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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.