In his first three seasons as general manager of the Edmonton Oilers, Steve Tambellini has proven conclusively he can put together a team capable of finishing dead-last in the standings, and rather handily. So, what will he add to his resume in 2011-12?
I don’t know the answer to that, of course, but after assuming the GM’s hot seat from Kevin Lowe and seeing the Oilers finish 21st in 2008-09 and 30th the past two seasons, it’s not a stretch to suggest Tambellini had best add a trick or two to his CV.
While ELPH has a certain charm to it and the failure of finishing 30th in 2009-10 produced the franchise’s first-ever, first overall draft pick in Taylor Hall — a welcome diversion for fans during a stretch that has seen the Oilers miss the playoffs for five straight years — reversing directions in the standings and actually contending for a playoff spot in the Western Conference is probably a good place to start.
I’m guessing that might be a reasonable benchmark and one of significant interest, not only to long-suffering faithful who pay the freight by buying tickets. but to the man who endorses the payroll cheques with the little Oil Drop on them, owner Daryl Katz,
This shapes us a big summer for Tambellini, no?
IT’S HIS SHOW
Three years into his tenure, has Tambellini shown he’s got the chops to rebuild an organization that, aside from a magical two-month run in the spring of 2006, has fallen on mostly hard times since that fifth Stanley Cup in 1990?
Does Tambellini have a plan for progression and a return to contention — aside from having chief scout Stu MacGregor and his staff mull over who to select with a lottery pick? I don’t know.
The Entry Draft and MacGregor’s work aside, what has Tambellini shown as CEO of this outfit? What has he shown as a team-builder? How has he performed in acquisitions and hires, be it coaches, scouts, support staff or players through trades and free agency?
Is he capable of assessing the needs of this roster and acquiring players who meet those needs? Transitional players. Veterans who can aid in the development of Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Linus Omark, Jeff Petry and Teemu Hartikainen. Those kinds of decisions.
Who will Tambellini keep this summer? Who will he acquire? Will he play the free agent market more skilfully than he has or get played by it? Sign Ryan Jones or not? How much?
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
With Lowe hovering as president of hockey operations, Tambellini’s tenure has been a decidedly mixed bag. He pursued Dany Heatley . . . all the way to Kelowna. He hired Pat Quinn and Tom Renney. He stuck by his guns with malcontent Sheldon Souray. He traded Dustin Penner.
Tambellini’s record of personnel moves is there for all to see. Some calls observers can make right now — good, bad and indifferent. Getting rid of Patrick O’Sullivan? Good. Other moves? Not so much. Of course, it’s too early to tell on others. On June 24, it’s a second straight first overall pick. Anybody out there want to make it three straight? Uh, no.
Jason Gregor dubbed the 2009-10 off-season the Summer of Steve, but from where I sit, what Tambellini does and doesn’t do this summer as it regards turning his vision into something tangible will go a lot further in defining the future of this franchise and his place with it.
If the rebuild fans have been sold is going to amount to anything, it’s going to demand more on Tambellini’s part than adding the name Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the outfit already assembled. Selling hope, after all, has a shelf-life. Likewise, general managers.
This much we know.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.