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.