I’m flattered the question I put to Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini Wednesday produced all that quotable stuff about expecting to make the playoffs next season, but that’s not what I was asking about.

The end of, I’ll admit, my rather rambling question — OK, it bordered on a Bryan Hall query in terms of duration — went like this: "Progress without playoffs is still a possibility?" The question coaxed a 40-second answer from Tambellini that included, but wasn’t limited to, the following:

"There’s no thought, and I know speaking to Tom (Renney), that we don’t want to make the playoffs next year. Of course we do," Tambellini said.

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"There’s no one that was told inside that dressing room that our goal was not to make the playoffs. There should be that pressure every year, every night, every season regardless of new players, veteran players. There’s no excuses in the NHL to think you can’t make the playoffs.

"I expect our team to make the playoffs next year . . ." On and on went Tambellini. Fine. Good. Sound bite delivered. Now, about the progress part . . .


In terms of points totals and placing in the Western Conference, I believe the Oilers can make substantial progress without making the playoffs next season. At 25-45-12 for 62 points, the 15th-place Oilers finished 35 points behind eighth-place Chicago.

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With that as a starting point, next year’s team can improve by 30 points — good luck with that — and still not get a real sniff of the post-season. A 30-point increase this season would have left them 11th.

Tambellini never did answer my question about progress, so perhaps our readers can take up that train of thought here. In your opinion, how much improvement in points and placing represents reasonable progress?

Is it playoffs or bust after five straight years out of the post-season? Does playing meaningful games in late-March get it? You tell me. I get into games for free. When the story is done, I hit the send button and get a cheque, win or lose. People who buy tickets, the fans who pay the freight, have a different stake in this.

Is there a placing or a points total that triggers it for you? What will it take to make you to say, "OK, this thing is on the right track?"


Progress, obviously, involves more than a specific points total or placing in X-spot. It could be argued Tambellini could do nothing with this roster and have the team improve by 20 points, no?

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Take away, or at least limit, injuries that ended the seasons of Taylor Hall, Ryan Whitney, Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner. Might Kurtis Foster and Colin Fraser have better years? Could they be worse?

What will a season of NHL experience mean to the likes of Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Devan Dubnyk and Theo Peckham? Will any of them be better. How about Teemu Hartikainen and Linus Omark?

I’m not advocating Tambellini stand pat after he calls the name Ryan Nugent-Hopkins June 24. Not by any stretch. I’m just saying Tambellini could dither all summer and this team could improve by 20 points.

He won’t, of course. Tambellini has Ryan Jones to sign. He has Sheldon Souray to jettison. Tambellini recognizes, as he pointed out Wednesday, the need to add depth on defence and down the middle. Find a face-off guy, please. Free agents to pursue, etc etc.

What represents suitable progress? You tell me.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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  • Bucknuck

    I am at the point where I do not care about a draft pick anymore. Make the games mean something. I want a win or a loss to mean more than draft position next season. If they miss the playoffs I am OK with that, but they damn well better keep it interesting right to the end, just like Gagner and company did back in 2008.

    If they keep it interesting, they will keep me happy.

  • Shawn Cronin

    If,and I think it is a big if,they can acquire 1 reliable d-man and a 3/4 centre we should be flirting with the playoffs.If these two things are accomplished and they stay relatively healthy anything less is a bad season.

  • Bucknuck

    And QUIT trading good roster players for draft picks please. If they trade away a top six forward or top four D, then there better be an NHL player coming back the other way.

    • The Real Scuba Steve

      No kidding should I quote Klowe’s” you trade talent to get talent”. Unless they do more than they did last year they are going to right up in the same place next year.

  • 5cups7years

    Source Dict-shun-airy….

    Prog·ress (prgrs, -rs, prgrs)
    1. Movement, as toward a goal; advance.
    2. Development or growth: students who show progress.
    3. Steady improvement, as of a society or civilization: a believer in human progress. See Synonyms at development.
    4. A ceremonial journey made by a sovereign through his or her realm.
    intr.v. pro·gress (pr-grs) pro·gressed, pro·gress·ing, pro·gress·es
    1. To advance; proceed: Work on the new building progressed at a rapid rate.
    2. To advance toward a higher or better stage; improve steadily: as medical technology progresses.
    3. To increase in scope or severity, as a disease taking an unfavorable course.

    So to assimilate this into OilSpeak…
    1 Making the playoffs gets closer to the Goal which is to polish Lord Stanleys mug .
    2 Team would be to finish with more points next year — I know Duh! But individually Id expect to see players with better season stats…again probably a Duh!
    3. Steady improvement — maybe measure by how one sees the “Process”
    4. Ceremonial Journey — isnt the first, second, third and fourth round of the playoffs after compiling 16W ceremonial?

  • Pronger's Wife

    Extend Hemsky, re-sign Jones, find a veteran player who can win face-offs and kill penalties, hope Foster can turn it around and I think .500 hockey would equal a successful season next year. Play-offs the year after that with the emergence of #1 pick 2011 into the mix.

    Or, Tamby could just check and see if Taylor Hall maybe has a long lost twin brother… Timmy? VAN could have Henrick and Daniel and we could have Taylor and Timmy. Just sayin’.

  • Pilgor09

    If the Oilers finish in the bottom 3 next year it is a failure. I have them finishing in 10th next year. That’s a high standard but that’s what I expect. There would be major progress if they finished in 10th and have a sniff at the playoffs. It would be way better for the team as a whole than getting another lottery pick.

      • Hemmertime

        The douches who knock you for incorrect (or changed if you prefer) information passed on are ungrateful.

        Far as Ive seen in (3? 4?) years you’ve never once passed on something you feel as something you’ve heard. Props for that.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Cut that deficit in half would satisfy me (from 35 out to 17/18), should at least leave the games interesting until late Feb and still leave us with a 5-10 pick to hopefully add one more solid prospect.

  • Ender

    If you’re giving the Oilers a pass for finishing out of the playoffs in 11-12, you’re setting the bar too low. To be better than seven other teams in the West next year is not too much to ask. It’s not a slam dunk, but with proper asset-management, off-season acquisitions, and real coaching on areas of need it is not out of reach either.

    If you insist on missing the playoffs, beat Calgary six times next season and the extra-credit translates to a conditional pass.

    Oh, and anyone who still thinks Souray translates to anything even remotely resembling an asset for this team needs a stiff drink of reality. If Souray’s not actively hurting us, the GM has done pretty well. Any return beyond that is deserving of a frickin’ medal.

  • K.G.

    I would certainly settle for a season without excuses. Sheldon Souray screwed our defence, injuries really hurt our chances at a playoff push, etc..
    Time to man up.

  • Personally, i just wanna see an effort to fill the holes this offseason. Not just with a body, but with a player!

    I think Burrish or Eager were perfect targets last year. Eager is up again. Konopka is another guy talked about alot and I agree.

    The big question is Weber. YES, the team isnt ready yet BUT its not like franchise defenseman come up every year from a team deep in defense and no money to pay him! If its 2 first rndrs, 2nd and 3rd price range. Im in. As long as the picks arent top 5, I see no issue. If you can get them outside top 10, IDEAL!

    Fraser needs to go, foster needs to be the tarnstrom next year. Im not sold on signing Jones to more than a 2 year deal @ less than 1.5 per & that leaves you to sign 2 bottom 6 fwds. A strong faceoff guy and a veteran (whos been through battles) to provide some more leadership.

    • Wax Man Riley

      The big question is Weber. YES, the team isnt ready yet BUT its not like franchise defenseman come up every year from a team deep in defense and no money to pay him! If its 2 first rndrs, 2nd and 3rd price range. Im in. As long as the picks arent top 5, I see no issue. If you can get them outside top 10, IDEAL!

      I don’t think an RFA is the way to go. It just looks like too much to give up to build a team long-term.

      Also, Capgeek says Nashville has $18M free next year. Plenty of room to sign him. Don’t expect Weber in an Oilers uniform.

      • Mantastic

        i don’t think it’s about cap space but salary limitations. most small market american teams don’t ever spend to the cap because of salary limitations issued by the president/board

  • Great article Robin. Progress to me is finding out why the oilers have way too many injuries(most times to key players).Bad luck? I don’t believe these players are wimps like many have stated,but there is something wrong obviously.Bad ice? Having someone who can play alongside our skill players for more than 3,4, or even 0 minutes, and put the fear of God into anyone even thinking of taking liberties with our players.If he can win faceoffs,that would be a bonus.There is one player who on July 1st who fits this. Get him and get him quick.

  • Progress for me would be a team that doesn’t lose most of their best players to injury, and has less than 150 man games lost. It is something we need to get under control or it doesn’t matter how good our playoff spot is. You can’t win the cup with half your roster being AHL call ups. Our injury level is simply too high, I want to see that change. Talent will come and go, but a healthy team is much more important.

  • reaperfunkss

    Progress this season was to be measured in how the youngins progressed and restocking the organization. this was accomplished well. We have seen a lot of decent young players and the difference in attitude from last year to this was a 180 degree difference. If the injuries hadn’t happened to key players maybe they are not getting the #1 pick. I think this team will challenge for a playoff spot next season but are going to fall short finishing 10 or 11.

  • ubermiguel

    Here’s my realistic expectation of progress:

    2011/12: 9 to 12th in the west (with a roster full of young players)
    2012/13: over .500 and a real playoff run
    2013/14: playoffs

  • Mantastic

    progress for me would mean the team to get 20~ more points in the standings, cut down our goal differential by 20+ and that we actually start establishing an identity, besides being young and a last place team.

  • for all those saying .500, you mean 82 points I assume? Not win as many as you lose? There is a slight difference.

    The oilers getting 42 wins regardless of OT and shootout loses is a lot different than 35-35-12

  • Shawn Cronin

    Jettison Souray by taking on CBJ’s dead
    weight of Mike Commodore. Maybe new
    environments will help both of them. If
    not, at least we’ll get a decent NHL’er
    on OUR AHL team.

    Unless Hemmer actually inks an extension,
    which I believe will be VERY unlikely,
    make a deal on draft day and get a center
    and D-man that can play in 12-13.


  • Shawn Cronin

    If the Oilers were to improve by 30 points, it would be at the expense of some of the teams ahead of them.

    30 points (or 15 wins) means that the teams ahead of them would have less points (wins) and may allow the Oilers to make the playoffs.

    Addition by subtraction.

  • 5cups7years

    next year will be like every year in Oil country, excuses and more excuses, so and so is hurt place #83 name here, and we didn’t address our face man yet again, Please keep giving us a free pass because it’s a rebuild remember?? Getting tired of all the excuses year after year this team is not good enough now nor will it be next year and please tell me what progress was made with Bucky behind the bench??? give me a break good to see the old boys club is still in effect in Edmonton.

  • Wax Man Riley

    I dont think the Leafs are going to make the playoffs next year! The Leafs and Oilers basically started the “rebuild” at the same time and with the Leafs late season push they are ahead of the Oilers in my books. If the Oilers dont make the playoffs next year which they wont I think a reasonable progression is if we beat the Leafs in points next year to prove we are moving up and not stalling behind other teams rebuilding at the same time. 12 or 11 is a reasonable prediction in the west. Teams that are going to be worse 15. Columbus 14. Calgary 13. Colorado.

    Another thing that could prove as a progression in the right direction for the Oilers is if they can have a season without as many injuries as the last 2. If Hemsky can play 65-75 games that will improve the team. If Whitney can play 70-82 games and Gagner putting up 45-50 points while playing a full season the arrows will be in the right direction.

  • Dominoiler

    yeah.. definitely need to get right on signing ryan jones.. that i’ll get us in the hunt for a playoff spot.. Plus, there is no trading Souray.. they will put him on wavers and pray.. again..

    I think your to-do list is inconsequential RB, although you are right about RJ much to my chagrin, and hope some kinda move ‘of significance’ is on the horizon..

    Too early to banish the oil to the basement for a third go-round, but I wouldnt put any money on them finishing higher than 12th in the west next season (10th if Tounces actually makes a couple decent moves for mid-range players to fill holes)..