ST’s Summer: Pass or Fail?

When it comes to the relationship between an Edmonton Oilers GM and the fanbase, it can be a rocky road. What’s that old song? Thin line between love and hate? What if we took all the anger, fury and confusion out of the conversation and looked at each transaction in a detached fashion? What would it look like?

In order to understand the summer of Tambi, we need to agree on a few facts. This is an enormous summer for the GM, as the future is promised to no man. Just as Tambellini felt a need to flush MacT and Quinn in order to get Tom Renney behind the bench, the Oilers need to improve in a lot of areas in the next 12 months or the night of long knives might have a sequel spring 2012. It’s a cruel business. He passed the early tests (like not trading next year’s first round pick) but there was a long way to go. With the summer almost done and holidays either underway or in full bloom, it’s time to see how well Mr. Tambellini did re-working the roster.

We could see the areas of need a mile away. Let’s list them:

  1. A veteran winger to help with PK/PP and guide the kids at evens.
  2. Truculence.
  3. One or more NHL veteran defensemen.
  4. A faceoff man to help with PK and to balance the C position.
  5. A legit option for the moment when goaltending becomes an issue.
  6. Make certain OKC is a strong AHL team again in 11-12


Tambellini addressed some and ignored others. Let’s review the moves one at a time:

  • March 8: Oilers sign NCAA defender Taylor Fedun from Princeton. Addresses OKC and possibly helps the club’s defensive depth at the NHL level. He’s certainly young enough and offensively talented enough to be considered a legit prospect. Qualifies as a solid move for category 6.
  • March 19: Oilers sign NCAA center Tanner House from Maine A very good signing in a couple of areas. He improves the center position at the pro level and has a scouting report that suggests a nice range of skills. Qualifies in category 4 (should he spend time in the NHL) and category 6.
  • March 30: Oilers sign QMJHL goaltender Olivier Roy to an entry level contract. I don’t think this qualifies under any category, just the business of an NHL team deciding to give a player the chance to turn pro in their system. He’s unlikely to be much better than a replacement level AHL goaltender.
  • March 31: Oilers sign CIS L Hunter Tremblay from UNB. Qualifies under category 6, although he is a bit of a wildcard. Could surprise.
  • April 1: Oilers sign C Mark Arcobello to a contract. He’ll be relied on heavily to deliver points in OKC this season. Qualifies under category 6, and should he have another impressive season there’s a chance he’ll get some NHL time.
  • April 13: Oilers sign R Tyler Pitlick to an entry level deal. This is a high draft pick who when signed looked like a lock for OKC. However, injuries and a slow recovery make it possilble he stays in junior for another year. Therefore, I’m putting him in the same category as Roy: doesn’t qualify in any category.
  • April 18: Oilers sign L Curtis Hamilton to an entry level deal. He’s the blue chipper likely to be a Baron in 11-12. Blocked on LW at the big league level by Hall, MPS, Smyth, Hartikainen and others, it’ll be Hamilton’s job to stay healthy, learn to grind against men and chip in enough offense to be a legit callup option. Qualifies under category 6.
  • April 21: Oilers sign R Cameron Abney to an entry level contract. Big man is very raw and I don’t think he qualifies under category 6. He’ll probably play much of his rookie season in the ECHL. However, Abney does address category 2 and we should remember that the Oilers value his player type.
  • April 25: Oilers sign D Martin Marincin to an entry level contract. This could be one of those signings we look back on and smile about, although I don’t know if he’ll play pro or junior this year. A quality prospect with a nice range of skills, possibly qualifies under category 6.
  • April 28: Oilers sign C Anton Lander to an entry level contract. Lander is a perfect fit for the Oilers, with the only gap being the time it takes for him to establish himself as an NHL player. Qualifies in categories 4 and 6.
  • May 29: Oilers sign W Ryan Jones to a two-year deal. Jones got a solid payday for an impressive season based on role and playing time. There is some doubt he can repeat it based on underlying numbers but he’s got a contract and a job. Addresses categories 1 and 2.
  • June 15: Oilers sign F Lennert Petrell to a contract. Veteran Finn has the reputation of being an impressive checker and aggressive penalty killer. Qualifies under categories 1, 2 and 6.
  • June 15: Oilers sign F Antti Tyrvainen to a contract. Another Finn! This one is smaller and more truculent. Qualifies under categories 2 and 6.
  • June 26: Oilers acquire L Ryan Smyth from Los Angeles. A trade that took some time to finalize (and still isn’t completely out of the woods–we’re on day 33) is the centerpiece of summer. Ryan Smyth addresses categories 1 and 2 plus offers the possibility of moving over to center should RNH make the team and need faceoff help. And he’s an excellent mentor. The best trade of Tambellini’s time as Oilers GM.
  • June 30: Oilers sign D Ladislav Smid to a 2-year deal. This is a signing that addresses categories 2 and 3, and we should credit the organization for not sending him away (to Chicago) at the deadline.
  • July 1: Oilers sign L Ben Eager to a three year contract. Signing that effectively ended the Oiler careers and JF Jacques and Zack Stortini. Addresses category 2.
  • July 1: Oilers sign L Darcy Hordichuk. A very similar signing to the Eager deal, in that the incoming player is an upgrade on the previous player (MacIntyre). Hordichuk is a depth signing but he can play well enough to be a clear upgrade on MacIntyre. Addresses category 2.
  • July 1: Oilers sign D Cam Barker. Edmonton took a risk in signing Barker but he has draft pedigree and should he work out the risk should reward the team richly. Addresses category 3.
  • July 1: Oilers sign C Eric Belanger to a three year deal. A strong free agent signing that gives the roster balance, depth and some hope for the future. Addresses categories 1 and 4 plus he helps in the mentor role I talked about in regard to Ryan Smyth.
  • July 1: Acquired D Andy Sutton from Anaheim. Also subtracted Kurtis Foster in this trade. Sutton is a huge defender, and his acquisition addresses categories 2 and 3 plus he has a history of helping out on the penalty kill.
  • July 1: Oilers sign D Corey Potter. This is one of those under the radar signings that often turns out being much larger than it first appears. Potter is a right-hander with experience, he’s interesting in that he’s mobile and has size. A player to watch in pre-season.
  • July 3: Oilers sign L Josh Green. Strictly an OKC signing, Green helps out in category 6.
  • July 4: Oilers sign D Theo Peckham. A solid young defender who may have enough ability to move up the depth chart as he matures. Qualifies under categories 2 and 3.
  • July 5: Oilers sign G Yann Danis. Signed as OKC’s starter, I believe this player may end up playing a much larger role for the organization. Should DD or NK falter or suffer injury, Danis is the only safety valve available to the organization. The chances of Danis playing more than 20 NHL games this season is very high. Qualifies under categories 5 and 6.
  • July 5: Oilers sign R Ryan Keller. A minor league signing but an important one. Big time AHL scorer could help in the NHL if required but was hired to push that Baron team to a playoff position. Qualifies under category 6.
  • July 12: Oilers trade Andrew Cogliano. The return (2nd rd pick in 2013) is reasonable and the contract Cogs signed in Anaheim suggests that the Oilers were unlikely to come to terms with him. When you consider what Belanger cost the Oilers, an outstanding transaction.
  • July 15: Oilers sign D Taylor Chorney. Puck moving defender still on a learning curve defensively, he qualifies under category 6.
  • July 15: Oilers sign C Ryan O’Marra. Young veteran qualifies under categories 4 and 6. He can help in a depth role and does have some NHL experience.

Let’s take a quick look at the categories one more time:

  1. A veteran winger to help with PK/PP and guide the kids at evens. I think they addressed this situation ably by dealing for Smyth. You could also give credit for bringing back Jones and hiring the Finn Petrell. Nice additions across the board, plus they added guys like Josh Green who could play the same role (the Cameron Stewart role from a year ago). I think it’s reasonable to suggest the GM gets a passing grade here.
  2. Truculence. No less than 9 additions above have a real edge to their game. Eager and Hordichuk are the obvious ones, but Smyth and defender Sutton are solid additions. I’m not including rfa’s like Smid and Peckham but signing them (and sending away a Cogliano) sends a clear message about how difficult this team will be to play against next season. Again, I think a passing grade is in order.
  3. One or more NHL veteran defensemen. Oilers added Barker, Sutton and Potter while retaining Smid, Peckham and Chorney. Added to incumbents Whitney, Gilbert and Petry, I think it’s reasonable to suggest that the Oilers have come up short in this area. Depth additions like Sutton married to risk signings like Barker and Potter (risky in that he might not be good enough for NHL play) leave the Oilers without enough quality and depth at a very important position. Still time this summer, but this gets a failing grade.
  4. A faceoff man to help with PK and to balance the C position. Big fly here. Eric Belanger replaces Cogliano and gives the team a veteran hand who can help Horcoff in handling the tough opponents and be a big part of the penalty kill. The organization also added Lander which may be more important to adding balance at the position over the long haul. A definite passing grade.
  5. A legit option for the moment when goaltending becomes an issue. Oilers added veteran Yann Danis and signed Olivier Roy to his entry level deal. I believe Danis could be a pleasant surprise but this position is in dire need of help. If they don’t plan on improving the NK-DD duo at the NHL level, then surely the team will add an AHL calibre veteran to the minor league depth chart. Another fail, and again at a vital position.
  6. Make certain OKC is a strong AHL team again in 11-12. With the exception of goaltending, I like the OKC Barons. The blue should be Chorney, Potter, Colten Teubert, Alex Plante, Taylor Fedun added to OKC top man Bryan Helmer. Motin, Martin Marincin and guys like Brandon Davidson are also in the mix. The forwards who should have an impact include Keller, Green, Lander, O’Marra, Petrell, Arcobello added to kids like Teemu Hartikainen and Chris Vande Velde. The team will be young but talented and if they can ride Danis in goal all season they should be a contender for the second season. I won’t give it a pass (because of the goaltending) but don’t think it’s a fail either.

Conclusion: In 6 categories, Tambellini gets 3 passing grades, 2 fails and one tie. Has it been good enough? I don’t think so. We find out in the fall (or late summer if they decide to address G and D).

  • Horcsky

    My goal for this year is that the Oilers win the last game of the year. Then we don’t have to look at that damn “Last Game” losing score in the sidebar of this website ALL summer. Last summer it was a loss to the Flames that sat on the side of my screen for 6 months. I can’t take it another summer….

  • MrCondor

    It takes 2 teams to make a trade, and players have to agree to a signing. Sure there are still a lot of holes in the team, but would anyone here be happy if Tambo grossly overpaid to fill them?

    We are a 30th place team in a City that doesn’t rank highly on the desirable list. What can you really expect?

    Tambo knows what needs to be done, but doing it without overpaying or selling the future can’t be easy. It’s not like he’s going to the store to buy eggs.

    I think he made quality moves, but I’m not going to judge him on moves he didn’t make.

  • TKB2677

    I disagree with Lowtide on not giving Tambo a passing grade on the defence. Here is why.

    How many teams would you say could use help on defence? 50% maybe more? The free agent market was extremely week this year especially on defence. With that being said, how are the Oilers supposed to upgrade with little to no free agents to choose from and with at least 50% of the NHL looking for defence. Pretty tall order. Secondly, the subtract of Foster and the addition of Sutton in his place is a huge upgrade in my opinion. Sutton doesn’t have a bomb, who cares especially when Foster can’t hit the side of a barn with it. But Sutton is an upgrade on everything else over Foster. He is big, nasty, physical, tough, hard to play against, will block shots, can kill penalties and can actually defend. Cam Barker is a bit of a gamble but in my opinion, not much of a gamble. The Oilers defence wasn’t very good last year. Even if Barker plays ok, he still upgrades the defence. I agree the Oilers defence is still not championship caliber but it is better than last years. Absolutely it is. So saying Tambo ignored it or fail him doesn’t seem fair to me.

    The goaltending. I agree he failed so to speak but unless the Oilers are going to bury Habby in the minors for the next few years, there isn’t much they can do at the NHL level.

    • D-Man

      I agree with you… Considering we’re still in the 2nd year of the rebuild – I believe Tambo is going to keep a close eye on OKC to see if Teubert/Plante/Chorney/Petry emerge as viable NHL options. With the additions of Sutton and Barker, I’m not 100% sure Petry will start as an Oiler. He needs 18 to 20 minutes a game to continue his development and he won’t get that with Whitney/Gilbert/Barker/Smid/Peckham ahead of him on the depth chart. Tambo also has Marincin and Klefbom in the wings – I think he’s going to wait this year and see how his pipeline of d-men develops…

      Khabby’s contract is what ties Tambo’s hands… Ray Emery is available, which would be a decent backup option to DD, but I don’t think Tambo is willing to bury Khabby in OKC yet. After Khabby repays his debt to society – the magnifying glass will be on him big time… If he can regain a save percentage of .900 to .910 and keep his goals against below 3; we’ll see him play 35 – 40 games this year. If not, I think we can see him in OKC for the last year of his contract.

      Tambo gets a B for the “Summer of Steve” part deux, in my opinion.

  • Lowetide

    Alittle off topic what about like i said Gilbert,Chorney,Gagner and a 2nd round pick for the rights to Shea Webber and Dan Ellis. If need sweeten the pot with another prospect.
    It would give us our defenceman with a big shot and future one also. Shea WEBBER WOULD COMAND 7.5 MILLION A YEAR FOR SIX YEARS. Your thought on this are?????????????????????

    • MrCondor

      no deal. maybe that much for weber only.

      it is my belief that due to our high drafting as of late all of these talented kids are gonna say “show me the money” after three cheap years.

      we are gonna require some work by committee on the back end not a high end talent, who wants brinks truck, to fill out the squad and keep us out of cap pergatory.

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


          if it means that we need to sign weber to a 5+ year contract at over 7.5 then yes. anything less then no i do not think it is a bad deal..definite sweetner needed.

          how in the world are we going to sign hall, eberle, rnh, mps, lander, musil, klefbom etc…and still have a long term contract at high cap hit?

          i like weber but, yes, i do think that we are better off at keeping the offense high end and the back end committie based.

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


            I wouldn’t worry too much about potentially losing the Landers, Musils, Klefboms if we were bringin in Weber.

            ~How on earth did teams like the Wings and Bruins keep high end depth when they were paying an elite dman 7+ million???…. with a lower salary cap~

          • D-Man

            sarcasm duly noted…i wish i could get you to approve my opinion before i post it. ~being wrong sucks~

            so what do you think the value of those players i mentioned are worth? 2-3 mil a year or 4-5 per player?

            the wings have payment by committee. they have self imposed ceiling and the players have live within that if they wish to stay in detroit.

            if savard wasn’t on long term where would the cap be for them?

            i happen to be thinking about the potential as very good for our prospects therefore being worth a certain amount of money in due time.

            i’d like to see what those young d-men can bring us.

            i simply don’t put as much value in the big money dman as you do…i think we got potential.

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

            A good chunk of the players you posted will be busts or role players so their value will be neglible or 0.

            I think it’s funny how many people think adding an elite big ticket player is a bad thing.

            All the top teams have multiple players earning big dollars.

          • Love Monkey

            i don’t remember saying i am anti-elite big ticket player…hmmm…hall won’t be big ticket one day?

            where we are today as a team it doesn’t make sense to me…rosters and standings are fluid so my opinion could change. if that’s ok?

          • I’m confused. What does Savard have to do with the Wings or their cap situation?

            As for the idea of a “big money dman” – Hasn’t history demonstrated nicely that it’s harder with win a cup without one? A few teams have managed, but the bulk of teams winning it all have a high en defender eating minutes.

            Here is a question for you – if Klefbom turned into as good a player as Weber would you trade him away, for a deal like the one you suggested the Oilers should turn down, to avoid having to pay so much money to a high end defender?

          • savard was in relation to the bruins query.

            yes you are correct history has demonstrated as such in some cases. i never said anything anywhere thats states i am opposed to this approach, but what i did say and what i am saying is that currently today i don’t think weber long term, IMO, works.

            klefbom is will be an in house solution, potentially, and possibly grow into that end role when the team needs him the most. would i pay him weber money if that is the case? sure, maybe ,possibly, not sure…ask me again when it matters.

            i’m cool with the debate, i actually enjoy it. it is good to learn from smart people. what i realize and everyone else needs to realize tho is that i am an everyday guy with no GM experience or high end hockey skill that has a plethora of experience use in my assessments…i’m just a guy who LOVES hockey and the OILERS. it’t just my opinion and i’m entitled to it.

          • i’m just a guy who LOVES hockey and the OILERS. it’t just my opinion and i’m entitled to it.

            Nobody has disputed your right to you opinion.

            Why do people suddenly jump to “It’s my opinion” when people disagree? When you post your opinion in a public forum people have a right to, and will, disagree with it, knowing full well that it is “just your opinion”.

            It’s just a conversation about hockey, please don’t take disagreement personally.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            sorry. that wasn’t meant like that or at least certainly towards you.

            that is a statement directed at anyone who gives the ol’~~ about someone else’s opinion.

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

            I didn’t ~~ your opinion.

            I ~~ the notion that we wouldn’t be able to afford other talented players because of one, big ticket Dman.

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

            This exactly sums up what is so intersting about this topic.

            “if Klefbom turned into as good a player as Weber would you trade him away, for a deal like the one you suggested the Oilers should turn down, to avoid having to pay so much money to a high end defender?”

            It seems we always way over value whats already here vs what we could have.

            For example I bet most would hesitate using an RFA offer of 4 x 1st to aquire Tavares, yet those same people would prefer to lock up Hall rather then lose him for 4 x 1st.

  • book¡e

    I am not seeing the connection between judging the Smyth trade on what Penner does.

    There is no evidence that Tambellini was even looking for a Penner replacement and certainly evidence that Tambellini wasn’t looking at Smyth when Smyth ended up falling into his lap.

    Smyth playing the same position as Penner is as much a coincidence as anything.


    On a separate topic, have any of the ON Insiders heard anything on Staios or Moreau?

    Would Staios be a guy to consider bringing back for the Strudwick role?

    • Ender

      No one was sure where he was going – just that it was to be an “Arizona jail”. People assumed that meant he was looking to arrange a more hospitable set of accommodations.

      Even with the Journal article cited here, I don’t know if it’s set in stone. They’ve got some quotes from the Sheriff that runs the place and a former inmate, but nothing from Khabbi, his lawyer, or a judge confirming the destination. Could be a reporter jumping the gun to get first crack at the story.

      • Love Monkey

        The judge ruled that he could serve his time in tent city’s more luxurious wing and that he’ll be “free” (presumably to train) on a work release program from 9am to 9pm on weekdays.

        He apparently does have to serve the entire weekends in the prison but he will avoid wearing the famous pink undies as long as he follows all of the prison rules, etc.

        Nice work Mr. Lawyer!

  • Talbot17

    And I would like to add, Smyth’s heart and dedication alone > Penner and what he brings altogether. Not only did they bring in a Vet, an old oil, but Smyth also went to the Cup with us, understands the organization and whats expected of you on and off the ice. This is the intangibles you want the young players to develop now.

    I also think Teubert is a steal. This guy in person is a blue collar hard working kid and has a lot of potential.

    The goalie situation could be decent, you never know. You got somewhat stronger on the back end from last year and if DD can succeed more then last year, could have a decent outcome.

  • Love Monkey

    Not a big Olivier Roy fan, eh Lowetide??

    On the defense issue, while I agree that there’s more work to be done, my barometer for Tambellini’s performance is really “did the team get better at the position?” I think they did improve the back end. Maybe they only improved from ‘worst in the NHL’ to merely ‘bottom third of the league’. At this point in the team’s progression, I can live with that while our stable of solid prospects hone their skills for a couple years.

    Next year, I’ll expect more improvement and over the next couple years, I’ll expect to see a high-level, emerging squad that includes several of our in-house talents starting to make a splash.

    I think asking for Tambellini to completely turn around the D-corps is an unreasonable expectation. But expecting him to make them better is reasonable and I think he accomplished that and now we’ll wait to see if Sutton and Barker vindicate Tambi.

    As for the other categories, I think he made pretty good moves across the board and it was refreshing to see him be so active and decisive.

  • RexLibris

    I’m not as concerned about the goaltending or defence as most seemt to be. I think with the team developing it’s talent at forward the defense and goalie positions will come with time.

    I like the development of Bunz and Roy, and Dubnyk has to be given time and let’s face it, Khabibulin isn’t going anywhere (prison notwithstanding). I would like, eventually, to move Khabibulin when his value is at it’s (relative) peak so the only way to do that is to play him. I think the ’12 trade deadline or offseason is the one where a move at goaltending will be made.

    As for the defence, barring trade, I think the makeup right now is in the organization’s best interests. The defence isn’t a terrific shutdown unit but letting the horses run and providing an exciting product while showing front-end improvement and drafting somewhere in the top 10 wouldn’t greatly upset many fans. Our defence and goaltending will develop with time, we have a terrific depth of defensive prospects and time needs to be taken with them. Sheltering guys like Petry, Peckham, et al with veterans (Sutton) or expendables (Barker) seems fine for now, because the alternative would be to waste time trying to overpay for a high-end veteran and end up, maybe, with a Brian Campbell-type contract.

    • SurfacetoAirMissile

      Props….. you are ballz on as far as I am concerned. You hit the nail on the head, the team is developing and time is still on their side. Having said this, it is not another free pass and they MUST show improvement across the board with their young squad this year. It is all fine and good to rebuild your team through the farm and the draft but the players at both levels need to show measurable improvement not to mention improvement in the standings this year. Last place is not an option in my opinion, the players and coaching staff need to feel like they are gaining traction with this rebuild or they will be destine to accept losing.

  • My understanding of the Weber negotiations is that he will not sign long term. He wants to be able to pick his destination when he’s UFA.

    If that is the case, then any trade for Weber at full value would be foolish.

    Both Green and Bogo have been dangled. Burns and Franson have been moved. If the Oil don’t obtain a top pair Dman this off-season, it is because they were unwilling to, or couldn’t, pay the price.

  • Detroit has a pretty good collection of ice hockey players and they all seem to fit nicely into their cap structure.

    Alot of guys here are making the assumption every one of our young guys is going to command huge salaries. I just don’t think that’s a wise bet. And if perchance they do, well there’s always the old tried and true Oilers “Trade ’em for picks and prospects” approach.

  • Chris.

    When ST traded Cogliano it was the Oilers who insisted the second round pick would be from 2013…

    Assuming there is an actual plan; is this a clue as to the timeline? Does ST plan to switch gears and start dealing picks for players in the summer of 2013?