Steve Tambellini raised his voice in public today and revealed his vision of the future. I’m absolutely certain it involved Jean-Francois Jacques and Nikolai Khabibulin, grit, faceoff help and a better attitude. It does not involve Sheldon Souray and there won’t be three goaltenders on the team next season.
Tambellini spent a lot of time talking about drafting, procurement and development. I think this probably spells the end of Kevin Prendergast as an Edmonton Oiler executive, as there’s no one else to blame for the drafting and development effort 2001-07. Tambellini appeared to frame the issue as a need for a complete makeover beginning at the bowels of development. Major points by Tambellini:
- “I’ve been here 18 months.” This is important, because it means there is no possible way he can be hired for the first time again. There was some confusion about his hiring date during the season.
- “We’re going to be trying to move some bodies (at the draft).” Names might include Sheldon Souray, Patrick O’Sullivan, Andrew Cogliano and others.
- “We have to do a better job of drafting, of scouting, of assessment.” I’ve suggested that the drafting portion of the organization has been solid (certainly since Stu MacGregor arrived) but there’s little doubt the team needs to do a better job of creating and staying true to a feeder system. This falls in perfectly with Earl Weaver’s philosophy of making certain you never put a young player in a position to fail. Ideally the Oilers will see their prospects dominate at one level and then move up the ladder.
- “I think there is great value to the first pick overall.” I think this is important because one has to assume there’s at least a slight chance they’ll trade the pick. What I got from Tambellini’s words were that if he does deal the pick the return would be monumental. Or maybe just mental.
- “This is not a quick fix.” I think this is important because the organization looks to be concentrating more heavily on the bottom than the top. What does this mean? Very little immediate help at the big league level and certainly no big name free agents. Not a bad thing in my opinion, but should the Oilers reach out to a mid-level free agent let’s hope he is a right-handed center (or give Pouliot the damn job instead of putting him at RW).
- “One of the big things we have to do is restore that depth chart of prospects that are pushing people here (EDM) for jobs.” I think that is a fair point. A guy like Colin McDonald had a glorious chance to play more in the NHL season this year but doesn’t bring enough offense. Ditto Ryan O’Marra. The Oilers have some duds from the first three rounds in this system and that’s where teams need to make hay. Once again, that’s on KP and Kevin Lowe too. I maintain the drafting per se wasn’t the problem, but Prendergast’s big failures (Niinimaki, Pouliot) can’t be explained away completely by injury.
- “There aren’t any areas aside from possibly goal that we’re set.” I think Tambellini clearly believes in Khabibulin and that shouldn’t surprise anyone. After hearing him talk about the three goalies today there’s pretty much no chance JDD and DD will both be on this club at the start of the season. I’m hoping it is Dubnyk, but the Oilers are going to make a choice this summer between the two young goaltenders based on the GM’s comments.
- “I think overall we need help in a lot of areas. Faceoffs, grit, toughness, scoring, worker bees.” I think this is the beginning of the time when we can return to using the word balance with some conviction. Fewer “minute” men, more real centers. Fewer kids, more actual NHL players. I’m not certain it’ll happen overnight but hearing someone from the Oilers useing the word “faceoffs” represents a step forward for the lowly fans who have watched this runaway train. Lordy, what a crazy damn ride. Faceoffs. Who knew?
There was plenty more and I’d suggest you listen to it sometime. I think it best to approach this management team as a do-over. A mulligan. If we enter this summer looking at the moves about to be made by this organization and put them in context with the “failure to launch” summers since 2006 June it is going to be too much “Groundhog Day” and not enough “Brand New Day.”