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.

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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.


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:


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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

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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:


2008-09  38-35-9    85     21st

2009-10  27-47-8    62    30th

2010-11  25-45-12   62    30th

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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.

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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.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    When tambellini gets fired he’ll simply put on a set of Groucho Marx glasses and reapply for the job.

    Nothing changes untill it’s Lowe. Everything else is just fluff.

  • justDOit

    This organization has developed a losing culture and the people responsible for it are Lowe and Tambellini. They have to go. A change in culture begins at the top and until a significant change in upper management occurs, the losing will continue.

  • Bonvie

    I don’t blame Tambi; I don’t trust that he has full authority or even enough authority to truly run this team.

    KLowe loves this team, that I truly believe. I’m unsure if he is the man for the job. I don’t have a reasonable solution to fix the problem though.

    It does scare me that KLowe’s motto is “Expect the Unexpected”. Isn’t that something Michael Scott from THE OFFICE would have as a mission statement?

  • toprightcorner

    problem started with Lowe after the last lock out. did a great thing and got Pronger but everyone else they started adding was small skilled players as they felt with the new rules of preventing holding, hooking and the trap. He was quoted saying that to succeed in the new league was to have speed and offensive talent. Shremp, Omark, Mike York, Bergeron, Salmalenin, Nedved, Peca, Samsanov, Thorenson, Nielson, Sykora, Pouliet,Peterson, Cogliano, Sanderson, Gagner, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, OSullivan, Reddox, Visnovsky, Brule, Fraser, Belanger, Lander, Barker, Whitney, Paajarvi, Comrie,

    These are guys added under the rein of Lowe and Tambo. these guys are either small or not grit (based on hits) This does not include Horcoff or Smyth, neither big, or the top skilled players we currently have. These are the support players that we have added.

    The culture of the type of player we get has not changed from Lowe’s time as GM which leads me to believe that Tambo is likely told to follow that same culture. If someone in management leaves and it does not include both Tambo and Lowe, we will be stuck in the same rut we have been for over 10 years, easy to play against.

    I would give Tambo until after the trade deadline next season. After that if he has not added the grit and size we need, replace him. If he does fill those spots with quality people, then he buys himself a couple more years imo.

  • toprightcorner

    All valid points.

    But other than that, its all good.

    Keep saying that in two years, 7 or 8 players from the current roster won’t be here.

    We’ll draft a big center this year, pick up a UFA like Ryan Clowe, Klefbom will join the roster, we’ll move Hemsky, Whitney and a prospect and pick up a top 2 D-man and then when that’s all done we’ll finally go out and buy us a Pronger.

    Really… hard can it be??

  • ScottieA

    This management team keeps missing the boat. We should’ve traded some young guys for Shea Weber – then we would be way up in the standings like Nashville. I mean they are a full 2 points ahead of us ~

    Missing out on Parise and Suter was a bonehead move too. What a difference 14 mil a year is making for them. They are way up in the standings compared to us ~

    What moves is everyone so upset that Tambo hasn’t done? I mean, can we please move on from Khabby and Horcoff? ( neither are in the lineup )

    • GVBlackhawk

      Overpaid Khabby in dollars and term.

      Overpaid Dubnyk in dollars.

      Signed Cam Barker.

      Overpaid Sutton in dollars.

      Overpaid Potter in term.

      Overpaid Ben Eager in term.

      Overpaid Gilbert Brule in dollars and term.

      Prematurely rushed prospects like Gagner, Nilsson, Cogliano, Paajarvi, etc.

      Did not recognize Whitney’s inability to skate and kept him on the roster.

      Traded N.Schultz for Gilbert even up, when it is obvious that puck moving Dmen are worth more.

      Traded Eric Cole for Patrick O’Sullivan.

      The Sheldon Souray debacle.

      That’s just off the top of my head. If I took 10 minutes, I could create a more comprehensive list of the bungling that has occurred.

    • Word to the Bird

      It’s not a matter of blockbuster moves. It’s a matter of addressing needs, which time and time again Tambellini has proven he isn’t capable of.

      • Eddie Shore

        I agree on the blockbuster part. But what move should Tambo be doing? What trade in the last two years did he “miss” on. And how does anyone know he didn’t try to make a trade and other teams didn’t simply say ” No thanks – we don’t want what you are offering”

        The oilers are dealing from a point of weakness right now. The vultures are circling right now and no one is going to trade our garbage for a shotgun to fix the problem.. This is still a work in progress and no one could do a bang up job with what we have at this point.( unless you trade our young guys’ – which I am not willing to do yet )

        The problem seem’s alot of people ( not everyone ) have passed judgement on Tambo and Lowe and just spew out insult’s and negativity and have completely lost touch with reality. It is getting old for some of us.

        • I’m not so sure people questioning the ability of Lowe and Tambellini to take this franchise forward have lost touch with reality.

          The record over the previous 11 years is there for all to see in black and white. That’s pretty real, no?

          As you point out, it’s foolish to think (or to want) Tambellini to try to make sweeping changes in the span of a few weeks or months because the team is struggling — that truly is a position of weakness.

          But why is the team in that position? And who has built the team that’s in this position over the past 11 seasons? Lowe and Tambellini. This is their baby from top to bottom. Period.

          • I am not saying everything smells like peach’s and rose’s so I understand the frustation.

            But what Lowe and Tambo did in the past isn’t really the problem now. we can debate until the cows come home – what if ” we traded for Perry or drafted Doan ” . We don’t own the oilers so if Katz doesn’t want to hold Lowe responsible for the past, there is nothing we can do. I am more worried about ” what have you done for me lately ? ”

            Right now my main concern is the lack of heart and drive among our player’s, not what kind of name I can call Tambellini.

          • ScottieA

            Robin, I am so glad that you have come forward to say something about this. It takes takes the stones that some within the Edmonton sports media don’t have in order to call out this management team. From the bottom of the heart of an absolutely frustrated Oilers fan, THANK YOU.

            As for the comment about people questioning Tambi/KLowe’s ability to take this team forward having lost touch with reality, I would argue that it seems in many cases management has been the one who has lost touch with it.

          • Phixieus666

            Regardless of their records as GMs, which is aweful, the fact remains that they even did the rebuild wrong. I would have to put a little more blame on Lowe than Tambo because Tambo was told to tear it down and build it slow. So his wins-losses really don’t matter too much up until now.

            The Fact is if they were doing a full scale rebuild. All the Vets should have been removed from the equation right off the bat. Then you bring the young guys in to take over the team. Then you find the appropriate Vets to create a supporting cast. Stauffer has touched on it a number of times and I fully agree with him. The only person that seems to do things right is Stu but at the same time, is it really that hard to pick the first overall in the draft.

          • Hair bag

            I find it interesting that you talk of records from 12yrs ago but fail to recognize the issues they were dealing with at the time ie low Canadian dollar, ownership group that didn’t have the money to spend to keep the quality players we did have, in later years the Pronger situation – there have been a lot of factors that have come into play over the years that would have sewered the efforts of the best, most creative gm’s in the league. I’m not convinced that the current group is the answer but I think they have until next year to prove they are on the right track. If the Oilers aren’t playoff bound next season everyone in mgmt should be gone…imo

        • He missed out on Jordan Tootoo, why Tootoo? If you look at Tootoo’s numbers they are almost a mirror image of Ryan Jones.

          He hits more, fights more, is a huge pest, will make less then what Jones will ask for, and players know when he’s on the ice, will play on the forth line.

          Ryan Jones plays on our second line and gets significantly more ice time……Nuff said there.

          Steve Ott, could have had him as well, need these type of players badly.

          Picking up Brown for a draft pick when other players were available for free.

          This is not the first instance of this, there was Barker and Sutton both of whom were given inflated deals.

          This is called orginizational incompetence, for instance it would be ok if things happen once, but this is a repeated offense ether the GM isn’t listening to his scouting staff, or the scouting staff isn’t giving the right information.

          Passing on a R handed defensmen when your carrying Potter, Whitney, Peckham, screams tanking! Hamrlik is a clear upgrade, so when the Oilers talk bout pushing for a playoff spot you have to think its lip service or they really have zero idea.

          I choose the later.

          • bleedingoil

            steve Ott is one of my favourite players and would love him on the oilers. What do you mean by “he could have been had “? You know that Tambo didn’t try to get him, or do you mean he didn’t offer them enough? Or in your frustration you are just assuming he didn’t try?

            You should get your own radio show as you seemed very connected to what happens in the Oilers head office. You could knock Stauffer out of his job.

            by the way – Cole was a COMPLETE bust and I was glad to see him go.

          • Eddie Shore

            Jones had 17 and 18 goals in his last two years while Tootoo had 8 and 6.

            Also, Potter is a right handed shot and Hamrlik shoots left.

            I question Tambellini as a GM as well but at least use facts in your arguments.

  • GVBlackhawk

    One thing everyone is forgetting. The last 3 years we are losing hockey games on purpose. We are rebuilding through the draft. This year is the first year were management said they need to compete for the playoffs.

    Personally, I say we judge management with the moves they have made from the start of last off season.

    • geoilersgist

      I mostly agree with you except I am pretty sure thats what they said at the start of last year as well and we all know how that turned out.

      This season has pretty well turned me away from watching any games. Its too bad the lockout ended.

  • geoilersgist

    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.

    *slow clap*

    *standing ovation*

    Thank you for putting that out there.

    Hopefully others in the MSM will start asking why progress isn’t happening as well and who is responsible.

    Stauffer said on his show the other day that Horcoff (didn’t name him, but it was clear) is holding the kids back and contributing to a culture of losing.

    I think that’s total horsesh*t.

    The culture of losing (if there is one) starts at the top.

    They rifle through players and coaches, but the name at the top, and their results, haven’t changed.

  • geoilersgist

    Ah yes, it’s true this management squad can not compare to the might Glen Sather, who this year has built an impenetrable juggernaught of a team who is currently demolishing all who stand in their way.

    Crucial and insightful moves such as hiring Ray Emery, drafting Toews and Kane, and what’s that? Oh Glen Sather isn’t the GM of the Chicago Black Hawks? Well surely the team he has built this year must be some kind of standings leading powerhouse? They are barely in 8th place? And the have Rick Nash, a Vezna goalie, Brad Richards, and a host of other super stars all through their line up. Basically the team everyone is saying the Oilers should be.


    No excuses as the Oilers are playing like crap over the last few, but come one. I think anyone would say this is not the season to judge how the team was built.

    I know this article looks at the past decade, but it’s also reactionary based on where the team is sitting in the standings right now, 3 points out of a play off spot. Can someone please tell me why sitting 3 points out of a play off spot means we are on the verge of finishing in last place?

    • geoilersgist

      Because we are also 3 points out of last.

      As a side note, people always say you can’t expect to jump in the standings from last into the playoffs. What about Montreal this year? Tampa Bay a few years ago? Why are we so complacent with “losing this year is ok” or “if we get 10 more points than last year”. It is complete BS the losing is too acceptable and someone needs to pay for it. Without some changes at the top this culture isn’t going to change. The more time passes by the more I think maybe The Big Sexy wasn’t so wrong after all. Perhaps Tambellini is at fault.


      • vetinari

        To add to your point, and because all arrows in the team’s performance have been pointing down the last few weeks and when management finally makes a move, they fail to address the team’s real needs and add a fourth line plug like Mike Brown into the mix. Textbook management… if you are playing NHL97 on Playstation.

    • ScottieA

      They are three points out of last place as well, and it is easier to fall in the standings than it is to move up. They basically have to run the table in order to make the playoffs, and considering how they’ve been playing that isn’t going to happen.

      • BigE91

        That is not true, they do not have to “run the table”, just like LA making the playoffs last year, the last few spots depend just as much on other teams losing as it does one team winning.

        Yes we have to win some games, but if the top five teams start taking it out of some other teams ahead of us, and they begin o fall, then the picture is a lot different. With the Bettman point, 12 teams in the west are over .500. Considering there’s no Eastern conference match ups, that means there has been a lot of teams heading to overtime. If the stronger teams start closing out the weaker teams in regulation, and the Oilers also start closing teams out in regulation, that will affect things in a big way.

        • ScottieA

          That’s IF they start tanking. You expect me to believe that 5 teams above us are all of a sudden all going to start playing poorly? Not going to happen.

          The Oilers basically have to go 4-0 to obtain a playoff spot in the next 4 games. 3-1 just to catch up. The numbers follow a similar pattern if you go beyond the next 4 games.

          • Eddie Shore

            First of all, NHL 95 on genesis was simply the best. I can still here the checking sound effect. “Kprghragh!”

            And second, I’m not saying the Oilers don’t have to win to get into the playoffs, clearly that is the case, nor do I think 5 teams are going to start sucking all of a sudden, But maybe a few start sucking, maybe a few start scoring less, and maybe the Oilers start not only playing better, but getting on the board more meaning we break the ties.

            My main point in all of this is that we are three points from a playoff spot. When the year began and everyone wanted the team to be either in the playoffs or close to it, three points is that. Yes, we are also three points from the bottom as the west is very tight, but in no way does three points mean we are out of the playoff picture. In fact we’re kind of right where most people expected us to be.

            In my opinion we are better for one important reason: goal tending. Does anyone here believe for one second that with the talent we have at some point the Oilers are not going to start scoring a truck load of goals?

            The fact we’re three points from the bottom because of our struggles at evens is so much more encouraging than if we were there because of our struggles in net. True, defence isn’t great but there is some encouraging things there, and on the way.

          • ScottieA

            I wasn’t knocking it. I had it and almost fried the cartridge from overuse. That, and Mutant League Hockey & Football.

            All I will say is that it is not a very good bet for them to make the playoffs, and I wouldn’t hold out much hope for some sort of turnaround.

          • ScottieA

            No, I realize you weren’t knocking it, I am right there with you. Just hoping on the agreement boat in saying that game was freakin great. Possibly to my credit or sadness on of my greatest accomplishments was beating a kid 30 nothing in that game, a perfect ten goals a period.

    • DSF

      Setting up a couple of straw men does absolutely nothing to further the discussion.

      But since you have, consider that the Toronto Maple Leafs, who under Brian Burke refused a “burn it to the ground” rebuild and instead decided to make key trade and free agent acquisitions as a path to the playoffs, have made huge leap forward this season.

      Also consider that the Montreal Canadiens, who have always thought their fans deserved a winner, punted their entire management and coaching staff after ONE season in the basement and are currently leading the EC.

      This “3 points out of the playoffs” mantra is also getting very old.

      Take a look at how many teams are between the Oilers and that last playoff spot.

      The Oilers would need to have a better record than 5 other teams between them and the last playoff spot.

      As of this morning, the Oilers have a 16.9% percent chance of making the playoffs and a loss tonight would out those chances at about 12%.

      • ScottieA

        I am glad you brought Burke up, because last I checked he was fired for doing exactly what the Oilers management is currently being accused of: not enough.

        And yet look where the leafs are. If only ownership, fans and media had the patience to believe in his plan, Burke would be finally riding high this year on a team he built.

        And so here we are crucifying our management because why? Because our team is three points out of a playoff spot. However, what if we held that lead in St. Louise and won the skills competition in Columbus? That is literally a game and a skill competition between this article, and another one talking about how the team is right on track.

        Now I’m not blind, I’ve watched the team this year and personally think our record does not reflect how poor the team is. However, I’m also seeing the insane decrease in evens and points from all of our players, especially the key ones. As a stats guy yourself do you think this is where the Oilers are and should be as a team or do you think something else is contributing to a below average performance?

        Yes this is the team that couldn’t gut out a win in Columbus, but it’s also the one where a few nights prior beat our statistically hardest team to beat and played a complete game. It’s also the team that set a franchise record for shots, and yet just barely won.

        And as for straw men, all I’m trying to allude to here is that fans and media should temper their expectations just a little. Let me ask you this, which would you rather, cheer for a team that is slowly on the upswing which were largely predicted to miss the playoffs but not by much, or cheer for a team who are barely hanging onto a spot, that was expected by all to challenge for the cup this year?

        • DSF

          Burke was fired for being a pain in the ass.

          It was Burke who made all the moves that brought the Leafs back from the dead and he still got fired.

          Yet Kevin Lowe, the architect of the mess you see almost every night, has been in charge for nearly 13 years.

          Expecting more “patience from ownership, fans and media” is just ludicrous.

          And, there is no evidence that the Oilers are “slowly on the upswing”

          They have been better on the PK so far this season but:

          They are much worse 5V5

          Give up the most shots/game

          Are second last in shots/game

          Have the worst shot differential in the league

          Are on pace for a worse goal differential than last season

          The PP has gone cold

          Being that dreadful after so many top ten draft picks over the years, would be a firing offence in any other city.

  • Given Lowe’s and Tambellini ‘s record you cannot justify keeping them.

    If Katz wants to move the goal posts and deny reality it is his call. This team will stay the same, and “next year” will be their rally call.

  • DSF

    Main reason to fire Lowe is he hired Tambellini . At the time he was GM he did OK under circumstances ( ownership/money ) but his biggest mistake was giving Tambellini a job when he was passed over for gm twice in Vancouver .

  • Word to the Bird

    Ah a rant about management, my time to shine!

    Now, can I just say, you really get the sense that management has this “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” mentality. Nobody will get fired because collectively they protect each other’s job security.

    The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is not the year to make the big trade. A 48 game season is a throwaway (in management’s mind) in order to draft well in what looks to be a 2003/2008 style draft class. That being said, somebody has to go. Tambellini has looked at our roster, told the fans what we want to hear, and sits on the roster, hoping somebody will emerge into our savior. The fact is, our roster is incompetent. Our veterans underachieve every year, and our defense simply lacks the skill to be formidable. 5 and 2 should not be a top pairing and we all know it. 19 seems to be our blue chip, future top 2 defenseman, and unfortunately is the reason we haven’t acquired a big time d man yet. Personally, trading Hemsky in a package for a stud will do wonders for this team. Yet Tambellini lacks the confidence to do so. Instead he keeps our poster boys from 2006. He couldn’t be more indecisive as a GM. Do we need another year? Is this the year we make the playoffs? We never know because of his questionable moves. The only way our team moves forward is if we have a team that actually has interest in us winning.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    is it wrong that i look at that first picture and see KLowe with his hand up his puppets arse?

    i think tambellini was perfect to drive this ship right into the sewer. there is no way he has proven he is anywhere close to being the right guy to build a winner. at all.

    if i have to listen to tambellini give another press conference while he has that sh** eating grin on his face i will write another strongly worded post voicing my displeasure (cause really what else does a guy do). the guy, thus far, hasnt proven he has the stones to make the tough calls and make the deals this team is going to need to make.

    sitting back and hoping for the best ISNT F-ING GOING TO WORK


  • Slapshot

    Until people stop showing up and there is no waiting list for seasons tickets,there will be no changes.The Oiler’s are a poorly run organization top to bottom!!!

  • I think we have a good tandem in these two.

    The sad thing is that the system we use is to labour intensive and complicated for anything less than a veteran laced roster which we do not have and will not have for a substantial number of years. Add in Ralphs rookie year and slightly new interpretation of the decades old losing system and we have real big challenges here in E-town.

    It is my belief that our preservation of and decades old misplaced loyalty to an inferior system of playing NHL hockey has eroded this once great Dynastic Organisation into a shell of its real identity and potential.

    The ONLY common thread that runs through all of this history of impotence is the SYSTEM, many good men have fallen and been sacrificed to preserve this Iconic Trojan Horse, we have cannibalised our own organisation in our search for the core problem preventing us from becoming a winning organisation and all along it was the SYSTEM we were defending and covetting.

    These two men are professionals and their duties are definable on many levels but when it comes to system influences the trail runs cold, who decides what system we use anyways? Who and by what parameters makes this critical decision?

    I have no complaints with the aspects of these guys jobs we can define but I want to execute and bury this system of play, and if it takes removing these men from the equation then so be it, it is that critical of an issue with this organisation.

    I cannot say these men are the architects of anything because this entire organisation is as other NHL teams are, catalysed around a system of play and this system was in place long before these guys came into power, simply put. whoever introduced this system of play was the architect of what we see today and it sure as hell wasnt these two, as good as they are at their respective jobs they have nothing to do with the real history and creation of the structure of this organisation. They have simply been gatekeepers of a system of play that pre-dates them both by a longshot.

    Even their present day decisions and direction are dictated by this powerful system influence.

    Keep the men and jettison the system immediatly.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Kevin Lowe said it best “This is a Business !! for it to be Successful you have to get rid of the dead weight it’s not the Players.
    Get rid of Tambellini, Lowe and McTavish it’s time to FLUSH!!!