The Oilers and Low Expectations

My wife's birthday is August 19 but in the first year we were dating I didn't get her a present until September 12. It's not that I didn't know when her birthday was, I just didn't get around to buying a present until it was three weeks late. Earlier that year I had been her "plus-one" to a friend's wedding. Being a t-shirt and jeans guy she'd never seen me in a shirt and tie before. She looked me up and down and told me I looked very nice, and even though she looked great I responded with "You look not bad". Really, that's what I said. In both cases I joked with friends that I was just keeping her expectations low so I could exceed those expectations in the future, which isn't a bad story when shared over a couple of beers but in reality I was an idiot plain and simple.

Fast forward to present day Edmonton and Steve Tambellini and the Edmonton Oilers are clearly stealing from my playbook. Through a combination of stupidity, ineptitude, and bad luck with injuries the Oilers have finished last for two years in a row and management has decided that rebuilding through the draft is the only way back to respectability. This isn't a bad plan. Considering where the franchise was at it might have been the only plan. But in our desire to see something positive with the Oilers we've lowered our expectations to ridiculously low levels.

When Kevin Lowe says it's going to take four to six years for the Oilers to become a contender expectations get lowered. Chicago went from selecting Patrick Kane first overall to winning the Stanley Cup in three years. But in Edmonton it's going to take about twice as long. How can that be? Did the Blackhawks just get lucky with their rebuild or is Oilers management just being lazy and taking their sweet time knowing their jobs aren't on the line? I'm not expecting that we should win the Stanley Cup two or three years from now but is it really unreasonable to think that we should be among the better teams in the Western Conference by then?

When Bob Stauffer goes on the radio prior to free agency and says that the Oilers could easily be a lottery pick team again this year expectations get lowered. If the Oilers take to the ice in October with a lineup unchanged from last season it's reasonable to think that a lottery pick is in our future but how can you look at a team in June and declare the next season already over? Had this statement came from another member of the media who isn't directly employed by the Oilers it would be more palatable but Mr. Stauffer is an employee of the Oilers; I'm not thrilled when Oiler employees start waving a white flag in June. I don't think the Oilers should be trying to make the playoffs this year but the goal should certainly be to do better than last place yet again. Should we not at least be expecting that?

And if you don't think these things have lowered our expectations look no further than July 1. Going into free agency Tambellini needed to add a third line centre, at least one top four defenseman, and find some help in goal. With that shopping list in hand Tambellini added Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk, Cam Barker, and Eric Belanger and swapped Kurtis Foster for Andy Sutton. The need for a third line centre was addressed but the other needs remain unchanged. Beyond the Belanger addition the other moves might have ever so slightly improved the fourth line and added two more bottom pairing blue liners. Not what was needed and not what I would have hoped for. And yet more than half of the readers here felt that Tambellini was excellent or better on July 1. It's clear we weren't expecting much.

With the Oilers now having 50 contracts in place any help before the start of the season will have to come in the form of a trade. This presents a couple of problems. First Tambellini has to find a willing trade partner who wants to move what we need. And even if he finds that trading partner does he have enough assets to make a deal work? Maybe a package of Andrew Cogliano and Theo Peckham could get the top four defenseman we desperately need. But aside from that we don't have much in the way of trade bait to offer. To be fair, a trade seems like a bit of a long shot right now. That is a less than encouraging thought when you look at the roster.

I think it's time that we expect more from Tambellini and Oilers management. My wife expected better from me and I try to meet those expectations every day; Tambellini and the rest of Oilers management should be no different and right now we're giving them a free pass by not holding them to a higher standard. Tambellini is entering his fourth season at the helm of the Oilers and so far he has done little more than steer our team into the ground. Yes the future is brighter now than it was two years ago but if you exclude the draft, which isn't really his baby anyway, I can count the good moves he's made on one hand. With the cupboards full of top end prospects this is the season for the Oilers to start moving in the right direction once again. If we don't see some improvement then it's time for changes to be made. We should expect nothing less.

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