Matzah Ball

In the rather short history of the Edmonton Oilers, nothing can compare to the current state of the team. Sure there were times when things looked hopeless, but the General Manager (this would be Glen Sather, early 90s) took out the trash and brought in fresh troops (this would be the “Oilers acquire someone named Doug Weight” era).

There was promise throughout the land and the peasants were happy and felt blessed. Fast forward to the current situation: a cap team with an owner willing to spend but a distinct lack of actual people who can help this thing get rolling.

The strange thing is that it is all around Steve Tambellini. He has enough good players on the roster to build a reasonable argument for the post-season and he does have a point when saying the injuries haven’t allowed the team to show its real nature.

Doesn’t matter. Unless the Edmonton Oilers are run by fools then the General Manager needs to get this thing headed in the right direction or lose his job. Over the last several months, Kevin Lowe has been bumped upstairs and Craig MacTavish has been sent away. The new hires (Tambellini and Quinn) have been charged with getting this team into the postseason and folks it is slipping away.

I believe Steve Tambellini’s inertia this summer will cost him his job. His inability to add enough qualified people in roles that are clearly in need will mean the end of him as the Oilers GM. His pursuit of Dany Heatley (after the Khabibulin signing) flushed all other priorities (and they were obvious) and we are now left with another season of wasting veteran seasons while watching the kids learn on the job.

Is it Tambellini’s fault that the Oilers decided to play this many kids way too soon? No sir. Is it Steve Tambellini’s fault that all of Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson and others have not made that next step? Is it his fault that injuries (oh my God there have been injuries) have crushed what little depth this roster had?

Nope. And it doesn’t matter. Steve Tambellini’s job is to get this team into the second season and so far it has been both a failure and a walking advertisement as to what is needed to make this team go well. A veteran, right handed center who can win faceoffs, help on the penalty kill and score enough to warrant flushing one of the kids to wing or out of the organization. A left winger with grit and skill who can play on that 2line with O’Sullivan and either Gagner or Cogliano and depending on the Bulin Wall’s injury a veteran goalie to settle things down.

The only surprise for me in all of this (I suggested this team would finish 11th in the west) is the complete lack of movement by Steve Tambellini. I understand the need to say things like “let’s see what happens when everyone is healthy” publicly but there is no RH C on the IR and there is no gritty LW for the 2line hoping to get healthy.

Steve Tambellini: you need to save your job by taking action. Today would be nice. Right now, your career as Oilers GM can be accurately described as extra-bland Matzah ball.

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17 Responses to "Matzah Ball"

  1. Chizzo says:

    Why does everyone always want to trade away everything to squeak into 8th place every year. Let this team suck for a while and then maybe they can be good for 8-10 years like Colorado was.

  2. Lowetide says:

    Chizzo: If they wanted to suck then I'm all for it. Please don't sign Khabibulin and Souray and don't trade for Lubo and please, please please keep Sam Gagner in junior.

    But that's not what they did, and they're spending to the cap with a team that won't make the playoffs.

    Porridge.

  3. DBO says:

    good post LT. And Chizzo, we can still make moves and improve our team both today and in the future. the problem with trying to lose is that we always seem to go on runs and stay out of the top 5 in picks.
    So it then becomes a "who stays" question. Reality being what it is, we will probably not make any moves, but even some small ones can help this team. The decisions that need to be made to me are these:
    1. Decide between Gagner and Cogliano. Only one can be your #2 C, and the other one is not suited to play #3 or 4. Move one for a good young player that fills a need.
    2. Is Stone as good as Moreau right now? if so, you move Moreau for nothing if only to get his cap off the books next year.
    3. Do we have a responsible, physical #3/4 C that take some pressure off Horcoff? If you don't trust Brule to be that player, then you need to make a move since Cogs is gone (see above).
    4. Grebeshkov vs Gilbert? Both will be paid around $4 mill, both have good and bad, and only 1 can play in our top 4 unless we unload Vish or Souray (not happening). Either can get you a top 6 young winger/center that is a better fit.

    Those 4 questions need to be answered, and if Tambellini wants to save his job, he needs to decisivelty move this team in a direction that helps us both today and in the future.

  4. Jon says:

    LT, your post sums up my attitude exactly.

    This is the first year where I have no answers (as if i'm right other years :) )

    How do we turn this team around…I honestly do not know. It seemed other years that it was clearly goaltending, or depth on D, or faceoffs. This year I do not think one or even two moves can have the oilers make the playoffs.

    I always want to see the Oilers competitive but I just expect the Oilers to lose, like yesterday, I had zero hope that the oilers could win last night and I do not remember thinking that way for a long time.

    I'm a die hard fan that is close to becoming apathetic because of Tambo's lack of movement.

  5. Jonathan Willis says:

    I see we both saw that NHL.com article, LT ;)

    Honestly, though, the kicker for me wasn't just Tambellini blaming it all on injuries, it was how he said that the team's scoring will 'come back'.

    Looking at this team, where does scoring rank on it's list of problems? Somewhere near the bottom?

  6. Lowetide says:

    Jonathan: Yeah, it's a crazy situation. I find myself wishing Katz had hired Chirelli (sp?) from Boston or Fred Shero's kid or the next version of them.

    Right now we're heavy on resume's and light on logic and reason.

  7. Clarkenstein says:

    I will re-state my prediction that on the morning of Dec. 12 this team will be DFL in the Western Conference. I am hoping against my own prediction but NOTHING in the last 14 games has dissuaded me from that. Normally you wouldn't blow up a team in late November, however, "normally" you wouldn't be watching the same thing over and over again for the past 4 years. During last night's game after they were hemmed in their own yet again for about 2 minutes I asked myself "what has changed"? The answer is nothing. Let's say to hell with this year, blow it up and start stockpiling draft choices with a new scouting department that will make better use of those choices. And finally, once again, thank you so much Kevin Lowe.

  8. DBO says:

    I know I'm a broken record for trade scenarios, but i just hope someone in the org at least sends them as their owbn ideas to tambellini.
    - Greb/Gilbert for Gaustad = saves us almost $1.5 mill cap hit, tough two way center who is still young.
    - Moreau for Chris Higgins = Torts loves Moreau (called him one fo the best leaders in the NHL last year) and Higgins has been healthy scratched a few times. Higgins is a two way player that can play on any line.
    - Cogs and a prospect/pick for Patrick Sharp or Dustin Byfuglien. Chicago needs to dump salary, and one of these guys could be had. I'd include eberle if needed to seal the deal. Yes he's a top prospect, but he's a small skilled player who may not even fit in our top 6 next year.
    - Waive/deal Nilsson to free up cap as well.
    new lineup

    Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky
    O'Sullivan-Gagner-Sharp/Byfuglien
    Stone-Gaustad-Higgins
    Jacques-Brule-Stortini

    Vish-Smid
    Souray-gilbert
    Staios-Chorney

    That is a Quinn team. And based on Tambellini's comments in the off season, it fits the mold he said he would build for this team.

  9. raventalon40 says:

    @Chizzo

    You can't develop all your players in the juniors even IF it were an option because the level of competition only get so high.

    Some players need to play alongside NHL veterans to ply their trade.

    Right now we're throwing a bunch of sheep to the wolves. O'Sullivan, Nilsson, Cogliano, Gagner, Brule, Potulny, Reddox are all skilled young players and bring their own type of skill set to the team, but none of them are going to carry the team in the forseeable future. Do you put them ALL in vital "learn-on-the-job" situations, or do you get someone whose done it before, can show them how to do it?

    Learning how to lose a bunch of games half-heartedly is not a great strategy for player development.

    Playoffs or no playoffs, the GM needs to teach the young players how to win.

    That also involves choosing which players to keep as part of your organization in what capacity – because not all of those players are going to be integral to the team in 5 years.

  10. Bruce says:

    there is no RH C on the IR and there is no gritty LW for the 2line hoping to get healthy.

    Pouliot? Stone?

  11. Lowetide says:

    Bruce: Point being these two roles are very important to the team and proven men are required. I'm a Pouliot fan but the Oilers really haven't shown a willingness to play him as a 3line C (certainly Quinn may have used him this way).

    Stone is a guy who I like, but again I think the team needs a proven player for the 2line.

  12. Bruce says:

    LT: Don't disagree, just stirrin' the drink (again :). Stone did start the year on the 2L, played well, and the team was doing a lot better. However, I honestly don't see him as a second liner now or probably ever. As for Pouliot, it's just another missed opportunity. He might have been that player but he's never come close to posting the results of which it seems he's capable. Now that the door is wide open he's on the sidelines contemplating his pubis.

    I'm sure you and I agree it's Frustrating with a capital F. Last night our younger players showed pretty much nothing, so this might be the worst day to evaluate. But surely a vet or two if sorely needed.

  13. bookie says:

    Givent that the needs of the team are not that complex (or that hard to obtain), I was happy to wait through some of the summer and perhaps even training camp before making trades (the 'lets see what we have now that MacT is gone' argument).

    I think its very clear that the team needs that good 3rd line player. I think that JFJ and Stone could be enough in terms of grit, but its a risk because neither have etablished themselves and what we saw earlier in the season may be their upside. If so, they could fade and leave us again with a lack of Jam and Crust.

    In any case, its clear that the Oilers need that really solid 3rd liner and unless the market is surprisingly difficult, Tambellini is being negligent in not acting (certainly LT's argument that he has already screwed up by missing out this summer is true).

    In defence of Tambellini, this team has sucked in surprising ways. Horcoff and Hemsky have not brought what they need to make this team succesful (and I love both players). The flu and injury have been pretty tough on the team. Nillson has been as bad as Penner has been good. Souray has 1 goal in 7 games and missed another 16 games. Gilbert has looked like a pretty talented 18 year old rookie. Cogs and Moreau have done nothing good.

    It was not unreasonable to expect that this crew could ride out the lack of a 3rd line centre, but as a group they have just folded.

    There seems to be a lot of phsycological problems in that room and I wonder how much the injuries and the flu have had lingering impacts in terms of 'positive/negative attitude'. In Penner's interview last night, he mentioned that a positive attitude was the biggest difference for him this year. Maybe he needs to set up a desk like Lucy 'The doctor is in' and take a nickle from everyone to fix their heads.

    None of this takes away from LT's arugment that the team should have fixed one or two weaknesses down the roster earleir in the season.

    Given some of the comments from the coach (management wants to play Cogs at Centre, etc), I wonder how much of this is an effort to ride out contracts (Pisani, Moreau, Staois, etc.) while trying to look competative. THough signing Khabibulin for four years kind of runs counter to this logic.

  14. Dennis says:

    I think I see enough here that with one or two little moves, we could squeak into the playoffs. And one of those moves needs to be a big one – another guy to play with either 27-89 or 10-83 – but the other piece we need is a guy who can check and win faceoffs and you might need to trade for that guy but maybe you can pick him up on the cheap as well.

    But those little moves are the ones we never make and going back to Hossa in the summer of '08, it's been all about big game hunting and the rest gets lost in the wash.

    Vic would always joke about how the HF crowd would build NHL rosters based on video games and it seems like that's how the Oilers tried to do things too considering they had penciled in the kids line for secondary scoring and thought that would be fine and dandy.

    I know we can go over qualcomp and things of that nature and you fellows know I value that but at some point you say that Gagner/Cogs aren't as good as Kane/Towes etc and you shape your club accordingly. Personally, I thought the 12 contract had a chance of being one that could be outperformed but that's a huge waste of money so that's one mark right there. Another is the idea of 13 as a pivot but that doesn't seem close to ending either.

    Organizations don't become usually become inept overnight; it takes years of bad decisions to dig impressive holes.

    So, the decisions to put all the trust, faith and TOI into these kids have bitten them along with the 18-34 contracts and now the decision to try and not move 18's stipend off the books.

    It all adds up and so here we are again.

    As a final note, I have to take umbrage with the idea that Lowe was kicked upstairs. I would bet every last dollar I have that he wanted to go upstairs so that he was no longer the public face of a losing franchise. This is a fellow who was navel gazing in the press – the infamous asking of Terry Jones over for a chat and the plea of "is it me" – and became so embarrassed/gun shy at one point that he wouldn't even show up for a retirement ceremony.

    So, I think the guy WENT upstairs so that he no longer had to awnser the daily questions and he could pull Tambo's strings from afar.

    I don't want to threadjack here but the whole idea of what Lowe means to Edm and what he can get away with still fascinates me; not as much as before but I still wonder how he's managed to do what he's done.

    He has such power and influence over people that I've had journalists make allusions to physically attacking me just because I've questioned how and why the guy gets a free ride.

    So, once again the guy skates from a messy situation today that's a lot of his handiwork.

    I've got to give it to the guy, he has a knack for it:)

  15. Gret99zky says:

    Looking more and more like Tambo is willing to miss the post season again excused by injury and the flu.

    Promises like "we'll be better next year" (rookies will have more experience) and "we'll land a big fish during the offseason" (Jagr)will be the meat of the Oilers.com year end speech.

  16. Traktor says:

    We can talk about "kids don't win games" but the veterans on this team are mostly hacks. The sad thing is most of our kids are average Joes as well. Good players win games regardless of age and this team is sorely lacking enough good players.

    As for "rebuilding teams don't spend to the cap"… having 23 kids in the lineup isn't a recipe for success and the argument I've seen lately is that Edmonton is developing too many kids as it is right now. Basically the only benefit to not spending to the cap is it would save Katz a couple dollars.

    Rebuilding teams give the kids chance to play but they also sign veterans that can be moved for picks at the deadline. Souray, Lubo, Stay, Moreau, Horcoff, O'Sullivan can all be moved for picks at the deadline and all the sudden we have picks and we're not spending to the cap. Best of both worlds.

  17. Traktor says:

    "Looking at this team, where does scoring rank on it's list of problems? Somewhere near the bottom?"

    Umm… our top scoring center is Sam Gagner with 13 points in 22 games. Pretty big problem.

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