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Steve Tambellini and the Truth

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Firing Pat Quinn was the right move.  Derek talked about it yesterday but, my God, was Pat Quinn ever bad.  This team had an awful lot of problems and I was deeply worried that Quinn would survive through the off-season and we'd have another year of J.F. Jacques on the first line, Jason Strudwick on the ice at the end of games and half the team getting injured on purpose just so they didn't have to deal with it.  But listening to Steve Tambellini, I couldn't help but think that the story he was selling was quite a bit different from the story he was peddling about a year ago when Quinn and Renney were first hired.  After the jump we'll take a look at some of Tambellini's comments from both press conferences.

The first press conference included a lot of chest-thumping about hiring a not good but-great coaching staff that had Tambellini looking and sounding a bit like a thirteen-year old kid after his first game of "Seven Minutes in Heaven."  It also included an interesting question from CTV's Dave Mitchell about what the possibility of Tom Renney moving up the ranks.  Here's Mitchell's question:


"Can you look at - not to put the cart before the horse - the long term here, with Pat being the head coach and Tom being here too as associate coach.  Where do you see this developing and changing in the future possibly?  And how are they going to work together, you know, the word mentor has been thrown out in the days behind.  Where do you think this evolves to?"

And here's Steve Tambellini's response (all emphasis mine):

"I don't know where this evolves to.  The only thing I'm concerned about is this coaching staff getting together, becoming as strong as it possibly can be.  Pat is the head coach of this hockey club and Tom was hired as the associate coach of this hockey club and both are very defined roles.  There are no plans of what happens after contracts expire, there have been no promises that are in place.  This is a coaching staff that has one leader and a group of coaches that I think are going to be incredible, so, what's going to happen in the future?  I don't know."

Now, that story doesn't jive so well with what Tambellini said yesterday does it?  Here is what he had to say yesterday:

"When you look at a plan that was in place, that I discussed with Pat before he came here, as far as a succession plan, the idea for me was that after year two, that I would ask him to take this position as senior hockey advisor.  That was my plan going into this.  And Tom to take over.  Obviously, with what happened this year with regards to the depth of our organization, the fact that we're rebuilding the Oilers, the fact we're going to be young, it made sense to me over the last couple of months, when I've been thinking about this and how we want to do this, and our plan is basically being accelerated by one year where Pat becomes the senior hockey advisor and Tom Renney becomes the head coach of the Oilers.  I believe Tom is perfect the job, especially where we are right now as far as setting a template going forward with such a young group."

That's some change!  Either Steve Tambellini had a plan in place before hiring Pat Quinn or he didn't.  My suspicion is that he did but didn't want to tell the media because he didn't want to tell Pat Quinn.  The whole idea of him talking to Pat Quinn about a succession plan before he signed on with Edmonton is almost surely fiction.  Very likely, the planned "senior advisor" role is fiction as well in that Pat Quinn spoke at length about wanting to coach when he first arrived and talked about wanting to coach yesterday as well.  Had Tambellini asked him to be a senior advisor after two years, Quinn's contract would be done and he could more easily walk away without losing face.  Even Tambellini said later in the press conference that Quinn would "coach until he's ninety."  He followed that up with a beauty: "I think [Pat] understands my plan."  Emphasis Tambellini's. The pronouns in the text quoted above tell the same story: "the idea for me," "my plan going into this," "it made sense to me," "when I've been thinking" and then suddenly "we want to do this, and our plan" to close it out.  As much as Tambellini wanted to present a united front, it's clear that this was his decision alone.

So why point this stuff out?  Well, I think it's important to recognize three things coming out of this, two not so bad and one not so good. 

1. Steve Tambellini is the man in charge.  Everything that's happening is with Tambellini's stamp of approval.  There was no Kevin Lowe at yesterday's press conference and it seems more and more like Kevin Lowe doesn't get the final say.  It's my opinion that this is good thing.

2. Steve Tambellini isn't always truthful with the media.  This is understandable and probably good.  For a fan it's good because it means some of the more egregious comments may not be true (basically everything positive he's said about Nikolai Khabibulin).  It's a good thing that he's willing to "massage" the truth in public a little bit in order to protect his assets.  The upshot is that he should be judged more by what he does than what he says. 

3. Steve Tambellini isn't always truthful with his employees.  This one I don't like.  It seems to me that Pat Quinn wasn't brought in knowing the whole plan.  Further, it seems like communicating with his employees in general has been a problem.  From Sheldon Souray's comments in the media to Kevin Prendergast being fired in a hotel to Pat Quinn saying that he still wants to coach.  I know that, for me, part of what makes working in any place enjoyable is being able to trust the people you're with.  It seems to me that Steve Tambellini is making that more difficult and that, going forward, it could well come back to hurt the team time after time.