HAPPY NEW YEAR: SAME OLD THING?

As 2011 draws to a close, should we really be surprised the Edmonton Oilers are fading fast in the Western Conference after a start to the season that had some fans convinced that happy days, and a playoff spot, were here again?

With frustration growing as the Oilers look more like a lottery team than a playoff contender for the third straight season, the number of e-mails and tweets on Twitter I’m getting from fans with 2012 just around the corner has been increasing by the day.

The most common theme, and by a landslide, is the contention GM Steve Tambellini hasn’t done his job in assembling the proper players required to move the rebuild fans have been sold along at a reasonable pace. Tambellini is a bungler and an incompetent manager. He deserves to lose his job if the Oilers finish as a bottom-feeder in the standings again. Four years into his tenure, I have zero issues with that last contention.

While many fans weren’t singing that tune when the Oilers got off to a 9-3-2 start, they’re saying it now — long and loud and in no uncertain terms. Some have even suggested Tambellini has been given pretty much a free ride when it comes to criticism until now.

The free ride bit didn’t ring true, so I looked back through some of the things I’ve written here since late summer. While these are just snippets taken from longer items, questions fans have now about the job Tambellini has done have been out there for months. I’m sure other writers at Oilersnation could find much the same takes in items they’ve done.

While the following snippets aren’t a comprehensive look at every aspect of the team – I’m limiting this to items about expectations in general, the make-up of the defense, the state of Ryan Whitney’s ankle and my overall take on how Tambellini has performed – and don’t qualify as the kind of ranting and raving some of you expect, I’m not surprised the Oilers are where they are now.

And you shouldn’t be, either.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS?

Dec. 15

"For all the high-fiving among the long suffering faithful to start the season, and nobody is denying people who buy the tickets and the jerseys that, did anybody really – really – think the Oilers were as good as their record in the first 14 games? Even those with their lips stained blue and the goggles on had to know better, didn’t they? Didn’t you?"

Oct. 3

"If I was starting a franchise with players on the rosters on opening day, I’d happily take Edmonton’s collection of talented, young forwards ahead of six or seven teams I’ve got picked ahead of them — I just don’t think that translates to a significant jump in the standings in 2011-12. "I think the Oilers will be considerably better than they were last season if they can avoid the injuries to key players they endured in 2010-11, but they’re coming from so far back it’s difficult to imagine them vaulting up the standing more than a place or two."

ABOUT THAT THE DEFENSE . . .

Oct. 1

"As it stands now, pending Tambellini working the phones — be it in pursuit of a trade or free agent or putting a call into Oklahoma City for short-term reinforcements — the Oilers face the prospect of starting the season with Tom Gilbert, Cam Barker, Jeff Petry, Theo Peckham, Andy Sutton and Corey Potter on the blue line. See any problem with that?"

Oct. 1

"I’d suggest yet again that Tambellini take a look at some of the surplus talent he has up front, make a call on who he is willing to part with for a defenseman who can log top-four minutes, and get busy addressing a lack of depth that is painfully obvious.

"I can only assume Tambellini will spend the next night or two tossing and turning over the predicament he finds himself in now because he’s failed to do so to this point. It might be an idea, if he is wide awake, to get busy on that phone."

Sept. 6

"I’m on the sniff trying to find out if the Oilers will extend a training camp invitation to a free agent or two, but no word yet. Given Whitney’s status and a lack of depth on the back end, it’s an idea worth pursuing. By the way, Lowetide’s suggestion GM Steve Tambellini ask Nick Boynton to take a twirl at camp is a cagey guess. He’d fit as a sixth or seventh guy."

WHITNEY’S ANKLE

Oct. 3

"The biggest questions marks, as has been duly noted, come in goal with Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin, and on the blue line, which is not nearly deep enough, even if Ryan Whitney gets back in the line-up and his ankle holds up."

Sept 6

"There’s been great consternation over the state of Ryan Whitney’s surgically repaired right ankle, and with good reason, seeing as he "tweaked it" a couple weeks ago. And because, well, Edmonton’s defensive corps isn’t good enough to get along without him."

Aug. 31

"The most pressing question for me has two components. First, will Ryan Whitney’s surgically repaired right ankle be ready for the start of the season? And, if it is, how long will it hold up?"

Aug. 24

"We saw what Tom Renney’s defense looked like without Whitney for 47 games in 2010-11. Do you have confidence the defense as it stands going into camp — Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid, Cam Barker, Theo Peckham, Andy Sutton and Taylor Chorney or Jeff Petry — can hold up without Whitney? I don’t. Did Tambellini add enough depth to cover his backside if Whitney is out of the equation? Not that I can see."

TAMBELLINI AND TEAM-BUILDING

Aug. 31

"Do Ben Eager, Eric Belanger, Andy Sutton, Darcy Hordichuk, Smyth and Barker constitute significant upgrades over departed players Steve MacIntyre, Zack Stortini, Andrew Cogliano, Colin Fraser, Kurtis Foster and Jason Strudwick?"

May 16

"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."

May 16

"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."

Here we are. Happy New Year.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Slapshot

    The biggest problem we have as fans is that there is a waiting list for seasons tickets and Rexall is sold out every game.The Eskimos where in the same boat as the Oilers, a year and a half ago.The biggest difference, they started losing fans and attendance started to drop, it was only then, that they brought in Tillman an experianced and proven GM to right the ship and clean house.Maybe if we are lucky the Oilers will do the same thing.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Since it’s such an early game tomorrow, maybe Robin can re name this in honor of tomorrow’s GDB.

    Lets have’ater, ruffle some feathers, bruise some egos. Where else can we go and put the boots to each other and not need medical treatment. I’ve got my Kahlua and milk ready to go.

    Brownlee in his youth was probably was a Gin and tonic kinda guy.

  • Man we drink the koolaid. We suck, the rebuild has one line built. Defence is 5 years away from maybe producing a top four. Really people we are happy without making the playoffs for two, three, four years? Ask the top line on the team if they are cool with that. We probably have 10 players moving forward. Dump Hemsky/Omark/Peckham/2nd rounder for a number two defence man we can hang on to for 5 years or more. probably need to sign a free agent goalie as our building through the goailie draft is five years away.

    And yes send Tambo back to Vancouver so they can suck again too.

    For all you, “we are right on track for the rebuild”, give your head a shake.

    WE suck and the reason we don’t suck even more is because Tambo’s ability to tank a team has had talent fall on our laps. “Islander’s of the North? Hopefully not. Even as bad as Calgary is, they are way ahead of us

  • Gretzkin

    This is not a rebuild. It’s mangement sitting on it’s hands and cashing in draft picks that fall in their laps; Hall, RNH…
    They’ve got in the kids a 1st line that has the potential of being more than great.
    They’ve got great veteran leadership and plenty of forward depth.
    Time to trade some personnel and a year of our own draft picks to shore up 2 stellar D-men. Address goaltending and supporting cast/bottom 6 forwards in the offseason and compete for Jobu’s sake.
    Under the current CBA, nobody is building a Dynasty. Nor the upcoming one. Sieze 5 year windows and go for it. A rebuild should take 3 years, especially if you were last twice. Keep drafting and developing and allowing the Mag Bastard to di his job well, but cash in some valuable picks one year only (now) and use them to male the team strong. We’re ready. Stop accumulating a bunch of picks that turn into nothing. We got our RNH, we got Hall, we have Ebs and a few more fellows with good potential.
    Cash in a year of chips, shave some fat. Compete.
    This management is a bit of a joke.

  • Gretzkin

    Oiler fandom is like living in Hobbittown. It’s fantastic. We enter the seaaon to see what our prospects can do, and by Christmas we’re discussing the draft and what will be someday. It’s sick. There’s a league of competition going on out there… we can be a part of it. When I grew up my team won 5 Stanley Cups. Do we have to wait 10 years to build something that will stand a chance? There are 29 other teams out there trying to do the same thing. It’s well time to start being aggressive and freaking icing a team that can at least make the playoffs. Ince you’re in, it’s anybodies game. Ask Edmonton and Carolina. Our last sniff at Lord Stanley was improbable, but you cant win if you don’t play

  • Gretzkin

    Is there really an NHL GM out there who is stupid enough to trade a legit top pairing dman for a boatload of Oiler garbage, no matter how big that boat is? The only players the Oil have that anyone would be interested in are the Big 3.Its never gonna happen by trade. Maybe free agency but I’m afraid we wait for the Klefbomb,Mucil,Marincin and Gernat on D and then hope for the best. It’s all we have.

    • We have picks, we have other well regarded prospects….other teams have cap issues or are in danger of losing UFAs.

      I’m not sure why the idea that we have no valuable assets is still out there.

      Trading them may or may not be the best course of action, but we have the chips to make something happen.

      • I understand we have prospects but so does every team.I am just having trouble envisioning a scenario where a legit top 2 dman is going to be flipped. They are so darn hard to find that you keep them when you have them. Look at Nashville. As much as I would dearly love to sign Suter or Weber, I’m pretty sure the Preds are going to go to the ends of the earth to sign them both, and short of getting a 4, 14, or 93 back, I just don’t see a rationale for them to trade for Oiler expendables. Heaven knows, other teams have what Oilers want to flog in their own systems.

      • Agreed. I think all of the attempts to land the big fish have skewed the perspective of some folks. We have wanted assets, but ST has not entertained the thought of making a big play. Was it on Oil Change that he was laughing at a GM who made a pitch for Eberle at the draft?

        Having that recorded for perpetuity might not have been good for ST’s standing amongst his peers. I also agree that there are teams under stress and there are going to be deals available, timing and readiness being the key. We see surprising deals usually every year, with very good players going for what seems like less than you’d expect. It might be hard to se for some because the Oil are under no stress really, but it is very rare to be horrible over a period of years and not be in jeopardy of bankruptcy.

        For me it comes down to the strategy being played out. If it’s all draft, for the love of Brackenbury ST, please work until you acquire some extra high picks and give us all a few extra years of good hockey in our lifetimes. Speed this thing up. At a certain point it has to be about now. The PM era (post Messier) has been 20 years of 98% merde. Enough of mañana.

  • Oilerbill

    Well Oilerbill looking at your recent posts you seem to doubt the intelligence of your fellow Oilerfans.The way I see it atleast 90 percent of the other Oil faithfull here on nation feel more should and could be done at this dismal point in the season.I have two questions for you.The first is do you really think your smarter than everyone else?The second is Do you drink the koolaid with or without a straw?

      • Oilerbill

        Well Bill dont choke on your funnel and if you think this crap managment is pulling here is acceptable well then your not as smart as you think you are.Try the grape I think you need a new flavor.Any who Happy New Year Bill.

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            ~surely someone who was just demanding constructive comments and opinions wouldnt be subjected to a ban already. dont you know? he thinks before he writes and reads before he posts.~

            ***gets passed updated memo***

            personal attacks from a guy, who, mere hours ago was demanding better posts and constructive posts and blah blah blah?

            if you demand better Oilerbill, be better…

  • Oilerbill

    the oilers need some top end help,all the best teams have it,vancouver has the sedins,detroit has datsyuk,zetterderg,lidstrom,chicago has toews kane,hossa boston has chara bergeron and lucic,edmonton has hemsky horcoff and whitney,all doing nothing,time to change our top end players, maybe we can get some first round picks for them and hit the free agent market with the 15 million we save.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    I hope they dont ban him hes obviously a die hard fan and I like that.But Bill OUR team is not responding to Renney who I think is probably a hell of a nice guy and i cannot think of a guy I would rather coach my sons Peewee team cause really i dont live in my moms basement.Bill have you been watching the games lately?Can you honestly watch this and not be frusterated?Have you ever played for a coach whos message was getting stale?Bill im not being a smart ass its just we have more potential that what is being displayed and management I believe is sitting on their hands playing this REBUILD card.Its time for change brother Bill the kids deserve it,Again Happy New Year my fellow oil fan.