The Great Purge

Watching the Edmonton Oilers night-in and night-out, it’s easy to forget that the collection of players going out there every night has changed significantly since Steve Tambellini took over as the club’s general manager.

The following list of players were a) Oilers’ property when Steve Tambellini ascended to the general manager’s post in Edmonton and b) played at least one NHL game with the Oilers in 2008-09.


Coaches Still With The Team
Craig MacTavish No
Charlie Huddy No
Bill Moores Not as a coach
Kelly Buchberger Yes
Pete Peeters No

One coach out of the five that Steve Tambellini inherited remains with the team. If we were counting training staff and video coaches, the turnover would be even larger.


Centres Still With The Team
Shawn Horcoff Yes
Sam Gagner Yes
Andrew Cogliano No
Kyle Brodziak No
Ryan Potulny No

Horcoff and Gagner remain with the team; the three other centres were dismissed. Kyle Brodziak was dealt to the Wild for not much; Andrew Cogliano was sent to Anaheim for a second round draft pick. Ryan Potulny wasn’t qualified and has been a pretty decent AHL player since leaving the Oilers.


Wingers Still With The Team
Ales Hemsky Yes
Dustin Penner No
Robert Nilsson No
Ethan Moreau No
Marc Pouliot No
Fernando Pisani No
Liam Reddox No
Zack Stortini No
Gilbert Brule No
Rob Schremp No
Steve MacIntyre No
J-F Jacques No
Tim Sestito No

Ales Hemsky is the lone survivor. Every other winger that Steve Tambellini inherited has been sent down the line.


Defense Still With The Team
Sheldon Souray No
Tom Gilbert No
Denis Grebeshkov No
Lubomir Visnovsky No
Steve Staios No
Ladislav Smid Yes
Jason Strudwick No
Theo Peckham Yes
Taylor Chorney Yes

The Oilers’ strongest point when Tambellini took the helm was their defensive core. It’s been stripped down, with the Oilers’ top-five from 2008-09 all sent out of town. Ladislav Smid has climbed the depth chart since then and Theo Peckham remains in the system.


Goaltenders Still With The Team
Dwayne Roloson No
Mathieu Garon No
Jeff Deslauriers No

Not one goalie remains from the NHL trio that was with the Oilers when Steve Tambellini became G.M.

The Point?

There are a few things to take from the above list.

There’s a fear in some sections of the fanbase that the Oilers’ veterans are passing on their losing mentality to the next wave of players. It has always struck me as an exceedingly stupid complaint; ‘losing’ isn’t a virus that passes from person to person. In any case, even if that argument wasn’t a hot steaming pile of lunacy, it’s scarcely possible: 24 of 30 players have been sent away since 2008-09, and 28 of 35 players and coaches. The entire core of the team has been reformed under Tambellini.

This takes me to my second point. Steve Tambellini made a big fuss in the summer of 2009 about the need for an Oilers’ ‘culture change.’ Virtually every player has been hand-picked by Tambellini and his management team, and we’re now in the third coaching regime of his tenure. This is his team.

Occasionally, someone insists that it’s necessary for the Oilers to “change something.” They’ve changed just about everything during Tambellini’s tenure – change alone doesn’t get the job done.

      • Time Travelling Sean

        The Visnovsky trade I believe was good at the time as you got an older player out and brought a younger one in. No one could have predicted the amount of injuries Whitney would go through over the next two seasons. Gilbert was traded away for nothing and they still got a decent Dman in return. Brodziak at the time didn’t show that he could be a decent NHL player, you could argue they should have waited longer but still can’t blame them for this move.

        No one else on those lists were worth keeping anyway so not a bad job so far. Also watch out for the D next season there are a lot a really good propects entering the system.

  • One quibble. I don’t think you can claim MacT as one of Tambellini’s coaches. And I don’t think you can even really claim Quinn, who I would argue was a compromise between Katz/Lowe and Tambellini.

    When Tambellini was hired, Katz and Lowe still believed they had a competitive team, and MacT was one of their guys.

    The Oilers miss the playoffs. MacT supposedly has health issues, and looks to have lost the team, and left as coach, but Katz and Lowe still believed the team was competitive, and don’t want Tambellini to rebuild. So Tambellini offers up a concession, a veteran coach with a record of being a veteran friendly coach in Quinn, with Tambellini’s guy riding shotgun with an eye to the future. (B

    3-months into Quinn’s tenure, Katz realizes that the rebuild/retooling Tambellini has been pushing for against Katz and Lowe is the right direction.

    So I think you can rack up somewhere between 1.5 and 2 coaches to Tambellini. That is why I think Tambellini will likely get his extension, because it was Katz and Lowe who were wrong, when Tambellini was first hired, and they prevented him from cleaning house sooner.

    The main problem now is that Renney, though a nice guy, isn’t a very good coach.

    • Given Tambellini’s history with Pat Quinn, I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest that he wasn’t a Tambellini coach.

      I also don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest that Tambellini was pushing for the rebuild in 2008-09. You don’t go out and sign Khabibulin to a four-year contract if you’re thinking ‘this is all going to collapse soon.’

    • Krusher

      I’m not a Tom Renney cheerleader but I don’t get these “Tom Renney is not a good coach” comments. He is coaching a young, not very good team right now – I’m not sure who could coax more from them, especially since management is clearly more committed to the lottery than to winning right now. He has had success at the junior level (mem cup), has coached middling teams to the second round of the playoffs (Rangers, twice).Interesting how coaches with reputations of “good coaches” like Trotz in Nashville have done nothing to earn their reputations (Trotz has managed to win one playoff round in 13 years). My observation is that “good” coaches tend to coach good teams. On the other hand, things that can be “coached” (PP, PK) have improved dramatically during Renney’s tenure. What is the basis for this common perception that Tom Renny isn’t a good coach?

        • Do you honestly believe that Renney is so blind that he can’t see what the rest of us have seen with Barker and is playing a struggling player because he is stupid? Yes Barker is struggling – but so did Whitney coming back from injury. Which means he is being played as part of a rehab/evaluation that is possible right now because, as is obvious, the Oilers are managing the standings as much as the team. I’m not saying I like it, but in the long run it is probably the right move for the team – another elite talent is desirable, as is an evaluation of what the supporting players have to offer.

      • Douche Nietzsche

        What came fist the chicken or the egg?

        Are the Oilers not very good because Renney is coaching them, or, is Renney not a good coach because he is coaching the Oilers?

        How do you know the management is committed to the lottery pick? Inside information? Bob? Darren?

        PK and PP could be credited to his assistants.

        The basis for him being a bad coach can be found in his line combinations and his use of players in key situations of games.

      • RexLibris

        I’m always reminded of a comment Scotty Bowman made when asked once about how to be a great coach: he said have great players.

        Renney, at face value, is no better or worse a coach than Brent Sutter. But you can only go so far with the tools you are given and the mandate under which you operate.

        Renney’s mandate is to teach. So, he teaches, and part of learning is failure. Sutter’s is to win right now and unfortunately his roster seems to take a perverse pleasure in destroying the careers of their coaches.

        I agree with you that Renney hasn’t been given the opportunity to prove that he is, by some people’s estimation, a good coach. I think he is a good coach for what the Oilers need right now, just as Ken Hitchcock is a good coach for what the Blues needed right now.

        But had Renney somehow coaxed a superhuman effort out of this lineup and they finished 13th in the West and 24th overall, would that better serve the team? A race to the lower end of mediocrity is nothing for which to strive.

        Besides, Calgary already has dibs on it.

  • Looking at it layed out this way it’s incredible to think how much better we’ve gotten up front, I think the only the forward it was really a mistake to ship out on that list is Brodziak. Defense on the other hand…

    • Brodziak:

      The Oilers had too many contracts and centres under contract.

      Brodziak needed a new contract, and had a team that wanted him.

      Pouliot had Lowe and Prendergast in his corner, still feeling that he had not gotten a fair shot.

      Brule had Lowe (who traded Torres for him) and Quinn (who knew Brule personally from his Giant days) in his corner.

      Brodziak had MacT who was leaving as coach.

      Tambellini chose to get two draft bullets for MacGregor for Brodziak (Bigos and Roy, I think).

  • Shawn Cronin

    Interesting. Looks like on paper the Oilers were pathetic up front and decent on D and now they are better up front but pathetic on D. Complete reversal.

  • Krusher

    What an absolute eye opener looking back at them team just two years ago compared to now. If turnover like that does not scream rebuild, I don’t know what is.

    This is a great article for those who are impatient with what is going on. We’ll see what this list is like in two more years, and hopefully start seeing growth and stability.

    On another note, let’s hope Roy or Bunz can keep progressing and maybe see them on this list down the road, or get a surprise with a guy like Tuohimaa or Perhonen. Every team rising to the top needs a couple pleasant surprises to make it.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    This is a very interesting piece Willis – well done.


    1. Do we have a winning culture now?
    I’d argue we don’t. And one thing I would put on my shopping list this summer would be a role player or room motivator from a “winning franchise” say Detroit (sorry this is not Schulz) or a player who has won 2 cups in last 5 years.

    2. Are we done changing?
    I’d argue no again. Puck moving dman. Decision on goalie. Coach?? etc. etc. We can expect more substantially more. I like someone else’s idea that they hope Chicago tanks and Quenneville’ But I would say we are close on the “core players” of the team. Healthy 6, 93,14,4,83.

    3. Finally is ST the man to finish this Team to playoff contender???

  • O.C.

    I think it’s also interesting to look at the ones who were let go that never latched on to a full time job elsewhere.

    But somehow the Oil passed off the likes of Reddox or Potulny or JDD or Deslauriers as worthy of charging full ticket price to the season ticket base.

    We seem to forget that we were crying about those players and change was needed.

    Tambo came in and cleaned house. Now it’s a matter of fitting in the odd new piece.

  • Reality Check to the head

    Great Article,

    Developing a winning culture does not happen overnight. People questioning whether or not the Oilers have a winning culture just have to look at the personel the Oilers have developed and the compete level they have.

    The oilers have put together a bunch of players who have won at different levels…Eberle, Hall, & Smyth, not to mention Khabby & Eager.

    The compete level is way better with this team most nights. They may not have the savvy and are missing some horses, but watching 6-2 losses are alot less frequent then even last year.

    It is getting better, and all arrows are pointing up, patience is the key. A coach is alot like a jockey…he is only as good as the horse (or horses) he is riding. Renney is still missing some Horses

  • Jonathan – Have you thought about comparing the purge list to some other NHL teams? There is obviously turnover in every NHL squad, but I’d like to see how this rebuild has compared to teams like successful clubs Detroit, Pittsburgh, etc and the perennial losers, CBJ, NYI, etc.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Always interesting to see the facts of history laid out like that. Thanks Jonathan.
    Normally, when a GM had been through that many coaches and that many players without success it would be time to axe him.Brian Burke.

    We are in year 3 of the rebuild though, I would say if we don’t see improvement by next year it might be time to point at Tambi.

  • Oilers4ever

    Gotta disagree with you Willis on the losing mentality… Now none of us sit in that dressing game after game and practice after practice, so no one knows for sure… But you cannot tell me IF there were veterans in there that were making comments such as:

    “Its okay that we are losing some games because we are learning from it and the lessons learned will help us in the future”.

    If those types of comments were being made… they would DEFINATELY have an impact on the youth. Again.. I am just stating a possible scenario. I highly doubt that would happen (with any NHL team) as you’d be clued in pretty good… I am just saying… it’s not as lunacy as you think if that type of scenario existed.