What am I missing?

On one hand, a chunk of the Edmonton Oilers fan base is calling for the heads of GM Steve Tambellini and coach Tom Renney, and the sooner the better. On the flipside, Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun tells us Tambellini might get a contract extension before the trade deadline.

Having just returned from eye-balling a bunch sweet rides I can’t afford in my annual trek to Scottsdale for the Barrett Jackson car auction, I’m making the transition from not giving a damn about any of the above for the last five days – I recommend the same kind of break from the grind to pissed off fans clamoring that something, anything be done RIGHT NOW – to trying to make sense of both extremes. I’m struggling.

Fire Tambellini and Renney now? Uh, no. Offer Tambellini a contract extension between the NHL all-star break and the trade deadline because the Oilers can’t have a “lame-duck” GM? What, if Tambellini doesn’t have a new deal inked by Feb. 27 he might . . . get upset . . . not do his job at the trade deadline . . . take another offer over the summer. . ?

The downside of waiting until the season is over is what, exactly?


While I’d love to say a few days away from the angst and consternation fans have been experiencing and venting about for weeks finds me back in town with a new perspective, I’d be lying. Rested? Yes. Wishing I played hockey instead of writing about it while watching all of those cars rolling across the auction block? Certainly. But a new perspective? No.

I’ll say again what I said before – owner Daryl Katz and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe need not make a call on Tambellini or Renney until the season is over. The way I see it, that applies whether we’re talking about handing them pink slips or contract extensions.

Sack Tambellini and Renney in mid-season when they’ve had nothing approaching a full line-up to judge their work on? Really? That’s asinine. And please, resist the urge to label a plea for patience as giving either one of them a free pass. Not so. They’ve been far from flawless.

Likewise, hand out an extension when the team has plummeted to 29th place in a season when the stated goal was to contend for a playoff spot and play meaningful games in March? You’re kidding, right? With the team in a tailspin, Tambellini and Renney have pushed the issue and earned a vote of confidence and new contracts how, exactly? They haven’t.


I understand how upset fans are at watching the Oilers stagger towards what looks like a third straight lottery pick, I really do. Fans buy the tickets and the jerseys. They have a financial and emotional investment in the team, and they’re damn sick of the losing – regardless of whether you peg the rebuild at two years or three or four. Whatever. What’s not to understand? I get it.

That said, I think Katz and Lowe and whoever else makes the calls on who keeps their job and who doesn’t are making a big mistake if they pull the trigger before all 82 games are played this season. Doing it now, with the team at its lowest point, might satisfy fans screaming for immediate action, but that doesn’t make it a sound, sensible approach.

It makes sense to run Tambellini and have Lowe babysit hockey operations for the balance of the season? Fire Renney now and . . ? You want Ralph Krueger running the bench? Kelly Buchberger? That’s a better move than replacing Renney after the season because . . ?

Just as goofy is the notion of an extension for Tambellini with the team in the throes of a hideous stretch that’s going to continue when the San Jose Sharks beat the Oilers for fun tonight and the Canucks do likewise in Vancouver on Tuesday before the break. I’m not suggesting Jones has the story wrong, only that the Oilers have it wrong if what Large is hearing is right.

What Lowe and Katz need to do is step back and judge every aspect of the jobs Tambellini and Renney have done without emotion when the season is done. If that means firing one or both, so be it. If that means offering contract extensions – two years at the most, the way I see it – then make that call and be prepared to live with it.

Making either move now is foolish.

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

  • Winnie Cooper

    I’m watching a US feed and one of the announcers said re: Hemsky and trade rumors, “It’s almost accepted around here that Hemsky is going to go.”

    That seems bold.

  • Shawn Cronin

    Renney lost me when he pulled the goalie while the Oilers were down 3 vs Calgary. The end result, I see our future captain/franchise player, the one who took 30? stitches, in the net trying to prevent the 6th goal from going in.

    I think Renney has to go. ST still gets a deuce, it was a five year plan. My two cents…

  • South of Cowtown

    Finally, someone who has the ability to see the long view. Why would you try to make this season the measure? The kids are still just that, kids. Another lottery pick? Please! The next whiner that wants to trade that pick away for a player that won’t bring us to the playoffs, can kiss my rosy red rectum. This is a process. I hate losing, but, I will hate it more if we cave and make stupid(er) moves now, and continue to lose. Patience.

      • D

        The Oilers have tried the whale hunting. It did not work. They have said that they will primarily draft and develop within and that is what they are doing.

        Even if they pick first again next year,and that’s a big IF, Hall, RNH, Eberle, Yakupov, Mackinnon. That would be a scary top 5.

    • Chris.

      I make all three seasons the measure. The season we were supposed to make the playoffs but drafted Hall, the season we drafted RNH, and the season we were promised meaningful hockey late into the season. (I didn’t realize Tambellini ment the Christmas season).

      Almost nobody is saying the Oilers should abandon the rebuild… Rather, we are simply asking Katz to abandon Tambellini for being below average during his tenure in Edmonton.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Why do we the fans or the bloggers or the reporters think that we really know enough to make a decison like who the oilers should hire or fire…none of us has the knowlkedge ,or experiance to pretend to make that kind of decision ….We would be better served jsut being good fans …….IT IS JUST HOCKEY GUYS ANS GIRLS ………

  • I agree Robin. I don’t buy the lame duck angle, trying to get a new contract should be plenty of motivation for Tambellini to have a great trade deadline day. If you fire him now I think it increases the odds Lowe takes over in the short and long term and that’s not a good thing. Conversely extending him now would fly in the face of reason. I like Renney and I think he’s done alright considering who he has in the line up on any given night. Fans who want him fired should remember when MacTavish got fired the Oilers management team Tambellini included threw MacT under the bus by talking about “culture change”. Well here we are three and a half years later still watching a team that appears to have a difficult time playing with heart night in and night out. How has the whole “culture change” thing panned out?

    • Don’t know.

      If they don’t pick in the top two, I’ve said I’d take Murray. But second pick? Tougher call.

      My first inclination is to lean to Murray, but I don’t know how MacGregor and his staff have the players rated now, and how it might change between now and draft day, so I can’t say what they’d do.

  • Chris.

    Thanks Robin.

    While it is clear they need defence, this Grigorenko fellow has been rated in some articles I have read to be better than Joe Thornton offensively with a similar style, but more speed and passion. I actually read a few commentaries comparing him to Mario Lemieux, although obviously with somewhat less skill.

    Ithink I’d take that over Murray who while it sounds like he is very good, can’t even get a point per game in junior.

    On an unrelated note, is Darryl Katz Dustin Hoffman’s twin brother? Holy crap.

  • D

    Not a fan of Tambo. But, if the owner sets a direction for the franchise and Tambo is meeting those metrics (even if we as fans don’t see it because we don’t have an insider viewpoint), then Tambo should be re-signed.

  • I wouldn’t extend or fire Tambo before the season. By not giving him a contract and letting him have the deadline doesn’t mean he will not try and do something it means the complete opposite because he is now fighting for a contract.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Some of these kids will meet their potential and maybe one or two won’t. Sam Gagner is a good example of how affordable they can become when they don’t progress as expected.

      With 5 premium picks as mentioned, the Oilers will be fortunate to have 3 that push for major dollar deals when their ELC’s expire. Gauranteed, not all 5 would turn into the superstars that a capologist would fear.

      If by some good fortune 4 become superstars then you have the freedom to move whom you choose to address an area of weakness on your club.

  • Robin, I agree there is not benefit to making a call now rather than end of season.

    But I totally disagree with your statement that we cannot judge Tambi and Renney because of the injuries.

    Tambellini’s job is to procure sufficent NHL talent that when injuries do hit, the team does not crater. He chose to enter the season with a paper thin defence and questionable goaltending. Injuries on defence are predictable, which is why Brian Burke went out and started the season with EIGHT legitimate NHL defencemen. The injuries have hurt as much as they have BECAUSE of Tambo’s inaction.

    And while Renney takes less of the weight because of Tambo’s inaction, there certainly are lots of coaching elements that, regardless of the injuries, can be evaluated. Do we want a coach that throws the 4th line on the ice in close games in the third rather than staple them to the bench like 99% of the other coaches in the NHL do? Do we want a coach that line matches like crazy for 15 games (and gets results), and then inexplicably stops being careful on line matching when the team struggles. Do we want a coach that keeps playing Darch Hordichuk for no other apparent reason than watching him get his face beat in? Do we want a coach that has mis-managed MPS and can’t find the right button’s to push on the past summers biggest FA acquistion for the team, despite the fact the player has over 10 years of consistent play behind him?

    There are plenty of data points to evaluate both men. But its better to replace them when the candidate pool is at its maximum, which will be after seasons’ end.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      You are disagreeing with a statement I didn’t make.

      Tambellini and Renney certainly can be judged even with the injuries, as long as those injuries are factored in and given appropriate weight.

      There is a middle ground between frustrated fans saying “I don’t give a crap about the injuries because I’m tired of losing” and “If it wasn’t for the injuries, everything would be just great.” I stake my turf there.

      As for building the roster properly in the case of Tambellini and specific coaching decisions regarding Renney, I’ve found fault with both and have commented on that several times here.

      • Chris.

        This seemed like a pretty strong statement to me:

        “Sack Tambellini and Renney in mid-season when they’ve had nothing approaching a full line-up to judge their work on? Really? That’s asinine.”

        My point is, its only asinine if wins and losses are the only criteria used, which would be pretty asinine in and off itself. If you are using broader criteria, then you can give them a pass on the wins and losses, and if they fail enough of the other criteria, you can still give them a failing grade now, even if you choose not to pull the trigger to the end of the season.

        I know you have been critical of both Renney and Tambellini. I think overall you are fair in your comments. It was that one line that bugged me.

  • Chris.

    It’s not a pretty picture of success with Tams and Renney . Lowe’s record is slightly better . Tams at NHL level is zero, and Renney is at one . Success at minor league level does not always mean or translate into NHL success, however .

    Katz stays out of their hair as long as the building remains full , which despite their teams futility still turns a profit . Such a huge market of fans to draw from despite terrible results . Until the market dwindles so as they no longer can fill the building , it’s unlikely Katz will move any in management . The fans are the pawns in this . Feel like the fans have been “suckered punched ” here ?

    Many fans have turned away and spend their money at other entertainment, or holidays and other options . They can still get their hockey fix on the tele, computer , etc.. Will the marketplace continue to dwindle over next few seasons(2-3) or increase if the results remain bad or indifferent ? Is it in jeopardy here as yet ?

  • Chris.

    Hey I get it. The rebuild process is going to take time. How much time owever, I would have to look at the guys holding the reins to tell me.

    Tambellini: “Pushing for the playoffs this season!”

    Renney: “Meaningful games in March 2012!”

    Do these statements sound like people who understand this rebuild process? The whole basis of the people defending these morons is that this is a process that takes time but these two don’t have a clue when this team will be done wondering in the desert.

    I don’t hold that much of a grudge against Reney as much as I do Tambellini. You can only work with what you are given but he does have some questionable line-up decision making.

  • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

    I was able to make it to the game last night, first one all year. And after enjoying the delicious buffet upstairs, I was able to catch the warm-ups.

    After observing how 2 teams trending in different directions prepare for a game, I have lost faith that Renny and crew are the right ones to lead us through the rebuild process.

    As I watched ALL 3 San Jose coaches on the bench, with their attention firmly placed on the guys in the classic retros, they were dilegently taking notes, essentially one last effort to study the upcoming opponent.

    As I turned my attention to the home bench, I saw a completey different story. Renny, not on the bench(granted maybe he had something more important to do off ice), Bucky was in deep connversation with a trainer (maybe) facing the tunnel, and Smith was laughing it up with Habby.

    Sure SJ lost, but with so many games over the years that the team comes out flat and unprepared, it really makes me think that the guys prepare just like I saw the coaching staff did last night.

    I found it extremely telling of a team that is able to lottery finish 3 years in a row.

    Extension, No thanks.

  • vetinari

    I agree that the final determination regarding Tambi and Renney’s fates should be made at the conclusion of the season but if they both stay… IF… I would ask Katz to publically set out some firm performance criteria for his GM and coach for the 2012-13 season, such as:

    Tambi – Needs to acquire at least two top 4 defencemen, a reputable goalie with the potential to be a quality NHL starter (like Bernier), and some veteran depth at forward who can handle 5 on 5 time against opposing team’s best players in a defensive capacity. Keep with the development of the main kids but be prepared to move fringe youth to fill holes in the lineup at goal and defence (this may mean some guys like Omark, Paajarvi, Lander, Gagner, etc. may become expendable– not all of them, but maybe a few). I think Tambi needs to be set a public goal to measure his performance by (no lower than 10th in the West next year, but preferably playoffs?).

    Renney – Needs to be given specific team performance targets such as no lower than .400 after 10 games and no lower than .500 by the deadline or else, goodbye.

  • Chris.

    With whats being talked about moving at/near trade deadline, will our team look any better next season ? Horcoff they seem inclined to keep , while Hemsky with many more years to contribute seems to be a sacrificial lamb . Smyth extention is questionable at present salary once again . Retooling of veterans about to take place ? Upgrades with deals , or further downgades is the question . Even Penner deal may prove to be a bust if Tuebert and Klefbom bomb out .

    No guarantees any of our hopefulls on defence will pan out , and that could be a long time in making any difference to begin with .

    We have some size in youth but will it work out for a new competitive base ?

  • Chris.

    Tough call between Grigorenko and Murray. Oil need the big body that can play on your 1st line, but they also need a stud D-man. I guess it comes down to which of the two needs would be harder to fill with a trade or free agency. I’d lean towards Grigorenko just because traditionally take longer to develop. Go out and get a mature but relatively young stud Dman like Suter who can help the team win next year. You don’t want these kids to be playing in a losing environment for too long. Frustations mount, bad habits are learned and losing becomes accepted.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    I don’t think it was a genuine statement “Meaningful games in March 2012”

    I think actions speak louder than words so unless Tambo is a delusional optimist he would have realized injuries would make us a lottery team.

    Perhaps he didn’t think 29th overall and was hoping for Gagner draft range but that’s what we got.

  • Mitch

    Robin when I look at the oilers roster if you could be GM would you think outside the box?

    Could you get Suter for Paajarvi, Klefbom and a pick of another prospect or roster player? Suter would need to sign a extension first. The Oilers need this kinda player in the lineup, really worried about Whitney’s health. At some point we need to make a deal like this because trying to grow dman could take 3-5 yrs Doughty is the exception. I don’t see any defenseman ready to handle 25-28 minutes other than Suter who maybe available, the Oilers also have no one capable of this.

    If they can’t pull off a deal like this I feel this organization will just keep spinning its wheels, and they have many good young dmen that could learn from this guy.

  • While Oiler nation is up in arms at the direction of the way this team is headed, I think the real issue here is the compete level..I do not mind if they lose all 82 games during this process but please, please..just give us an effort..I understand losing can be contagious but if the effort is there i don’t think the fans would be riding anyone. I hate switching channels after the 1st period because, It is the same old same old…Just my thoughts…

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Have a bit of a challenge for your Bronte5000 Robin, If the Oilers finish last/next to last this season, and there’s another work stoppage for the duration of the 2012-2013 season. Would they maintain their spot in the draft order and have a shot at MacKinnon in 2013?

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      did the team that finished last before the lockout keep their position in the crosby draft or was there a re-seeding of positions because of the lost year?

      • Quicksilver ballet

        The Penguins did finish last during the 2003-2004 season. I do remember them having to win a seperate lottery process coming out of that lockout, but with them being the odds on favorite, it might not have had much to do with the luck of the lotto.

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            the great bob mackenzie was leaning towards it being unlikely the season would start on time due to labour issues, so i will go with him to a degree.

            i think it is very likely the season doesnt begin on time. i am hopeful that the league and the PA dont go all tambellini on us and screw it up even more

  • NuHope


    On the coaching front, I agree with you that a change (if any) should be made at season’s end, UNLESS the Oilers were serious about making a change, and a quality “free agent” coach becomes available. One name that comes to mind is Lindy Ruff. He has a pretty good track record working with (for the most part) mediocre talent, and could possibly be out in Buffalo. What are your thoughts on that? Are there any coaches that the Oilers might have their eye on? If they were seriously looking at making a change, I shudder to think that we could miss out. Hitchcock in St. Louis comes to mind. Is there anyone else you can think of who might be available, or might be at the end of their contracts this summer?

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    I remember when the Detroit Lions fired Matt Millen in the middle of their 0-16 season, and I thought Millen got off way too easy. You see, Millen technically did not have all 16 losses placed on his career record. That disastrous season was his own making, but he didn’t have to endure all of it.

    I want Tambellini and Renney to stay here the ENTIRE miserable year. I want every freaking loss the Oilers suffer to go on their resume. A few good games by Columbus and it’s last place again. Three last place finishes for Tambo, two last place finishes for Renney. You built this pile of crap, now you sit here and eat it until you’ve cleaned your plate!

    Besides, Kevin Lowe needs a lot more time to find a GM who actually has a clue, any clue whatsoever, on how to build a franchise.