Steve Tambellini: It’s Injuries, Guys

Vancouver Canucks

There’s an interesting article up on NHL.com this morning, and Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini talks at some length about his team and the problems facing them.

I should warn you: he sounds pretty happy with his team.

Tambellini starts by explaining the injury situation his team has had to slog thorugh; H1N1, concussions, etc. But then he says something that I didn’t expect at all. 

"We had a really good camp and a very strong start and I like the look of our team and I like the balance of scoring and grit. The focus now is keeping the group together."

That would be the Oilers 6-2-1 start to the season that Tambellini is referring to with those comments. It’s identical to the argument David Staples made the other day, an argument I had an in-depth look at here. The short story is this: during that 6-2-1 start, the Oilers were getting outshot by even worse margins than they are now. After looking at the injuries, Dan Rosen of NHL.com said, "It’s no wonder they were allowing nearly five more shots per game than they were taking", but the fact is that during that 6-2-1 start the Oilers were allowing eight more shots than they were taking. Maybe Tambellini’s playing PR here, but if he honestly believes that his team’s play warranted a 6-2-1 record, he ought to be kicked out of the GM’s seat right now — or at the very least forced to listen to his coach’s post-game press conferences over and over until he realizes that this team wasn’t the picture of perfection indicated by that record.

Tambellini went on to explain what he expects to happen when the Oilers get back to (relative) health:

"The scoring will come when we have more balance in our lineup and that’s just getting some bodies back,"

The only problem with that logic is that the scoring has actually been okay. The Oilers were ninth in the NHL in 5-on-5 offence and 12th in the NHL on the power play going into last night’s game against Chicago. Those are playoff numbers.

No, the problem has been the teams goals against (25th in the league), penalty kill (just 1.5% better than last year’s miserable number), 5-on-5 goal against (26th in the league), shot differential (27th in the league) and faceoffs (dead last in the NHL).  None of that has to do with scoring; it galls me that when listing the problems caused by injury the first thing that comes to Steve Tambellini’s mind is scoring. Next quote.

"When you’re watching the game from up top you can see overall energy in the team. You can see the way people move and sustain it, and the last couple of games you’re starting to see signs of that coming back."

Presumably that comment was made before last night’s game, a low-energy affair (aside from a few shifts by the fourth line) that saw the Oilers not only picked apart but also outworked by the Blackhawks. Finally:

"You want to see what your team looks like when you’re healthy. That part I am really looking forward to."

In short: stay the course. If Steve Tambellini believes what he’s saying here, there isn’t going to be a move to fix the personnel problems on this team any time soon.

Meanwhile, Lowetide suggests that Tambellini’s inertia will cost him his job.

  • @ Milhouse

    Hilarious that Penner is now being used at the measuring stick to measure his teamates on… lets keep perspective here, the guys had 22 good games.

    The glaring issue the last couple of years was that we had one legit 1st liner (Hemsky)and a pile of 2nd liners… the battle cry: "Get another 1st liner for Hemmer!!"

    Now we've got 2 first liners….. and people want to dump one of them??

    At this point, the first line isn't the issue people… the team needs proper balance elesewhere.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Don't get me wrong, I think the inertia he has displayed (and the hopeless fixation on 'big fish' over the last two years has shown him to be a LOT naive) has been a huge problem.

    But really, what's he going to say?

    "Our team is really crappy, especially because our 'star' player is a pu$$y?"

    Painting a happy picture will only marginally help to maintain any trade value of the hopeless collection of shleps wearing *sigh* orange and blue (Hey, Steve…here's one good decision….please PLEASE make the horror of the 80s jerseys stop).

    • @ Zamboni Driver:

      "I've been disappointed with their play so far, and I'm actively looking to improve my this group. That said, we have had a lot of injuries and I don't think our team is as bad as our recent record."

      Then he'd be acknowledging that this group isn't perfect while at the same time offering up injuries in a vague way as an excuse.

      Playing up the injuries sounds like excuse making.

  • For all I am concerned they could lay off Stevie. T

    There is not room in salary cap.
    Can't make trades these days.
    Not going to change coaching staff.

    Anybody can come out and announce injury updates.

    On a positive note Jordan Eberle is leading WHL scorer now.

    • What about in the summer? It's not so much his refusal to address things now that drives me nuts, it's that he still believes his summer went well and this team as assembled could compete.

      And don't give me the 'too many contracts, not enough money' nonsense. Nilsson could have been sent packing, and Tambellini obviously thought he could squeeze in Chris Neil at 2MM/yr for the next three or four years, so it wasn't as impossible as we sometimes like to pretend.

      As for trades, last night on HNIC they said Burke would take on cap problems for a draft pick (mentioning Sopel). Why wouldn't he take Tambellini's problems?

  • Good read, but to be fair, scoring has been an issue (for most) of the past 10 – 12 games…. remember that 0 goals in 3/4 games (or whatever it was)

    The majority of the scoring came in the first 9 games, and then in a handfull of blowouts (predominatly … if not exclusively against back-ups)

    The numbers might not show it, but scoring is an issue on this team.

    That said, the other issues (should have been) far cheaper and easier to fix, yet they weren't.

  • Dan the Man

    This team needs changes, starting with Hemsky. It will go no where as long as he is on the team. We don't need a winger to play with hemsky, we need a center to play with Penner. Hemsky should start crying any minute and will be asking for a trade. Does he remind you of anyone from the Rangers last year? Maybe Renny seen it and figured it's time I kicked this so called future star in the arse and try get him on track. Renny failed with Zerdev so maybe he can save Hemsky, if not trade him before he loses value.

    • Remember how it was impossible for any team to win the Cup with Brett Hull?

      This doesn't come down to just one player; Hemsky can be a useful piece of a winning team, but he's only one piece. This team needs to address systemic problems, rather than pick on one star.

      It's not Hemsky's fault this team can't kill penalties. Or win faceoffs. Or keep from getting scored on. He's one of the few players the Oilers have who are capable of carrying the play against the opposition.

      • brucechris

        JW – didn't the stars win the cup with hull in 2002 ? I disagree noting that Hemmer is more passenger than leader…. seems like he adores the long term deal, that some scribes had a hard time with…. if Hemsky performs, you have great value, long term if he rides the pine, you have white elephant contract that is more give than take….

      • So what about Penner? If Hemsky had the same motivation then maybe he will reach that star status, instead he leads the Oilers in giveaways, second to Tom Eugene Gilbert. No playoffs this year Oiler fans, too ba Scot Howsen left the team for the jackets. Lowe screwed this team and now Tambilini is picking up the condoms and reusing them.

      • Well said JW. This team spends so much time chasing and part of that is not gaining possession from a faceoff. I don't think I would undo the Visnovsky trade, but Jarret Stoll would really look good in this line-up right about now.

  • Dan the Man

    For a guy who had a such an infamous speech about how he was going to change the team and make it bigger, tougher, and harder to play against, it is ironic that his only major acquisition was Nikolai Khabibulin.

    I don't know whether to take Steve Tambellini seriously anymore.