Armchair GM


Unless somebody jabs Steve Tambellini in the backside with a syringe of sodium pentothal, the only poop we’re going to get on what the Edmonton Oilers might do by the NHL’s March 4 trade deadline will come from armchair general managers.

And, while those insights will be considerably more humorous than the vague generalizations and mis-direction we media types coax from Tambellini and Kevin Lowe — should we even manage to corner them in coming days — they’ll be just about as useful. Like teats on a bull.

It would be wonderful, and stunning, to have Tambellini tell wags: “We’re burning the midnight oil to move Erik Cole and we’ve got Carolina, Boston and New York lined up as bidders, but the hang-up is all three want Andrew Cogliano as part of any deal.”

What we’ll get is: “We’ll look at anything if it’ll help the hockey club, but we’re not going to mortgage the future. Then again, (insert Lowe smirking here), expect the unexpected.”

It’s naïve, of course, to expect the unexpected — the unexpected would be having Lowe or Tambellini actually tell us what they’re up to. I could never, and I mean never, coax Lowe (or Glen Sather) to show their cards before the deadline when I was writing the beat. It won’t happen now.

So people guess. They speculate. They make stuff up.

This won’t hurt a bit

The Oilers have taken it in the butt more than once at the deadline, but not in the context of a shot of truth serum. So the rumour mill grinds along, fuelled by reporters speculating what they think makes sense and fans, many of whom re-define “wishful thinking.”

“Hey, why couldn’t the Oilers get Pavel Datsyuk out of Detroit for Cole, Riley Nash, Marc Pouliot and a second-round draft choice?” Or, “I bet the Oilers could rent Jay Bouwmeester for 20 games if they put together a package that included Ales Hemsky.” Yes, I bet they could.

From an MSM point of view, putting two and two together and trying to come up with four is part of the gig. From a fan point of view, as hair-brained as the ideas and the rationalization behind them can be, it’s in good fun.

I mean, suggesting the Oilers would trade Hemsky and his bargain contract to rent Bouwmeester before he signs as a UFA with Los Angeles/San Jose/someplace else warm is in fun, right? Same with Datsyuk, an example of quantity for quality by those who think teams can get a franchise player for spare parts.

What’s next?

As far as the pending trade deadline goes, I can break things down to what I think (WIT) and what I know (WIK).

Let me confess from the start the WIT category is considerably more expansive than any reliable WIK because the men who call the shots aren’t talking, and I’m not going to pass off a nightshift janitor at Rexall Place or the dame who used to cut Josh Green’s hair as “sources close to the team.”


  • Tambellini is leaning toward trading Cole rather than losing him as a UFA, but that’s not written in stone, which runs contrary to my gut instincts. With a playoff spot in reach, would trading Cole for anybody who can’t make an immediate and equal contribution be seen as giving up on the post-season? Of course it would, even if the player coming here has a contract or is an RFA, assuring he’s more than a rental.
  • Carolina, as I said last week, is one of the teams most interested in Cole, and he’d be a plug-and-play acquisition for GM Jim Rutherford. If any team could convince Cole to forego UFA offers this summer and re-sign, it’s the Hurricanes.
  • The priority is adding secondary scoring. Duh! Aside from Craig MacTavish stating flat-out last week he needs help up, it doesn’t take a vast intellect (or a conversation with a reliable source) to figure that out.


  • While I’d give it a zero per cent chance of happening at the deadline because of injuries to Lubomir Visnovsky and Denis Grebeshkov, I can see Tambellini moving Tom Gilbert this summer.
    Gilbert is inked long-term, he has some cachet and could land Tambellini a left winger capable of playing on his top two lines. One from the group of Sheldon Souray, Visnovsky, Gilbert and Grebeshkov can be dealt. With the KHL looking like less of an option, Grebeshkov won’t cost the Oilers as much as Gilbert.
  • Lowe and Sather will see if they can do business March 4. They’ve already made two deadline deals: Lowe dealt Anson Carter and Ales Pisa for Radek Dvorak and Cory Cross on March 11, 2003, and he traded Tom Poti and Rem Murray for Mike York on March 19, 2002.
  • Robert Nilsson, Marc Pouliot and JF Jacques are available as sweeteners in any deal Tambellini makes.

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

  • Robin B

    @ Cam:
    They got Spacek and Dick Tarnstrom well before the deadline, but your point is valid — Samsonov and Roloson made big contributions.

    The Oilers will be buyers at the deadline, even if it's not a pure "hockey decision." I can't see Lowe and Tambellini sitting pat with the Oilers in the race in Katz's first year as owner. Bad optics with the boss.

  • Colin

    Harry Merkin wrote:

    Nice simpsons reference there Colin took me a few minutes to understand until i looked at the picture again.

    Yay! someone got it.

    I do think they have to trade Cole though, he cost them a solid asset(Pitkanen-although he wasn't great here) very hard to let him walk away for zilch in return(let's be honest he's very unlikely to re-sign).

  • Cam

    They traded to get Spacek, Roloson, and Samsonov at the deadline in 2006 and it paid off. At that time no one thought much of the teams chances against a powerhouse Detroit team and then another powerhouse SJ team. Those trades made the difference.

    With that kind of experience under their belts do you really think Management is gong to sit tight when we are on the brink? I don't think so. This management team will make a trade.

  • Robin B

    @ Kevin:
    Patience has its place, but if Cole and his agent give Tambellini a heads-up that they have no intention of returning, it makes sense to get an asset for him instead of nothing at all.

    That wouldn't hold true if this was a typical Cole year, but it's not. Losing what Cole has brought to the table so far isn't like waving a white flag on the playoffs — although some would perceive it as such — if you get a reasonable facsimile that is younger, cheaper and under contract.

  • Kevin

    I think the Oilers should do absolutely nothing at the deadline and deal with the consequences in the offseason. Yes, you lose Erik Cole but unless someone is offering a roster player or a great prospect in return there is no point. They will be without his, Roli, and possibly Grebby's salary next season which opens up a lot of cash. This offseaon you'll see a lot of the financially struggling clubs offloading their talent because they simply can not afford them. As in most successful businesses, patience pays off not knee-jerk reactions.

  • Harry Merkin

    Seriously Wanye what do you know about hockey anyways. Cole will just be another guy in a long list to come here play in a terrible system then leave and play up to potential again. Until we get rid of MacT players will continue to under achieve and leave for better coaches.

  • Rick

    Dennis wrote:

    If Lowe moves Cole, he’ll also have to bring in another guy to replace him so it’s basically two moves instead of just the one.

    Based on how Cole has played how much are really losing by putting Pisani in his spot?

  • Dennis

    If Lowe moves Cole, he'll also have to bring in another guy to replace him so it's basically two moves instead of just the one.

    I'm about the future of the club but I'd also like to make the playoffs.

    You have to weight the pro's and con's but moving Cole for a still-under-contract Rutuu who can provide some offense right now makes more sense than moving Cole for magic beans.

    Unless you want to go something resembling lateral where you move Peckham for Guerin and then Cole for Sobotka and Lashoff and in the interm, Guerin replaces Cole and then come 2010 Lashoff replaces Peckham as a cheap top sixer.

  • The other scenario is you keep Cole, and take 60 cents on the dollar when you trade his negotiating rights after the season. It won't net you much, but I imagine there would be a couple teams willing to pony up a draft pick.

  • Wanye Gretz

    I love Erik Cole. Not in the way that Jeanshorts loves Baggedmilk – but he is my star for the season and I stand by my man. Mark my words – if he leaves the Oil it will be a mistake and we will all watch him light it up somewhere else for seasons to come and will think "I wish Cole was still an Oiler."

    There is no way that Oil can possibly win a Cole trade this close to the deadline with him being a UFA at the end of the year.

    We will most likely come to regard this as Tambellini's first bad move as GM, though I do agree with my colleague jeanshorts when he notes Tambo is in a tough spot.


  • sittingatmydesk wrote:

    I agree that trading Cole, would be giving up…

    I'm a Cole fan, and I think that he could come back like gangbusters next year if they find the right people for him to play with. But Tambo is in such a hard spot right now. Either put everything on him, and hope that this team 1. makes the playoffs, and 2. somehow has a deep enough run that actually has some kind of worth. and then more than likely lose him in the offseason to free agency.
    Or trade him at the deadline to at least get some value out of the whole deal.

    Personally I would go with scenario two. Because lets be honest. Do you really think he'd want to sign back here for less money after the terrible season he's had? I really doubt it.

  • Dennis

    One of the least talked about storylines of this season has been the decision to let 13 lose numerous faceoffs and blow numerous defensive assignments while playing pivot.

    I'm thinking it's a tough love thing where macT's willing to let him drown this year with the overall plan being that he'll be a shutdown pivot.

    In that regard, this could be looked at as yet another developmental year.

    Every move you make now has to make sense for the future and though Gregor says 13 can't play wing, I'd much rather re-unite him with 89 and look for a winger to round them out and then go and pick up a vet pivot to round out your top three centres.

    Unless you want to give that role to 51 and then the development cycle will continue in 2010 as well.

  • Tim S

    mjsh wrote:

    If you put the kids back together and get a quality third line centre and a pick for Cole I would do it. Maybe I am overly opitmistic but I think that this team can still do well without Cole.

    The kids have been terrible every chance they have had to play together this season. This line should never be allowed to play together again.

  • mjsh

    Zamboni Driver wrote:

    mjsh wrote:
    … I think that this team can still do well without Cole.
    Some would say they are currently doing okay without him now!

    Some would be wrong.

  • Wanye Gretz

    I’m not going to pass off a nightshift janitor at Rexall Place or the dame who used to cut Josh Green’s hair as “sources close to the team.”



  • Dennis

    I don't think the Oilers could get Datsyuk for that package but maybe they could get Zetterberg?

    Other than that, for sure the Oilers have to trade one of the big four D for a forward and that is a good point that the implosion of the KHL gives 37 less leverage.

    The thing about dealing 77, though, it might be coloured by your constant argument with Willis over whether or not he'll be able to cover his contract.

    And by that rationale – which is strong, BTW – the Oilers should deal off 18 and 24 post-haste.

  • Travis Dakin

    Of course this team can do well without Cole. He doesn't bring much to the table that can't be replaced. He is good, but not 4 million good. However, some teams could really use him. It is absolutley stupid asset management if you keep him for the drive only to lose him for nothing after the inevitable first round sweep.

  • mjsh

    If you put the kids back together and get a quality third line centre and a pick for Cole I would do it. Maybe I am overly opitmistic but I think that this team can still do well without Cole.

  • sittingatmydesk

    I agree that trading Cole, would be giving up…
    I suggest lets stay put with our team, and make the changes in the summer….
    where's my phone i need to call Tambo