fix first. We always go for that homerun (Hossa, Heatley) and then we don't fix the easier positions. How the hell are we always look for a pk/faceoff man when numerous guys like that are being signed across the league come the off-season.

          Not saying that signing a Malhotra or Moore makes us a contender, but it gives us one less area to focus on during the year.

          • Chris.

            I agree, we should be able to sign someone that is good on the dot and would help the Pk as well. I still believe that we can use more scoring, but I do not want them to go for a guy like Hossa or Heatley. I was thinking more along the lines of a second line scorer that would be more affordable. Actually, the guy I would love to see in an Oiler's uniform is Dustin Brown. He scores, is physical and is a leader, although I doubt LA would part with him.