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Breaking Down One Of The Many MSM Defences Of Steve Tambellini

Against my better judgement I read most of what Edmonton's main stream media writes about the Oilers. I don't agree with most, rarely any, of what the people paid to report on the team have to say since it tends to do nothing more than advance the Oilers message without questioning anything. But I read it all the same. What can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment, something you may have already figured out from the fact that I not only pay for season tickets but also continue to attend the games.

Now under normal circumstances when I disagree with something written by the MSM I will respond by mocking the story on Twitter because it's a simple way to vent my frustration, allowing me to get on with my day. Such was the case when I read John MacKinnon's most recent story on the Oilers stressing that Steve Tambellini needs to stay the course with the rebuild. But even after having chirped the story on Twitter I didn't feel any better because this story was, somehow, worse than most. Given that remarkable accomplishment I felt that the story needed closer examination.

Starting with the opening paragraph:

Those who want either Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini or head coach Tom Renney to pay with his job for the Oilers’ results in Year 2 of their rebuild are either unclear on the concept or letting passion subdue reason.

That the Oilers are in the second year of their rebuild is just untrue. The Oilers are in the second year of this rebuild. The Oilers have been rebuilding since Ryan Smyth was traded five years ago. Below is an excerpt from an email that Mr. MacKinnon sent to Andy Grabia in October 2007 in which he acknowledges that the Oilers were rebuilding at that time.

Last season, it became clear that, absent Pronger (not to mention Peca, Spacek et al), the Oilers needed to rebuild. Organizationally, they remain better off with the asset base they now possess, which would not have been possible had they kept Smyth. I'm not trying to retroactively suggest this was knowable at the time of the Smyth trade. Obviously, it was not. I'm just saying that, as things unfolded, they will be better able to rebuild in the current reality, with the current bundle of assets. And a key part of that rebuilding job will be the 18-year-old Sam Gagner, who almost certainly would not be here had the Oilers kept Smyth and not cannonballed the way they did.

So what changed between then and now? Well the Oilers announced that they were rebuilding, conveniently at a time that they were falling in the standings on their way to what would be the first of two (three?) last place finishes. The fans were upset and the official party line needed to change. Management needed to be absolved of past mistakes. Since then the media has been sure to spread the new version of the rebuild whenever possible.

More from the story:

After shovelling the accumulated deadwood out of the way in 2009-10, Tambellini’s mandate has been acquiring elite talent through the draft and developing it into a championship team.

Heading into his second season as the Oilers general manager, Steve Tambellini added former Stanley Cup winning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and constructed a cap team that he must have felt could compete based on what it cost. He was very, very wrong and so began the second version of the rebuild. Looking at the moves Tambellini made in those first months of the second rebuild, he traded from the roster Denis Grebeshkov, Lubomir Visnovsky, and Steve Staios acquiring Ryan Whitney and a second, third, and sixth round pick. I won't argue that trading Staios was good but I wouldn't exactly call either of Grebeshkov or Visnovsky deadwood.

Beyond trades, Ethan Moreau, Patrick O`Sullivan, and Robert Nilsson were also placed on waivers for the purposes of being bought out. Again moves that made the Oilers better but if you want to give Tambellini credit for removing the deadwood it can't be forgotten that months earlier he'd seen that same deadwood as part of a winning team. If one is a plus the other has to be seen as a negative. The years that led up to the rebuild happened and Tambellini and management should be held accountable for those.

And finally:

Fans, following their hearts, and expecting full value for their hard-earned cash, want to see results now. It may take courage and backbone for the Oilers brain trust not to sacrifice Renney to the myopic whims of the fans.

I'm not sure if it's possible for someone to be more condescending than this. The fans are the reason that the Oilers, and Mr. MacKinnon's job for that matter, exist. I don't for a minute believe that the fans should be in charge of the team or that the Oilers should be consulting ticket holders when it comes to roster moves, but to trivialize the fans like this is unnecessary. Oilers fans are a passionate group which, given six years on the outside looking in come April, should be commended rather than looked down upon.

You know what? I feel a little better now.