This was originally scheduled to be an article about the penalty kill. I was going to do some additional analysis, show a really funny screen cap of the Vancouver game where Theo Peckham was charging at the point defenseman and two seconds later Vancouver scored. But I'm getting tired of harping on the Oilers' penalty kill. It's the worst-coached special team that I can remember, though I don't remember the 1970's Capitals penalty kill, so there's a chance they are the worst-coached team in history and I don't want to write about them for awhile. So I guess it's back to talking about management and mismanagement.
A little less than a year ago, I wrote an article in which I predicted that Craig MacTavish will someday be a General Manager in the NHL. Part of that article featured a poll asking for our readers' preference between MacTavish, Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini. MacTavish ran away with the poll, garnering 53% of the vote.
Eleven months later and my conclusion hasn't changed:
He's a guy with a proven record as a player, a proven record of player development, a proven record of roster management, an understanding of roster building, and a record of intelligence. Teams like Atlanta, Florida, Ottawa, and Edmonton should be at least willing to listen to what MacTavish has to say, let alone hire the guy to fix their significant messes.
It hasn't changed except that Atlanta and Florida have looked elsewhere to fix their mess. Ottawa is staying the course and isn't nearly as messy this season, and Edmonton, well, Edmonton is enough of a mess for all of them.
And while I still believe MacTavish to be a superior choice for a GM job, the current state of the Oilers is enough for me to long for the fantastically uneven voyage that marked Kevin Lowe's post-lockout reign in Edmonton. Yes, Lowe had his warts, but he was also able to piece together talented players now and again and in the end, his biggest fault was over-valuing players in free agency and over-valuing his own players headed towards free agency. Though he was widely criticized for both the Chris Pronger trade and the Ryan Smyth negotiations and trade, imagine if the current General Manager had to pull those off. Now stop sobbing.
Discount the draft (because it's evident to everyone that knows anything about the Oilers that Stu MacGregor is solely responsible for the draft) and Steve Tambellini's body of work in Edmonton is lacking. We've gone through his moves time and time again - trading a second round pick for a couple of weeks of Ales Kotalik, turning Erik Cole into Jim Vandermeer, the Khabibulin deal. None of it is very good.
The one move that was supposed to be of great imagination, and has been repeatedly used as a defense of Tambellini's skill as a General Manager is his trade of Patrick O'Sullivan for Jim Vandermeer. O'Sullivan was then bought out by the Coyotes. I keep reading this as a defense of Tambellini, but it’s just not true. It might be imaginative, but it’s not efficient.
O’Sullivan’s buyout counts for $935,417 against the cap this year and $397,917 against the cap in 2011-2012 Vandermeer's deal is a $2,300,000 cap hit this year. A guy like Mike Mottau signed with the Islanders for $800,000 over the next two seasons. Tambellini could’ve offered him $1.2 million for this season, had a better player and had the same cap and cash impact. Other guys that would've worked in a similar fashion and their cap hits:
He could’ve offered any of them $1,200,000 and had the same financial impact and a better player. So the Vandermeer thing wasn’t really creative, it was just…a move for a move’s sake and actually made the team worse.
Let's not forget he brought Jason Strudwick back for another year, with a $25,000 raise, no less. Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but Strudwick is probably the worst regular player since the 1967 expansion. I don't care if the player is some combination of Charles XII and Plato in the locker room, the on-ice impact of Strudwick's play is damaging to the development of a young team.
His roster management this season has been nothing short of awful. He botched Pat Quinn's firing cum promotion so badly that even the most ardent management fans were sympathetic to Quinn. He botched the handling of the Sheldon Souray situation so badly over the last 18 months that I expected someone to pop up and say "Tamby, you're doing a heckuva job." He didn't know the signing deadline for Teemu Hartikainen. He bought out Robert Nilsson for no apparent reason. He spent two years assessing a team and still didn't realize that they needed a center that could win faceoffs and kill penalties.
The opening day roster was penciled in since July. Tambellini refused to make a decision on the goaltending situation to open the season and carried three goalies, handcuffing Tom Renney as he tried to manage the lineup. Only after J.F. Jacques, yes, that J.F. Jacques returned from injury was Tambellini forced to make a decision. Combine that with the Strudwick signing and the MacIntyre signing and Tom Renney's three healthy scratches were Jeff Deslauriers, Jason Strudwick and Steve MacIntyre. Let that soak in for a minute. Has there been a worse bench in NHL history? It's rhetorical, by the way, no need to search for the answer. He's assembled a coaching staff that won't manage the bench and coach and has introduced possibly the worst penalty kill tactics in NHL history.
Kevin Lowe may not have been the smoothest operator in the NHL, but he wasn't overwhelmed by his position. Except for the Pronger situation, he was decent in the trade markets. He uncovered defensemen on a regular basis. Yes, he struggled in the free agency market, but simply hiring a negotiator or a keen Assistant General Manager probably would have plugged that leak. He also had a tendency to over-correct when fixing a problem, but at least he realized that a problem existed and addressed the problem. Until this entire mess can be properly addressed, here's hoping Kevin Lowe pulls a Lou Lamoriello and places himself at the helm once again.