Hold on, Tambo alarmists

The Oilers get schooled by the Chicago Blackhawks, combined with an article by Dan Rosen and suddenly some people — including OilersNation’s Jonathan Willis — believe that Steve Tambellini is an awful GM and that his job should be in jeopardy. I love a good story, but if anyone thinks that Steve Tambellini will, or should, get fired a year and a quarter into his tenure as GM, they’re enjoying too much of the hippie whiskey.

News flash, people: if you expect the Oilers to improve overnight, it won’t happen.

Anyone who believes organizations plan to lose is kidding themselves. The Blackhawks look solid right now, but until making the playoffs last year, the Hawks had made the playoffs once in ten seasons. Did they purposely tank it for that many years, just so they could be a contender now?

Do you think they planned to be that bad?

Duncan Keith was a 2nd rounder in 2002, and then Brent Seabrook was taken 14th overall in 2003. Dustin Byfuglien was an 8th rounder in 2003. Cam Barker was 3rd overall and Dave Bolland was 32nd overall in 2004. Then Jonathon Toews, 3rd overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane, 1st pick in 2007 were the big pieces.

It has taken seven years for the Hawks to be this good, not to mention they’ve signed big tickets like Cristobal Huet and Marian Hossa, and because of the salary cap this might be their best shot to win, before they have to make some tough choices this off-season.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but signing Sheldon Souray and trading for Lubomir Visnovsky weren’t bad moves, and they aren’t the reason the Oilers sit in 12th place in the west.

Up until this year the, Dustin Penner signing looked like a disaster, and there is no guarantee that if they didn’t make that offer that they’d somehow be better. Would Penner’s absence have made them a bottom three team, and out them into a position to draft Zach Bogosian, Steven Stamkos or Drew Doughty?

No one knows, because there are so many other intangibles in play that you wouldn’t know where they would have finished, but the odds are they wouldn’t have gotten a top-three pick. And so far, outside of those three, no other player in that draft looks like a bonafide star, so how can anyone say that the Oilers would be better off without Penner?

The part that makes me laugh the most is that many feel if the Oilers had a 4th line faceoff guy, that they’d be in the playoffs right now. Do you honestly believe that?

Of course the Oilers could be better, since they are 30th in the league in FO% at 45.8, but the Colorado Avalanche are 29th and the Flames are 28th, yet they’re 3rd and 4th in the standings.

Philadephia (17th), Ottawa (21st), LA (22nd), New Jersey (23rd) and Pittsburgh (24th) all struggle in the dot, yet they are all comfortably in the playoffs right now.

Don’t you think all the injuries have had a bigger impact on the team’s current standings than a 4th line faceoff guy?

Rob Niedermayer is 50.8% in the draw, Blair Betts is 49.5% and both have taken over 200 faceoffs. Would they really make the Oilers better?

There are much bigger problems with the Oilers than a freaking 4th line centre.

Tambellini needs to change the culture, and if you don’t think he is then you haven’t been paying attention. He brought in a new coaching staff, and has given them the reins to try and make this team accountable.

I said it, and wrote it, repeatedly last year that Craig MacTavish wasn’t holding back this team. No doubt it was time for MacTavish to go, but now that he is gone, many of the same problems still exist.

If you thought they would all evaporate in one year, you were dreaming. Injuries to physical players like Stone and Jacques have hurt this team, but they are just a small piece of the puzzle similar the absence of a faceoff guy. This team still has too many guys who don’t consistently out-work the opposition — either physically or mentally. They still make too many mistakes. They still miss too many passes, they still lose too many one-on-one battles.

Did you think that a new coach would magically fix all of these problems, or that Tambellini would be able to rid himself of all the problems with a few phone calls.

The changes need to continue. Pat Quinn and Tom Renney are trying to find out which guys have the character, smarts and skill to play their system. If they can’t after 40 games then I’d expect to see Tambellini start to make some changes.

Any suggestions that Tambellini’s job is on the line is grossly premature and that would be another knee-jerk reaction, which is exactly what got this organization in this situation to begin with.

Bulin’s Back

Nikolai Khabibulin’s back injury will keep him out for at least a few more games, so the Oilers have recalled Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk has played well in the AHL so far with a 9-8-1 record and a respectful 2.77 GAA and .924 SV%.

If Khabibulin is out for an extended period of time you will see Dubnyk play, but if it is just a few games expect Jeff Deslauriers to get his 3rd and 4th consecutive starts.

  • Compare and contrast:

    Jason Gregor:

    "This team still has too many guys who don't consistently out-work the opposition — either physically or mentally. They still make too many mistakes. They still miss too many passes, they still lose too many one-on-one battles."


    "News flash, people: if you expect the Oilers to improve overnight, it won’t happen."

    Steve Tambellini:

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

  • Zamboni Driver

    While i agree that it can't happen overnight, tambellini said this off season that the needs of this team would be addressed. and for the 3rd straight year we have no one who can win a faceoff and play in his own end at the center position outside of Horcoff. We are still too small, and while our "grit" will go up when Stone and Jacques return, it still doesn't make us a playoff team. We were lucky to be 6-2 at the start of the year. We were outshot and outchanced in pretty much every game to start the year. That is not a recipe for success. We have cap issues with expensive role players and are too small throughout the lineup. A few small moves (as mentioned above) will make us a more balanced and competitive team that will allow Quinn to better use his system (because right now the pieces don't fit for what he wants)

  • Dan the Man

    Really good tilt between MacIntyre and "Nasty" Mirasty on the weekend. Not too sure why Big Mac has no interest in fighting the much smaller Mirasty in the beginning though.

  • smiliegirl15

    Thanks for the much needed splash of cold water Gregor. Too many knee jerk reactions would make more of a mess than we already have.

    A lot of the problems on this team have to do with work ethic and consistency. There are going to be a lot of Oilers looking for renewal contracts after this season. Prove you're worth it or you'll end up like Peca, still waiting at home for the phone to ring.

    The best thing that could happen to Tambellini would be Lowe moving on. As long as he needs Lowe's rubber stamp, his hands will be tied (to a certain extent).

  • Zamboni Driver

    "The part that makes me laugh the most is that many feel if the Oilers had a 4th line faceoff guy, that they’d be in the playoffs right now. Do you honestly believe that?"

    No, but a gritty 3rd line C that can match up against other teams top 6 along with a crasher and banger 3rd line winger that can pot 15, and a 2nd pairing defensively solid, physical dman (or at least 2 of the 3) would have been relatively cheap to aquire (both assets and $$) and likely moved the team from the bottom of the bubble (10th/11th) to the top of the bubble (7th/8th).

    You can't resonably expect him to provide the 40 goal scorer, but you can resonably expect him to aquire vetran role players.

    • Jason Gregor

      I don't doubt that, but who was a realistic option in your mind? Don't say John Madden because as an UFA at his age he wanted to go to a winner.

      I'm not saying Tambellini has been great, but to think he should be fired at this point is asinine. That was my point.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        I believe the Oil are at a competitive disadvantage when aquiring players (ie your Madden example) so obviously theirs going to be a few of these guys that wouldn't have been an option.

        That said the Oil could/should have at least held discussions with the following:

        Joel Ward
        Matt Walker
        R Nieds
        Scott Nichol
        Jason Williams
        Mike Grier
        Marcel Goc

        At the very worst, 1-3 of the above would have provided the team with nice depth to get through injuries.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Was it reasonable to acquire vets when they really thought guys like Jacques, Pouilot and Brule could help up front and on the back end Peckham was looking pretty close and Chorney was looking better?

      I really don't know anymore and I hope that we start making some decisions on who can do what. The other thing is it would be nice to have some different types of players to call up from the minors. We seem to have a variety of players when it comes to defense, but up front we ended up replacing bigger guys with smaller guys and were back to where we were last year.

  • Hemmercules

    It took Bulin 18 games to get his first injury. I have to admit thats about 3 or 4 more games than I expected. I know they only want to play him 60 games a season but 3 more years of this has me a bit worried.

  • HansBaurMesserschmittWatson

    as long as the oilers organization has the front office staff that they do and the oakland raiders fans. they will sink deeper and deeper into the black hole.

    • The Real Scuba Steve

      Wholeheartedly agree. As long as RX1 sells out, why should the team make any changes. The mediocre team that gets iced day in and day out will be the same story as most years. We will miss the playoffs by 5 points and still not be bad enough to land Taylor Hall. So we will continue to get decent draft picks that just don't have the stuff to be a star that we can build this team around. I hope I am wrong, but I think we are in trouble if anyone is hoping for some changes. Tambo sounds pretty sure that the group here can get it done.

      I hope the beloved Oilers don't crap the bed tonight. Especially after the big Meeting. If they lay an egg tonight, I think it is safe to hit the Panic button.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Sign me up for a GM job. Apparently none of them have any work to do. Looks to me like they work 2 days a year. July 1 and trade deadline day where they can be completely wreckless in the name of helping their team make a run. Then they wait and see what it looks like till next year.

    I think we can already see what this team looks like. We've seen it 3 years in a row

  • Oilman

    I guess you're right Jason, it won't happen overnight. BUT as you know, all Oiler fans want immediate turnaround. Look at Colorado and what they did after loosing Smyth and Sakic.

    Any good prospects for next years draft?

    • Dan the Man

      I agree that a 4th line centre isn't going to turn this teams fortunes around too but what single move would aside from landing a bonafide superstar?

      I don't think anyone can argue that a decent 4th line centre would improve this team a little bit and that's how you usually build a team, you tweak rather than completely overhaul.

  • Woogie

    HOLLY ###!!$#)*(*

    The New York Islanders have more points than the Oilers.

    **picks himself off the floor and says… more proof in 2012 the world is going to end.**

  • Chris.

    With all due respect Gregor, I think for most people that have an issue with what Tambellini is doing, or more accuratley not doing, it has nothing to do with Chicago or only a 4th line center being the teams saviour.

    Tambellini has been at the reigns for two training camps, a trade deadline, a draft, a free agency period and an entire summer and yet we are still watching Kevin Lowes team. Is there another example out there of a GM that has held the keys to a team for so long without putting his stamp or applied his vison to his team?

    You state that he brought in a new coaching staff and that yet at the time MacT was "let go" I seem to recall alot of the media, if I'm not mistaken you included, suggested that the decision was for the most part forced by MacT himself. That it wasn't a traditional firing. What if MacT didn't finally see the writing on the wall and decided he wantd to give his last season with the Oilers a go? Is this still Pat Quinn's team then? Does that change Tambellini's plan of changing the culture of the team if MacT wanted to stay.

    The way I see it, without the access you guys have, is that Tambellini's only significant move was forced upon him so it can't even really be considered his move.

    As for the 4th line center, no one considers it the difference between making the playoffs or not but can anyone say that having a bottom six center who can win draws and kill penalties isn't a need? You don't build a winning team by just inserting Dany Heatley, you build a team by addressing all, or as many of, the teams short comings as you can. This team has plenty, a bottom 6 center being one of them. At the very least we should be able to expect the GM to fill the relatively easy holes while he waits for the opportunity to swing for the fences on a star. Tambellini seems to have taken the opposite approach and the team is skating in quicksand because of it.

    • Jason Gregor


      MacTavish knew it was time and so did Tambellini.

      Tambellini has traded for O'Sullivan, Kotalik and Stone…traded away Brodziak and Garon signed Khabibulin…He has made moves.

      I'm not sure why you think a GM comes in and completely guts a team in his first year. That doesn't happen.

      As a GM you need to see if what you works before you throw it away. I.E Gilbert Brule, who was a guy they thought might play that role. It is a risk, of course, but from where I sit I'd rather see if Brule can develop rather than bring in an older 4th line centre for one year.

      • Dan the Man

        I'm not sure where you got that I was expecting Tambellini to gut the team in the last 18 months. I never suggested it.

        What I said is that it's unclear if his most significant move (coaching change) was actually part of his grand plan or if it was made,at least partially, for him. Your answer doesn't exactly clear that up. So really, the coaching change, is no indication on the competancy of Tambellini as a GM. Good or bad.

        Moving beyond that, sure he made a couple minor moves and a couple lateral moves but it doesn't change that the same things that were plaguing this team when he was brought on, are still plaguing this team 1 1/2 years later. That's not even hindsight talking, that's talking about things that fans a media were already talking about as weak spots when he was brought in.

        Where is the improvment and what indicators are there that this team has a firm direction?

        After 18 months, the frustration for a lack of moves/changes is less about the team making a run for the playoffs this year and has everything to do with wanting some indication on the plan, vision, direction Tambellini has for this team. Nothing has been shown and at this pace the only accomplishment he will have on his resume is burning two years of Hemsky's bargain contract and adding two years of wear and tear on his most valuable veterans.

  • Dan the Man

    I'm not saying Tambo should be fired, I agree that it's way to early and it takes a long time to make over a roster.

    Just going to throw something out there though.

    Would this team be better if we had held on to Brodziak and Kotalik as opposed to signing Comrie this summer? To make room cap wise we could have waived/traded Pouliott and Nilsson. The cap numbers are just about the same.

    Brodziak – 1.150

    Kotalik – 3.0

    Total – 4.150

    Comrie – 1.25

    Pouliott – .825

    Nilsson – 2.0

    Total – 4.075

    Now maybe it's not fair to make a comparison since the three current Oilers have missed a substantial amount of time. To me Brodziak and Kotalik are better options based on the make up of this team even if all players involved are completely healthy.

  • Chris.

    I haven't been commenting as much recently… there hasn't been much to say. I'm an Oiler fan and my team is marginal at best.

    For me, the Blackhawk game only highlights the sheer magnitude of the gap that exists between a truly quality roster and that of the Oilers. Like many here, I spent the better part of my summer speculating on potential trades, signings, etc that never came to pass… Obviously this exercise was a waste of time because Oiler managment clearly believes in their group. IMO, Tambelllini is either not in charge, or he has been compromised by a form of collective groupthink; as he has clearly changed his tune since his post season presser last year. Management is clearly endorsing the current group both by words, and action(inacation?).

    My only sence of hope lies in the longterm retooling of a troubled franchise. Comming out of the lockout, this team didn't have an AHL affilite, a truly stable ownership structure, or plans to replace an aging arena. At least Katz is willing to hire an allstar coaching staff, front some money for a new barn, and invest in the Falcons to try and foster a winning culture at the farm. I'm cautiously optimistic that eventually, things may improve… and the Oilers may be competative sometime before I die.

  • "If Khabibulin is out for an extended period of time you will see Dubnyk play, but if it is just a few games expect Jeff Deslauriers to get his 3rd and 4th consecutive starts."

    Man. ~Just reading this makes feel better already.~

  • By the way Gregor thanks for the beer and the coversation. I was pretty impressed with how you gave a random internet commentator your personal cell number in order to satisfy a bet.

    I'll repay the favour next time I'm in EDM.

  • Travis Dakin

    Ah the first pick in 2007… Remember when the Oilers lost 17 of 20 and just HAD to win that last game…. which let the Blackhawks into lottery position and end up drafting Kane? That was awesome. haha

  • Chamucks Deluxe

    Like I said in the other thread, so far he's traded for Patty O, Ales Kotalik and Dany Heatley. That's an excellent body of work for a year and a bit on the job.

    No one knows what we have with this team yet and the injuries and illness pushed that back even further.

    • X 2.

      But seriously though, TambObama has at least as much of a challenge as the US president, and the stakes are at least half as high. You really can't expect 20 games in, everything will be fixed. I'm really starting to think that the big problem is in the core, Horcoff, Moreau, Staios. This team doesn't play for each other like they did when Gator was captain.

  • So it is a combination of team chemistry & injuries?

    I believe that the team will look a bit different after Christmas, but we won't be getting any big ticket guys.

    The anonymous blogger was brought up by Jim Matheson yesterday saying that the oilers were interested in Kovalchuk & Semin. Matty laughed it off…

    • There's a panic button? Bingofuel you outdid yourself. First an "Edit" button and now this? Ingenious!

      **Rapidly searches for the panic button to hit

      Seriously, I don't think it is time to start pushing women and children out of the way so we can jump in the lifeboats (although our Calgary bretheren already have a history of doing this for flu-shots) but by the same token the "everything will be alright" mentality spewed by Tambo seems like Kool-aid to me.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Who was it on your show last week the Avs GM? Wasn't it him that said it is too early in the year to make moves? One would think that this is probably the same motto for most GM's. Like you said Quinn and Renney are still evaluated.

    I don't expect much until around or after x-mas. Maybe something minor gets done before then, but judging on how long it took them to let Macintyre go I won't hold my breath waiting for a deal.