Edmonton Oilers

Craig MacTavish has the title of vice-president of hockey operations in his third go-round with the Edmonton Oilers. I don’t think it’ll be more than a season or two until he’s general manager, and I’m betting he’ll be good at it.

I can’t put my finger on an exact over/under as to when the former Oiler captain and coach, hired this summer to work alongside president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, will take over from current boss Steve Tambellini, but I see it happening. I don’t have any inside information on this, it’s just a gut-feeling. I’m guessing I’m not alone.

I know Tambellini just got a contract extension – we haven’t been told what the term is – but I can see one more season out of the playoffs, which is more of a probability than a possibility, being enough to trigger a shuffle at the top with Tambellini moving out and MacT moving in.

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For me, this isn’t so much a dump-on-Tambellini bit, which is like shooting fish in a barrel around here, as it is recognition of ties that bind, and those ties between the Oilers and MacTavish, starting with owner Daryl Katz and Lowe at the very top of the food chain, are undeniable.


As far back as their playing days with the Oilers and the New York Rangers, Lowe and MacTavish shared what-ifs about what it might be like to coach and manage a team together. They’ve already done that, of course, but my sense is there’s an encore coming.

Even if the Oilers show substantial improvement this year and push for a playoff spot, which seems more than reasonable, under Tambellini, I think it’ll play out that MacTavish will be calling the shots, in tandem with Lowe, by the time the Oilers are actually back in the playoffs. What, 2013-14?

Tambellini is an outsider and the history of this organization – the Once an Oiler, always an Oiler mantra – suggests that’ll always be the case. Outsiders, be it Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Scott Howson, Rob Daum or Ralph Krueger, come and go. Insiders, like Lowe, MacTavish, Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith, come and go, then come back again. That’s how it goes.

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MacT as GM? It’s a matter of time.


Aside from the NHL and NHLPA settling into to hammer out a new CBA, which is obviously no small matter, there is precious little else going on around the hockey world. One need only look at the headlines on national websites like TSN and Sportsnet to see that.

. . . “Owen Nolan to host fishing, hunting show” I’d rather watch Steve MacIntyre host a show about hunting bears with nothing but his bare hands.

. . . “Canucks’ Malhotra to participate in Vancouver pride parade” Political statement or does Malhotra have something to tell us?

. . . “Jets promote Simmons to assistant GM” Now, if we’re talking Gene Simmons or Richard Simmons, you’ve got a news item. Sadly, no. The Jets have promoted Larry Simmons. You know, Larry Simmons, right?

. . . “Report: Tiger’s ex-wife dating San Jose Shark” Apparently, Elin Nordegren is boffing Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray. Glad to see Elin tearing it up a bit after bashing in Tiger’s teeth with a three-iron (she must have liked the look).

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I think it’s time NHL teams accept that non-MSM bloggers are here to stay and start issuing them press credentials and granting access to players.

“Hey, Darcy, I’m doing a story on goons and knuckle-draggers and I’d like to talk to you . . .” Or “Taylor, I think the Oilers made a big mistake burning the first year of your ELC in 2010-11 and I’d like your thoughts on the big picture I’m painting here . . .” Or “Nuge, screw the boxcars and PPG, your QUALCOMP/real Corsi/something something numbers prove beyond a doubt Gabriel Landeskog deserved the Calder Trophy. Whaddaya say?”

Move aside, spineless MSM fartcatchers. Now the tough questions can be asked and the truth finally be told. I’d pay to see it.


. . . The Bronte 5000 pegs Jordan Eberle at 29-38-67 for 2012-13. And yes, the software has been updated since I had everybody on the Edmonton roster except Laddy Smid scoring 40 points in the Lucky 13 Pool two seasons ago.

. . . Buchberger has been an assistant coach through the tenures of MacTavish, Quinn and Renney. Now, he’ll ride shotgun for Krueger. To borrow from an infamous text message, “Bucky isn’t going anywhere.”

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

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  • Stack Pad Save

    Okay, I don’t want to be heavy handed here, but the little joke about Malhotra maybe being gay because he marched in the Vancouver gay pride is inappropriate.
    First of all, I don’t give a crap about Malhotra’s sexual orientation. Second, he marched with a member of the Burke family, as part of Brain Burke’s initiative to encourage gay hockey players to come out and straight players to accept them. These kind of jokes belong in the trash bin with anti-gay AIDS ‘jokes.’
    Brian Burke can be a jerk, but the way he has stood up for his son’s legacy is very admirable. It is 2012 folks. Lets move on.

    • You are being heavy handed. There is no joke and there is no punchline. Like you, I don’t care if Malhotra is gay or not. Doesn’t matter a bit.

      If it’s a political statement only, I applaud it, just as I do Burke’s initiatives. If it’s something more, good for him. It is 2012 but the fact no active NHL player — from a group that numbers 700 or so in any given season — has come out says something about the hockey/sporting world as a whole.

  • The Soup Fascist

    RB, A couple of concerns with your article. The “Time to Mow the Lawn” headline is an obvious reference to my manscaping issues and I take great offence to your mentioning it in an article. Secondly, your portrayal of young Elin wielding a 3-iron is an affront to models, Scandanavians and in fact ALL WOMEN. Plus, it is an obvious slight to your Doppleganger, Jack Nicholson who required a nine-iron to smash a windshield while Elin managed to cause an SUV to topple with an iron that is much harder to master.

    So Brownlee, on behalf of all supermodels, Scandanavians, women, golfers, Dopplegangers, crazy actors, SUV drivers and Manscapers – straighten up and fly right!

    To quote Nigel Powers: “There’s only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures and the Dutch.”

    Lighten up people!

  • The Soup Fascist

    Thanks to The Fish and Pouzar 99 for pointing out to us lowly ON readers what is appropriate or what is funny.

    Huge Will Ferrel fan. Very likely “pedestrian” to the highbrow crowd and certainly inappropriate (the “pole position”comment in Talladegha Nights is quite a shocker). I shall burn the DVDs (not many books to burn at my place) immediately.

    This is a freakin hockey website that occasionally delves into beer, chicks and politically incorrect commments. Please get over yourselves.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Ya that’s all I want is to see guys from Hockeybuzz that can’t tell their arse from their hole access to NHLers.

    As for Mac, try find the episode of Debrusk on wildtv. He’s buddy has a bad shot at a bear and instead of being careful he runs after the bear into the bush. Oh ya, he used a bow and not a gun.

    • There’s a lot of talented writers out there without formal journalism training or MSM credentials. I also see value in using some advanced stats to supplement what we see inside the rink.

      That said, there’s a big difference between running the numbers and drawing conclusions at arm’s length as an outside observer and working in NHL dressing rooms and press boxes. I’d like to see some of the conclusions and theories under live fire where those being written about can have their say.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        I agree to some degree, but I can see things ending badly and the current relationships between players/coaches/gm’s/whoever and MSM being hurt.

        Letting people speak their mind when they have no repercussions isn’t going to end well.

  • geoilersgist

    I’m no english major but it doesn’t take half a brain to realize what RB was saying. Why do people come on here just to hate on the writers?? If you don’t like what is being written go somewhere else or start your own blog…

  • vetinari

    If Tambi does get let go sometime this season, I would hire Renney to give Tambi his dismissal notice through interpretive dance… after an appropriate period of reflecting on the decision, of, say 4 to 6 weeks.

  • Guggenheim

    Buchberger has been an assistant coach through the tenures of MacTavish, Quinn and Renney. Now, he’ll ride shotgun for Krueger. To borrow from an infamous text message, “Bucky isn’t going anywhere.”

    Bucky is our version of that weird brother that Ron Howard has in all his movies…

  • Quicksilver ballet

    A few here appear to be a little tightly wound up for a Friday before a long weekend. Most of us here enjoy a little more relaxed atmosphere here on ON. A place were you can click on and undo the top button on your shirt and let your tie out a bit and enjoy a beverage.

    Screw the MSM guidelines. If i wanted another imperfect product i’d buy the Sun or the Journal and get the news a day late all the time.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I don’t know what you do to relax but I am here for hockey stuff, not jokes I literally used to make in junior high. If you’re going to make bigoted statements be like CK Lewis and Chris Rock. Ironic.

      This is why bloggers don’t get access, no accountability for saying silly things.

      i just hope this doesn’t become a thing with Robin, I really enjoy his articles. It’s like when Grandpa says something racist. WHY GRANDPA WHY! He’s such a JEW!

      • Quicksilver ballet

        It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re from, if there’s blood in your veins, there’s surely an element of hate in you. Everyone of us has an element of discomfort, areas we’d rather not go.

        Some go to the ends of the earth keeping up appearances but at the end of the day there’s something tucked away in the depths of all our hearts best not shared.

        I know of only one man who walked the walk and talked the talk, and he died over 2012 years ago.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I march in the gay pride parade in support of my good friends who are gay. As far as my wife or I know, I’m not gay.

    Let’s not get too concerned about any of this.

    Instead, let’s make fun of how the Sun is a laughably bad newspaper.

  • I don’t think Tambi is in control right now. I think he is the current face and voice and the one that is there to take the heat on the tough decisions.

    I can guarantee he is not authorized to make personnel, or contract decsions before discussing with the “management team.” I am sure he is able to voice his ideas, thoughts and opinions but Lowe signs his cheques and he trusts Mact’s opinions more.

  • Jason Gregor

    I love reading about hockey during the summer months, but . . .

    It should be a hard and fast rule that every article posted here in the time from the Stanley Cup Parade Day to the opening of training camp be illustrated with pictures of beautiful women. No hockey people whatsoever.

    Compare the images in this story for gawd’s sake.

      • DSF

        Don’t understand your point, Jason
        I want more girl pics in the summer. Less pictures of Kevin Lowe.
        My comment, if read correctly, has nothing to do with the content of this story, actually. Just a general light-hearted comment on pictures being used.

        Have no idea who the girl is in the picture.

        I guess with so much gay support/gay bashing in this set of posts, my tongue-in-cheek call for more pictures of beautiful women in the summer months is called “inaccurate bitching.”

        Did you misread my post Jason, or are you just being a dick on Positive Friday.?

  • Coming from an industry that saw the print/TV-to-online transition a decade ago, I think you and I both know better than that about those “softball” questions that get tossed.

    Ultimately you, like I, am a parasite of my industry and whether I’m a parasite-by-proxy (via a major media conglomerate) or a direct parasite, we thrive only when our host thrives.

    You may actually think you’ll be asking the Oilers hard questions if you get issued a press pass and given full access as a blogger, but you won’t. Ask questions like that, no matter how politely, and pretty soon you won’t get answers. The pass may give you permission to be there, it may give you the right to shout out a question, it may even include some sort of provisions that your questions have to be answered every so often, but you’re going to get 110% team game all about the team all praise the team answers if you act like a dick.

    I’m not saying that some bloggers don’t deserve press credentials, but as soon as you get them, the relationship changes. You have to start dealing with these people day to day and once that happens, you lose the capability to coldly and analytically cut them apart in print because they will stop responding to you in any meaningful fashion. Or you’ll end up as Larry Brooks to their John Tortorella.

  • Handing the reigns to MacT will be a disaster. What this team needs is a fresh perpsective, which can only be acheived by punting the entire management team. KLowe has been in charge through this whole process and its been a disaster. Tambo only knows player development systems, cause that’s what he did in Vancouver. Other than that, the guy has zero origonal ideas to go with Lowe’s bad ones. So, why would we think bringing in a guy who thinks like Lowe is going to improve things?

    Naive to the extreme or spent WAY too much time drinking the boys on the bus brand kool-aid.

  • Reality Check to the head

    I love how the Oilers look to finally be approaching respectability and now MacT looks to be the heir-apparent. Sure, lets allow an “outsider” to go through the losing and when the ship is finally turning around, lets bring in one of the good ol’ boys to reap the rewards. Reminds me of what Renney said when he first got hired. The rebuilding coach is rarely around for the finished product (paraphrasing). Looks like that will happen with Tambo.

    • Stack Pad Save

      I could be mistaken but I believe the same thing happened with the GM’s for Pittsburgh and Chicago with the GM who got all the draft picks and selected well was not the GM in the season they won their cups. It makes sense, incompetent GM creates a bad team, lucks out at the draft, or by shear impossibility of failing by having so many opportunities to draft high restocks the shelves. Owner then goes and fires incompetent GM and replaces him with a person that knows what they are doing and that GM makes good decisions to help win a cup.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        In PIT and CHI case it didn’t matter who the GM was they had incompetent ownership that couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the price to dress a competitive team.

  • Stack Pad Save

    My take… I think RB was poking fun at the media a little with the Malhotra comment and the others. News in the NHL is so slow the MSM might have to dig up some angles on nothing stories.

  • Danny Donkey

    I am not saying MacT will be a bad GM but it is really troubling to me that Oilers managmenet continues to hire Oiler alumni. They are basically doing what Montreal is doing with having to hire francophones as GM’s and coaches. If you handcuff yourself by only looking at specific people and not from the entire pool of talent your limiting your chances of success. The message clearly seems to be regarless of whether you fail or succeed, if your an Oiler alum, the Oilers will look after you. Doesn’t appear to be any accountablility within the organziation.