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The Tambellini Press Conference

TORONTO - APRIL 13: Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini awaits the announcement for the first overall pick during the NHL Draft Lottery Drawing at the TSN Studio April 13, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages / Getty Images for NHL)
TORONTO - APRIL 13: Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini awaits the announcement for the first overall pick during the NHL Draft Lottery Drawing at the TSN Studio April 13, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages / Getty Images for NHL)
Getty Images for NHL

Steve Tambellini gave the Oilers annual "I'm a driver, I'm a winner.  Things are gonna change.  I can feel it." talk the other day.  You can view the whole thing here.  In it, he sounds a lot like he did last year at this time when he fired Craig MacTavish and said he was going to remake the team with rough and tumble forwards that would do anything to win.  Though I'd like to say I was inspired, the entire thing left me shaking my head, and it left me with more questions on the things that Tambellini talked about and addressed as priorities going forward.  If you're reading Steve, I'd love to ask you some questions.  Shoot me an email and we'll set it up.

My frustrations made me decide to take a detailed look at his statement.  In the vein of the great Fire Joe Morgan, I've decided to take apart the Tambellini statement piece by piece.  I'm ignoring the Q & A portion of the press conference because the questions were almost all fluff.  Not one person stepped up to question Tambellini on what's been going on for the first 18 months, no one even asked a difficult to answer question of any sort.  Each question was a softball laid out there, as if the questions were handed out by the team prior to the interview.

The most disconcerting thing about this entire statement, and there were a bunch of disconcerting things, was the weird grin that Tambellini was sporting the entire time.  It was exactly like the uncomfortable George Bush smirk.

First, I guess, more importantly, we can start from an assessment standpoint. 

Well, the man has been assessing in some way, shape or form for eighteen months, so he should be an expert in this subject matter by now.

I've been here 18 months and had a chance to see a lineup I think the first last year that was pretty much a given due to the financial contractual obligations that were in place that we knew that here was going to be more if there was going to be change it was going to come from the inside. 

I listened to this three times, transcribed it, then read it three more times and I have no idea what this means.

We saw this year, with the fact that I don't have to talk about injuries,

Nice!  No more using the injury excuse!

and we can talk about that maybe a little bit later,


but when we saw our probably our MVP or that was going to be our MVP, Nik Khabibulin, go down and we saw Ales Hemsky be injured, and maybe you can debate whether he's our best player, but he's our most skilled player for sure. 

By "talk about that maybe a little bit later" he means "right now"?


You sit back and you think about "Okay, let's see if we have some depth, let's see if we have the people that have been vying for jobs have been trying to demonstrate to coaches that they can take up the slack and there's opportunity." 

I get the gist of what he's saying here, but sweet Moses is that thought a mess.  Steve Tambellini is no Craig MacTavish in the public speaking department.  MacTavish would make a good GM.  Anyway "let's see if we have some depth"?  In the middle of the season?  Shouldn't that have been hashed out last season, in the off-season and during training camp?  Over a year into his reign is when he finally decides to check on organizational depth?  Wasn't depth one of the things that he assessed during all of that assessment time?

You sit back and watch that and it becomes pretty clear. You know, it's fact that we finished 30th in the league. 

Holy moly!  I just glanced at the standings and he's right!  I wasn't aware of this previously, but now that I have it on authority, I can use this.  This is insight into the way that the Edmonton sports media comes about their facts, by the way.

To me, it presents clarity.  It presents clarity to the entire organization that we have to make some change, there's no question about that.  We have good people, good players, but we have to make some change. 

This sounds very much like a political speech.  Don't say anything bad about anyone and top it off with lots of "change"

We started doing that at the deadline this year.  We started to move some contracts strategically to give us some flexibility.  We got a little bit younger in the acquisition of Whitney, and we lost a good player with Lubomir who was a good offensive player, but we think we got back maybe a more rounded player with Whitney.  We had to move Steve Staios who has been a great warrior for this team and have great respect for him and his family for what they've contributed to the Oilers on and off the ice.  But with a cap hit of $2.7 million we were able to free up some money obviously and with Stevie's age it made sense to acquire another draft pick. 

I don't get why Staios' age means that the return has to be a pick.  Oh well.  Moving on...

And with Denis Grebeshkov the same thing where we tried not to take back salary at that time and present ourselves with some flexibility going forward. 

If he means that Grebeshkov was a salary dump, then he was most-talented, least-expensive traditional salary dump I've ever seen.

So those are the types of deals that we had to make in place step one, I guess, of achieving some ability to make change. 

Say who in the what now?

Going into this year's draft, you know that there will be potentially more change.  We're going to try to do some things there, as far as moving bodies.  And it becomes very clear to us.  And the nice thing on a positive side is that the organization gets to see, you get to see the fact that this has to take place.  And if I was to stand up here in front of all of you and say "If I make one trade, if I make one good free agent signing that things are going to be better" that's not true.  It's not true.  There are no quick fixes, I'm not going to be the person to tell you that it's going to be a quick fix.  We're going to do this thing right. 

This team was no different than the one the year before.  Why didn't the Oilers recognize this last year, when the team was a mess?  Why were they going for the quick fix for the last year?  Are we to believe that these guys needs signs as bright as the lamp on top of the Luxor to recognize the signs with clarity?  Because that's what this season was - an aberration of epic proportions.  If they change nothing and have a 20 point bounce like Tyler is expecting, do they go back to the quick fix?

We have a wonderful opportunity here to do things right. 

And yet fans are nervous to the point of borderline insanity.  Why's that?

We announced not to long ago that we, we reinstated our franchise in Oklahoma City.  A significant part of what needs to take place here.  We finally have our own franchise, our triple A if you want to call it affiliate, where we can match up our coaching staff, our player development, our pipeline to the Edmonton Oilers

Why couldn't the Oilers do this with affiliate teams?  Every other NHL club does this. Was Springfield actively resisting the Oilers' development techniques?

Geographically, we're in a better spot.  This is a significant step.  And for me this is all going to be about player development, drafting.  I'm not saying we're not going to be in the free agent market and that we're not going to continue to make trades that benefit the hockey club.  But what I am saying is that if we're only reliant upon a trade or a free agent signing, then I'm going to be sitting here, possibly ten years from now and we're going to be talking about the same thing.  We have to take care of our own business.  As the Oilers.  We have to do a better job of drafting, of scouting, of assessment.  Our minor league franchise we have to do a better job at that. 

Has the scouting and drafting been poor?  I'd argue the opposite actually. 

Have I pushed our scouts?  Yes I have.  Is it uncomfortable sometimes?  Yes very.  Do we have to do a better job in our minor league system?  Much better.  Incredibly better. 

STOP! Hypophora time!  It's actually pretty funny that Tambellini feels the need to use this technique in this setting.  It's not as if the Edmonton media is going to challenge him or raise any of these points.  As one would expect, these were the toughest questions asked of Tambellini during the entire press conference.  Nice job, Edmonton media, way to show your journalistic chops!

We have to change our whole philosophy of our type of development there. 

I'm pretty sure that he means 'create our whole philosophy", because from what we've all seen, there is no current philosophy.  It's every kid for himself down there, it's "Mad Max:  Beyond Thunderdome"-type development.

And what I'm saying is, I'm not telling you that we're not going to be involved in free agency and trying upgrade through trades, but unless we take care of this first and develop our kids coming through.  That we do get them at age 18 that we do get them when they're 19 years old and 20 years old and we're working through our player development people our strength people and our amateur scouts and our coaches in Oklahoma City. 

The player development people?  I sure hope you've got new ones on the way.  More on that in a second.

If we don't do that and we don't take care of business and we don't have that core group that is proud to be an Oiler by the time the one day that they get a chance to be an Oiler. 

I'm pretty sure that we'd all just be happy with good players, full of pride or not.  Work on the skills first, then the indoctrination.

If we don't take care of that core group inside first, we'll always be spinning our wheels.  We're not going to get better as a franchise unless we take care of that first. 

And here's where this whole line notion falls apart.  If Tambellini and the franchise really want to "take care of that" then they can start by talking to these kids!  There is a lot of lip service being paid to hope and change here, but the player development people still aren't talking to these kids.  I'm not sure what Kevin Prendergast and Mike Sillinger actually do on a day-to-day basis.  Do they come into the office and just stare at the wall?  Do they just walk around looking annoyed?  There are roughly 50 kids in the organization that these two need to pay attention to on a regular basis.  Is it that hard to call these guys once a week for a five minute conversation?  What about an email or a text message every couple of days?  Other teams are doing this with their prospects.  Between Guy Flaming and myself, we're probably doing this right now already and we're not highly-paid player development professionals.  Every one of these kids that I've talked to on and off of the record want to learn.  They want guidance.  They want to get better.  They want to make it to the NHL.  Why aren't the Oilers helping them?  If Tambellini wants to show the fans of this team that he's serious about what he's saying, he can get the organization to stop worrying about bloggers posting from the press box or using Zambonis to block in those that don't toe the company line and start talking to these kids right now.

And we have a wonderful opportunity here to do that.  A wonderful opportunity.  I'm truly excited about that.

I'd like to believe him.  I really would like to believe what he's saying.  But at this point the less naive Edmonton fans are done coming back to this abusive relationship.   Last year, Tambellini fired Craig MacTavish and then said that he was going to bring change.  We all gave the Oilers yet another chance.  Tambellini chased another whale, offered way too much money to a mediocre forward and overpaid his goalie by half.  And we all moved out again.  Good luck in what you say you're going to do Steve, I hope it works out, but forgive us all if we don't believe you just yet.