There was a time in this fair land when the Edmonton Oilers could find useful defensemen at midnight in a snowstorm. Toronto gave up on Jason Smith at the exact wrong time, Atlanta flushed Steve Staois and he was immediately effective, the club dealt for Jan Hejda and he established himself as an NHL defender. Nowadays, Oilers seem to have lost the midas touch, unable to find those undervalued blue men at midnight or high noon, in a snowstorm or under the bright lights.
In 2000 (June 9th, before the draft) Edmonton named Kevin Lowe General Manager of the team. Between that time and the NHL lockout, Lowe and his staff added men like Steve Staios, MA Bergeron, Tom Gilbert and Jan Hejda for very little. During the Kevin Lowe GM era, Edmonton was able to add solid defensemen at very little cost. It became commonplace to the point that it was viewed as a strength of the organization.
THE FIRST RULE….
Since arriving as General Manager, Steve Tambellini has added defensemen via trade and free agency, but things have not gone as well.
- Traded Lubomir Visnovsky to ANA for Ryan Whitney. The big defender from Boston has battled injuries for much of his time in Edmonton.
- Signed Kurtis Foster as a free agent.
- Traded for Jim Vandermeer.
- Traded for Andy Sutton.
- Traded for Nick Schultz.
- Signed Cam Barker.
The problem is that there is very little imagination in Steve Tambellini’s trades. He acquired Jim Vandermeer for a guy they were going to buy out, but did Vandermeer occupy an important roster spot effectively? Kurtis Foster had all kinds of troubles while an Oiler, so the Oilers traded him for Andy Sutton. Sutton played well enough to get another contract, but does he solve one of the big problems?
Last summer, Mr. Tambellini acquired Cam Barker and Andy Sutton, while his assistant picked up Corey Potter in the back room far from the lights of Oil Change. Potter proved to have more value than Tambellini’s centerpiece (Cam Barker) addition. What does that tell us?
If we play the "so what?" game, all of the decisions along the blueline recently don’t have sustain. Nick Schultz played better than we expected but so what? A player with a wider range of skills was sent away. Oilers acquired Andy Sutton last offseason and he played so well they gave him another contract but so what? He won’t be a top 4 defenseman on this roster now or in the future.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The Oilers badly need a trade that goes beyond a so what? deal. They need to make something happen this summer. The Jason Smith deal, signing Steve Staios after he’d been set free by an expansion club, that kind of thing. There was a time when the Edmonton Oilers made those deals and cobbled together good 6’s without giving up the farm.
That is badly needed this summer. Badly.