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An Open Letter to Steve Tambellini Regarding Dustin Penner

Dustin Penner: so good he even gets goals out of Gilbert Brule.
Dustin Penner: so good he even gets goals out of Gilbert Brule.

Dear Tambicakes,

Just how stupid are you?

That about sums it up, but it would be a pretty short article if that was all I said and as you know I abhor being concise. I mean, it's obvious you're a devoted Copper & Blue reader. You read my article from December saying don't trade Ales Friggin' Hemsky and sure enough, you didn't trade Ales Hemsky. Kudos. But I wonder if you took the right lesson from that article.

My thesis was not "keep Ales because he's spent his whole career with the Oilers" (although he has), nor "don't trade Ales because he's a dreamboat" (although he is). My main points were that Hemsky was young enough to help this team contribute four or five years down the line, signed to an expensive but reasonable contract, unlikely to snare major assets in a trade, a happy guy who enjoys the city and should be willing to re-sign if the management is even faintly doing its job, and of course that Ales is an undeniably excellent player as opposed to a shitty player who might be excellent someday if we're lucky like, I dunno, Colten Teubert or a late first-round pick in the 2011 draft. That's like taking a million dollars and buying two lottery tickets because, hell, they might be worth something someday. Except that if you did win the lottery, you'd spend the winnings on yet more lottery tickets.

You obviously read that article, nodded along, moved Ales Hemsky's name from "Trade" to "Evaluate", and then completely failed to heed the lessons because you then traded Dustin Penner, a guy who this team needs for the exact same reasons it needs Ales Hemsky, in exchange for jack and shit.

So I don't know why I'm writing to you now; your reading comprehension skills obviously aren't the best. Call it venting, I guess. Derek Zona took care of the logic; I'll take care of the emotion. Steve Tambellini, this was stupid as balls and I'm going to let you know about it even if I'm just shouting into the void.

I'm not going to say Dustin Penner was perfect. Yes, Dustin was fat. Wayne Gretzky was short, but he did okay. Penner was big but not a hitter, seldom looked like he was trying all that hard, didn't have the mean streak you associate with a power forward; basically he was Frank Mahovlich. He got results, Tambo. You don't have many players who fit that bill. He also, by all accounts, fit in great in Edmonton. He got along with his teammates, he was active in the community, he did everything you could ask a player to do off the ice. Anybody saying that Penner "wanted to leave" for reasons other than your hockey team being so shit Dustin wouldn't get a chance at the playoffs until you died is making an awfully risky assertion.

Tambo-lina, I'm going to say something so obvious everybody except you seems to take it as a given. To have a good hockey team, you need good hockey players. Dustin Penner is a good hockey player. You traded him for Colten Teubert, who is not a good hockey player. He is so not good he couldn't get past Davis Drewiske and Peter Harrold on the Los Angeles Kings depth chart. And, not to pick on the guy, but who the fuck is Davis Drewiske? That's not an NHL defenseman, that's a Red Green Show character! He's -1 and has no goals on a team that's one of the favourites for the Western Conference title, and he's kicking Colten Teubert's ass. Teubert was ninth on his team in scoring among defensemen, and that team is the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. Do you know who's ninth among Oklahoma City Barons defensemen in scoring? Of course you don't. It's Jake Taylor. Tits up!

Now, you may say that Teubert has wheels and a mean streak, that's he's a defensively oriented defenseman, and other such inanities designed to cover up the fact that this guy has the offensive instincts of a young Jason Strudwick. (Coincidentally, 27-year-old Jake Taylor has all those things as well and has played zero NHL games). A defensive specialist who doesn't get time on the penalty kill, who's been a healthy scratch for his AHL team, who's already played 18 games in the ECHL (or as I prefer to call it the "Thanks for Trying Hockey League"). This is a 20-year-old Cory Cross. You traded our second-best player for Cory Cross. Go eat a box of shit. We also got a mid-late first-rounder and another pick, which I'd have a lot more confidence in if you weren't going to be responsible for the players we drafted.

And, of course, you're going to wind up trading Ales Hemsky anyway. Do you know how I know that? Because we're not going to make the playoffs in 2011-12 now, obviously, and although Hemsky is the consummate team player and loves Edmonton as much as anybody paid to live there, he's also 27 years old and coming through his eighth NHL season. He's already got enough miles on his frame that injuries are becoming more and more of a problem. It won't be long before he's on the wrong end of thirty and in Doug Weight territory desperately seeking a contender to cling on to so he can get his Cup on his way out of the league.

And you could have kept him anyway. Tambi-poo, did you know we had fifteen million dollars in projected cap space for next season before you traded Dustin Penner? And no key free agents to re-sign (no, Jean-Francois Jacques and Andrew Cogliano are not key free agents no matter how much you want them to be). If you could have taken smart pills long enough to stash Nikolai Khabibulin's drink-sodden ass in the minors and run Dubnyk/some Gerber-esque discount veteran at $500,000 in goal, you could have signed an entire third line, three new defensemen, and still had enough cap room left to trade some of those bargaining chips we've piled up for a decent second-line centre. Holy fuck, suddenly we're in the playoffs and Hemmer is practically sleeping outside your office waiting for a contract extension with this promising, playoff-bound team built for the long-term. I don't want to over-sell this, but don't you see how easy this would be? Sign all those free agents for one or two years and replace them with kids as they come up through the system. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, despite all your best efforts to sabotage them, are obviously pretty good players to build around. You could have been looking at a Cup run for 2013-14, provided you didn't do something completely insane like throw away the few first-class players you already have in exchange for a potato sack full of pig shit.

Nope. You blew the last two seasons and now you've blown the next two as well. You are an enormous, fetid lump of stupidity, like scientists found away to distill pure awfulness into a solid and then molded it into the shape of a man, a shambling, mindless Frankenstein's monster who stumbled around and was capable only of hideous vocalizations, almost but not quite human, about "rebuilds" and "competing" and "the future". Mike Milbury can sleep a little more soundly in his bed tonight knowing that he is now only the second-worst general manager in NHL history. If Jason Strudwick wants to redeem himself in the eyes of Oilers fans, he will throw you from the press box like Darth Vader hurling the Emperor into a bottomless pit. You must go so we can be free.

Benjamin Massey