Steve Tambellini took over as Oilers GM late summer 2008. The business of the 2008 off-season was done–Jordan Eberle was drafted, Lubo had been acquired for Stoll & Greene, Raffi had been sent away for Gilbert Brule, Erik Cole was an Oiler at the cost of Joni Pitkanen and the free agent signing of note that summer was Jason Strudwick. All of those things happened before Steve Tambellini got to Edmonton July 31, 2008.
If we made a list of major events that Steve Tambellini has watched over since his arrival, how many of them can we absolutely say were made to improve the team right away? I’m talking about a trade like the Lubo pickup–an effort to improve performance immediately. Here are the major events of Steve Tambellini’s first year as GM:
- September 30, 2008: Claimed Steve MacIntyre on waivers from Florida Panthers. This transaction is notable for two reasons: first, during the Tambellini era the Oilers have endured a plethora of enforcers and Coke Machines who can’t actually take a pass/make a pass or move the puck forward. MacT had always employed BG, who could do a few more things than your average player in this role. Edmonton’s enforcers have been a moving target during these years, suggesting the club didn’t really solve the problem (although recent pickup Mike Brown appears to be the real deal). The second reason it’s notable is that ST used the waiver wire, something we’ve seen many times (Jesse Boulerice, Ryan Jones) during his time here.
- January 17, 2009: Traded G Mathieu Garon to Pittsburgh for L Ryan Stone, G Dany Sabourin and a 2011 4th round selection (Tobias Rieder). Here we see another trend for Tambellini, adding draft picks and minor league players while sending away NHL players. Garon remains an NHL goaltender, while Stone and Sabourin are outside the league and Rieder is finally ready to turn pro. I would characterize these trades as ‘crippling’ at the NHL level while giving the scouting staff another bullet to cash down the line.
- March 4, 2009: Traded L Erik Cole and a 2009 5th round pick (Matt Kennedy) in exchange for L Patrick O’Sullivan and R Ales Kotalik. The trade was a little more complicated than that, Edmonton held LA’s 2nd rd pick for a second (Jesse Blacker) before sending it on for Kotalik. As with the Garon trade, Cole remains an NHL player but O’Sullivan and Kotalik are on the outside looking in.
- April 15, 2009: Fired Craig MacTavish. It’s kind of funny now, firing the coach who won 38 games and 85 points in the 2008-09 season. Tambellini’s replacements would not do as well.
- May 26, 2009: Oilers hire Pat Quinn as head coach and Tom Renney as Associate Coach, with Kelly Buchberger staying on as assistant coach. Charlie Huddy was out of work for about 5 minutes, and the Oilers began a period of transition that may not be over at the coaching position. One of the things about living in Edmonton is that you hear things, and the Quinn experiment may have been exposed as doomed early on. Coach Renney would be relied on during the year and of course has other chapters in this piece. I found Quinn to be a fun quote and a fascinating addition. I don’t think there are many men in the coaching profession who would have put JFJ on the 1line.
- June 27, 2009: Oilers trade C Kyle Brodziak and a 6th rd pick in 2009 draft (Darcy Kuemper) to Minnesota for 4th rd pick (Kyle Bigos) and a 5th rd pick (Olivier Roy). As with many of Tambellini’s trades, he seems to have cornered the “subtraction by subtraction” market from his opposition GMs. Brodziak has been very productive and Kuemper beat both Bigos and Roy to the NHL, impressing many with his 2013 debut. As with so many of the trades during the Tambellini era, players are sent away for no immediate help.
- July 1, 2009: Oilers sign G Nikolai Khabibulin to a 4-year, $15 million dollar contract. Tambellini’s signature move came in his first sojourn into July 1st free agency and he gave both extreme dollars and term to an old goaltender, once again choosing “the path less trodden” as his best option. Khabibulin rewarded ST with a 31-78 W-L record and some bad PR.
- July 9, 2009: Oilers trade F Tim Sestito to New Jersey for a conditional pick. I list this transaction because Sestito is still getting into NHL games (3 this season) and the Oilers are still waiting for their pick.
- September 10, 2009: Oilers sign C Mike Comrie to a 1-year contract. Comrie never really got to show his stuff completely healthy, but it was a nice feel good story if you forget about the Corey Perry part of the story.
This brings us to the end of Tambellini’s first full season as GM. Among the players he acquired by trade, waiver or free agency, only Nikolai Khabibulin remains in the league and unless Tambellini signs him again that should be taken care of in 18 games. Among the men he sent away, Matheiu Garon, Erik Cole, Craig MacTavish, Kyle Brodziak, Darcy Kuemper and Tim Sestito remain in the league. Tomorrow: flushing forwards, 10 at a time.
Jonathan Willis is going some great things with zone entries (Bruce McCurdy doing the same with exits) over at Cult of Hockey.
- Willis: The Oilers had exactly one shot (and I’m including missed shots here) off 43 uncontrolled 5v5 zone entries. Mind boggling.
The Oilers have been creative in the neutral zone in spurts this season, with passes to wingers in full stride and such, but they’re not good at retrieval when Hartikainen doesn’t dress and Smyth fading. I wonder if this size/puck retrieval/PF thing will reach a fever pitch, and if that happens I wonder if the Oilers will end up dealing a Yakupov for a Lucic. I’m beyond saying things are impossible, we’re through the looking glass here people.
Nashville is the place Edmonton played one of their really poor games this season (along with the early SJS game and Saturday’s Blues tilt at home), losing 6-0 on March 8th. Edmonton played much better in a 3-2 win just over a week ago at home. Barry Trotz has now won 516 games with Nashville, in a third place tie all-time for wins by a coach with one organization:
- Al Arbour, NYI (740)
- Lindy Ruff, Buffalo (578)
- Billy Reay, Chicago (516)
- Barry Trotz, Nashville (516)
- Toe Blake, Montreal (500)
- Glen Sather, Edmonton (464)
- Dick Irvin, Montreal (431)
- Scotty Bowman, Montreal (419)
- Jack Adams, Detroit (413)
- Scotty Bowman, Detroit (410)
There is a sense of urgency for the Oilers now, best reflected in the words of the coach:
- Krueger: “We need to go back on the road and play very special hockey now, in Nashville and then again in St. Louis. Anything less than three points here in the next two games will make things difficult. We would have liked to have at least six points on this home stand.”
The Oilers will have RNH back, which probably means the club will be sending out Hartikainen. I expect this will be a paper move, there should be a few transactions by the weekend.
- If the Edmonton Oilers believe unrestricted free agent Ladislav Smid is part of their core (he certainly is, and could easily have an A on his jersey), then they will offer him a five-year contract for likely $17.5 million and get the deal done before the April 3 trade deadline.
I think it’ll cost more, but you never know.
Youth is a funny thing. The world worships youth nowadays, but 30 years ago experience had value and it still does when there’s a job to do well. I think that’s the lesson for the Oilers this week: Dan DeKeyser may be a plug and play, but replacing Ladislav Smid with a player that has zero NHL experience is not the plan of wise men.
The Oilers have D prospects as far as the eye can see, and it’s likely that one or two of them (say Klefbom and Simpson) will end up being significant top 4D talents. DeKeyser may be a head of them, but they still need transitional blue, and Smid is that at the very least.
Sign the man.
Oilers won’t move up the standings much (if at all, PHX plays too) tonight, but a clear win puts them 1 point behind Nashville with two games in hand. All is not lost, but a repeat of last season’s elevator shaft trip through games 30-40 (2-9-0) is a must to avoid.