THAT’S ALL, FOLKS

Is it just me, or did seeing Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger on the ice in the final minute on a night the veterans didn’t do much of anything in a 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena serve as a pretty good thumbnail of everything that was wrong with the Edmonton Oilers this season?

Not revved up and no place to go as they faced Vancouver locked into 29th place, the Oilers went quietly against the Canucks — without so much as a peep of protest, to put it bluntly — as they filed off the ice with a 32-40-10 record and having missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

Outside of Ales Hemsky, who had lots of jump, I didn’t think the veterans did much against the Canucks, although, to be fair, nobody did on this night. Ryan Smyth, out of gas for the last 35 games and without a goal in a baker’s dozen, continued to skate in quicksand and, maybe, out of the plans unless he’s willing to take a third-liner’s salary to re-up.

Horcoff, bless his hard-working heart, got nothing done, save for getting his teeth loosened by a Sami Salo high-stick that wasn’t called by. Belanger? More of the same to end a bust of a season in his first year as an Oiler. Ryan Whitney can’t make it to the off-season and three or four months of rehab to sort his ankle out fast enough. Cam Barker? Thanks for coming.

After finishing 30th in back-to-back seasons, the Oilers will finish 29th with 74 points and seven more wins than they did last season. Not good enough, but at least they made those modest gains with the kids leading the way and some reasonable expectations that there is at least room to grow, which is what this rebuild scheme is supposed to be about.

As for the veterans . . .

AT RANDOM . . .

We’ll be dissecting the season every which way you please in coming days, but some quick thoughts (not many of them that haven’t been punted around like a disobedient Chihuahua already) . . .

— We’ll have plenty of debate about re-upping GM Steve Tambellini and coach Tom Renney in coming days and there’s more to deciding the fate of both than just the numbers, which is a good thing. In Renney’s two seasons as head coach, the Oilers have won 57 of 164 games (57-85-22).

— It looks to me that, at the very least, Devan Dubnyk has earned the right to go into 2012-13 as the clear-cut No. 1 starter. Does he project as a top-tier starter? I don’t know. But his numbers in the second half of the season and his overall body of work suggest he’s got a chance to be. The question now, will Nikolai Khabibulin accept a seat on the bench 55 games next season?

— I said this before and I’ll say it again: the more I see Colten Teubert, the more I like him. It looks to me like Teubert can play in the third pairing here next season. Still some rough edges to be sure, but he plays a simple game and with the edge that complements this group of defensemen. If so, what does that mean for Theo Peckham?

— If the Oilers win the NHL Entry Draft lottery they will make the first overall pick for the third straight year. Might they move that pick and slide down a handful of spots and pick a defenseman rather than take one of the two Russians who are ranked at the top of the draft? I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. They could also drop a spot to third pick in the lottery, which would probably take the Russians out of the mix.

— Like Smyth, if Horcoff plays above the third line next season, this team isn’t going anywhere at anything approaching a rate that’s acceptable. The difference with Horcoff is he’ll still be earning first-line money. Even with that, he’s a better fit as a third-liner than Smyth is.

— If Tambellini, assuming he gets an extension, doesn’t acquire at least one top-six forward with size capable of complementing Taylor Hall. Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Hemsky in the top six, he isn’t doing his job (I know, insert punchline here). A player like Teemu Hartikainen might grow into that role, but he’s not ready to take on those kinds of minutes yet.

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

  • Some teams have a single season that tarnishes their great reputation and makes a mockery of their proud tradition. The young owner steps up and relieves the men in charge of their jobs and promises a return to being a classy organization.

    I guess that only flies in Montreal though.

    Here in Oilerville our owner would rather go golfing with his idols than hold them accountable for making his team the laughing stock of the West. Bad trades. Suspect free agent signings. Classless treatment of the fans. Heartless veterans.

    I wish I could tell my boss that I want to be absolutely brutal at my job for half a decade and get away with it.

    Rebuild. I thought it meant we were going young. As in, playing those young guys. NOT leaving them on the bench in favour of broken down vets. What I saw last night wasnt rebuilding. It was being bad at hockey.

  • neojanus

    I’m really perturbed at the number of media personalities that use the words “Oilers’ management” and “incompetent” in the same sentence.

    I’m not crashing down on the management here (although there are times where I think I might), but what bothers me most is that the impression of the team from the outside is that we’re incompetent.

    That wears badly for a team that still needs to attract some key players in order to compete. Several times I’ve heard now that even though the Oilers have immense talent developing, the decision-makers might be too incompetent to make a difference.

    They COULD be right. I think there has been improvement… but the improvement was from obvious sources. Hall, Eberle, RNH were always going to improve on their own. They were always going to improve the power play as they developed. Dubnyk’s improvement was either going to happen or it wasn’t — good for him that he seems to have found some ground to build from (he ain’t done yet though… still needs work).

    The actual role players brought in by Steve-O here have been busts… complete busts. Look at the list:

    Barker… I… I… have nothing to say

    Belanger… seemed like a safe bet, but holy hell is an event horizon for offense
    Sutton… pressbox more than not by the end
    Hordichuk… waste of a roster spot
    Eager… great at times; ugly for most of the year
    Potter… Returned to AHL or worse form

    6/6 Role player pick-ups were a bust for Stevie-Pie this year… with Sutton as a potential Mulligan because he fills a 6/7 role.

    It was good to see Smyth back, but obviously he needs a lesser role on the team moving forward as age is catching up.

    I’m not saying fire Tambo (ain’t going to happen likely), but he needs to be held more accountable for the hilarious 100% fail on his summer moves. I don’t count Smyth as his move because Smyth traded himself.

    I feel bad for Renney (though not too bad). He was given a high percentage of mutton this year, but still botched his shepherding at times.

    It will be an interesting week.

    Thanks for the great year, Oilers Nation. Blogs like this, along with Lowetide, make the season far more comprehensive. I appreciate all of your insight and you have made me a smarter hockey fan. I look forward to your input about the off season and I hope for a better team come October. If I weren’t forced to live in the tragicomedy city of Toronto, I’d buy you all a beer.

    neojanus/David G

  • Gerald R. Ford

    The bright side of yet another 6-month, sedation-free, root canal, I suppose, is, they DID improve by a modest total of twelve points this season. Unfortunately, they’ll have to (at the MINIMUM) maintain that pace for another two years just to get around the playoff cut.

    I’ll be honest… I’m not totally sold on either Renney or Tambo, for different reasons, of course. The one thing I AM sold on is, I think Renney has come a lot closer to fulfilling his intended role, and to achieving a higher level of job performance, than Tambo has. Subsequently, if the GM should get an extension, and the coach is replaced, I would consider that to be yet another in a long line of puzzling organizational decisions.

    As for Teddy Peckman, I know there is, ummm… room for improvement… in his game. The thing is, his intangibles make him a hard guy not to love. Especially on a team that showed shockingly little character on far too many occasions this season. The Oil Drop is sacred to him, he stands up for his teammates, and, on his best nights, he’s a serviceable NHL blueliner. He shouldn’t be guaranteed anything at this point, but I really hope they don’t give up on him, either.

    Regarding the draft, I would love to see them trade down and go after a defenseman. But, I’m not too worried about it. I know, either way, Stu will get them another fantastic asset that they can add to the arsenal. I have no problem with acquiring more Teubert-esque (or better) prospects through an exchange of assets, rather than the draft. Just get them, either way.

    We had a nice, mild winter, we were entertained by the sweet, sweet hands of Jordan Eberle, we witnessed the best Oiler rookie season ever, and we ARE moving in the right direction.

    Best of all? We’re not Calgary. heh

  • Mitch

    Here’s to you Harlie…….same situation at my home as well. Grandkid is all a glow in that awesome look of pure wonderment and pleasure that only a child can display. As for the OIL, lets face it, the pick will be great but we have to win this upcoming year. That is the bottom line! The rebuilding of this team has reached it’s life cycle. If management does not address certain matters such as our weak Defence, our Size, our Grit, our Veterans, our overall culture of “its okay to be a looser for we are getting picks and stocking up the cupboard” then the writting on the wall will be for all to see and the writting is clear: The management of the Edm Oilers are very pleased to have such committed fans whom keep buying tickets, clothing and other merchandise in order to keep the team in good financial standings.

    I am not looking to win the Cup next year, nor the year after but by 2015, the OIL best be a true contender! I love this team and this city and it pi**es me off to no end that this team has been nothing for so long! Get on with the art of winning instead of loosing!

  • Gerald R. Ford

    I did see some improvement in the 2012 Oilers. Enough…… not sure about that. There are many things that have to be done before next season. Just a few things are…
    1. Get a second line center. Sorry Sam but after 5 years you are just to inconsistent. You don’t make any one better on your line, the play stops with you too often, and your just not big enough to compliment our already small talented wingers. I love your willingness and desire but unless we can trade Horcoft,and you become our third line center, we just won’t move forward in the standings and I don’t see them trding Horcoft.
    I would really love to see us try to Johannson from Columbus even if we traded Sam and Magnus or we could try a full season with Hall at center. Something has to be done as this a very critical position.
    2.Sorry Smythy but this isn’t working. I know the fans love you and we need veterans on this team but they must be able to contribute to the team in key roles and Smythy just doesn’t do it anymore. Let’s get some players who will be happy playing 3rd and 4th line positions and who are willing to take different roles on this team. If we do resign Smyth it must be to no more than a one year deal. Absolutely only one year. No more!
    3. Sorry Renney but it’s time to change coaches. If we don’t do it now I believe will look back next year at this time and say we wasted another year. Good coach but we are in the next phase with this team and now the players need new direction. Someone who will allow the best players to play and not play unproductive veterans. Renney was the right man for the job up to now but now we need new direction.

  • at the Oilkings game last night we spun through the merchandise store and Paajarvi jersey’s were marked down to $99 a jersey or something. The Hall ones and other guys were $250 or more. I asked one of the kids working there why only the Paajarvi jersey’s on sale? He said,” cause we got lots of them, and it doesn’t seem like it’s a popular seller”. I said yep, looks like a trade is coming..

    Then a few minutes later I heard a guy in the crowd say, “everything in that store is expensive, except they got some Pa-Jarvi (he pronounced like a jar) sweaters for sale. Not sure who he is but it’s a good deal!”

    Poor Magnus. From prospect to suspect in one season.

  • “we witnessed the best Oiler rookie season ever”

    No, Jari Kurri and Jason Arnott had better rookie seasons. 🙂

    As for the Oilers, for today I’m going to say ‘to hell with them’. I’ve got more important stuff to do with my family.

  • The Looney Tunes picture describes the Oilers organization perfectly. From poor player procurement outside the draft to internal bookkeeping errors (MPS callup) they have become the laughingstock of the League. Change is needed at the top.

    • Laughing stock of the league is a hotly contested race this year.
      Toronto, Montreal, Columbus and Calgary are all giving the Oilers a solid run.
      The ironic thing is that the canadian teams (and by extension their overcharged fans) get to fund the columbus experiment with equalization payments.
      Thus… arguably…. the league is a joke and the Oilers are active participants.

  • Tams should be gone , and probably Renney promoted to Tams poasition . New coach may end up being Crawford ? Tams has had several years to shore up defence and has failed miserably at doing so . Drafting defence is far too long a process . Time for Lowe to move Tam, or risk his own job by keeping him ?

      • As per Matheson’s column in todays Journal ” he was instrumental in drafting lots of current N.Y.Rangers as their vice president of player development before replacing GM/interim coach Glen Sather in 2004″ . Definitely more personable for interviews , etc . over Tams . It’s not like he has no upper management” training wheels ” as you seem to think . You got to start somewhere , as Tams has failed to yield much of a result and looks likely to continue that trend .

        • Like I said, bad idea — no matter how you try to rationalize it. Renney has no experience as an NHL GM, and while “you got to start somewhere,” that somewhere is not Edmonton and that someone is not Renney.

          Personable for interviews doesn’t matter a damn compared to the qualifications of being proven as an assessor of talent, being able to acquire that talent and put it together so it fits.

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            Personable for interviews doesn’t matter a damn compared to the qualifications of being proven as an assessor of talent, being able to acquire that talent and put it together so it fits.

            so strikes 1, 2 and 3 for tambellini?

            proven assessor of talent? being able to acquire talent? put it together so it fits?

            That joke writes itself when we look at tambellini and his track record.

      • RexLibris

        Hey Robin,

        Do you think Bob Green (Oil Kings) would make a good Assistant GM for a year or two and then be able to do the job at the NHL level?

        I look at the teams he has built and the Oil Kings as a recent example. He seems to like to build through the draft and his roster is an excellent example of balance through the four forward lines and all down the defence. That is a model that I would like the Oilers to be able to emulate.

        I’m just curious if you think he has the ability to do succeed at the NHL level.

        • Marc isn’t my cup of tea, mainly because he is (or at least was) a dink to reporters when he was coaching — funny, he wanted to buddy up with the unwashed media masses when he was out of work — but he’s a lot of more qualified than a lot of guys looking for a job.

          But not the guy for here, in my estimation.

          • BlakOil

            @Robin

            As someone whos spoken to alot of the coaches who are now on the outside looking in, is there someone you would think the organization has in mind for a Renney successor?

            I know as a media guy, you are unbiased, but is there anyone you would like to see get the job, regardless of that actually occuring?

  • The worst thing that could happen is that we win the draft lottery……..this means that we will select Yakpov, another winger.

    For most teams this would be a very positive situation but for a team whose GM has never demonstrated the ability to make a strategic trade, this would be a negative outcome.

    I hope that we pick second or third and select the best available center man with some size, that’s what this team needs the most.

    I agree with RB on Tuebert, he does look good. If we sign Schultz the UFA, we may not need anymore over priced UFA’s like Ryan Suter.

    • DieHard

      Nothing wrong with selecting Yakupov if we had 1st choice (potential elite player).

      As for 2nd or 3rd pick we should pick best player available not best center available.

      As far as Jeff Schultz is concerned, he is 21 or 22 coming out of college so he’ll have a few things to learn first. It would be great if he did sign with us though.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    I think it is time for Edmonton to move on with out the old vets ,do they really need Smyth? Horcoff is so slow and easy to play against,and Belanger is only good on face offs.None of these guys will throw a hard check,i know they are signed for next year except Smyth,but if edmonton can trade them they should.when Eager and Horichuk were on the ice at least Vancouver had something to worry about and made them keep their heads up.i’m tired of seeing Edmonton on the receiving end of all the hard checks.

  • DieHard

    Ya, another bust. Really tough to watch the last ten games. After 30 th, 30th and 29th, support for Tambo must be at least questioned by Klowe. Oh, he is responsible too for this garbage. So, the chances of him actually calling Tambo out are highly unlikely.

    I have been watching, attending games and supporting this team since the WHA days. I have seen the glory years, the years we developed stars and sold them off for cheap help. I watch the years we had the group owners and their struggle to afford players. But the last three years under Klowe, Tambo and their coaches has been the worst years this franchise has ever experienced. Top picks have come our way, but the clowns that run this show have no idea how to protect them or suppliement the team with talent needed, during this “REBUILD” All of our top kids take a pounding and Horcoff rolls out with such little effort to play contact hockey. Most of the veterans are soft, bla bla bla.

    PLEASE dump the management and see if we can actually rebuild with the kids that have dropped on our laps for BLOWING for so long.

    • Mitch

      Thank you for this comment it’s bang on. I could run a list of some many differnt moves areas where there is complete failure but it gets overlooked because we went to the cup finals in ’06.

      They have a 9am presser scheduled as per Terry Jones twitter and then Jones tweets later that it’s just media avails.

      My question is at what point when your owner do you realize your at rock bottom? Or do you trust the people you have in charge?

      • Rock bottom? That would be Columbus. The Oilers are a LOT better than the Blue Jackets.

        It’s always “just” media avails. You were expecting a live telecast where Tambellini stands at the podium sobbing or yelling? Maybe some candid Oil Change stuff where Katz belittles Ricky Olczyk until he starts to cry?

        Doesn’t sound like a bad idea, actually, but we get what we get.

        • Mitch

          Robin the oilers are the worst team CBA-CBA so that would be rock bottom. For 2 yrs they sat like the Flames thinking they had this great team that was built to be a winner. What would have happened had they not had all the injuries?

          I want to know how a organization can keep employees in promintent roles when there is NO success. We are lead to believe by some that success comes in a 3rd ranked pp and a improved pk and all the other bs they talk about. I will look at the standings and see that we are 29th today have had 3 playoff appeances in 12 yrs. That is rock bottom this is a proud fan base it’s time management understood that, if they can’t I should hope there smart enough to quit, but that might take some brains.

  • DieHard

    Happy Easter everyone. I’m in a fine mood, after eating way too much candy, and I hope you’re all having a great day too. Thanks Brownlee for making following this team a little more enjoyable.

    I generally agree with your points, but one stuck out…

    “The question now, will Nikolai Khabibulin accept a seat on the bench 55 games next season?”

    After the last 3 years, it shouldn’t matter what Nikolai wants. He’s had three years to prove that he’s a starter, and he’s failed miserably (save for a brilliant stretch over the first few weeks this year).

    If you’re worried that sitting Nikolai against his will may disuade free agents from signing here, I would humbly suggest you’ve got things backwards. Which free agents would want to sign on a team that willingly plays one of the worst veteran goaltenders in the league, instead of a superior younger backup?

    (unless you want to attract aging, subpar free agents *cough cough Belanger* in which case, I agree that we should worry about Nikolai’s feelings, and play him lots) 😀

  • vetinari

    Interesting point RB brings up about bringing in a rookie GM at this stage of the game… but… wasn’t Tambi a rookie GM when we started this rebuild?

    I know that the original intent wasn’t to dynamite everything and launch into a rebuild so going with a promising rookie GM may have looked like an option at the time, but maybe ownership should now consider someone with more experience going forward?

    Tambi’s rebuilt the Barons and improved amateur scouting, however, he’s also inked some ugly deals for veteran help and presided over our worst seasons as a franchise… ever! Not to mention various blunders and misteps along the way (ahem… misunderstanding signing dates and waiver rules; the Souray situation; Khabibulin and Brule’s contracts; courting Heatley and losing him; etc.) It will be hard to watch his smiling face when they show the results of the draft lotto on TSN… I can’t wait for Tambi to look into the camera and say “Hey, I’m a Viking at winning draft lotto’s!”

    Notwithstanding the above, I’m sure Tambi’s going to get an extension from Katz, but I’m not so sure that it is deserved.

  • I still can’t wrap my head around the fundamental insanity of trusting the rebuild to the management group that necessitated it.

    But I fail to see what the problem is with re-signing Smyth. He’s a veteran who knows his way around the rink, will give his kidney to win, and can provide some secondary scoring on a lower line. In fact, I don’t see a lot of major problems up front at all. I’m willing to run with a group that includes Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner, Paajarvi, Hall, Eberle, Hemsky, Jones, Horcoff, Smyth, Hartikainen, Eager and Belanger… assuming those roles are slotted properly. Heck, if they were smart enough to realize Omark was a player and should not be traded for peanuts, I’d REALLY like that forward group.

    I do see problems on the blue-line and in goal. They traded their best defenceman for a guy who wasn’t a clear upgrade… they’re still relying on Whitney when he may NEVER be the same again… they thought Barker was a good idea… they are absolutely dependent on Petry not taking a step back… it’s just a bit of a mess back there. And they seem to think that Khabibulin represents any kind of reliable goaltending. That’s not really what the past several years of performance seem to indicate.

    Frankly, they need to sign a 1A/1B type of goaltender (Harding?) to give them two legitimate shots at having competent goaltending, and they need another reliable veteran defenceman that can play a lot of minutes, and probably another 4/5 guy. I’m not comfortable on relying on Sutton to not take a step back right around the time in a player’s career when a player typically takes a step back.

    I would love for them to grab a top pairing quality (doesn’t need to be elite level…) RD, play him with Smid, run Shultz with Petry on the second pairing, have Whitney on the bottom pairing with another veteran, and rotate Sutton and Potter through as needed.

    But knowing them, they’ll probably assume Whitney will be ready to go, Petry is ready to be a top pairing defender no matter what, Sutton can play full time in the 4/5 slot and Tuebert is ready for an NHL roster spot. Who knows, maybe they’ll bring Barker back again for fun.

  • Romanus

    RB Even though Horcoff and Belanger couldn’t score, they were the players generating scoring chances continually a the end of the game.

    Horcoff is an excellent player, scoring or not. He creates the right plays and if he was consistently paired with capable players he would at least rack up assists. Perhaps even goals.

    Lets stop blaming the good players for the shortcomings of the players that don’t do good things with the puck and spend most of the game not keeping possession.

    Jones was to me very unproductive, and then made a brilliant play coming back to cover for a D. Yet to me, that doesn’t cover for the rest of the game with him having no ability to hold the puck in the ozone while pretending to deliver a hit. If you give up territory to do that, at least crush the guy legally and face the consequences.

  • BlakOil

    Good read Rob. Unless the Oil substantially change their line up, I believe the playoffs will be a dream again. Way too many free loaders on this team this year and an inconsistent Veterans group. I find it hard to believe Tom Renney can turn this team into a competitor. All season long we were waiting as fans for the “rant” and we get it with a handful of games left. I would find it difficult as a fan to see #94 back another season turning pucks over and losing battles.

  • flyin ryan

    Is it just me or what. The more I see Belanger the more similaritirs I see between him & Horcoff! & not the one or two few good things Horcoff does either! Belanger & Eager can both disappear this off season & wouldn’t break my heart any…

    What choice does Khabibulin have not to accept at this point…?

    Teubert’s rounding into form, means Theo to Philly…

    No matter what happens, Oilers want to take Ryan Murray & avoid the Russian’s, don’t need that potenial headache. We don’t need a winger (Nail), don’t want baggage with the Russian thing & potentially lazy (Grigorenko). By ALL accounts, Ryan Murrays the real deal in waiting & we need to solidify the blue line. Don’t muddy the waters, take Murray.