Steve Tambellini: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

To listen to some people tell it, Steve Tambellini hasn’t done one damn thing to help the Edmonton Oilers. Not so.

The Good

  1. The major thing Steve Tambellini has done is give room and bullets to the amateur procurement department. His first trade (Garon to the Pens) and his most recent trade (Penner to the left coast) included draft picks (both 2011 selections) meaning MBS and his scouts have a better chance to find useful things.
  2. Trade of Denis Grebeshkov to Nashville for a 2nd rd pick. Similar to what I discussed above, but this is worthy of a spotlight because the return was a 2nd in a good draft year. MBS turned that pick into Curtis Hamilton. Steve Staios deal is exactly the same kind of deal.
  3. Claiming Ryan Jones off waivers. Jones has played in enormous luck and the advanced stats expose the conditions he’s playing in, but the results offensively have more than covered the waiver cost.
  4. Trade of Lubomir Visnovsky for Ryan Whitney and the pick that turned into Brandon Davidson. Special circumstances here, coach Quinn liked his defenders to pass the puck up, so the sublime talents of Lubo served to gall the already galled coach for much of the time. Getting a younger veteran like Whitney and a depth pick was a nice return considering the situation.  
  5. Lower level trades and signings for men like Colin Fraser and Kurtis Foster. Although neither worked out in year one, these were good bets and may end up paying dividends in year two. Fraser was low event (not a bad thing) and Foster struggled for many reasons but was a good soldier and should be better in 11-12.


The Bad


  1. The 2009 deadline deal that sent away Erik Cole and a 5th rd pick for Patrick O’Sullivan and a 2nd rd pick. The 2nd rder was flipped in exchange for Ales Kotalik. It’s bad because this was a trade in an effort to improve for the stretch run and acquire a young, useful offensive player (O’Sullivan). Nothing about this trade worked, and two years later the other teams involved (Carolina, Los Angeles and Buffalo) all made out like bandits compared to the Oilers.
  2. Trading Kyle Brodziak at the draft and then spending two seasons trying to find Kyle Brodziak. You know the player Edmonton is looking for this summer? You know, 2-way forward who can PK and help out a little on offense? Win some faceoffs? That guy? Yeah. Kyle Brodziak. Dealt at the 2009 draft for the picks that turned into Kyle Bigos and Olivier Roy. You can’t trade people from your NHL roster if there is no one to replace them.


The Ugly

  1. The major item for this Oiler fan was the Khabibulin signing. I liked the goalie, but not the money and not the term. A rational signing would be coming off the books by now.
  2. Firing Craig MacTavish and replacing him with Pat Quinn. A disaster, a complete disaster. When you bring in a coach to help young players and they don’t progress, the cost is enormous. It was so bad the Oilers had to make the move to Renney ahead of schedule. Long term negative impact on the team.
  3. Keeping Kelly Buchberger over Charlie Huddy. I’m not sure if it was a cost consideration or maybe the Oilers just don’t like defensemen, but the club had some young blue who were on track when Huddy was here who have stagnated since he left. It would behoove the Oilers to re-hire Huddy in his previous role should he come available this summer.
  4. The handling of Sheldon Souray’s situation. I can only guess about the reaction from NHL players to the year long trip to Chocolate land. This sort of thing doesn’t help the Oilers reputation, already negative due to things like the Comrie cash grab and the Smyth $100,000 game.

So, Steve Tambellini has done some good things. He’s acquired picks and Stu MacGregor has been able to turn them into promising prospects. He’s also dealt an outstanding NHL defenseman for a very good one in a deal that addressed the coaching concerns and the future (Whitney is younger, plus Davidson has a chance).

He’s also shown an ability to make reasonable bets (Foster, Fraser) and although they haven’t worked out there’s at least some hope for them.

Tambellini has gotten into trouble on the larger canvas. The Khabibulin signing, the Souray punishment, the Quinn blunder, the wonky trade of Erik Cole.


Steve Tambellini’s summer is very likely to be a large canvas summer. ON’s Robin Brownlee suggested this week that the club might be considering trading next year’s first round pick in an effort to grab both RNH and another top 5 pick this season:

  • Robin Brownlee:  "Just Saying: Might the Oilers look at trading the 19th pick in the first round this year and their first pick in 2012, which figures to be anything from a fifth to a 10th pick, to get a second top-five pick in Minny? More on that to come."

Should that happen, I believe Steve Tambellini will be fired within 12 months of the 2012 draft. There is no way the 11-12 Oilers finish well enough for that first round pick to be outside the top flight prospects that the (already) deep 2012 crop will provide. It might sound like a good idea, but if the pick he sends away ends up in the Nail Yakupov range I think we’ll see Kevin Lowe back in the GM’s chair by Christmas 2012.

  • Chris.

    I’m going to try real hard and separate my emotion from this discussion… instead I’m going to write up a quick job description for Tambellini: (Apologies to those who have read my take on this before)

    1) Demonstrate clear leadership and superior communication skills.

    2) Hire/oversee a great Hockey Operations Staff. This includes: Coaches, Scouts (both amateur and pro), Trainers, Lawyers… everybody.

    3) Establish/maintain a world class development system to maximize the potential of the prospects.

    4) Demonstrate a good understanding of the relative value of Oiler pro talent under contract, and the pro talent available worldwide.

    5) Demonstrate the ability to negotiate reasoable contracts and retain the services of core players.

    6)Properly manage both the 50 contract maximum and the Salary Cap for flexibility.

    7) Creative problem solving.

    8)Complete honesty. (Within the organization)

    9)Demonstrates a FLAWLESS understanding of the legalities of the entire CBA.

    10)Represents the organization with absolute dignity and class on the world stage.

    *Editorial Note*

    *Full IMO Disclaimer*

    Tambellini: (1) is a poor communicator (ie Souray); (2) has been hit and miss with his staff (ie Quinn);(3) oversaw a disaster in Springfield (nearly killed that franchise); (4) has been hit and miss evaluating pro talent (ie Khabibulin/O’Sullivan);(5) Hasn’t reatained or extended any core vetran talent yet (watching the Hemsky situation with bated breath); (6) oversaw a team that spent over the cap but finished in 30th; (7) thinks tanking a team on purpose to garner high draft picks is a form of creative problem solving; (8) lied about some sort of succession plan when he fired Quinn (or he lied to his old friend and mentor); (9) doesn’t fully understand the CBA (remember the Brule waiver eligibilty confusion);(10) gave the franchise another black eye with the handling of the Souray situation.

    *Second disclaimer*: I know I’m being deliberately neagative. Tambellini didn’t lie about everything, botch every negotiation, or have no hand in the improvements in OKC… But he has bungeled about enough to deserve a one way ticket out of town.

    • Wow, are those 10 items above on stone tablets? 😉 ST will lead the nation of Oiler out of bitter bondage of losing, cut loose the shackles of defeatism and mediocrity!!! So shall it be written, so shall it be done.

      Good stuff 😉

  • derrickhands

    Why trade to get Larrson when defensemen like Griffin Reinhart is in the draft next year. If I had the choice between Larrson and Reinhart, I take Reinhart in a second. This kid is that 1st pairing defenseman the Oilers need.

    • Yourmomthinksimhot

      Thats a great theory if you actually end up with an opportunity to draft Reinhart, but in this scenerio your guaranteeing yourself Larsson. A defenseman with an extra years worth of development no less.

  • The people who are against trading next years pick are pretty much saying they are OK picking lottery again, yes the Oilers might suck next year but I can almost say for sure they will not be last so why not get RNH and Larsson/Hamilton, at least then Tambo will try to put forth a winning team and there is no reason to lose a game.

    Yakupov might be great but a couple years ago Larsson was a sure fire 1st Overall, same for Couturier but guys slow down or weaknesses get spotted or guys pass them so who knows if Yakupov will be first Overall and like someone said we have to win the lottery to get first.

    I would rather they didn’t trade next years 1st rounder especially if its with 19th this year (I dont think there is any chance they would do that) But if they did trade next years 1st rounder with Cogs or a 3rd or something and walked away with RNH and Larsson I wouldnt be complaining.

    • Lowetide

      Respectfully disagree. ST’s job is to acquire talent by all legal means and the rebuild by definition means there’s every chance this will be a lottery team.

      If the Oilers plan to make this trade we’re talking about and then immediately sign free agents and trade for veterans to address the many and obvious holes, then certainly the trade has little risk of being the massive mistake I’m suggesting in the original post.

      However, with the goaltending, defense and special teams as they are, and with the team focused on draft and development then it’s pretty clear a lottery position is a possibility.

      With that as a backdrop, I don’t understand why Steve Tambellini would entertain the idea. It is unwise.

      • LT, are you looking me in the eyes and straight-faced telling me that you honestly believe the Oiler’s chance of drafting a “generational talent” next year is high enough to pass up Larsson or Couturier?

          • From my perspective you either 1.) suffer from an acute case of fear/magic beans syndrome or 2.) you have absolutely NO faith in Tambellini to bolster the roster with utility UFAs this off-season or 3.) you believe next year’s draft to be so deep that a top 3 pick this year is as good as a mid-late top ten pick next year. Either way, I thought I made a clear case of how even in the worst-case scenario the Oil still stand a better than average chance of winning the trade of their next year’s first. Surprisingly, I have nothing else to say.

          • Lowetide

            It’s cool. We’ve both given our honest opinion and disagree. Hopefully ST makes the right decision and it’ll be fun to revisit this time next year (like I’ll remember). 🙂

          • Seriously....Gord?

            In principle a 3rd/4th today would be similar than a 3rd/4th next year.

            However, the cost of moving up to get the additional third is the problem. It would likely cost Penner, Hemmer, 19, 31+Prospect for #3/4 + Teubert as the net return. That’s pricey. And would be grounds for dismissal, as there would be very few legitimate NHL players on the roster.

          • Seriously....Gord?

            Chance of generational talent 2011? – No one has used that term to describe anyone this year as far as I know.

            Chance of generational talent 2012? – Yes

            Right there it makes me think, next year I could finish 26th and win the lotto and get a “Crosby”, no matter how remote the chance. Is this pick worth it, for a D man, who may or may not develop on track.

            I’d say with the “Generational Talent” tag, I’d rather hold that pick, and try my luck next year. Regardless, I’m no longer liking the idea of drafting a D man with a high pick.

      • striker777

        Agreed, I think it would be a huge risk because it is a gamble to bet on staying healthy and the young guys not falling back at all. With the current lineup I wouldn’t do it at all, but with changes then yes I probably would. However if the Oilers suck next year and traded their first rounder we will have nothing to talk about on this site from December to June….[big sigh]

    • I don’t understand. You would agree that Larsson could go #1 this year, yet you are afraid of giving up a top 5 pick for him? Next year’s draft is THAT good?

      EDIT: Let me clarify. I’m not advocating Larsson. I’m advocating any player that Stu thinks is on the same tier as RNH, or #1 overall material in this year’s draft. LT and JW, you wouldn’t grab that guy now out of fear and in favour of magic beans next year?!?!

      Here is the spot. *points* Now stand on it if you will 😉

  • I find this forum funny at times. The Oilers organization is no beacon of sound management, but I love how youo armchair GM`s actually think you could actually do better.

    Even with the plethera of nice drafting the last couple years there is no love thrown Tambo way. Even with the Magnificent Bastard`s beauty picks the last two years Tambo makes the final call. I think thats forgotten…anyways Im ready to get taunted

    • Lowetide

      I don’t know why anyone would taunt you about your pov. ST has done some good things, as you mentioned.

      I believe the Oilers could be in the draft lottery next year.

      Let me turn it around: what makes everyone think the Oilers will be better next season?

  • There was an 18 point difference between 26th and the Oilers in 30th…

    Winning 5 or 6 more games next year isn’t unrealistic, but it still gives Edmonton a good chance at another lottery.

    It’s not meant to be backwards or negative thinking. The development and additions aren’t finished.

    If Tambellini wants to trade the 2012 1st pick at least protect it incase the Oilers draft 1 or 2 again regardless of the odds.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I wonder if ST would trade this yrs #19( +cogs maybe) and next yrs 1st rounder to the devils for #4 this yr, with the devils possibly giving up thier own pick in the next couple yrs for the Kovi deal they’d be able to keep the 1st rounder from the Oilers.

    EDIT or instead of Cogs if Lou doesnt want a forward then Chorney

  • DieHard


    Let’s say the Oilers Draft RNH and send him back. Also, keep Hemsky (which I hope they do). What would you think our top 9 would be (line combos). Plug in any UFA you think we should get.

    Edit: What I mean is use “UFA” not a player’s name.

    • Lowetide

      I think the Oilers should add a veteran C like Brooks Laich and a 2way LW for the 2line. It might look like this:


      Something like that. Laich and Horcoff are the PK centers, the PP should be better since the kids are a year older and Hemsky is hopefully healthy.

      Don’t really have a LW in mind as far as a name is concerned, but a gritty player who can score some and haul ass on the backcheck would be nice. Curtis Glencross would have been a nice option.

      • DieHard

        I don’t mind that line-up at all. Now, let’s get it done and see some real ELPH (Lottery pick exciting hockey).

        Opps: Meant Exciting Lottery Pick Hockey

  • Seriously....Gord?

    I wonder about this fear of the contracts that Eberle, Hall, and MPS will command in 2 years. Hall and Eberle have a career high of 42 points, and MPS less then that. With Penner gone, and everyone calling for Hemsky to be dealt for picks it stands to reason that there will tough checking awaiting. And with less talented linemates. It was not long ago Cogliano, Gagner and Nilsson looked like the saviours.

    If the Oilers are considering moving next years 1st + for a shot at Larsson this year then that tells us 2 things (1) Stu likes Larsson, (2) the Oilers plan on making some moves aimed at improvement. And to me that is not a bad thing. At somepoint in a rebuild you have to start providing your players with a chance to succeed.

    • striker777

      Agreed but it may screw up the rebuild process if we do not improve a bunch this year and then next year have no first rounder.

      Also if we are in a position in 2 years where Hall, MPS and Eberle deserve big contracts then it obviously means they are all stars and that is a good problem to have. Even with the three of them getting an average of 5 mill each thats only 15 mill, and Bulins contact plus Sourays are off the books so thats almost 10 mill so its not a huge deal…plus the cap will go up too.

  • striker777

    For the love of God, do NOT trade next year’s 1st round pick. If anything, keep acquiring picks. Those that think we’ll be out of the woods next season are kidding themselves. We need at least 9 solid NHL players, which means at least 2 or 3 more seasons of pain, unless we draft Yakupov next summer (Ovechkin-like). Do not trade away picks. Instead keep dropping our dead weight to get more picks. I believe Souray will be worth a 2-nd rounder at the trade deadline.

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    Generational talent?? Crosby? Ovechkin? One good year in the OHL does not a “Generational Talent” tag make.

    Dont get me wrong the kid sounds good but he scored 49 goals as a 16/17 year old, Taylor Hall scored 45 at the same age. Didnt see anyone calling Hall a “Generational Talent”. We have Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi and soon to be RNH, at what point do you figure we need Yakupov? Like I said earlier, Galchenyuk should be the only forward we should be upset to miss out on. And its more likely he’d be the one available in the top ten around the area that we would likely be drafting but all this worry of missing out on Yakupov for Larsson is kind of ridiculous in my opinion.

    In the scenerio that is presently suggested we are GUARANTEED Larsson. Id prefer the guarantee over the chance to draft another Taylor Hall. Just my opinion though….

  • OilerLand

    I just really don’t like the idea of trading away ANY picks that this point. I say hold onto 1/19/31 and the 1 in 2012 and let Stu do his job. We need to be acquiring picks, not trading them away.

    Stu will do more good for the Oilers through drafting than Tambo will through signings.

    Give Stu all the fun he can handle and put him to work.

  • Chris.

    I’ve been reading this site for a while but this is the first time I’ve felt inclined to post.

    I am in favour of trading the 2012 first rounder, a.) because I think if we have a shot at another top C or D prospect this year I think we’d be crazy not to take it (with Stu’s blessing), and b.) It shows the fans and the players that our core group has been established, and takes away any incentive to perform poorly. Acknowledging that the core group is set does not indicate that the rebuild is over, and that should be clearly communicated by the organization. It means that we move on to the next step, which is surrounding our core with functioning NHLers and role players.

    I always hear people refer to “a culture of losing” and it seems to be shining through on this board. Despite the fact it’s extremely unlikely the Oilers will be in the running for a playoff spot next season, the team should not bet on itself to finish in the bottom five. Trading the pick takes away excuses. Trading the pick forces management to make forward progress, and doesn’t give them the option to throw in the towel half way through the year (again).