Edmonton Oilers

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.


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.


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.’ “


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.

  • Wax Man Riley

    I think I asked about a lot of trades and signings lol. Also wished you a happy anniversary hope you spoiled the wife she deserves it having to deal with you hahaha

  • Brownlee loves the word meow

    Robin Are we and if not why are we not going and making the deal for Bobby Ryan!!!! this would be the crown on a great young team !

    are we in the mix what is the story!!!

  • Wax Man Riley

    I liked Hordy’s comments about him and Kruger beeing on the same page it sounds like the big boys were handcuffed last year, as for Smyth we talked about that one for awhile and it’s good to see he’s beeing sensible about his role and min this year. Robin can a coach make enough of a diffrence to get a team to the playoffs Kruger better make that 30,000 for motivational speaking payoff wanna bet they make it this year Robin ?

  • oilredemption

    There was a Taylor Hall quote on the weekend (Terry Jones maybe?) talking about when they were at the agent’s office to whoo Schultz that went something along the lines of “KLowe, Mact, Ralph Kreuger and I were around the board room table..’

    No mention of Tambellini.

    Was it an innocent omission or an accurate accounting of who was sent in to glad hand the big prize?

    For Tambellini’s sake I would hope it was a mistake because you take that accomplishment away from him and he effectively just spent free agency bringing back the cast of a 29th place team.

    Big Whoop…can anyone say empty suit?

    • Wax Man Riley

      I guess you have to give Tambo some props, but as @FakeOilersGM Steve Tambellini said:

      “Ever since Craig joined us and started doing my job, I’ve been an excellent GM!”

      Also, 9 comments and only 2 from a real account? Whats going on here?

    • Rocknrolla


      Schultz said the same thing at his presser. He said Tambi wasn’t there and that he just met him that morning!

      Looks like we know whos stirring the drinks still.

  • Ern Beckett

    Smitty took the ultimate home town discount and really had himself painted into that corner. If you look around at the other signings, the Oilers lock up of Smyth for the next two years is probably the biggest bargain in the NHL. Obviously a great move by management and a sacrifice by one of our greatest Oilers.

    Thanks Ryan.

    P.S. Not of the same magnitude, but the price of Hordichuk, for what he delivers without questioning, is also very shrewd.

  • oilredemption


    Steve also brought back the best goalie in the AHL last year. He brought him back in to Challenge and insure the backup position incase Khabibulin trips and stumples and cant handle the weight anymore. Yann Danis will also be a valuable asset for Roy’s growth and development

    missed an important signing Robin 😉 (imo i guess)

    • DK0

      One like mine and yours, where you can set a picture and click on the name to see their profile.

      Everyone else posted with anonymous accounts. For example, I could log out and do an anonymous post as “ray” and you would have no idea that it was a different person than post 9. Actually creating account ensures your username belongs to you

  • Wax Man Riley

    I still don’t know why he tried so hard to sewer Souray’s career. What a waste of an asset. He turned an embarrassing media situation into a guy in the minors making over 4 mill. Then Souray gets all but written off and not taken on any waivers and lo and behold he ends up getting a 1 years from Dallas and then turns that into a 3 year at Anaheim. I still shake my head over that whole situation.

    Having said that, I dig the momentum and team direction right now and love that he took Yakupov, like that he lured Shultz and I dig the Smyth contract.

    He’s got more work to do (i’m still nervous on Khabi/Dub duo) but I’ve been happy with what he’s done lately. Props.

  • justDOit

    A good read, RB. Nice to see some credit go the way of LowBellTavish, but the next move or two are what’s going to set v5.0 (or whatever version we’re on) apart.

  • justDOit

    This past week has restored some of my faith in Oilers’ management. There is still lots of work to be done if we are to be a playoff team anytime soon but we have certainly set ourselves up in a nice position.

  • Aitch

    @ Harlie,

    Souray is 36 years old and other than one good season with the Habs (as a pending UFA) and his one good season in Edmonton, he’s an average offensive d-men IMO. To sign him to a multi-year contract is pure desperation on Murray’s part especially when everyone knows that Souray wanted to be on the west coast due to his daughter.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I hope Nail comes to camp in 9 weeks and does the exact same things as he did at this prospect camp. There’s not alot here, mostly just the leftovers from a team drafting first overall 3 yrs in a row.

    If Yakupov goes around the D’men like pylons and the goaltenders can’t stop the puck, they should be singled out and reminded of their inadequacies. If the veterans struggle during practice with these issues, what does that reveal about their possible performance at game pace? The Oilers have almost half a dozen keepers as part of their core group, those 5 or 6 need to reduce that gap between the current practice pace, and game pace.

    Respect is best earned, not given freely as a professional courtesy to the current holdovers. If the vets can’t stop a raw rookie in practice, that isn’t Nail Yakupovs fault, maybe they should retire. Rub it in their faces Nail, this town hasn’t seen a winner in a long time.

  • Reg Dunlop

    First off, congrats on your anniversary but neglecting The Nation just for wifey time… seriously, RB,where are your priorities.

    Smyth and Hordichuk at this $$$ is a job well done by our GM. Also avoiding an overpay/gamble on a free agent like Wideman or Tootoo gets thumbs up.

    I trust that Kruger will positively impact very Eager, Hordi and Blancmanger, all 3 will have better seasons this year. As long as injuries don’t decimate the line-up and RNH and Petry don’t regress; as long as Khabbi plays less than 25 games and Yak is more than a sideshow 10 more wins is a realistic goal.

    As for J Schultz I saw him play the outdoor game vs Michigan St on Big 10 TV. He did not stand out in any way. Neither good or bad for what it’s worth.

    • 50 in 39

      I also thought the Hordichuk signing was very good. He has strong character and is a good example to the team by embracing his role. It was tempting to explore signing Tootoo, who could arguably bring additional elements to an energy/enforcer role. He has great passion for the game but with a young team with emerging leadership you have to be really careful about the atmosphere you create.

  • Dan the Man

    I agree that Gregor’s interview with Hordichuk was very good. To be honest I really wasn’t thrilled with the Oilers signing him again but from the sounds of it both he and Eager weren’t thrilled with how they were used last. I will be curious to see how they respond this year.

  • “Robin can a coach make enough of a diffrence to get a team to the playoffs Kruger better make that 30,000 for motivational speaking payoff wanna bet they make it this year Robin ?”

    Eternal optimists like you are one of the reasons I can afford to own so many cars . . . Sure, do you want to lose more than you did this season or less?

    • book¡e

      How about less this time still smarting from getting taught a lesson from last bet. How about a BBQ at the ranch in the spring I supply all the food drinks and entertainment if I win same as last year (but I think you through that in last bet) lol for selling off vet I’ll even go yu can invite how ever you want up to 10 people just not spec he drinks to much beer lol. With whitney back hemmer back and the kids we make it to 7th place this year. Steaks beer or what you like all the fixings if you win if I win you pick THEY WILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination to Follow –

    Steady Steve has done a good job, not terrible, not great – good. He has demonstrated patience at a time when fans were pining for action. He has analyzed, assessed, developed and managed this oilers team, and is now ready to take a step forward.

    Im looking forward to seeing an addition of another top 4 defensemen and watching a full season of Shultz and Schultz.

  • Rocknrolla

    One thing Oil management is learning, after many mistakes in recent years, is long-term cap planning and management, now that they have acquired some elite assets. With Hall and Eberle up for new contracts next year, RNH the following year and Yakupov the year after they have to plan very, very carefully to keep that core group together for a long time, while constructing a support crew (Dubnyk, Petry, Smid, J Schultz, Klefbom, MUsil? Marcinen? Hartakainen, Gagner? Paaarvi? Lander?) all of whom we can afford to keep. They have to very clear plans to make this work.

    The Hall-Eberle contracts will set the pattern for the other big two in dollars and term length, so it is vital that they get it right. Stauffer and other commentators keep mentioning the possibility of acquiring Shea Weber via trade or free agency. Mouth-watering to be sure but how can they fit him and the Fab 4 inside the cap with enough left to create an adequate supporting crew? I’m not saying it is impossible but we don’t want to end up like the Hawks, with the best team in the NHL, until you have to strip off key pieces to stay inside the cap.

    There has to be no more home town giveaways, ala Horc, Pisani and Moreau, and as few FAs as possible, as they are always over-pays, ala Wideman or closer to home Souray and Khabi to name just a few. Those bloated, overly long, overly generous contracts will kill us down the line.

    The lads have to be thinking on a number and term for all the Fab 4 and pondering asking them to accept a little less to stay together as Detroit has done and the Oil once did in the days of the evil Peter Puck.

    So what should we offer Hall and Eberle next year? The longer the term the less the yearly cost, but the greater the risk of being sideswiped by injuries. You have to know this is an intense focus of front office planning but people say very, very little about it because it is business, which is boring. But unless they get it right, and are very careful in assembling this package, the rebuild will not work out as we all hope it will.

    Your thoughts please Nationalistas.

    • Wax Man Riley

      But really, so much will depend on the new CBA. Who knows if there will limits to term, or dollars, cap hits, ELC rules etc…

      Looking at the current roster, the Oilers have 20 players under contract, and almost $20M in cap space. considering RNH, Hall, and Yakupov are making $3.775M (takes cap down to $15.5 since Yak isn’t signed yet) and Ebs makes only $1.15 and is due a raise….

      Add, what $14M for their raises (all making aroung $6.5-ish)… takes us to the cap… kinda scary, not to mention raises to Dubnyk, Gagner, defence….

  • nuge2drai

    Oilers Domination to Follow –

    Hall 10 Years – 56 Million|
    Eberle 10 Years 54 Million|
    Hopkins 10 Years 55 Million|
    Yakupov 10 Years 60 Million|

    Hall +1.8, Eberle +3.8, RNH +1.7, Yak +2.2
    | Horcoff -5.5, Khabibulan -3.75, Souray -1.5 —————– FOUR Franchise players locked up for 10 years, while gaining +1.25 Million in cap space = PRICELESS

  • nuge2drai

    Nice guy that lacks clarity , and not very convincing or seemingly confident in what he says a lot of the time . Quite different in that regard from Kreuger . Does many things well , but questionable when it comes to trades and assessments occasionally .

  • Wax Man Riley

    Did we try for Derek Roy?? If not, someone’s not doing they’re job… We could’ve gave Gagner n Ben Eager, I’m sure they would have much rather taken that than Ott n Pardy.. We also would’ve got the exact proven second line center we need, for only and extra million or so.. Our top 6 couldve been Hall, Hopkins, Eberle, Yakupov, Hemsky, and Roy… Could’ve had the best top 6 in the league!!

    We also should’ve made a play for Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust to get some actual players with size..

  • jimmyc

    Great read Robin, I agree that the Smyth-Hordi signings are important as we continue to build something special here.
    Thanks alos for your “sit back and wait” with Shultz…I’m with you, he looks can’t miss but time will tell. I wish others in your business would take the high road once in a while and stop professing their”expert” knowledge of the game and team (oops, did I say Bob Stauffer??)

  • Wax Man Riley

    I just get the feeling that Tambo is a talking head; that he doesn’t actually make the decisions, and if he does have an original thought, he has to swing it by KLow, and (now) MacT.

    Why wasn’t he in on the Schultz wooing?

    Why doesn’t he ever go somewhere or appear in Oil Change without Lowe hovering over his shoulder?

    Why does he say he has to assess things and run them by Lowe to see what he thinks?

    The guy reminds me of watching G.W.Bush speak. He is regurgitating words, and putting off any real answers until he can check what the higher-ups think.

    Is this what happens in every organization? I just imagine Burke, or Holland, or Poille making a decision and dong it, not saying “Hey boss, I was thinking about maybe asking this player if, umm, maybe he would like to come, ummm, what do you think, ummm, boss?”

  • Wax Man Riley

    Its possible Tambelini forgot, or missed the plane to Toronto, so he missed the Schultz presentation.[joke] He still needs to address one more D man, as I am not confident Whitney, can ever be Whitney again. Need a big center man, and one other tough good skating winger.
    [ Eager should be this guy, but has ham hands around the net. He could be a good skating Penner, with some development] Penner was a slug here, but making $3.5 in L.A. , theyll be sorry.

  • ANDY

    I agree completly! Tambo is K-lo’s yes-man. However, imo, “they” made some pretty good moves in the last free-agent-frenzy. On paper, it looked like they made this team better. (clearly, the next GM of the oil is MacT)