Lowebellini. Fumblelini. Mr. Dithers. Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini takes a lot of crap on websites like this and, given the results fans paying good money have seen during his tenure, he’s deserved much of it.
That said, Tambellini deserves a tip of the cap and a salute from fans, one employing more than the middle finger, after a long weekend in which he coaxed Justin Schultz into Edmonton silks with a little help from Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Craig MacTavish and Taylor Hall and also got Ryan Smyth and Darcy Hordichuk to sign on the dotted line.
Much has been made and written about all three moves, but after wisely taking the weekend off and a break from the grind to duly mark my wedding anniversary – married men feel free to testify if you hear what I’m saying – I’ll give credit where credit is due.
While Schultz is an obviously prized recruit, I don’t know the kid, so I can’t and won’t pretend to have the first clue about how he’ll turn out (and we certainly won’t see a finished product in his rookie season) just by running his numbers and going off what other people say. I’ll stick with the signing of Smyth and Hordichuk.
WHY I LIKE IT
Simply put, I’ve long admired Smyth for his work ethic and willingness to improve as a player. He’s made more of the natural ability he has than just about anybody I’ve known since I first showed up at Rexall Place.
It’s those traits, with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and, now, Nail Yakupov in the fold, that make Smyth a valuable commodity to have around the dressing room. I’m not confusing Smyth with being a great leader, but I’ve got no doubt he’s a great example.
If the kids want to know what it takes to be a good pro, they just have to keep their eyes and ears open and watch Smyth, like he did when he first showed up and Doug Weight, Todd Marchant and Kelly Buchberger were showing the kids how it was done (on some lousy teams).
Add to that, Smyth can still play some, even if the wheels fell off in the second half of last season after Tom Renney used him up in the first 40 games or so with too much playing time. Smyth, lots of clicks on the odometer or not, can still play in the top six in a pinch.
That’s worth two years at $2.25 million per any day of the week. There is nothing about this re-signing not to like.
As for Hordichuk, he is the kind of beat cop a lot of younger, bigger and tougher men could be, but aren’t, because he understands exactly what his role as an NHL player is and he embraces it. If you want some insight into what makes Hordichuk tick, Jason Gregor did a terrific interview with him today.
While you might not see the need for the role of an enforcer on an NHL roster today, and that’s fair comment, that’s a different argument. He’s the epitome of doing the job right, and he’s a cut above the typical beat-the-puck-square guys who ride shotgun.
I like Hordichuk’s gamesmanship and his sense of timing – the when, how and why of doing the job. The way he played Brad Staubitz like a rented fiddle last season was beyond textbook stuff. I’ve seen that movie before.
Hordichuk doesn’t scare anybody spitless with his sheer physical presence the way hulks like Derek Boogaard, Georges Laraque used to and the way Steve MacIntyre still does, but he’ll get in your head and your face. He’s the thinking man’s tough guy. This team needs that.
THAT MAN RALPH
By the time he was announced as Renney’s replacement Ralph Krueger’s bandwagon had a full head of steam and no shortage of people willing to hop on it. The truth is, for me at least, the more I’ve seen and heard about him the past two years, the more I like his style.
Of course, what you and I think doesn’t matter a bit. What the players think, however, does count, and it played into the decision to promote him from the role of associate coach to the head man’s job.
After the miserable failure that was Pat Quinn’s tenure behind the bench before he was
shown the door promoted to senior advisor of something, something and Renney got his swing at things, the question for many about Krueger was if he was enough of a departure from the man he replaced.
Simply put, will Krueger be the happy medium between the bombastic and absent-minded Quinn and the soft-sell approach favoured by Renney?
“The comments we’re getting is, “I love the way Ralph is talking to me.’ He’s very direct,” Tambellini said. “He’s very direct. He’s very clear. He confronts. Anyone can confront. The next part of confrontation is, OK, how do we resolve this, how do we get better?
“That’s what impressed me, I think, though a couple of the interviews we had. He has a plan of what he needed to confront in our organization. That’s the easy part. I like the way he problem-solved and said, ‘Here’s how we’re going to fix it.’ “
WHILE I’M AT IT
Todd Nelson got a contract extension from the Oilers, so he’ll stay the course with the AHL farm. Nelson’s done a good job in terms of the standings and in player development with the Barons. He’ll be knocking on the door for an NHL job, here or elsewhere, soon enough.
A lot of people asked me over the weekend – some guy calling himself “headpins” on Twitter just won’t leave me alone — about Oiler interest in Jordin Tootoo. My information is the Oilers had some and did inquire before the rambunctious winger ended up in Detroit.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.