The problem is, you develop a past. Steve Tambellini spent a generation in middle management and that’s a place where your vision is less important than your ability to do the detail work. As a General Manager, Tambellini has done some good things: the Barons are a much better organization than anything we’ve seen since the Bulldogs of the 1990′s: they’ve churned out useful parts here and there and have helped some pretty good hockey players transition from junior or college to the NHL. Tambellini has also put together a solid amateur scouting department under the guidance of Stu MacGregor and that group is responsible for the bright future the Oilers surely have waiting for them.
I’m not certain how much credit to give Steve Tambellini for the Justin Schultz signing, but inasmuch as he was responsible for hiring Ralph Krueger to coach and drafting Taylor Hall it’s likely worth a line in this story.
Let’s begin this piece by setting the Tambellini timeline:
- That beauty Oiler team loses G7 SCF to Carolina.
- Chris Pronger’s trade request is granted. Kevin Lowe adds prospects and picks and does not address a blueline that recently lost Pronger, Spacek and Dick Tarnstrom.
- Lowe does not pursue a long term contract with Ryan Smyth but signs everyone else.
- The first “new era” is launched with Gagner, Cogliano, Smid and others who don’t yet shave.
- 07-08 Oilers win 35 games under MacT–4th in the NW, no playoffs. Team leaders include Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff, both 20 goal scorers.
- Summer 2008: Katz gets the keys to the Oilers.
- In July of 2008–after the transactions of summer have been completed, Oilers hire Steve Tambellini as new GM.
- 08-09 Oilers win 38 games under MacT–4th in the NW, no playoffs. Team leaders include Ales Hemsky and Sheldon Souray, both 20 goal scorers.
- April 2009: Tambellini fires MacT after seasons of 35 and 38 wins.
- Tambellini signs Nikolai Khabibulin to a 4-year 35+ contract.
- Summer 2009: Oilers chase Dany Heatley like he’s Scarlett Johansson and this is the last night on planet earth. He says no.
- 09-10 Oilers win 27 games under Pat Quinn–5th in NW, no playoffs. This season features items like JF Jacques on the top line and Lubomir Visnovsky’s puck moving ability discouraged by the coach in favor of “moving the puck up to forwards” like Jacques. Leaders include Dustin Penner, who posts 32 goals–an amazing season while lost in the second division.
- 09-10: Owner Katz suggests and agrees to rebuild.
- Sheldon Souray talks to Mark Spector. April 2010
- Taylor Hall is selected at draft.
- 10-11 Oilers win 25 games under Tom Renney, 5th in NW, no playoffs. This season features 2 20 goal scorers (Taylor Hall and Dustin Penner before he was dealt) and a plethora of young talent–especially on the wings. The Oilers have what might be the strongest collection of rookie wingers in their history–Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi and Omark. Hartikainen rising.
- RNH is selected at the draft.
- Ryan Smyth trades himself to the Oilers for a Stanley Cup ring.
- Tambellini has his ‘stand and deliver’ July 1st: buys out Souray, signs Cam Barker, Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk, Eric Belanger, Corey Potter and trades for Andy Sutton.
- Tambellini trades Andrew Cogliano for a 2013 2nd round pick.
- 11-12 season, Oilers improve to 32 wins, the major stories include Jordan Eberle blossoming, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins impressing and Taylor Hall getting better every day. Devan Dubnyk also establishes himself as #1G.
- Summer 2012, Tambellini fires Tom Renney and replaces him with Ralph Krueger.
- Yak City is selected at the draft.
- The Oilers win the Justin Schultz sweepstakes.
- Steve Tambellini–incredibly–signs Lennart Petrell and Darcy Hordichuk, effectively returning the entire bottom 6F’s from previous season intact.
The problems for Steve Tambellini are as follows:
- He makes too many bad bets. The Cam Barker bet is the most galling, but there are many others up there including Pat Quinn and the JF Jacques generation and of course old goalie.
- He’s not the guy in charge. If you’re ever hired to do a job only to find out your boss is meddling and you’re the paper shuffler, the time to handle it is day one, hour one. Steve Tambellini isn’t the guy in charge and he’s going to be fired anyway. Man, that’s a bad career move.
- He’s too slow to make moves. Latest example was the inertia after the night Horcoff-Belanger went down. Even if you handle things well in summer, problems crop up that require in-season solutions. Oilers called up Lander, then VandeVelde and then Arcobello and finally (when it was too late) grabbed a 4th line option.
- He does not inspire confidence. Tambellini has improved a great deal at public speaking and being interviewed, but you never get the feeling he’s completely in charge of the moment. Compare his style to someone like Craig MacTavish–it’s miles apart. I think this is a major issue for him.
- He has now developed a track record as GM. His grade is in, and it is not a passing grade.
I wish Steve Tambellini no ill, in fact I think it’ll be a miscarriage of justice when he’s fired–but he was never a good choice for the GM job. I’ll bet all the tea in china we don’t see Kevin Lowe moved out of the ‘Godfather of hockey’ chair–and with that, changes will be made as they have been for the last dozen years in Oiler offices. Kevin Lowe’s management track record has some good things (an incredible stretch in-season 2006 is one of the memorable moments in Oiler front office history) and some bad, but expecting Oiler fans to endure more seasons outside the playoffs is not reasonable.
Next up: probably Howson, unless Craig MacTavish wants the job. The management needs to hire a GM with experience, and the first thing he’ll want is complete control with no strings attached.
The Edmonton Oilers have a problem, and it is them.