Alea Iacta Est

While the loss of Nikolai Khabibulin to injury may have added an exclamation point to the Oilers’ early season struggles, none of the troubles so far are especially surprising.

Certainly the loss of Khabibulin isn’t a surprise. He has a lengthy track record of injuries, his play of late has been poor (one commenter suggested he’s been hurt for a while) and he has been playing a lot. The lousy penalty kill and power play are not surprises; they’ve been lousy since before Steve Tambellini took over as general manager. Given the lack of two-way forwards and the obvious problems on the blue line, the goals against aren’t a surprise, and given the lack of established NHL scorers the Oilers vanishing offence shouldn’t surprise us either.

When Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army, violating Roman law, he reportedly said that “the die is cast,” meaning that he had passed the point of no return. There was no definitive Rubicon for the Oilers this summer, but as the summer wore on it became apparent that Steve Tambellini intended to leave obvious holes unfilled, obvious problems unsolved. For all but a few, rebuilding and the associated on-ice suffering were a natural, and inevitable consequence of the strategic course steered for the team by its managers.

I imagine it’s been frustrating for everyone involved, and that frustration has been evident among fans. Players – specifically ones with a high degree of unpopularity – have already been singled out as scapegoats, as key problems that must be excised.

The reality is this: this is not a team with a few problems. This is a team with real, systemic issues – things that go beyond a “culture change” or adding a third line centre. So we can point to individual players, ride our particular goats, or boo the current whipping boy out of town, but no matter how much merit there is in any one argument it will not fix this team. It is important to remember that, and it is equally important that before we hang any of the individual players we recognize they’re playing in a system where failure is the most probable outcome.

I’m not arguing the merits of a rebuilding program here, and I’m not arguing whether the current problems reflect incompetence or design at the hands of the men who put this team together.

All I’m saying is that this is a team that has been pointing due failure since well before training camp, and it is the managers, not the players, who set that course.

  • Dark days indeed! Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse in Oilersville, it has. And as some observed, it will get even darker.

    I’m starting to lose trust in Reeney; I had high expectations of him. Not so much his assistants. Was the coach able to chose his assistants?

    Tambellini’s record of player transactions as outlined on Lowetide’s latest blog and the nonperformance of the team is worthy of dismissal.

    As for the losses, it is time the NHL Commissioner invoked the Oilers Mercy Rule: when the Oilers drop to a six-goal losing differential during games, call the games and fine Katz $100,000 per game for incompetence. Unfortunately, the NHLPA CBA probably prohibits fining the players.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    I’m kind of likening watching the Oil this season as to watching your son finally stick up to that bully that’s been picking on him.

    They get the crap kicked out of them now, but it’s for the best in the long run.

    Still, it really hurts seeing someone dear to you get their a$$ kicked so bad.

  • lowebellini

    I really think this is a circular arguement and things will present itself. But the one thing that has remained a constant with Klowe and now with Tambo is they are not very good evaluators of talent PERIOD!!!!!! if they were then there would be some pieces here that we could use to foster the REBUILD. Throw out all of the excuses of no assets, nobody wants to come here and all of that. If these two had any talent in assessing their teams then we would still be losing yes but not like we are. Just think about it Lowe with his God Awful Contract signings that have tied tambos hands and then going and signing a 38 year old Goalie with health issues, confidence that Strudwick and Vandermeer would be able to handle the minutes that he knew they would have to play. Tell me how has that turned out?

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      The only time a lowe built team played like this was for a 20 game stretch after it was riddled with injury and then blown up.

      I also hate to break it to people, but it is/was very easy to clear $$$ in the NHL, Tambillini didn’t have his “hands tied”.

    • D-Man

      No arguments about Lowe’s bad signings and the Khabby contract – but again, tell me who Tambo could have signed who would have willingly came to a 30th place team. In my opinion, he simply couldn’t without overpaying or giving some ludicrous contract term… We also seem to forget that he also traded for Whitney and saved cap space in the process. He fooled Sutter (granted – Sutter is an idiot) and dealt Staios for a 3rd round draft pick and a two month rental player in Aaron Johnson. Tambo’s not perfect but he’s made some good moves too… I thought the POS/Vandermeer trade (at the time) was also a good move – unfortunately, Vandermeer was overrated – but again he’ll be gone next year too..

      The AHL team has also improved tremendously as well – Tambo deserves some credit for that as well…

      I’ve said this before – Tambo should have a two to three grace period to continue to move this rebuild forward… He should be watched closely and held accountable – if we aren’t competing for a playoff spot at the end of the 3rd year – he should be turfed with K-Lowe…

  • DonovanMD

    Oiler guys through and through like Stauffer (who already openly dislike Willis, haha) must hate articles like this.

    Spot on though, we all saw cracks and problems that needed addressing in the preseason if the managements plan was actually to compete this year, they chose not to fix them. Making you wonder what their actual plan is. Not to mention dubious personnel decisions etc, recipe for disaster. And a disaster we sure have.

  • ogorr

    Watching the Oilers this season, i’ve come to realize we have some pretty bad first periods. As a result, we play from behind for the next 40 minutes, and we end up losing. Some Stats:

    When giving up the first goal: 1-8-2
    When scoring first: 3-2-1
    More importantly we’re 2-0-1, when leading after 1

    We’ve givin’ up a staggering 28 goals in the 1st (worst in the NHL)
    Only scored 12 in the 1st (-16)

    And shots per period, well we all watched the chicago game lol.

    So for as many “holes” in the lineup as we have, we just have to come out with more energy, and win that first period, maybe pretend the first period is our last??? Renney has to light a fire under these guys butt. Because obviously playing from behind isn’t working.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    I love how they are actually getting buy in for this being a master plan.

    Wake the hell up people! Stop drinking the koolaid.

    November 2009: The oilers are still following the (who is good right now?) Detroit model. Khabi out, Hemsky out and our long term contracted veteran center still skating around with a busted shoulder. At this point, I’m losing it as it doesn’t make any sense not to sit him because we are going nowhere but down and anyone not completely delusional would see that.

    The ‘brain’ trust only switched over to this Chicago model and starting tossing out the word rebuild after it was blatantly obvious that the year was a wash.

    They sign Rekhab and chase after Heatley (neither of which makes any long term sense or addresses the obvious long term holes in this roster) and a short 4 months later scramble up a plan that we need a complete overhaul…AND SOME OF YOU ACTUALLY BUY IT?

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    i disagree that players dont set the course. these guys are being given the biggest opportunities of their life to take on roles on a Crap Squad and their true colors of identity are coming through. theyre all phonies – everyone of them over the age of 21. “lets give huge roles to overrated role players and wonder why we suck for so long.” the personalities of the Nintendo Generation kids is coming through.

    and rebuild? that doesnt even make sense. whats going on here is a stockpiling until the phonies are finally culled from the league. so whats the point of these seasons at all? 45+ million for an AHL team that plays in the NHL where Eberle, Paajarvi and Hall can skate ladders 15 minutes a game. what a grand design.

    to think even 80% of this team will be around in 3-4 years is hilarious. Horcoff and Gilbert will be still dragging the team down with their shortcomings.

  • smiliegirl15

    Renny had the boys play shinny yesterday. I have to agree with him this time. Change the mood in practise. maybe keep doing it once in awhile. If he can get the boys to relax, all the better for the whole group. Remember they are under pressure also. They want to do good. I believe that.

    Seems everyone(or most everyone) is saying HALL anytime they speak about the future. I think Eberle is going to be a great player. He allready has shown he belongs in the league. has excelent poise, great hands, good skater. We had high hopes for Cogs also. Don’t get me wrong, I am not putting Cogs in Halls’ catagory. But lets not get to far into the future. Some players just don’t achieve what we are led to believe they should.

    I heard McLean mention Whitney last night, and his 14 helpers. He believes he’s the real deal. Remember that Columbus job you got fired from buddy? The main reason was, you didn’t know talent. The Panters gig all those years ago, was just a lucky run. Keep your desk job. That way we can all shake our heads at your comments.

    Here’s to hoping the Oilers can compete most nights. That’s all I am looking for this year.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    It is difficult for me to direct my frustration towards management after witnessing the Oilers completely fold against Chicago. They didn’t even try hitting anyone in the third (JFJ threw one). My friends and I commented more then once on how it felt like we were watching a scrimmage or game of shinney. Trade Dustin Penner for a solid and gritty defenceman asap.

  • Dominoiler

    “If we fire the coaches and GM every two years or so, then we ARE following the Islander example.”

    It depends who you replace them with.. dumb for dumber doesnt help..

    and at this point, coaching has not been singled out as the problem.. in fact, Mac T n Quinn may feel vindicated in the fact that no one could make this (or past incarnations) motley crew a contender…

    Thanks for the read Willis,.. great concluding line..

    “this is a team that has been pointing due failure since well before training camp”

    This is what I think every time someone proposes calling up reddox because he is the best Pker in the org.. he may be, but that is a bad sign… (ps. kudos to reddox and co, whom are doing a fine job in the minors – Daum for GM!!!)

  • Dominoiler

    “I thought the POS/Vandermeer trade (at the time) was also a good move – unfortunately, Vandermeer was overrated – but again he’ll be gone next year too..”

    It WAS a great trade.. problem is that Vandy was asked to play top 4.. he cant.. (compounded by the fact that Foster cant either).. hence the problem..

    So, either we have a decent bottom pair with a weak top 4.. or just a piss poor D-core everywhere..

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Get off Lowe being the fall guy here , Tams responsible after 4 years to have put us upright and has done just the opposit . Too bad we were not losing by double digit scores , then maybe Katz might decide to do something about it ! Current club is certainly capable of worse hockey yet , as more and more clubs hit mid season form and further distance our pathetic base from theirs .

    Play more diminutive forwards and ensure the physicality we sadly lack . At least the small ones have some assemblance of skill over the Zombies we got for size .

    For the delusional and people out there that think that this is a rebuild , ask yourself if you swallowed it hook , line and sinker – or did you get bilked by a hypnotist or illusionist into believing this was a rebuild , or worse a proper rebuild ? What’s this spell some of you are under ? Having Tams not mess with any more than he has is probably a good thing – as he has habit of making things only worse when it comes to NHL squad !

    • D-Man

      Wow…You have no evidence to prove anything you’ve just said; but I give you some credit for being passionate… Honestly, what did you truly expect our record to be coming into this season? Hypothetically speaking of course, if Omark (and I know you were high on him) were here and the ‘fringe players’ we have (I believe you used that comment as well) were not – what would you think our record would be?? Would we be playing .500 hockey?

      All evidence to me states two things – 1) we’ve made a positive step with the rebuild with having three solid rookies on the big club and a better AHL team and 2) Tambo has made some good decisions (dumping salary, Whitney trade) and some atrocious ones (Khabby signing)…

      • D-Man

        I said a month before season started ( long before anyone else as you should recall ) we would be deadlast and worse than last season if they intended on going ahead with the defence they assembled minus Souray . Was i wrong ? Doesn’t look like it now does it ! The rookies were in irregardless of Tams- no big decision needed there to begin with . I said i would even have preferred more youth in lineup , than waste time with players that are not very good to begin with to give them an opportunity to grow . Our AHL’er are not fairing worth a darn as expected .

  • Bucknuck

    The young talent we have and the rebuild in progress has nothing to do with good management by Tambellini and everything to do with Stu MacGregor.

    Lowe made some mistakes, but I would take him back over Tambellini every day of the week.