Steve Tambellini’s comments on the firing of three members of the Oilers’ support staff don’t make much sense to me.
There’s a disconnect between Tambellini’s assessment of the job done by Ken Lowe, Barrie Stafford, and Lyle Kulchisky and the rationale behind firing them. Tyler Dellow picked up on it the other day (and also trashed the Journal’s John MacKinnon sloppy logic in his coverage of the move), but I couldn’t resist making some comments on it.
First, what Steve Tambellini thinks of the three men, from the Oilers official website:
- “There is absolutely no question Kenny, Barrie and Sparky have done a remarkable job here over the past three decades and more.”
- “These three guys have been terrific contributors to this franchise through thick and thin.”
- “I use the words great people to describe all three, and that’s exactly what they are and all three will continue to contribute to the Oilers.”
- “This has nothing to do with their work, their effort, their passion, or their dedication. “
- “We all know you couldn’t find three more hard working, dedicated or passionate people in this industry.”
Great people. Hard workers. Dedicated. Passionate. Terrific contributers. Have done a remarkable job over the past three decades or more. Those sound more like comments made by a manager hiring those three then the comments of a manager firing those three.
Of course, there must be some reason to dismiss such wonderful people from the job they’ve executed efficiently for the vast majority of the franchise’s history. Steve Tambellini, again from the Oilers’ official website:
“However, at the end of the season and for some time now I have been communicating our plan for the future. Part of that plan is to change the culture in our dressing room, and this is the right moment to bring a fresh energy to the medical, training and equipment area and Ken, Barrie and Sparky understand that.”
It’s a cultural issue. You see, to build a winning team, Steve Tambellini needs to make sure he gets the right kind of culture in his dressing room. Step One in that process is eliminating “great people” who are unparalleled in their work ethic, passion, dedication, and have a rich history of commitment to the team, through thick and thin. These are qualities that must be eliminated if the Oilers are to relentlessly climb out of the cellar and contend for the Stanley Cup.
There’s no sense to that combination of comments. People of such excellent character make positive contributions to culture – as Tambellini shows when he credits those men as contributing to the culture of teams that won World Championships and an Olympic medal, and since they’ve been contributors to the culture of Cup-winning teams in the past.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that Tambellini wasn’t being completely honest. It’s possible these weren’t such great guys, although there’s precious little evidence of that.
Another interesting point: in initial reports on this story, Oilers head trainer Ken Lowe was described as “stepping down” from his position. Robin Brownlee had Lowe’s comment on that for Oilers Nation:
"If that’s what they’re saying, then that’s what I’m going to stand by," said Lowe. "The Oilers have been good to me."
The Oilers’ latest story on the firings doesn’t contain that helpful little assertion. Steve Tambellini takes credit for ‘bringing fresh energy’ to the position of head trainer, so perhaps the initial implication was wrong.
At this point, I hope the rationale Tambellini stated publicly is different than the one behind the scenes.
UPDATE TO ADD: And, based on the comments, it appears the majority feel I’ve been too critical of Tambellini here (likely) but I think the biggest problem is that I didn’t make my point very well: the basic logic of Tambellini’s statement doesn’t make sense to me. Praising an employee’s character to high heaven and then citing ‘culture’ as the reason behind firing just strikes me as nonsensical, and thus I’d suspect he’s being less than honest in his public statement. Of course, he’s also under no obligation to be completely honest with the public, either, but I felt the apparent contradiction deserved pointing out.
FINAL UPDATE: I’ve toned down the article to be less critical of Tambellini because in this specific instance I was being needlessly inflammatory.