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.

  • 9 Inches Uncut

    It is puzzling that we haven’t heard anything on the European front.

    Not as worrying as Gagner’s contract going MIA, the dearth of PKers grunting in the trenches, or the gaping holes in our net, but brow-furrowing nonetheless.

    Right now our Generals are probably fishing for 40 lb Lakies at Great Bear, a pastime that seems to persist while they’re at their desks too. Fortunately, the only trophy they’ve managed to land is the 2010 #1 overall; a fish which jumped over the gunwhales and into their laps after ending the expedition with a horrific boat accident.

    To sum it up, stand-up comic Steven Wright:

    There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the edge of a dock.

  • Crackenbury

    This article and the posters to it reaffirm the saying “What have you done for me lately?”

    It’s been a great summer for Oiler fans, but apparently not good enough. The difference in the teams roster at the end of last year to now is night and day. What 30th place team doesn’t have a few holes to fill going into the next season?

    I was fairly critical of ST prior to this off-season, but you need to give the guy credit for the moves since the season ended.

    • Crackenbury

      I guess that depends on one’s definition of great, but how can the summer, so far, be rated as “great” for the Oilers? The one thing I’ll definitely grant is they haven’t tied themselves to any bad, long term deals, although they arguably tried with Boogaard. They have (apparently?) addressed a couple areas of (alleged?) need, relatively cheaply, in Foster, MacIntyre, and Fraser.

      I understand that no one, myself included, is/was expecting Tambellini to turn the Oilers in a President’s trophy contender this year.

      I guess one could well argue Hall counts. Maybe I’m playing the semantic game, but I don’t really think of drafting Hall as a summer move, even if it happened in June, since it was pretty clear back in March/April that EDM was getting a top 2 pick.

      • Crackenbury

        You’re overlooking the players and contracts he got rid of. This was a top-end salary cap team last March before the trade deadline. Today they have significantly more skill on the roster with cap space to make some moves. I’d call that a pretty good summer.

        • Lowetide

          I give Tambellini a lot of credit for his deadline. I was kind of confused, and kind of ambivalent about the Grebeshkov deal, but I think hindsight has shown that to be a better move by Tambellini than it seemed at the time.

          I still don’t really get the Visnovsky move, except that they must think Whitney is a better D, or will be better in a year or two than Visnovsky.

          The Staios deal was great, and I wasn’t really a big fan of the Jones move, but think it makes more sense now coupled with the roster moves since.

          Overall, pretty good deadline except I still don’t really get the Visnovsky trade.

          I understand the Nilsson buyout, I even think it’s probably a good move. O’Sullivan for Vandermeer, OK, IF you’re going to buy him out anyways, makes some sense. Losing Moreau to waivers is great, but more proactive management would have got rid of him much earlier.

          I like the Foster signing, and Fraser trade. But there are still some other holes that could be, and haven’t been, filled, at a small cost while providing depth.

          I guess I agree with Rick in comment 34, that this summer has been better than the last couple, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “great”.

  • 9 Inches Uncut

    Bite the bullet and go with more rookies would be the way i’d hope they will go . Don’t see how they can hope to entertain the Oilers fans another season with the core they have now . Patience is wearing awfull thin as it is now, with prospects of another less than adequate and competitive base .

    Entertain us with the kids at least, not another season of snoozefests !

  • @ Lowetide,

    Dale Tallon likes this article!

    Never really was an Eagles guy either, Rolling Stones were great back in the day.

    There’s a good number of quality UFA’s next summer, I’d like to see Musil “kid” this year if the Oilers aren’t a lotto team.

  • Dew South

    The issue to me LT are the contracts to Penner and Hemsky.

    Without significant improvement to roster, and hence results, over the near future, what do we do about those players?

    Should ST sit and hope that they will sign extensions after yet another crappy season, in which case the forward talent should be set for years to come?

    Or should he launch a pre-emptive strike and somehow get that stud Dman or franchise centre?

    And if you trade one of the two, what does that mean to the other?

    Will signing either to an extension require significant overpay?

    These are the issues hanging over The Summer of Steve III, and we have yet to see a pro-active move one way or another.

    I think the plan, unspoken as it is by The Braintrust, is to suck the wazoo for one more year, in which case I hold little hope for value signings in either Penner or Hemsky’s case.

    Might as well trade them then?

  • Lowetide

    Thanks for the FBB/Parsons mention. One of my alltime fav’s. Have a giant oil painting of Gram in my living, next to the Gretzky mural. If you haven’t heard him, do it! I bleed copper and blue. War a Calder in Oil Country next spring. War the Calgary Flames free fall into oblivion

  • Lowetide

    madjam: Well this year (10-11) is going to be a lot like the last one (with fewer injuries) but I’d have liked to have seen some 2-way forwards and at least one more defenseman added to the group.

  • third string plumber

    I disagree Oilers have done any upgrade to last years roster other than rookies that might make the team . Tams and company have once again done little to improve talent of any core . In fact , i’d say they have even made more voids in core than any they attempted to solve from last season.

    Why would you want to give up our youth to add to a very questionable core to begin with ? What we gave up to get this so called new core is by my estimation not as good as last seasons core . You can argue otherwise , but all of them are not exactly household names , very talented or even regulars on most of the clubs they left from . Do a simple who’s replacing whom from last years core , and i am sure you’ll come to same conclusion .

    We gave up on our core , but lets not rush to give up on our young stars that might turn out to be decent NHL’ers , for more of these fringe players that seem all that we can still add at this point !

  • Lowetide

    DSF: I don’t know if we can get too terribly upset about Souray since that contract might not be tradeable. You are quite right about the JFJ and Strudwick signings.

  • DSF

    LT.

    It’s very rare that the man who starts a rebuild is around to finish it and, in any case, ST hasn’t even cleared all the underbrush from the acreage yet. (see Souray, JFJ, Strudwick for reference)

    What little he has done in replacing deadwood is clearly designed to allow him a season of “evaluating” all his young talent which, unfortunately, also burns a year off their ELC’s.

    Steady Steve is just too deliberate for his own good and, based on his public statements at least, is not a very good evaluator of talent.

    He may have opportunity handed to him on a silver platter again at the next draft but, if he doesn’t, I expect more running in place.