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