Dan Barnes, for my money the best media man in Edmonton, has an interesting article up today about Oilers G.M. Steve Tambellini. In it, Tambellini says that he has full responsibility to address all areas of the organization, to bring them to a point where they “are not good, but great.”

Tambellini hit on two points: first, that the players are working hard (“Our players have worked pretty hard”), but that there need to be changes, and second that the Oilers brain trust is even now evaluating which players will be a part of the organization next season.

“The first step is getting through this period as far as the assessment of people who truly want to be an Oiler and get to the next level. That involves an evaluation of character, skill, talent, courage, everything. As we go through this time between now and the trading deadline we’ll be clear as to what our options are. If we can make ourselves better (at the deadline) we’re going to do it.”

Those generic sounding quotes struck me as familiar; together they form two of the three pillars to the Steve Tambellini Talking to The Media Trinity (the third is injuries).

Tambellini’s been saying pretty much the same thing since he took the job. From November of 2008:

“We’re working hard.”

“That assessment is always one that is ongoing. We’re 21 games into the season. We went through extreme travel there for a few weeks. You’re always trying to get better every day. If there’s something out there that makes sense for our team to get better, we’ll consider it. But right now this is what we have and our job is to get better.”

Or we could look at Tambellini’s 2008-09 postmortem from last April:

“The job now is to think about how much of that can we get from what we have. We’ll make that assessment and if we don’t have internally, how do we acquire it?”

“It’s important that we take our time right now and that we review all aspects.”

The really critical failing of Barnes’ piece is that he implies that Tambellini has only recently been put in full control of the team, that if his moves going forward don’t fix the Oilers, then it will be time to start shifting the blame from Kevin Lowe to him. That’s dead wrong, because it’s exactly what the Oilers organization tried to peddle last year.

From Jason Gregor of Oilers Nation, last April:

The plan, as I was told today, was to bring in Tambellini and let him assess the team for the year. It is clear now, that this team was not as good as the organization thought they were and now it is up to Tambellini to start the renovations.

Tambellini will put his fingerprints on this team ranging from the coaching, to veterans moving out and which youngsters will be coming in. It would be unrealistic to expect massive trades and a complete purging of the team, but don’t be surprised to see at least one, if not two, significant player moves over the summer.

That line of thought was supported by Robin Brownlee in Metronews:

With Kevin Lowe stepping back from day-to-day dealings at the start of the season when he became president of hockey operations, it’ll be up to Steve Tambellini to orchestrate the changes that are bound to follow.

MacTavish stepping aside will throw the status of assistant coaches Charlie Huddy, Bill Moores and Kelly Buchberger into question.

Likewise, Tambellini will take a long look at his scouting staff, who are overseen by assistant GM Kevin Prendergast. Again, expect change.

As for player moves, well, that’s a whole other column, and I’ll take a look at that next weekend after some of the dust settles.

Suffice to say, after taking this season to assess a team and a hockey-operations staff that has been built by Lowe since he became GM in 2000, Tambellini will make his mark.

In short, when Steve Tambellini talks about assessing the players he has, it’s either a null statement or the mark of a fool; he’s been assessing what is essentially the same roster for a season and a half now. If he doesn’t know what he has after more than 130 games of failure by his organization, it’s just one more indication that he’s woefully unequipped to be the man in charge of an NHL franchise.

Still, perhaps the last quote Barnes mentions was enough to show that anyway. From the article:

“We’re extremely confident of where we’re going.”

Comments (14)

  1. “woefully unequipped” Seems to sum up Tambellini pretty clearly he hasnt made and good moves at all. the Bulin Wall was probly the dumbest GM move since Raycroft for Rask… and that says alot. If he was really assessing his tema so much there would have been some serious moves to change the team.

  2. There’s a reason that Tambellini was consistently passed over for promotion during his 10+ years in Vancouver…. the man is simply not qualified to be an NHL general manager. Sitting in the sky box for 130+ games ‘assessing’ the talent (sic) and doing nothing other than signing an injured past-his-prime goalie and chasing the Dany Heatley dream is the mark of someone who should not be managing this team.

  3. Holy hell look at all the empty seats behind him. haha

  4. p.s. I’m aware that it was probably during an intermission.

  5. Great stuff Jon.

  6. Looking at it from the other side, what’s he supposed to say. He can’t publicly rag on his team and call them a bunch of losers and in the salary cap era deals are very difficult to make. Especially when the former GM handcuffs you with a lot of large salaries for diminishing veterans (Souray, Horcoff, Visnovsky, Pisani, Moreau, Staios, etc.) Bulin was signed because of 2 reasons. 1. He was the most proven of all the free agent goaltenders 2. He is most comfortable starting 50-60 games a year. I know a lot of people are saying we should have been more diligent in terms of looking into injuries but let’s face it the Oilers were desperate and back problems are extremely touchy. I mean stepping a certain way or getting off the bed at a slightly odd angle can exacerbate a back injury.
    Oiler fans are also looking at a team like Colorado and are probably saying we should have signed a guy like Craig Anderson but there was no guarantee he could be a no.1 starter. Look at Scott Clemmensen, he had very similar numbers to Anderson last year (GAA is negligible because the Devils as a team give up less goals and shots than the Panthers)

    Clemmensen – 2.39GAA, 0.917 S%, 40GMS 25-13-1-2
    Anderson – 2.71GAA, 0.924 S%, 31GMS 15-7-5-3

    Based upon the numbers and their respective performances than you could say that they both look ready for a more significant role but while Anderson is hot and carrying the Avalanche Clemmenson has a GAA of over 3.5 and a save percentage of about 88% and that’s terrible AHLer like numbers and he’s only been a backup this year.

    I think that Oiler fans should just see what happens this spring and summer before you judge. If they come through and actually clear house and still screw it up, like getting the 1st overall pick and taking Fowler or Jack Campbell, then you can lynch him. But he inherited a pretty terrible club in terms of the salary cap compared to the talent level on this team.

  7. I have to agree with Andrew on this one. I know I will and all Oilers fans should save their get rid of him and hate on him. If he fails to deliver any sort of hope and fails to make a few trades and move some guys that just won’t help going forward. Then people can get the Fire Tambellini and hate on him going. Trust me cause I’ve been off and on the fire Murray bandwagon in Ottawa to many times to many times to count. But now we’re starting to see that he’s working around the problems left by the former GM and is making the team steadily better through out. Oilers fans have to at least give Tambellini another year or two before fully passing judgment.

  8. Well, considering his conclusions after last year were completely wrong (“MacTavish is the problem”, “Khabibulin is a safer bet than Roloson”, “Y’know what’s missing…Mike Comrie!”, “Chris Neil is probably worth $2M+”, “the PK is fine”, etc.), then I’d say a little more assesment is in order. He either has no idea what the problems are, or he’s just completely incabable of finding solutions to them.

  9. Bulin was signed because of 2 reasons. 1. He was the most proven of all the free agent goaltenders 2. He is most comfortable starting 50-60 games a year. I know a lot of people are saying we should have been more diligent in terms of looking into injuries but let’s face it the Oilers were desperate and back problems are extremely touchy.

    http://www.mc79hockey.com/?p=2929
    Sunday, July 20th, 2008
    “So of the eight teams that I’ve identified, it’s reasonable to think that as few as four will actually be in the market for a starting goalie and, at the very least, that the ones I’ve identified might not be eager in really going hard for a starting goalie; they’ll pay one but they aren’t going to blow their brains out to get a specific guy because of their situations.

    What’s really interesting about this market though is that there are a ton of guys available. Certainly, there are more guys available who’ve filled starting roles in the past than there are starting jobs ”

    http://www.mc79hockey.com/?m=200906&paged=2
    June 5th, 2009
    “If Philadelphia goes ahead and signs Emery, by my count that leaves two teams without a clear starting goaltender: Edmonton and Colorado. Otherwise, it’s backup jobs available, unless some team is willing to eat a pile of money.

    There are a ton of competent or better goalies available: Craig Anderson, Nikolai Khabibulin, Dwayne Roloson, Martin Biron, Manny Fernandez and Manny Legace probably top the list. You can probably toss Scott Clemmensen onto the list, although I don’t find him that interesting.”

    http://www.coppernblue.com/2009/06/extreme-makeover-oilers-edition-part-ii.html
    June 10th, 2009
    “Secondly, Tambellini should not dole out multi-year deals unless he can get an exceptional price. Thirdly, Tambellini should not have to spend more than Roloson’s $3,500,000 salary in finding two goaltenders. Remember, the Ivey stare, Steve. Don’t blink, don’t change your expression.

    In short, Tambellini should be able to spend less in goal than the Oilers have spent at any point since the lockout, and the Oilers should start the season with their strongest situation in net in this decade.”

    Random bloggers had the goalie market figured out a long damn before free agency started. The general manager did the EXACT opposite of what he should have done.

  10. Andrew, you make a good point re: Anderson but spending a little bit of money on a short term deal is a better gamble than spending four years of big money on a guy who, because of injury, is also a big gamble.

    And misfit touches on an issue that Pat Quinn talked about in training camp. This club could not kill penalties last year. It was too small. It could not win faceoffs. Its forwards, for the most part, could not check worth a damn.

    So he brings in …. Mike Comrie.

    The guy is terrible. A lot of the mess is Lowe’s but Tambellini sat on his hands last summer. He bears some responsibility. I have no confidence in him at all.

  11. Andrew: The difference between Clemmensen and Anderson is that Anderson has been a good backup for years while Clemmensen has been a mediocre #3 goalie until one run with New Jersey.

    As for Khabibulin, three of his last four seasons have been bad, and he averages 20 games per year on the injured list. It was never a defensible signing, despite the laundry list of people who tried this summer.

  12. I don’t know if Khabibulin was the most proven, but he was certainly the most famous. And unfortunately, I think that’s the reason Tambellini felt he was a better option than Roloson. (and everyone else who was available for that matter).

  13. I don’t agree with the contract length and the amount but look at the NHL. Like Ken Holland said there are maybe 5 to 6 elite goaltenders in the league. That means that roughly 80% of the NHL clubs are always looking for ways to upgrade if it’s possible depending on the kind of years their starting goaltenders are having. So the Oilers were more than likely having to compete with other clubs to make a deal and the 4 year term, while it wasn’t intelligent, was probably as a result of other clubs upping the ante. Given that Chicago gave Huet a long term deal at over 6+M I can see quite a few NHL clubs trying to make a deal for Bulin at around 3-4M, the Oilers got him because they were willing to give him more years than any other club. Hindsight is 20/20 and at the time of the signing a lot of analysts liked the deal and some didn’t. Like any GM’s decision it had it’s critics and supporters.

    Also JW I don’t agree, Clemmensen really didn’t get a chance to play regularly because Brodeur has consistently played 70+ games per season from 1997-98 until last year when he got hurt. When you’re behind Brodeur you really don’t get a chance to consistently prove yourself and only playing about 5 to 11 games a season doesn’t help you develop. Also Andersen has played decently in Florida but he was also playing in a weak Southeast Division and Florida had a fairly solid defence while he played there (Boynton, Ballard, Bouwmeester). Back in Chicago Andersen’s numbers were similar to Clemmensen’s in terms of how poor they were.

  14. Didn’t Khabibulin say that the Oilers were the first and loudest knock on his door?

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