Steve Tambellini addressed the media earlier today; the video above comes from the Oilers’ official website. The quote in the title doesn’t come from that video, it comes from the longer audio version of his conference.
I’ve quoted out the portion of the audio segment that jumped out at me:
Reporter: Do you give it another month Steve, and if Khabibulin is long-term, and we know Ales is long-term, do you say ‘well, maybe we have an opportunity to build for the season next’, and see where this one goes with the kids and things might turn out better than expected…
Tambellini: Yeah, I’m not concerned about next season at this point. We’ve got two young goaltenders that are very skilled. I can’t see any reason why they couldn’t do the job.
Reporter: You like the young goalies? That seems daunting.
Tambellini: There’s a lot of teams that you take out a number one goaltender on an NHL roster, and you never can replace a legitimate number one goaltender, whether it’s Brodeur or Khabibulin, or Luongo or things like that. We have two people in there that have proven that they can play, and I feel no reason why they couldn’t do the job.
Reporter: So anyone out there thinking that they should start building for the future – as in next year – you say, (inaudible).
Tambellini: It’s November, and we’ve got a long ways to go here, we’ve got a long ways to go as far as improving our team, whether it’s Springfield or people that are here, we’ve got a long ways to go.
Stauffer: Steve, are you frustrated or pleased that some of the guys who have come up from Springfield have outplayed some of the guys that are here?
Tambellini: Overall, Bob, I’d say I’m pleased. I thought specifically O’Marra and McDonald that came up have played very well, I thought Chorney when he came up played well. I feel good about that, that players are coming up and able to jump in our system right away and produce, so it shows that they’re playing with confidence down there.
Reporter: You think your leadership group is going to keep this group together, keep them in a positive frame of mind?
Tambellini: I see no reason why not.
Is Tambellini spinning things here, or is he giving an honest appraisal of the situation? Given how some of these remarks (particularly the one in the title) will play, I’d guess he’s being honest; if I were spinning I’d say something to the effect of "we always have an eye to the future, but right now my focus is on winning this year". Regardless, Tambellini’s public comments are the best look we have into what he’s thinking.
My personal take on his comments basically boils down to this:
- "I’m not concerned about next season" has to be a slip of the tongue. Only a prize idiot could look at moves and not try and calculate the ramifications for the season after this one, and given how long Tambellini’s been employed by NHL teams I have trouble believing he’s a prize idiot. A good G.M. is always concerned with next season. Long-term planning is an obvious requirement of the job. I’d suggest that he meant something more along the lines of what I wrote above; namely that the primary focus is on this year.
- Tambellini seems to contradict himself on the goaltenders; in one sentence he says that you can "never replace" a Khabibulin, and in the next he says he sees no reason why Dubnyk and Deslauriers can’t do the job. Presumably he thinks they’ll be good enough to give this team a shot at the playoffs. I’m not sure I buy that assessment; this strikes me as a team that needs above-average goaltending to win.
- Tambellini continues to refuse to say anything negative about the players on the team; a far cry from what he was doing in the off-season when he basically called everybody out. I don’t actually have a problem with this; if he wants to keep those things behind closed doors, power to him.
- Tambellini started the interview by discussing how difficult it is to make trades, and near the end he talked about "whether it’s Springfield or people that are here" as the answer, so whatever help is coming would seem to be coming from inside the organization.
In short, at this point I simply hope that what he says to the media doesn’t mirror what he says behind closed doors. This team may be a contender in the future but it isn’t now; therefore all moves should be made with an eye to the future. This team probably needs to be bailed out by the goaltenders; average won’t get the job done. There are definite problems on this team, and they need help from outside to get the job done. All of those statements are at odds with what Tambellini said today.