Golden Slumbers

This is Nail Yakupov. From what I can tell his first name sounds more like ‘Nile’ than ‘Nail’ but I’m uncertain if that’s artistic license or there’s an actual trick to the pronounciation. Yakupov is dynamic–Taylor Hall dynamic–but for Oiler fans the thought of another appearance by Steve Tambellini at the draft lottery, another set of draft parties on a Friday night in June, another trip to the podium to announce "the Edmonton Oilers are proud to select" is almost too much to take.

The pinnacle of an NHL season is supposed to happen in spring, not summer. Right?

It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to know the Oilers are overmatched. Last night’s effort was poor, to the point where even positive Tom Renney was disgruntled. However, it’s also true that much of the starting 20 are either on the sidelines or hobbled by injury. Although the current Oilers looked pretty vacant last night, we need to also consider:

  • RNH is on the sidelines. The kid is a PP savant and it’s no coincidence the well has run dry since his gifts have been sidelined.
  • Jordan Eberle future captain is also injured. The young man has come to represent all that is right with the Oilers: youth, skill and a sense of what is to come. Losing Eberle was huge.
  • Tom Gilbert is not appreciated in his own time but any fool can see this blue is exposed more without him.
  • Ryan Whitney hasn’t been healthy in a long time. If you read Robin Brownlee’s articles here at ON about Whitney dating back many months the story comes clear: this is a man who is not worried about just the last 35 games of this season but in fact has his career flashing before his eyes. Expecting anything from him now is a non-starter, but the current Oilers were put together with Whitney as a major item.
  • Shawn Horcoff is (imo) injured or tired or both. Horc has once again been used like a rented mule with zone starts, tough opponents and miles of back checking on the menu. It’s a tough job and he hasn’t been up to it for quite awhile now.
  • Ryan Smyth has faded a little after an enormous start. Smyth’s wonderful media interviews remain the same (Ryan Smyth is a gem, we all know that, right? The Hansons are in town tonight for the Oil King game. The Hansons probably wanted to be Ryan Smyth before Ryan Smyth!)
  • Nikolai Khabibulin has come down to earth. Predictable but devastating to a team that needed historic goaltending all the same.

So as much as I understand the frustration, there are reasons for the falloff. Some of us suggested this was not a team that would push for the playoffs (my guess was 13th in the conference, 27th overall) and the club has in fact improved in some areas (goal differential although that’s sinking by farenheit and by celcius). The injuries have hurried sundown, but the Oilers left the station with a lack of balance and too few actual NHL players.

WHAT SHOULD THE OILERS DO?

There seems to be a sense that the Oilers will make some moves in regard to management over the summer. Fans I talk to and follow on twitter are more upset today than they have been at any time since the rebuild began (the current re-rebuild started about Feb 2010 by my estimate).

There has been next to zero in terms of rumors or rumblings about Steve Tambellini getting fired or Tom Renney being on his way out. Mark Spector wrote a piece the other day that brought things into focus–both coach and GM are apparently without contract after this season–but the Oilers are not known as being an organization that moves quickly in these areas. An example would be the Ales Hemsky contract negotiations; the first time I’ve heard anything in regard to those was also this week when Darren Dreger mentioned it on tsn.

The Edmonton Oilers MAY shuffle the deck a little, they have done that many times over the years (shuffling Prendergast and elevating MacGregor, shuffling Lowe and adding Tambellini) but this is not an organization that fires people in the front office often.

If you’re asking me, I do think the Oilers may shuffle things over the summer. My guess is that Tom Renney stays, Stu MacGregor becomes more independent of the GM in regard to the draft and Steve Tambellini’s role is more clearly defined as a "professional development" role similar to the job Prendergast filled before leaving the organization. 

I believe it is possible that Kevin Lowe, Mike Sillinger and Todd Nelson may be in different roles come summer time and that (as Woodguy suggested to me this week) Craig MacTavish may find his way back into the organization in a prominent role.

That’s my guess, which along with a dollar fifty will get you an XL double bouble at Timmy’s. I have no contacts within or without the organization and with the exception of conversations with people like Woodguy, listening to the radio and reading the Al Gore no other reference point. Someone like Brownlee or Jason Gregor would be far more connected on something like this and I’d encourage you to read and listen to them for updates.

I don’t think the Katz ownership will see a lot of knee jerk reaction, and anything done in the front office or coaching office today would certainly run counter to the way they’ve done business since taking over.

Changes may come in spring, but I don’t think they will be of the variety many Oiler fans are looking for this morning.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The Edmonton Oilers put themselves on an island once the word "rebuild" went public. Rebuilds sometimes work, often don’t but that meeting they had with season ticket holders has had an enormous impact on the organization and its fans. Apparently "fix it, but do it right" can have several meanings.

The disconnect between fanbase and organization appears to be growing, but it’s my guess we’re miles from anyone seeing the unemployment line.

Nation Radio hits the air today at noon Edmonton time on Team 1260. I’d love to hear from you, seems to me Oiler fans would like to say something today and this is a chance for public exposure for your views. You can email nationratio@theteam1260.com or leave comments in this post; there are two twitter accounts available: @ItsNationRadio and @lowetide_

Guests today:

  • Scott Taylor from Jets Nation. I believe that Pavelec had been playing goal for the ’90 Jets Edmonton doesn’t win the Stanley. I’ll ask Scott if he agrees and we’ll review the homestand and look forward to the road trip.
  • Kent Simpson, commentator for the Edmonton Oil Kings on Team 1260. The Hanson’s are in town tonight and we’ll talk SLAP SHOT!, the Oil Kings and their chances and I’ll ask Kent about what coach Tom Renney will be saying to his Oilers these days.
  • Kent Wilson from Flames Nation. We’ll talk about Jay Feaster’s attempt to both compete despite flaws and to hold on to the future. The Bourque-Cammalleri trade may also come up in discussion.
  • David Staples from the Cult of Hockey. David has a unique view on the Oilers and doesn’t back down from a conversation day or night. We’ll talk about this year’s model of the Oilers and discuss the trade deadline, the future of management and owner Daryl Katz and his role in helping the fanbase figure out just what is going on.
  • Thomas Drance from Canucks Army. I’ll attempt to interview Thomas without getting looted. Among the topics of discussion: are the Bruins running the Canucks show?

Hope you tune in.

  • RexLibris

    Looking at the defensive core of this team, I’m thinking that Tambellini could go after (of course) Ryan Suter, but also Matt Carle, Johnny Boychuk and Willie Mitchell. Were he to sign one of the bigger names (Boychuk or Suter) or the two lesser-lights they could then move Peckham for a pick or prospect. My guess is that his time here is quickly coming to a close. I’d like to see Petry and Plante here next season with limited minutes. That would give you a defensive lineup with one of either Boychuk or Suter (I know it’s a longshot to sign one, but perhaps “HOPE” sells as well with some players as it does with some fans) as well as Whitney (I’m assuming that he comes back to play about 50 games next season), Gilbert, Smid, Plante, Petry and Potter. Were the Oilers to draft a defenceman (even if it is Ryan Murray) I would like to see them keep that player in junior for one more year (barring AHL eligibility).

    As I have said before, I’m patient, and the Pittsburgh model may be something more of us begin to cling to (they drafted, from ’03 to ’06, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd) in order to avoid the stench of the Islanders’ comparison. Adding not only a player like Yakupov or Murray but also perhaps someone like Samuelsson or Gaunce this year if we can get another 1st rounder through trade will only help the depth of the organization.

    I’m not sold on MacTavish as a GM, but then I’m not someone with any sort of inside information. All I can say is that Katz’s stated intentions of building a management group similar to the Detroit model is one that I admire and if the intentions are good, well at least that is a step in the right direction (regardless of the old saying about the road to hell).

    As is so often said, sports is a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” business and what with these darned interwebs letting us all voice our fears and opinions it isn’t making the wait any easier. I don’t remember how long exactly the last rebuild took, with Weight and Marchant and Grier, but I remember feeling like we were always losing. Perhaps our expecations have accelerated to match our declining attention spans. I know it is stated many times, but all I can say is that we have to remember that we have a collection of young players that every GM in the league would love to pick apart like vultures. Okay, maybe except for Belanger right now, but we’re still gathering the pieces and just like people said “fix it, and get it right” means letting those prospects grow and learn the right way.

    Anyway, here endeth the rant.

  • Lowetide

    I think the names mentioned by you will be exactly the kind of players EDM will pursue. I think they’d like to do a 3-for-1 and end up with Pronger but those deals don’t come along twice a decade.

    More likely a D and a pick or prospect for a better D along the lines you’ve suggested.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    I know i’m going to be lambasted for this big time from the haters but i’m going to go ahead and say it anyways.

    Gagner for future captain. There I said it.

    My thoughts why, after last nights fight and just finished watching the skills comp on the Oilers website, this is a guy that “gets” it. Great with his teammates, has the respect and willing to stand up for his team as well.
    Even back to when thecaptainethanmoreau got waived I thought Gagner might have been a good choice to take over, even more so now. At that time he was the one leading the movember charge and I think the few years after that he’s matured even more into what could be a competent leadership role. The youth movement for captaincy is in full force in today’s NHL as well.

    I know you keep saying Hall or Eberle for future captain, why not Gagner?

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      You may have a point there with Gagner as captain. I personally would like to see Hall as captain. I think the more important thing is that they change the captaincy this coming off season. I’m not a Horcoff hater but the kids need to be given the reigns. Plus we can’t have our captain as the 3rd or 4th line centre when we’re ready to compete.

      The kids are already setting an example on the ice, let’s give them the locker room too.

  • Poolanov

    So how many more years of cellar-dwelling are you going to use injuries as an excuse while the rest of ON debates line combinations, Omark’s Corsi numbers or how Gagner outscores his draft classmates. As long as management, coaching, the media and the fanbase keep taking style over substance, the Oilers will continually field a team of junior superstars. This is the NHL, not the World Junior Championships, and it’s pretty obvious that, after several years of ineptitude, this franchise does not know how to turn boys into men. There are systemic issues here that go beyond a few injuries, line combinations or bad bounces.

    What should the Oilers do? Hire someone in the front office who has a clue.

  • people who think that the oilers have improved are brainwashed we have three reallygood forwards and we all know who they are. Horcoff who is our captain is useless, can someone tell me the last time we seen horcoff throw a hit. Why couldnt he have have started scrapping with beauchemin instead of gagner, is gagner stronger than horcoff, I dont think horoff could be anyworse in the fight. We have 4 wins in our last 21 games and 8 in our last 31, that is disgusting, lots of improvemebt their. Heres another question if the oilers point total are worse than last year does that mean theyimproved.

  • Just f&*king shoot me if MacTavish comes back. No more “boys on the bus”. No more Kevin Lowe cronies.

    If Katz wants to change management, great. But them go out and find whomever is the best damn qualfied GM out there and get that person.

    Failing that, get Patrick Roy. At least he would be interesting.