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.

  • 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 .

  • 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.

  • 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!!!

  • 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

    I think they need to change out the water supply at the Oilers office, cause management are all on the same page, its just the wrong page and they are all infected!

  • Personally I suspect that this management teams most damning decisions have yet to manifest.

    They have a 24 game grace period before next year. The biggest change then is that two kids move from ELC to high paid superstars and I fear that we have seen this movie before in this town.

    Couple that with those A’s stapled to their chests and we have all the makings of a complete train wreck.

    The bag licking shills pumping out rumour of Horc being bought out because he is holding back the rebuild simply astounds me as well. LT has a piece up on said “rumour”.

    Robin often mentions around here that when those idiots start waving the smoke around, look for a fire.

    If true I hope Hall and ebs seek council with Horc before the brain trust punts him to the curb.

    These are trying times to be sure.

  • 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??

  • Bonvie

    Great article.

    I am all over firing Tambelini, with Lowe at least when he was GM he did something, so I am not sure how much he actually makes the decisions for Tambellini as some would suggest.

    If management knew they would not have made the playoffs why would they not have moved veterans last year at the deadline when almost any roster defenseman fetched a 2nd round pick?

    If the next ten or so games do not produce a winning streak that would at least get us to a spot where we have an honest shot at the playoffs, then veterans such as Whitney, Potter, Belanger, Eager, Brown, Khabibulin and possibly Peckham or N.Shultz should all be traded for draft picks or prospects. Jones and Smid, Fistric, and Petry need to be kept and resigned.

  • toprightcorner

    Reading all of your comments here, really?
    Stop blaming managements, it’s the players have to play hard as a group and win games. Oilers need a good coach to get the players play hard as a team.
    Look at the Habs, they are leading the East with no big stars on the team. Look at the stats, only 3 players with -1, everyone else are +. They play hard all 4 lines, scoring at even strength. Forget about power plays and penalty kills, if the team cannot score even strength they are not going to win games.
    The team is small, they need to drive to the net, shoot the pucks and go for rebounds. Dump the puck in and chase after it, pass it in front and somebody there shoot it on net. Why are they so afraid to shoot the puck? Team defense reduce the shot against on net, no goalie in the world can stop 30-50 shots a game.
    Bottom line it’s the players who are accountable to win games.

    • ScottieA

      Actually we can blame management. Why? Because they are the ones that slapped together this team of underachievers. We’ve gone through 4 coaches through the entirety of Tambellini’s tenure. There comes a point where you stop firing the coach.

  • Spurzey

    Are not all the pro scouting keys still Lowe guys? The only part of the organization where Tambellni has not been allowed to clean house?

    Isn’t that where the weakness of the organization is? Unable to find established professional players to fill in the gaps in the elite talent drafted by Stu MacGregor (a Tambellini hire) and the rebuilt farm system with exceptional executives and coaches down there (again Tambellni hires).