According to CBC play-by-play man Mark Lee, he had a conversation with Steve Tambellini Friday night. During the broadcast of the Oilers - Sharks Hockey Night in Canada game, Lee told the audience that Tambellini said he "…thinks they’ve got all of the pieces here to make a run at the playoffs."
As the oft-accused resident Copper & Blue pessimist, I've written about the lack of balance, lack of defense, lack of goaltender, and lack of real NHL players in Edmonton, so Tambellini's statements make me alternate between uproarious laughter and stunned disbelief as I try to figure out why in the world he said this.
Thus far, I've come up with:
- Tambellini is delusional. He looks at the roster and sees the veterans at 100% health, the young players stepping forward in a big way, and career years being the baseline expectation for a number of players. He doesn't see how fragile a significant portion of the roster really is and doesn't realize the defense, as constructed, is full of more questions than answers.
- Tambellini is putting his job on the line to inspire the team. While sitting in last place in December 2010, Tom Renney said he wouldn't be surprised when the Oilers make the playoffs. Prior to this season, Tom Renney again said his expectations were that the Oilers would make the playoffs. But continued failures demonstrate that Renney's job isn't on the line. If the coach can't motivate the team, perhaps Tambellini believes that the head of the club can do so by setting lofty expectations. At the same time those expectations put Tambellini at risk. He's the man responsible for the makeup of the team and if he expects them to make the playoffs, he has to fire the coach or sacrifice his own job when they don't. If he's held to his word by the owner, that is.
- Tambellini is saying the right things so he won't lose this young team. As the Oilers fall through the Western Conference standings, all of the second-year players (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Jeff Petry) risk finishing in last place two years running. Rather than building a winning culture (as Tambellini has talked about at length), the Oilers risk turning a young core into the Thrashers, Islanders or Blue Jackets. If none of the people in charge of the organization expect to win, why should we expect the players to win? Tambellini is putting the brakes on that by setting winning expectations and doing so in a public manner so the young Oilers can see his confidence in the team and his plan.
- Tambellini is worse at team and talent evaluation than any of us ever imagined. Except for signing Eric Belanger, Tambellini has yet to do anything of significance towards building the Oilers. All of the added talent has come through the draft and farm system while Tambellini has traded away an enormous amount of NHL talent. Each time this happens, the local media runs a "pro scouting department problem", but the above statement could indicate the issue isn't with scouting at all.
Have I missed any explanations for what Tambellini sold to CBC?