Generally speaking, being all talk and no action makes you a poser. When you’re the GM of the 30th-place Edmonton Oilers as Steve Tambellini is, it seems to me being all talk and no walk should get you gone.
It was interesting, then, to listen to Tambellini’s interview with Gene Principe of Sportsnet on the Oilers website today. Tambellini, who hasn’t done much of anything since handing Nikolai Khabibulin a four-year retirement package last summer, spoke about what he intends to do moving forward in his sit down with Principe.
It was, to my ear, relatively bold stuff in terms of Tambellini addressing the need for change and how the responsibility for making it happen is his with an Oilers outfit about to miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
With the green the light from owner Daryl Katz to do what it takes to begin a rebuild, something the boss reiterated in an interview with radio analyst Bob Stauffer last week, the task sits where it should, in Tambellini’s lap.
Tambellini sounded convincing talking about what lies ahead between now, the trade deadline, the Entry Draft and the opening of free agency July 1. Then again, he talked the ears off reporters at the end of last season, then delivered small on some big expectations.
I’m thinking a repeat means a pink slip. And it should.
"I think it’s a reflection of our entire organization’s feeling," Tambellini told Principe, who’d asked about Katz’s reference to the state of the franchise being "unacceptable."
"Daryl Katz has been not only supportive and caring about this hockey club. One of the first things that stood out for me is his passion for the city. He’s extremely proud and wants to make a further contribution in so many different ways to grow this city and bring it back to the stature where he believes it should be.
"He mentioned this team being in last place being unacceptable. Of course it is. That’s no secret to anyone here involved. Are we happy about it? No. Do we have an opportunity here to rebuild this franchise in a way that’s not just for next year but many years to come? Yes, we do. That’s my job."
Yes. Yes, it is. This we already know.
"My job is to look at this entire organization," he said. "I’ve been given the authority to do that and make this not a good organization, but a great organization. Am I pushing people in different areas of this organization? Yes, I am.
"Is it uncomfortable at times? I’m sure it’s very uncomfortable. From a players’ standpoint, will there be change? Of course there will be change. Can we do it by the trade deadline? I’m not sure. But I do know by the time we get to the spring and the start of next year, there’ll be significant change and we’ll be in a spot where we can start this rebuilding process."
So, what to do?
"From a players’ standpoint, the trade deadline is step one," Tambellini said of March 3. "We’ll see what we can do to change or move some of the pieces that we have in place. Everyone is aware of that and clear that there will be change there. We have the draft and July 1."
Walking the walk
Unloading Ethan Moreau at the deadline seems a necessity. If there’s somebody to take Steve Staios and Fernando Pisani, by then as opposed to later in the summer, all the better.
At the draft, assuming things go as they’ve gone so far, Tambellini’s first order of business is to not bugger up one of the first two picks with a hunch about a Swiss forward. Thanks, Captain Obvious.
Tambellini has to do more than call the name of Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. He has to find a way to move either Sheldon Souray or Tom Gilbert at something approaching fair value (which won’t be easy given the seasons they’ve had). Not both, but one. Do that, and fans might start buying in.
As for free agency July 1, Tambellini must, and I expect will, consider buy-outs for spare parts he can’t move. He’ll have to get a read on the state of Khabibulin’s back. Trade Patrick O’Sullivan? He has to address holes in the line-up. Remember that face-off guy? Grit?
That’s not the entirety of what promises to be a lengthy laundry list, but it’s plenty, given Tambellini’s inability to pull the trigger on much since he took over from Kevin Lowe.
"Are we going to be able to do everything in a couple months here? No, this is going to be a process, there’s no question about that," Tambellini said.
"I understand that. I know the people of Edmonton understand that. I know they’re not looking for a quick-fix type of weekend where we fix the Oilers. This is going to take some time.
"I know it’s going to be extremely painful at times, but the end result is going to be terrific. I know what the end result is going to look like, and that’s going to take some time."
I wouldn’t take too much time to get started down that road to "terrific" if I was Tambellini. It’s difficult to get there from the unemployment line.
This and that
— If the Oilers didn’t have brutal luck with illness and injuries, they wouldn’t have any luck at all. A bizarre mishap on the AHL farm Springfield just added to that.
Alex Plante, who had a decent stint here with the Oilers, is out with a concussion after colliding with teammate Kip Brennan during the warm-up for a game against Providence Saturday.
Plante and Brennan were doing 3-on-2 line rushes as part of the warm-up when they ran into each other. The impact knocked Plante out cold.
"It’s just one of those things, but I’ve never seen it before in all my years," said Springfield coach Rob Daum. "I don’t know how long he’ll be out. We haven’t had much good luck."
— While the Oilers will have lots of eyes an ears at the Olympics, some of them on Jaromir Jagr, there’s another player who they’ll be gawking at, as will other NHL teams.
Keep an eye on Czech Republic forward Roman Cervenka, an undrafted 24-year-old who might turn out to be a player for somebody.
Cervenka never got a sniff during his draft year because he was ridiculously small at five-foot-seven and 127 pounds. That’s not a mis-print. He was a-buck-27 as a teenager.
At five-foot-11 and 187 pounds now, Cervenka’s looking like a late-bloomer. In 48 games with Slavia Praha this season, Cervenka has scored 30-41-71 to lead the team in scoring.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.