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State of Affairs

Normally I try really hard not to criticize the decisions made by management and coaches. For one that is their profession, not mine, and I wouldn’t want them telling me how to do my job, so how can I tell them how to do theirs. The other reason is that we really don’t know why they do what they do. We can speculate, but we really don’t know. Despite all that it has been really hard lately not to be critical, but I’ll try…

I was one person who thought the idea of a rebuild through the draft was a good idea. I remember debating it with friends and using the Penguins as an example. Of course they really aren’t the best example as over a four year period they had 2-1st overall picks and 2-2nd overall ones. Go back a year and they got Ryan Whitney 5th overall. The Capitals may be a better example with one first overall pick (Ovie) and a number of solid first round picks (Mike Green, Eric Fehr, Niklas Backstrom, Alex Semin). Or there is Chicago who used the draft to help build their Stanley cup winning team (Kane-1st overall 2007; Toews-3rd overall 2006; Hjalmarsson-4th round 2005; Bolland-2nd round 2004; Seabrook-1st round 2003; Byfuglien-8th round 2003; Keith-2nd round 2002). That’s 3 first round picks, 2 seconds, a 3rd, a 4th, and an 8ththat all had a major impact on their cup win (There were more too). So I was sold on the rebuild.

Thanks to Stu MacGregor, we have a stable of young promising players, but at some point the rebuild needs to progress. Some events suggested that the rebuild was moving on to the next stage. The first was when Pat Quinn was “promoted” and replaced with Renney. This was originally supposed to happen a year later than it did, but management felt the rebuild was ahead of schedule. Then this past summer the Oilers traded for Smyth and signed Belanger, Eager, Barker, Petrell, Potter, and Hordichuck. All were seen as depth players brought in to help the young guns. While the Smyth trade was fantastic the others haven’t panned out as well (of course there’s also the fact that Smyth traded himself, and if Tambellini hadn’t finalized that trade he wouldn’t have been safe in Edmonton anymore). Still I liked the other signings at the time (yes even Barker, well except for the dollar amount), and I still like them. I think they were good decisions aimed at moving the rebuild along. However like many others I didn’t think it was enough. While I was satisfied with our depth on offense, I felt the defensive depth was severely lacking and that the goal-tending needed some changes.

The last thing that suggested to me that the rebuild was moving along was Renney’s zealous line matching to begin the season. Of course that didn’t last, and now it appears that the Oilers are at the same place they were this time last year in terms of the rebuild. Injuries haven’t helped, but to me it has felt like the Oilers (management, not players) are trying for another top pick. That was the only reason I could think of as to why Tambellini hasn’t traded for a top pairing D-man, or why Renney stopped line matching so religiously. I was mad, and frustrated, and wanted something done. I was about ready to start campaigning for Tambellini to be replaced.

Then I reminded myself that I shouldn’t be too critical and I had a thought. Maybe Tambellini has been trying to bring in more defensive depth. Maybe he tried to sign players like Bryan McCabe or Anton Stralman or Chris Campoli or others in the offseason, but they said no. Maybe he’s been working the phones to try to trade for a top pairing D-man, but hasn’t found a willing trade partner (or a trade that didn’t involve trading Hall, RNH and Eberle). Likely other teams look at our roster and figure we are desperate for defence and so try to take advantage of that. Maybe Renney realized that the unbelievable play of Khabibulin wouldn’t last, and since Tambellini couldn’t make any good trades to help now, the Oilers weren’t going to make the playoffs no matter what he did. With that realization maybe Renney felt it would be better for the development of our young players if he didn’t line match as much and allowed them to face stiffer competition.

Of course that is a lot of maybes. I think some of them are truths, but probably not all. Even if they were all true there comes a time when management has to account for what they have done, and what they haven’t done. Sometimes good intentions and solid effort aren’t enough, progress still has to be made. So when is enough enough? I’m not there yet, but if the trade deadline goes by without some significant happenings, I may be. I might be able to hold out for summer free agency, but only if a few things happen. First is a resolution to the Hemsky situation. If you’re going to sign him fine, but do it sooner than later. If you’re not going to sign him then for goodness sake, trade him already. The other necessary event is to bring in some defensive depth. A top paring d-man would be great, but a top 4 might be acceptable (depending on who). If that doesn’t happen then tell us why. Tell us you wanted to get a top defenceman, but couldn’t. Let us know what’s going on.

For now I will try to assume that Tambellini is trying to make a trade that will benefit the Oilers now and in the future. If nothing happens by the trade deadline though, my patience will likely run out… What about you?

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Tags: Ales Hemsky Ben Eager Cam Barker Corey Potter Darcy Hordichuk Eric Belanger Lennart Petrell Ryan Smyth Steve Tambellini Stu MacGregor Tom Renney

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