The Lesson of the Flying Burrito’s

Long before the Eagles, the Flying Burrito Brothers (and others) were working on a sound that incorporated country and rock music into something special. Gram Parsons would have been rich and famous by now, but got caught up in UFO’s, LSD and the Joshua Tree.

It was inevitable that someone would perfect the sound that became country rock. By the mid-to-late 1960’s The Byrds had recorded a terrific album called Sweethearts of the Rodeo that included two future Burrito’s (Parsons and Chris Hillman). You throw that puppy on the turntable and you’re listening to country rock. Parsons and Hilllman moved on the following summer to the Flying Burrito’s, a band that combined country, rock, terrific lyrics and unusual outfits in a most pleasing way. Along with country artists like Buck Owens, Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline and the early solo work of Neil Young, the sound was out there for the Eagles by the time that band hit vinyl in early 1972. They weren’t the first, or even the best, but the Eagles got all the money.–

It takes time to develop something worthwhile, and the fact is that by the time the pinnacle is reached many of the people who laid the groundwork are long gone or in reduced roles. For the Edmonton Oilers, this summer has seen a number of people sent out the door. Players, management people, scouts, and on it goes. I don’t think this is a bad thing, in fact it was probably necessary based on the horrible seasons since the Stanley run.

This season will see the team introduce exceptional rookies, may see young NHL players like Sam Gagner and Gilbert Brule taking steps forward, and a healthy year from veterans like Ales Hemsky and Sheldon Souray. We can only hope for another season just like the last one from Dustin Penner.

It’s the blueline and defense I’m wondering over, and doubt that I’m alone. In a very real way, Steve Tambellini has been given an opportunity to be a true team builder for these Edmonton Oilers. Some nice depth moves over this summer along with the impressive draft haul give all Oiler fans a good feeling about the future. However, in order for ST to avoid the bad things that happen when you pursure UFO’S, LSD and the Joshua Tree, the general manager needs to solve a few problems over the next 24 months:

  1. Blue’s Future: Never mind the mess at the NHL level, this team needs to uncover some future defensemen from the group that includes Jeff Petry, Alex Plante, Theo Peckham, Taylor Chorney and others. When Taylor Hall’s team is ready to hit the playoffs on the dead run, who is going to be this generation’s Lowe, Huddy, Gregg, Fogolin? I’m not even asking about Paul Coffey, although the Oilers might pluck one from the lottery next year if they’re lucky enough to pick near the top again. Fact: Defensemen take longer to develop than forwards, and the Oilers aren’t stacked at this position. Meaning they’ll probably have to trade an Eberle or a MPS at some point to balance out the roster unless one or more of the kids turns into something.
  2. Goaltending: It’s a mess, and the team would do well to solve this damn problem sooner than later. JDD and DD are trying to find traction at the NHL level, and I think it might be a good idea to cut bait with one and devote a lot of playing time to the other. By this time next season, Tambellini needs to find out about these two as soon as possible, because if a goaltender needs to be developed we’re talking a very long time.
  3. Europe. Kenta Nilsson did the right thing by quitting after the team bought out his son (blood is thicker than Oil) and Frank Musil apparently isn’t going to be driving his SAAB around looking under fjords for hockey players this year either. I sense the Oilers would rather shop close to home (WHL), which is all well and good; however, you can’t just let the other 29 teams own an entire region without scouting the place. A strong European scouting staff is vital and ST should be on the hunt right away. No time like the present and all that. I’m not just talking about the amateur scouting either, the Oilers could use a Jan Hejda or two once in awhile. In fact, this might be a very strong option when searching for those defensemen and goaltenders I was talking about earlier.
  4. College free agents and overage juniors. Brian Burke has done a nice job acquiring some depth in the organization using this method of procurement, and the Oilers seemed to have been bullied out of the race in recent years. There’s talent there.
  5. Attracting NHL free agents. The Oilers will one day be a franchise on the rise, rich with talented youth. Veterans will come here, and the Oilers should do everything they can to ensure those veterans look upon Edmonton as a quality option. Good coaching, good practice facilities, and a brand new building that is nothing less than state of the art.

Steve Tambellini has an excellent opportunity here. This summer he’s improved the team (although I don’t think he went far enough, or hasn’t yet) and the procurement department delivered at least two bullets at the draft (Hall, Pitlick). And yet there’s still a feeling that the organization is burning daylight, perhaps not making enough progress in important areas (like defense). Steve Tambellini is a long way from the finish line, and tomorrow is not promised to him. Plenty of good hockey men have given years of their lives to an organization only to be replaced just before glory arrives.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Who are these “top teams” and “top coaches” using skill guys on the PK?

    Plekanec/Langkow/Kesler were the only three “skill guys” in the top 30 for min/game on the PK amoungst forwards and they are all more 2 way guys in the Horcoff mold.

    The only real offense first guys in the top 60 for PK-min/game are Marleau and Nash in 31st and 45th, and I guess you could count Richards at 56 but he’s more of an all around guy.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Take a look at other teams that have gone with a lot of rookies lately and they are all doing pretty darn good . The only reason ours might continue to do bad is if we have a poorer core group – which is what we have in comparison to nearly all clubs . We need a firmer more competent base – not the many fringe ones we have now !

    Why some of you are so high on our fringe players escapes me ? Go with the youth, and deal fringe players for a more respectfull base before , during and after next season . Lets not destroy or retard another season in the basement , waiting for fringe players to have banner seasons , which is most unlikely to begin with .

    • D-Man

      All teams need fringe players as not all rookies may be NHL ready. Are Hall, Eberle and MPS ready? Arguably – Hall, Eberle – yes, MPS – good possibility, Omark – maybe. I don’t think putting rookies into the lineup for the sake of the fans are good idea to the long term health of the franchise. The sink or swim attitude could potentially damage the physical or mental well-being of an eighteen or nineteen year old kid. Although I agree with you that we can’t wait forever, we also need to remember that we’re also in this for the long haul.

      We also have to remember we don’t have too many rookies to step in to replace our fringe players. I’m guessing you would define your fringe players as Jacques, Jones, Stortini, Frasor, and Strudwick?? If you’d look at our depth chart, I can’t see any bodies that you could replace them for (and have the grit/intensity the above players provide). You have Peckham who could replace Strudwick, Hartkinen (that you’ve mentioned before; unlikely as a 6th round draft pick), Lander (who’s already committed to Sweden for one more year) and Plante (who’s not fast enough yet to play NHL hockey)…

      Most NHL experts have already said with our “fringe players” that we’re ending up 15th in the West. Potentially, we’re looking at another top five pick in the 2011-2012 draft.

      Patience is the key here. I don’t think Oilers Nation is any higher on fringe players than you are; I think some of us are taking a bit more of a conservative and realistic point of view.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    #57:

    Why ever count on all players being healthy?

    Even if they did, they could always send Eberle and/or MPS down, without waivers, to clear 1/2 roster spots for a couple weeks in the unlikely event that 13/14 other forwards on one way contracts are all healthy at the same time.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    LT dunno ’bout Empty Garden but I did think that i might wanna give ST a ChaunceyGardener blast thought better of it though…i just can’t wait for this thing to start.

  • D-Man

    Finally. I was waiting for someone to get around to naming an article with this title.

    The assessment in the article seems to make certain assumptions that need not be true. For example, there are reasonable people that think that spending high draft picks on goalies and even defenders doesn’t make sense, that it is possible to build contenders without franchise goalies, and that good defenders are available every year so there’s no reason to panic out of a better pick in the early rounds.

    A more difficult issue of the article is that it forces you to presuppose the rebuilding objective is winning the cup.

  • Crash

    Most of our young rookies were bought up on an abundance of the cycle game , and are all adept at playing and defending against it . D-Man and i disagree on that as well i guess . I’m sold on rookies . Others that are more conservative seem to prefer the fringe route . The fringe route to me is basement talk and acceptance , and i truly hope Oilers don’t follow that route to try a proper rebuild . I do not find a proper rebuild to be part and parcel with mainly a fringe hockey players base .

    The two to me are opposits of one another ! I want to see a proper rebuild with a well rounded base , not a fringe base . Why keep delaying our rebuild with questionable fringe players to begin with is my question ? It’s not going to benefit club or the rookies to be honest . You want to punish the rookies in the AHL because your scared you can’t put a “safety blanket ” around them ( Mother Hubbard scenario )? They’ll do just fine , don’t worry so much about them .

    • D-Man

      We’re talking a difference of and additional two to three roster spots correct?? You’re making the assumption that sticking a rookie into a losing situation will only improve his game over time. Some players like Hall or Eberle have that fire to learn from that and improve. Some talented players such as Nilsson or O’Sullivan (small skilled players like Omark) failed miserably. Now maybe comparing all three are apples and oranges, but in short – that’s a huge risk you’re taking with what you’d define as a proper rebuild.

      The three roster spots we’re debating about won’t make much of a difference from pulling us much further out of the basement this year than you’d think.

      Either way, being a “newbie” to Oilers Nation, I truly appreciate the debate and differing opinions. I’m really stoked to see how many people out there care about our Oilers.

      • D-Man

        Once again i disagree your putting the rookies into a losing situation . The losing situation is to punish their Psyche sending them to the minors, and allowing fringe less talented players unlikely to make much of a difference or contribution to replace them on the main squad . It’s not like a lot of those fringe players are anything more than temporary fillins to begin with on most squads.

        If fringe players contribute much more than them , fine send the rookie underachievers back to AHL or wherever . But if they are close to equal, or little difference, go with the rookies . Oiler fan base would find it much more entertaining as well , lets not forget . Ties go to the rookies with far more room to contribute and grow ! I’m really excited to see what a dynamic reinvigorated Horcoff can/might do centering our two high flying Swedes (Omark and Svensson ).

  • D-Man

    Not to worry on defense, Marincin looks like he’s going to be special.

    He needs 2 years in the OHL to develop and some decent luck to avoid injury, but there’s a good chance you may be able to pencil him in no lower than the 3rd D in Edmonton afterward and for some years to come.

    With Whitney and Gilbert still relatively young we need 1-2 of the current D crop to step up, and to draft another potential impact kid early in the draft next year.

    • D-Man

      We already have a very strong rookie crop to form around without another top pick next season . I would not like to see the Oilers waste another season like last year trying to procur another top 5 pick . If they are still to finish in bottom 5 either way , then do with more rookies rather than uninspiring fringe players at least !