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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  • 5cups7years

    1) Sign Hemsky for 3-5 years. Indicates that we want to build a winner while the kids develop.

    2) Sign Grebeshkov for a couple of years.

    3) Bring Charlie Huddy back.

    4) Bring in the guy that Fraser was supposed to be. Is Dom Moore available this year? Phoenix fills up with these guys, it can’t be that hard.

    • Chris.

      When Crawford got the boot the other day, my first thought was that I would love to see Huddy back in Edmonton working with our defence; especially after seeing what he was able to do with that no-name group in Dallas.

      I disagree with Tambellini’s ringing endorsement of the coaching staff. I like Renny, but am not so sure about the rest of the group he has assembled. IMO, Huddy seemed to get a lot more out of Smid and Gilbert than Smith did last season. As for the other assistants in Edmonton; Ralph was brutal managing the bench when Renny was away dealing with the passing of his father; and after three full seasons, nobody will explain to the fans what Buchberger does or why he is here. Stauffer once said Bucky kept his job and was integrated into Quinn’s staff because of his familiarity with many of the prospects in the system… Gets me wondering, now that that dysfunctional group from Springfield has mostly been turned over: what is Buchbereger’s role now?

      As for this thread, and my expectations:

      More teams make the playoffs than miss: I expect an organization with a wealthy owner, in a market where hockey is king, to make the playoffs each and every season. Leave the losing to budget teams in non-hockey markets.

      Yesterday was my tenth wedding anniversary. The Oilers opened at home against Dallas in game 3 of a tied series the day of my gift opening. I complained about my wife’s scheduling because I didn’t want to miss the game. She said, “There will be other playoff games honey.”… She was right… Since that night, ten years ago, the Oilers made the playoffs twice more. 2003. 2006. BTW, the chief architect of all this hockey ~success~ in Edmonton since before I even met my lovely wife: still has a job.

      • I like Huddy but I also think that playing with Lubo helped both of those guys out.

        I might look like Strudwick* if I was playing with Lubo.

        *this would be a huge jump in my talent levels which tells you where I was starting out at

        • Chris.

          I didn’t appreciate Huddy enough when he was here. It was the simultaneous crash of players like Grebeshkov, and Gilbert when he left; combined with the massive improvement on the back-end in Dallas that changed my perception of the job that Huddy did. BTW, the Oilers have been in last place ever since the Silver Fox, MacT, got the boot.

          • SuntanOil

            It’s probably because it’s late (for me) but when did Charlie Huddy coach Lubomir Visnovsky?

            edit: got it. 50 games one season. I guess it wasn’t a match that stood out to me. I just didn’t remember Vis being that good around here that he made everyone else look better, but I do remember Huddy doing some good work over the 8 seasons he was here.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            “BTW, the Oilers have been in last place ever since the Silver Fox, MacT, got the boot.”

            I LOLZZ @ Oiler fans everyday because of this.

  • Mitch


    When I listen to Tambellini and Renney talk it’s extremely boring, yes we can expect 20 more points. What I will look at more importantly is can Hall dominate games like Alex Ovechkin or the other great players of this game? Can Eberle get to 25 goals or more, does Paajarvi hit 23 goals? Can Omark become the playmaker that I think he can be? How long does it take Tambellini to admit having small forwards doesn’t work in todays NHL? Can we stay healthy, all these injuries aren’t just freak injuries are they? Souray will not be picked up by another team, can he fit in Edmonton? I feel Lander and Vande Velde could win jobs here at training camp.

    At the start of the 08 season people expected improvement from all the young guys Gagner, Cogliano, Gilbert, Stortini, Penner and Hemsky just to name a few to the point where the team would be in the playoffs. The core of the team was useless to a man. Three and four years later we have some decent core in place now, these players must take this team buy the throat. Something Gagner, Cogliano and some of the other key players could never do. But I don’t see the playoffs, do we then want a 9-13 overall selection?

  • Dominoiler

    progress will be management bringing in role players better than Colin Fraser, Smac and Struds..

    Not that that brings the team above tenth, but it gives them a chance to not suck hard while the youngin’s do their thing..

    Oh, and some semblance of a functional powerplay.. that would be a huge step forward..

  • admiralmark

    Whats with the way Tambi answers direct questions? by asking himself a slightly different question and then answering himself… Hey Tambi how are you going to address the glaring need for a center that can win faceoffs?

    Tambi:”Do we feel that we could improve as a team when it comes to winning FO’s”? Of course we do. “Is the level of success that we’ve had so far been where we would of liked it to be in regards to winning faceoffs”? I don’t think there is a man in the room that would say that.

    Sometimes i think he should be running for election.

  • Wax Man Riley

    I have a problem with one thing. You say that even with the Oilers being 30 points better they would still be 11th. But I beg to differ. You have to remember if they are making another 15 wins then those wins need to be taken away from another team. With the schedules being stacked with more games against your own conference it is likely that the wins would come against the west and therefore change the overall standings.

  • Hemmertime

    Oh hey, Whitney is 2nd in NHL D-men in PPG this season. Amazing, when’s the last time an Oiler D man did that (Coffey?).

    Sucks the guy we traded for him was 1st, and should have strong consideration for the Norris (would ANA be in the playoffs without Vish?) but this seems to be one of the Hossa – Heatley rare deals that works for both.

  • Milli

    I think progress will be playing meaningful games in March and April. I fully expect Hall to be a dominant player by the end of next season, he seems to have that Crosbyish drive to excel. Now, if we can get solid tending, and win some draws…..

  • Ducey

    Most of you sound like Flames fans: “if we can just make the playoffs everything will be great”.

    How’s that quick rebuild working in COL?

    Of course the GM is going to say we are trying for the playoffs. He has tickets to sell and expectations to impart on his players.

    The more important message he gave was that they are going to stay the course.

    How would I measure progress?

    Another good draft in June

    40 – 50 starts by DD with a sv% above .910

    A healthy season from most of their core players

    Further positive development of HOPE, Peckham, Petry, Smid, Gagner.

    The further patient development of prospects like Lander, Hamilton, Pitlick, Marincin, Hartikanen, Tuebert, Bunz, Blain, Roy etc, etc.

    I couldn’t care where they finish in the standings. I want this team to win a Cup. If anything, another poor result in the standings next year is going to put them in a position to be a contender for a long time.

    Whether you like or not, this team just is not ready to make the playoffs yet. Adding a few no cost vets to helpout is fine, but trading prospects just to make the playoffs would be shortsighted and wrong.

    • Hemmertime

      Depends on who we’re trading and why, with 10 picks in this years draft I wouldn’t mind seeing Cogs packaged with a pick for a large move up. However, I wouldn’t be pleased with us dealing for 2-5th round picks with our players. I’d much rather see them deal some prospects or players for a definitive third line C or players to help our young players along. Can’t have just all youth. Will O’marra or Vande Velde (sp?) be able to take a C spot and free up Brule or Cogs. Plenty of time to mull it over though, can’t wait for July 1st. Or at least the weather of July 1 for gods sake.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Patiences is great, and I see the merit in dipping into lottery territory to try and land elite players (especially for a team that has trouble aquiring them through other methods).

      But three years in last place (or even close to that) is pathetic.

  • Dominoiler

    Progress is one year less on the contracts of Horcoff, Gilbert, and Khabibulin. I would also consider progress to be the riddance of Foster and Souray through free agency (if not bought out).

    Addition by subtraction.

  • Wax Man Riley

    The Oilers injury problems have nothing to do with the size of their forwards.The oilers current injury woes are directly relate to their lack of depth in key positions.Imo,you can’t rely on a handfull of players to play the”tough minutes” and expect them to stay healthy.

  • Wax Man Riley

    The Oilers injury problems have nothing to do with the size of their forwards.The oilers current injury woes are directly relate to their lack of depth in key positions.Imo,you can’t rely on a handfull of players to play the”tough minutes” and expect them to stay healthy.

  • Oilers4ever

    If the Oilers call RNH’s name at the draft… unless they have a plan that involves trading one of Cogliano or Gagner, I’m sticking my head in the sand.. Doesn’t this team need to get tougher and bigger? RNH doesn’t address any of those issues…

    If I’m ST, I’m trying to put a packaged together including the first overall pick to NJ for Parise… or maybe trying to find a way to get a contract out for Brad Richards…. I’m also throwing a RFA contract to Shea Weber that the Preds can’t match… I read something the other day about Weber having ties to Katz’s family somehow so how could they not go after him??

    If they are truely serious about improving this club, unless like I said they have plans of trading one of those two small centers, drafting RNH is a complete lack of brain power and obviously no real intent to get this team better. And this is no slam at RNH either… I’ve seen him play as I’ve said many times this year and he’s an awesomer player. He’s just not the best fit for what the Oilers need IMO…

    • Mantastic

      So your solution to the Oilers lack of size is to give the 1st overall pick to New Jersey for Zach Parise? The same Parise who is 5’11” and a left winger? ~Man does that ever address all of the Oilers needs~ c’mon be better…

      • Oilers4ever

        He’s also 195lbs.. has heart and desire.. and in his last 2 full seasons has had 82 and 94 points.. and in his 94 point season had 45 goals on a team that preaches defense first and he has played center.. he might be a winger.. but he’s played center… He’d better than any centre we currently have, including the farm team. Tell me the last time any arse on our team got close to those points… oh yeah.. that’s right.. has not happened since what.. when Messier was here last. RNH ain’t the solution for this team unless he spends another year in Red Deer, then a year on the farm team and hopefully boosts up to close to 200 lbs through that.. I know the Oiler scouts have made comments on this guy about never seeing anyone who has vision on the ice like he does since Gretz.. but that’s a load of crap in my eyes. If that’t the case he sure didn’t put up points like Gretz did in junior…

  • Oilers4ever

    The Oilers injury problems have nothing to do with the size of their forwards.The oilers current injury woes are directly relate to their lack of depth in key positions.Imo,you can’t rely on a handfull of players to play the”tough minutes” and expect them to stay healthy.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      I would sign Lander and I think he would be capable of 30pts and win some faceoffs. Fraser has no offense what so ever. That move alone is worth its weight in gold. I would give Foster his 2nd year to see what he can do.

      • Wax Man Riley

        I thought Foster started to finally get into a groove towards the end of the season. He has proven he is capable of being a lot better. So I agree I would like to see what kind of a year he puts forth next season.

  • Dominoiler

    I dont think anyone is calling for this team to make the playoffs next season.. that is just tambs saying what he thinks needs to be said..

    That being said, I wouldnt mind a couple legit nhlers helping this bunch move a little closer to respectability.. just to get a sense that when the time comes, management can actually help the players win.. (we already know they can tank a team)

    Oilers4ever.. haha.. need to get bigger and tougher.. trade for praise.. haha.. stu should hire you as a scout…

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Im hoping for 8th spot next season with a healthy line-up, and no i dont think its bad ice or something like that, the injuries that have happend the last couple seasons to key players have all been “upper body” which leads me to beleave its piss poor off season training by the players themselves, but that just my opinion.

    I agree that the Oilers should make a pitch to Weber that the Preds can’t match or even Luke Shenn(just because id love to see Burke cry all over agin lol) I could stand a yr without alot of draft picks,we have enough of those already the last couple years but does ST have the brass jewels to do something like that?

    Dont trade the #1 pick trade the LA pick with Brule to get a solid NHL player that helps the team NOW, ive said trade Cogs before but the more i think about it he’s starting to really ajust to being the #3c on the team and Brule seems more expendable IMO

    Resign SMAC(he will be needed mark my words),Jones

    Bottom line is all the Oilers NEED to be healthy all year( minor tweaks aside), if im Renney im tellin the whole team off season regiments starts RIGHT NOW not in august.

  • Ender

    Mitch wrote:

    Souray will not be picked up by another team, can he fit in Edmonton?

    Listen to your own question for a second. You freely recognize that the other 29 teams in the NHL don’t want him. You probably understand that’s because he’s just taken an entire season to prove that he’s old, slow, fragile, and incapable of generating any outstanding contribution even in the sheltered environs of the AHL. Plante and Petiot produced similar numbers in OKC; I don’t see anyone begging that they be brought up to play next season.

    For those who didn’t get the memo, Souray v.11 is not the same as Souray v.07. He wasn’t even the best defenseman this season on his minor-league team. You’re wishing for a ghost to play on the 11-12 Oilers, and as long as you’re doing that you may as well go whole hog and ask Lowe if he’ll take a run on the blueline next season; he’s still under contract too.

  • Ducey

    oilers needs to draft centreman RNH. Oilers even need two ceteremen.i would try to pacakge Sam Gagner for 4th to 8th pick in this years draft….then draft Courtier or Strome or Hebreadu.

    • SuntanOil

      I agree with picking RNH first but I don’t think they need two centers right away and can aford to wait a season or two for a center to develop. That said I still think they should try to move up by packaging any of gagner, cogs, brule and take whatever the top defensman available would be. I don’t see Adam lasting until 4th but there are 2-3 other really good defenseman available in the top 10 including one from the edmonton area.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Cogs cant win a friggin draw people!!! he has to go.. move hall to center.. drop horcs to 3rd line where he should be.. hall, gags, horcs, fraser/who ever for centers..
    Take Landeskog for his size grit toughness and sheer will to compete… and/or trade up in this yrs draft and get another center..
    Bring back Garbagekov??? lol wow.. thats pretty ridiculous… he wasnt good when we got rid of him why do we want him back?!?

    what do i know.. hey Gregor.. lets go for some beers soon.. Drinking contest???????

  • Powder

    @ Robin Brownlee

    Progress for me, this year, was the young kids getting acclimatized to the speed of the NHL and showing that they would be able to play at that level.

    Next year, if the kids can improve on their rookie seasons, and avoid the sophomore slump, with a healthy team, I don’t see why it isn’t reasonable to expect them to be in the mix for a play off spot at the end of the season.

  • NastyNate

    Please no offer sheets! You can bet your ass if we make an offer on Weber someone will come knocking for Eberle, Pajaarvi or Hall when they’re all RFAs. Stay the course! I think 2 of these three need to be gone: Brule, Cogs or Fraser. With Strudwick gone (hopefully stays with the team in some compacity).I think Smac can be our 10th forward. If Hemsky and LAs pick can bring back some immediate returns (Bogosian & Stewart or little maybe or a 2nd?) i’m all for it. As much as i love the guy, I’ve lost faith in Hemsky’s ability to stay healthy. I think the jury is still out on Duby, until they are willing to give him starter minutes it’s hard to tell if he will be the future starter here. I think Kelly Buchburger drawing up our PP is something that needs to be addressed as well.

  • Mantastic

    Progress to me would be getting the pk between 15-20, same with the pp, and win at least one nore game than you lose.

    That would be 83 points, probably enough to get a top ten draft pick, hopefully for the last time in the next twenty years…

  • Chris.

    Where will they finish?? somewhere tween 8th and the bottom….who really can tell..will some of the young guns improve, maybe, will some falter..possibly…how long will the new kids develop..who will have a knee blown out..a concussion, will the the fading vet be rejuvenated for one more year?

    Thats the beauty.even .we infailable experts..whose advice is ignored..dont have a clue..just BEAT calgary.

    As always..i live in hope..

  • Mantastic

    Hmmmmm. 12 OT loses, 12 1 goal losses. Making up 30 points might mot be as inconceivable as we think. Certainly not out of the question, given an improved lineup with fewer injuries (and no sophomore jinxes, of course).

  • Quicksilver ballet

    With the current management team guiding this ship, anything over 60pts will be a bonus next season.

    The first overall pick the Oilers select won’t be ready for another year. The holdovers Brule,Fraser,Foster etc, gaurantee much of the same next season. We’re screwed with these two in charge. With Kevins 4-6yr plan and zero commitment to winning, i have to wonder how long it’ll be before Taylor Hall asks Bobby Orr what his options are.

    Now is a good time to act Mr. Katz…..before it’s too late.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    how long till we come to the realization that entry level contracts one day expire and we shall have to pay up or ship out. stop trying to breed competition amongst players and breed consistency and winning already. dont care if we make playoffs but compete for them.

    i grow wearing of hearing words to appease the masses. i would really appreciate the truth.

    ST: next year we will suck as well, i plan on doing squat.

    if you want me to have hope the offer me hope not more of the same.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    progress is developing a team that can execute an actual game of hockey in manifold ways regardless of “where” they are.

    saying X player is going to “fill a hole” doesnt exactly mean the execution level of the team gets better. they could win more faceoffs next year and still make just as many brutal mistakes a game and blow them in different fashions.

    talent, learning, and most importantly – patience.

  • Off topic – Penner, after 2 periods against SJ:

    -2, and 8 min of ice time. What a waste! I don’t think he’s that bad, but starting to think Tambo fleeced Lombardi on that trade. Penner is just not even close to being an impact player or consistent producer.

    • Lay off Penner, will you?

      He’s misunderstood. I’ve got a set of numbers here that show he didn’t ACTUALLY stink down the stretch and in the playoffs so far. He’s a big guy and it just LOOKS like he is floating sometimes.

      How is one player supposed to carry a 30th-place bottom-feeder team like the Kings all by himself . . . er, nevermind.