The Tambellini Network

Back before Steve Tambellini was the general manager of the Edmonton Oilers, he had a long hockey career. He started his WHL (then WCHL) career with the Lethbridge Broncos in 1975-76, and as he closes in on 40 years in the game it can be a little staggering to think about the vast network of hockey contacts he’s formed.

A lot of the players that Steve Tambellini played with on his way to the NHL, and then in the major leagues, have gone on to take key roles with professional and junior teams. Tambellini played hockey with four different Sutter brothers – Darryl, Duane, Brian and Rich. The Buffalo Sabres GM/coach combination of Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff both shared a locker room with Tambellini.

Other NHL coaches and managers have taken to the ice with the Oilers General Manager. Joel Quenneville, Marc Crawford, Brent Peterson, Stan Smyl, Marc Habscheid, Trent Yawney, Mike Kitchen, Lorne Henning, Dave Lewis and Doug Risebrough are just some of the names that have played on the same team as Tambellini. Up-and-comers like Willie Desjardins and Dave Cameron can also claim some common history.

Then there’s the lengthy list of coaches and players who passed through Vancouver while Tambellini worked his way up the ranks. His first coaching hire, Pat Quinn, shared both a Canucks and Hockey Canada background with Tambellini. Quinn’s successor, Tom Renney, can say the same thing. Mike Sillinger, now working with Oilers’ prospects after a long career with seemingly every team in the league, passed through Vancouver during Tambellini’s time there. Others – people like current Islanders’ G.M. Garth Snow, Maple Leafs’ head coach Ron Wilson, and current Canucks executive (and father of Sam) Dave Gagner – either played or coached for the Canucks during Tambellini’s time there.

Tambellini’s Hockey Canada experience gave him an even more diverse set of contacts. Current general managers Steve Yzerman and Joe Nieuwendyk both played for teams that Tambellini helped manage, and many of the game’s best coaches and executives have been involved in some capacity with Tambellini’s teams. Tambellini’s Hockey Canada background goes back further though – during his playing career he played at the World Juniors, World Championships and Olympic Games (coached by current Coyotes assistant coach Dave King in the latter of those three tournaments).

I started this article by trying to put together a comprehensive list of Tambellini’s contacts from his playing days and time in Vancouver, but that’s simply an impossible task. He’s played with hundreds of other players, played for, worked with or managed at least dozens of coaches, and altogether he’s rubbed shoulders somewhere along the way with an incalculable number of guys earning paychecks from NHL, AHL, NCAA or Major Junior teams.

That’s not all, though. Every one of those people that Tambellini knows has their own network of friends, family, contacts and co-workers. When I try to visualize all those networks, the closest I can come is fractal geometry – like the picture above, one base branching out in uncounted directions, with each branch splitting and twisting off in a similar manner.

I imagine that’s the same for most of the game’s top executives – and for that matter, for a lot of the more experienced members of the Oilers hockey operations staff.

I think it’s something worth remembering whenever a team hires for a hockey position – whether that position is coaching, scouting, or something else. The hockey world is a lot smaller than the real world, and the vast majority of candidates are going to have history with someone on the team they’re applying for a job with.

Largely irrelevant trivia: Did you know that Steve Tambellini once played NHL hockey with Taylor Hall?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Tambellini needs to do something and show some sort of committment to winning this summer and help his hockey club. Sitting/waiting and taking the bare minimum due to us isn’t enough. It’s time the Oilers started making our own luck.

    Hopefully Jason and Robin have tickets to Tambellinis gun show in Minnesota this June. I’m certain there will be plenty of fireworks for them to keep us updated with, the constant updates from LA last yr were most appreciated.

  • An article which reminds us amidst all our possible grumblings and misgivings of Oiler management that Mr. Tambellini has been around hockey for a long time. Given all the expertise and experience he has diligently accumulated throughout the years…..no we couldn’t do a better job. It’s helpful to be reminded of that sometimes. Thanks, JW.

    *goes back to BE A GM mode in NHL 11 since PS3 online mode has been broken for so long*

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Its easy to dog Mr Tambellini but I have seen a very large leaning curve and I believe he is improving.
    1. Whom cam blame anyone for wanting to Return to the playoffs for the next few years after 2006.
    2. It is a very difficult thing to master a trade in the NHL now 2 or 3 a year seems hard to manage there have been a few good ones the curve is upward in my opinion.
    3. I like the trend of being at the bottom to get draft picks.
    4 NOW is when we will really see if he is worth his salt. I have often wondered if he left the holes on the team because he wanted to allow the younger players to get Ice time and see where the holes that mattered in the long term were. Did he learn From Habbi’s contract?
    5. I suspect we will learn a lot about him as a GM and what he has leaned from the past in the next 16 months. If we are still a bottom 10 team then this town will be screaming GOODBYE!!!

    • D-Man

      Good post… I think you’ve nailed Tambo’s approach… He’s giving the youth ample opportunity to earn their roster spots… He’s definitely made his share of blunders – like that Khabby signing, but to me – the jury is still out on Tambo.. I’d expect us to be pushing for a playoff spot in 2012-2013 – if we aren’t there (or remotely close) then yes, let’s all scream GOODBYE!!

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    the whole tracing exercise would be useful if it tracked down whoever learned him that 4 years @ 36 is less risky than 2 years @ 39.

  • Spydyr

    You have to lose to win in the post lockout era.Don’t worry Detroit’s time will come too.I was calling for a rebuild since that awful July day when the human rake said he wanted out.To many years of fighting for 8th getting 9th and a lousy pick.Now with two years of last place it is time to fight for that last playoff spot again.Get some easy fixes.Like a veteran defensive center who can win a few draws. Fill in the back end with a few better veteran players. No need to break the bank and shoot for the stars. As the Don said don’t let the kids get used to losing and start to accept it. This summer is time to make a few small, smart moves to make the team relatively competitive.Keep setting the team up to lose and get a lotto pick has to end this summer. If the very passionate fans here stop caring and become apathetic. The team will lose paying fans next year. Not to mention the fan base will dwindle.

  • striker777

    What I take from this article is that ST has made a lot of connection, now is the time to wheel and deal. Start wheeling and dealing. The team needs a lot of holes to plug.