While it’s up to debate exactly how long the Edmonton Oilers have been in a full-on rebuild and it makes for interesting speculation what the 2012-13 edition of the Oilers might become, there’s no question the team fans see here and now has been built by Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini.
For the last 12 NHL seasons (counting 2012-13), including the previous six in which the Oilers failed to qualify the playoffs, Lowe and Tambellini have been at the helm as GM – Tambellini is entering his fifth season in the big chair after taking over for the 2008-09 season from Lowe, who was GM from 2000-01 to 2007-08.
Simply put, for better or worse, the team Edmonton fans see today is the team Lowe and Tambellini have assembled. Every player on the roster now, save for Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff, who were drafted by Glen Sather in 1994 and 1998, respectively, has been drafted or otherwise acquired (via trade or free agency) by Lowe and Tambellini. This is their team.
With Horcoff and Smyth the only remnants from the Sather era, an ownership change from the EIG to Rexall billionaire Daryl Katz and Craig MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney and, now, Ralph Krueger having served as head coaches since 2000-01, what you see now and what this team becomes in the next three or four years has Lowe’s and Tambellini’s fingerprints all over it.
So, here we are.
BY THE NUMBERS
Lowe’s seven-year tenure as GM produced a thrill ride to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final and playoff appearances in 2001 and 2003 (both first-round exits). Lowe’s teams made the playoffs three times. In a span of 574 regular season games, the Oilers recorded 263 wins. Here’s a look at the numbers season by season:
SEASON RECORD PTS OVERALL
2000-01: 39-28-12-3 93 12th
2001-02: 38-28-12-4 92 15th
2002-03: 36-26-11-9 92 14th
2003-04: 36-29-12-5 89 17th
2005-06: 41-28-13 95 14th
2006-07: 32-43-7 71 25th
2007-08: 41-35-6 88 19th
With Lowe promoted to president of hockey operations, Tambellini was named GM of the Oilers July 31, 2008. In four full seasons since then, a span of 350 regular season games, the Oilers have won 130 of those games, missing the playoffs for four straight years. The Oilers are 8-9-5 through 22 games so far this season. By the numbers:
SEASON RECORD PTS OVERALL
2008-09 38-35-9 85 21st
2009-10 27-47-8 62 30th
2010-11 25-45-12 62 30th
2011-12 32-40-10 74 29th
2012-13 8-9-5 21 23rd
So, after six straight years out of the post-season, what constitutes adequate progress in the rebuild? Do the Oilers need to make the playoffs? That’s a feat many prognosticators thought possible. Just as many pundits expected the Oilers to be in contention for a post-season berth this year with an abbreviated 48-game schedule, but to come up short.
How close is close enough? What if the Oilers are out of the post-season running for all intents and purposes by the end of this nine-game road trip? What if they finish in the bottom five yet again? Should Lowe lose his job? Does Tambellini have to go? I’m guessing there is, and will continue to be, plenty of debate on both fronts.
Given the record over the previous 11 seasons and what I’m seeing play out so far this season, I know what I’d do if I was signing the cheques in Edmonton and I didn’t have a playoff race on my hands right down to the wire – Lowe and Tambellini would be relieved of their duties.
That call, of course, belongs to Katz, and, given his relationship with Lowe, I don’t see that happening. Tambellini, coming off an underwhelming two-year extension as a mandate, will be the fall guy if there is one. That could open the door for MacTavish, now the senior vice-president of hockey operations, but that’s an item for another day.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.