I’ve been thinking about Steve Tambellini. Here’s a guy who had a major league career, built a life after it (no easy trick from what we know) and enough of a reputation to gain an extremely exclusive job: NHL General Manager.

They don’t throw these things around you know, these big time hockey jobs. The Oilers have had exactly three in the last 30 years, and Steve Tambellini is one of them.

Driving around this afternoon listening to Jason Gregor I was struck by something the host said: Jason mentioned that the one time Tambellini seemed to grab the imagination of the fanbase was the “MacT is gone” media conference.

I was struck by that because it did indeed seem like something major was on the way and I do think that was the plan. Hire Heatley to score the goals and get Khabibulin to stop the pucks with that (fairly) veteran blue sticking together enough to glide into 8th or better.

It didn’t happen, and in fact not much right did for Tambo this season. The concern I have is that the template remains broken. Tambellini is still in search of a superstar, this time at the draft this summer. Be it Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin or Cam Fowler, the next saviour is on the way. Said player, along with Jordan Eberle and possibly the Swede-Finn Paarajvi-Svensson will roar into town like that scene from High Noon.

I wonder what would happen if the Oilers simply addressed need and for once didn’t worry about developing any more kids. Here’s what 2010-11 might look like:

  • First round pick summer 2010: back to junior
  • Jordan Eberle: Springfield
  • MPS: Timra

The Oilers need to add a goaltender because Khabibulin is about as healthy as James Caan in Misery. They need to add a veteran center who can kill penalties and win faceoffs because they haven’t had one since Mike Peca (who retired today). They need to add two veteran wingers who can play a two-way game (score, kill penalties, face the vaunt) and they need to stop pussyfooting around and make some decisions on young guys and small forwards.

If they did all of those things, the Edmonton Oilers could have their cake and eat it too. They could add an important, impact piece at the deadline and have three outstanding prospects pushing for the show (mentioned above) and they could also show well and possibly win a playoff spot in the next year or two.

It might cost money (getting Khabibulin’s contract off the cap is key), it might put noses out of joint (hammering the veterans with threats of a full season in the minors), it might fail miserably and force Tambellini to be in a similar situation to this one 12 months from now.

I’d still rather see that than this. I fear this management group has decided that this rebuild is going to take a long, long time. We’re talking years here, folks. How will we know? Starting today and lasting through mid-June, let’s count the number of times the Oilers, Oilers TV people, Oilers newspaper people and Oilers people mention prospects like Hall, Eberle and MPS and their impact on the club. Because they need to sell hope, and these kids are it baby. There is another way, and the Oilers have proven to be pretty good at some of it (identifying inexpensive defensemen, for one).

One final thing: if I’m right, and this is a scorched earth, longer term rebuild, Pat Quinn won’t be back in the fall.

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