Yesterday Steve Tambellini was removed from his position as general manager of the Edmonton Oilers. He was replaced by Craig MacTavish. Former general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets Scott Howson moves up in the lineup. Kevin Lowe, MacT and Howson have worked closely together before and now must get this team firmly on track.
I will start with Tambellini. Based on the record of the team since he took over his removal as manager should not be a real surprise. That being said, the team has been improving through their top draft picks. The top-end talent is there now. I firmly believe his plan was to be patient, let the youth develop and then make moves to plug the holes this summer.
But when you look past the three top picks how many drafted players are poised to jump into the lineup up today, next year of the year after that? Down in OKC I don’t think there are too many. Oscar Klefbom is a good young prospect, but his shoulder injury may have slowed down his career.
There are some drafted players in college and junior that will turn pro in the next season or two. Time will tell how well the team drafted past the first picks. As GM you are ultimately responsible.
Steve tried to fill in around the team’s youth with free agent signings and small trades. Belanger, Eager, Hordichuk, Fistric, Brown and Smyth haven’t had a huge impact on the club. These are not big minute guys. Big minute players with courage and endless compete levels are what the Oilers have needed and continue to need desperately.
The one signing that I loved, and thought was a great move three years in a row was Jason Strudwick. This guy had a sick backhand, impressive hair for a 35-year-old and won well over twenty percent of his fights. This signing could be considered the high water mark of Tambellini’s off-season moves.
The combination of Lowe, MacTavish and Howson produced average results when they were together. Everyone remembers the terrific sprint to the Cup finals, but outside of that nothing very memorable. Should we expect something different this time?
Scott Howson became the GM of Columbus in June of 2007. There wasn’t a lot of great success for his teams. However, the one area his club was very good at especially this year was its compete level. I have watched the Blue Jackets play against the Oilers and other teams this year and they battle the whole game, all over the ice. How many nights have we said that about the Oilers this year?
The Blue Jackets are in playoff contention because they never give up. They do not have the skill in their top-six forwards the Oilers do. They have to compete. Howson also put together a very good and underrated group of defenceman. They are mobile and pretty big.
Both areas the Blue Jackets are now strong in are the two areas of big concern for the Oilers. Before we all write him off maybe Howson should be given a second chance, if he can improve those areas.
MacT is the new general manager. Ironically he was the type of player the Oilers need on their team today. A player full of character, consistency and dependability. Can he bring in the types of players required?
This team does not compete hard enough. That is obvious. The number one job for MacT is to upgrade the compete level throughout this lineup. Easier said than done. He is a rookie GM, but I don’t think it makes a big difference. This area needs to be addressed.
I think it is valuable that he played the type of game that is lacking on this team. He can recognize those attributes in players he wants to trade for, draft or sign.
The biggest question is will he have the courage to make hard decisions? Does he have the stomach to maybe move out some long time Oilers if he feels it needs to be done? Will he trade a young stud to get a new mix in the Oilers top 6? These are hard decisions that he will have to be made at some point. We don’t know if he can or can’t because there is no track record. After having played for him I think he can.
Kevin Lowe has been part of the Oilers for a long time. He has been a part of the greatest moments for the Oilers and the worst. He has almost always been here. He is taking a lot of heat for "keeping the old boys’ club" going today. I understand why many of you are feeling this way.
That was my initial reaction as well. After taking some time to think about it and actually write down my thoughts I am at peace with it. Howson could bring the compete blueprint with him from the Blue Jackets, exactly what is missing from the Oilers. MacT worked in the Vancouver system as head coach in their Chicago farm team. That is a very well-run organization. They have developed many of their own stars and players over the last many years. The Oilers need to have their own later round picks come up through the system.
Based on those two guys and what they have seen and done I think there is reason to be hopeful.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me who has what title or who is whose boss. These three will be working together to make this team whole by filling in the holes. Yes there were all together previously with very mixed results but the landscape has changed.
Two big changes in fact. New ownership with an appetite to spend and a cap system in place that really evens out the playing field. I am not making excuses for previous season, but this has made a difference for smaller market teams.
Ultimately I can break this down as much as I want, but we won’t know for a few years if this was the right call. If the team goes on to successful seasons Kevin Lowe will be hailed a genius.
If it doesn’t then all the naysayers can say they were right.
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