Three and a Half Years of Tambo… More on the Way?

As has been reported in the media for a couple of weeks now, discussed on the TSN panel and pointed out yet again in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 thoughts article, the Oilers are strongly rumoured to being close to a contract extension with current General Manager Steve Tambellini. The reaction of many Oiler fans and bloggers has been predictable:

(Speaking of once-proud franchises that terrible management decisions have ruined…)

Now, I’m all for immediate public outrage and storming every Rexall franchise with torches and pitchforks, but let’s take a minute to see just what exactly Tambellini has done since taking the reigns over from Kevin Lowe in the 2008-2009 season. Full analysis after the jump.

After the 2007-08 season ended with the Oilers just missing the playoffs, hopes for a playoff birth in Oil Country were rising. We had a promising kid line of Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, and Robert Nilsson who finished 3rd, 5th and 6th in team scoring. The Oilers had a brand new owner who promised to keep the team in Edmonton and build a new arena; and Kevin Lowe had a demotion by promotion and was replaced by Steve Tambellini, who had been the assistant GM in Vancouver. Hope springs eternal.

So how has Tambo done since then? Lets break down year by year. (For clarification, off-season moves are included in the season they precede. Also, not every trade or signing is listed, as many are minor and had no significant impact.)

2008 – 2009

Record:  38–35–9 (4th in Northwest, 11th in Conference. 6 points out of the playoffs) Craig MacTavish coaches his last game in Edmonton.

Trades: 

29/01/09 – Goaltender Mathieu Garon is traded to the Penguins for goaltender Dany Sabourin, forward Ryan Stone, and a 4th round pick in 2011 (Tobias Reider). This trade is a wash. Garon has bounced from team to team since then, while Sabourin plays in the AHL and Stone is now in Germany, Tobias Reider could develop into a reliable NHL’er but is miles away from a roster spot at this point in time.

4/3/09 – Erik Cole and a 5th round pick in 09 (Matt Kennedy) are sent to Carolina for Patrick O’Sullivan (acquired the same day from LA for Justin Williams and a pick)  and 2nd round pick in 09 (Jesse Blacker). Erik Cole struggled in Edmonton, and would struggle in Carolina for a few more years before returning to form and eventually ending up in Montreal. Patrick O’Sullivan would become a whipping boy for the fans in E-town and rightfully so. While there are no winners of this trade, the Oilers lose just for ending up with POS.

4/3/09 – 2nd round pick in 09 (Jesse Blacker) is traded to Buffalo for Ales Kotalik. Kotalik wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t a good fit either, and would be let go after the season. In retrospect, this gave Oiler fans a chance to practice booing an under-performing Czech named Ales and watch him leave for another team the following year.

Grading: Record C-, Trades C, Overall C.  Didn’t make the team better, didn’t make it any worse and the result is a status quo sub 8th place finish.

2009 – 2010

Pat Quinn is named head coach, alongside assistants Tom Renney and Wayne Fleming. On June 30th, Tambo aggressively goes after disgruntled Senators winger Dany Heatley, offering Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano, and Ladislav Smid, but Heatley refuses to waive his no-trade clause.

Record:  27–47–8 (5th Northwest, 15th in Conference, 30th in NHL)

Free Agency: After not wanting give then 39 year old Dwayne Roloson a two year deal, the Oilers sign then 36 year old Nikolai Khabibulin to a 4 year deal. The cap hit Roloson has? 2.5 a year. Khabibulin? Just a shade under 4 mil. To recap; Tambo doesn’t want to have Roloson at a 2.5 mil cap hit until he’s 41, but is perfectly fine with Khabibulin playing until that age for more money and more health issues. It made no sense then, it makes none now, even with Khabby’s play earlier this year. Tambo then brings Mike Comrie back in a fence-mending deal.

Trades: 

27/6/09 – Kyle Brodziak and 2009 6th round pick (Darcy Kuemper) to Minnesota  for 2009 4th (Kyle Bigos) and 5th (Olivier Roy) round picks. Minnesota wins this one, as they acquire a reliable bottom six forward who is capable of chipping in 10-15 goals and 30 points a year and wins faceoffs. Bigos may never play a game in the NHL, and while Roy has shown talent in the pipes, he’s a long ways off from NHL readiness, and might never have the consistency needed to be a starter. Looks like this was done solely to get more picks in the 09 draft, and the Oilers would have only had 5 picks without.

1/3/10 – Denis Grebeshkov is traded to Nashville for 2010 2nd round pick (Curtis Hamilton). Edmonton wins this trade if Hamilton ever contributes at the NHL level; its a wash otherwise, as Grebs is no longer in the league.

3/3/10 – Lubomir Visnovsky is traded to Anaheim for Ryan Whitney and 2010 6th round pick (Brandon Davidson). It looked like this trade at the time was mostly even, basically a lateral move by Tambo to gain a pick. Lubo then had one of his best seasons the year after, while Whitney, who has looked good, has been plagued by chronic foot problems and yet to play a full season for the Oilers.

3/3/10 – Steve Staios traded to Calgary for Aaron Johnson and 2011 3rd round pick (Travis Ewanyk). Mostly a wash, but Ewanyk could develop into a bottom six defensively capable agitator which would be a bonus. Either way, Staios and Johnson never made a impact on their respective clubs.

Arguably, the best move Tambo made this season was claiming Ryan Jones off waivers from Nashville. And while I like Ryan Jones, if a waiver wire move if your best transaction of the year? That doesn’t bode well.

Grading: Record F, Free Agency D, Trades D, Overall D-. The Oilers finish dead last, and the rebuild is ‘officially’ underway with the fall for Hall. Oiler fans host draft parties for the first time as a novel way to put the frustrations of this season behind us.

2010 – 2011

Tom Renney takes over head coaching duties, Ralph Krueger, Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith are his assistant coaches.

Record: 25–45–12 (5th Northwest, 15th in Conference, 30th in NHL)

Free Agency: Tambo gets to work filling out the roster of the Oilers new AHL affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons, and only makes one signing that has an effect on the NHL roster, Kurtis Foster gets a two year, 3.6 million year deal to replace the now banished Sheldon Souray who fell out of favour with Tambo and co.

Trades:

24/6/10 – Colin Fraser is acquired from Chicago for a 2010 6th round pick (Mirko Hoefflin). A nothing trade. Tambo brings in Fraser for the bottom six  and for his cup winning experience; Fraser becomes a disaster.

26/6/10 – Bust in the making Riley Nash is traded to Carolina for 2nd round pick (Martin Marincin). Credit to Tambo just for getting something for Riley Nash, more credit to Stu for picking Marincin.

30/6/10 – O’Sullivan is dealt to Phoenix for Jim Vandermeer. Tambo attempts to undo one of his first major blunders by getting rid of the infinitely disappointing POS for a serviceable 3rd pairing defender. Decent deal.

28/2/11 – Dustin Penner is traded to LA for Colten Teubert, 2011 1st round pick (Oscar Klefbom) and a conditional 2012 3rd round pick. Edmonton gets a physical defenceman who should be serviceable on the 3rd pairing, a pick that becomes a blue-chip prospect in Klefbom. With Penner struggling to eat pancakes, let alone put up points in LA, Edmonton looks like they robbed LA, but if Penner ever returns to the player he can be (30 goal scorer), this trade evens out in a hurry.

Grading: Record F, Free Agency D, Trades B-, Overall D. Tambo doesn’t make the team worse, but he doesn’t address any major issue with the team either, leading to another 1st overall pick. It’s a good thing we didn’t get rid of these party hats after last years draft day party. But we should be able to get rid of them after this year, right? Right?

2011 – 2012 (In Progress)

Record: 21–27–5 (5th Northwest, 14th Western)

Free Agency: Tambo signs Eric Belanger, bringing him in for the bottom six, and to help with faceoffs. He signs Lennart Petrell, Ben Eager, and Darcy Hordichuk to bring some grit to the 4th line, and adds two defencemen in Cam Barker and Corey Potter. Eric Belanger has certainly helped with faceoffs, but has become a black hole of suck in terms of production. Petrell has been reliable for his gritty play on the 4th line, but Eager started the year completely disinterested, and Hordichuk injured himself going for a big hit. While Potter has been good on the PP and when used in limited minutes on even strength, Cam Barker is an unmitigated disaster in his own zone.

Trades:

6/26/10 – Colin Fraser and a 7th round pick in 2012 are shipped to LA to bring Ryan Smyth home. The best trade Tambellini has made to date, in all reality, Ryan Smyth wanted out, and wanted out to one team, Lombardi had no hand to play and was basically forced to take whatever the Oilers would offer, which was an injured player. Enter the debacle known as Frasergate/Tradegate/Smythgate.

1/7/10 – Kurtis Foster is traded to Anaheim for Andy Sutton. Decent trade, as Foster never produced in Edmonton, and never found his place with the Ducks either, getting shipped to New Jersey. Sutton on the other hand, has been steady on the blueline for the Oilers, has become the #1 speed dial option on Brendan Shanahan’s phone, and might fetch the Oilers a return at the trade deadline.

12/7/10 – The Oilers ship Andrew Cogliano to the Ducks for a 2013 second round pick. Cogliano simply was a victim of numbers here, being a decent player, but not being better that any one aspect of the game than anyone else. Can’t call a winner of this trade until we see who is drafted, and how their career compares to Cogliano’s.

Grading: Record D-, Free Agency C-, Trades B-, Overall C-. So the Oilers might not draft 1st overall this year. Progress I guess.

Why didn’t you grade the drafts, Ian? The drafts have been good.

Because outside of the 1st round picks, we don’t know if the drafts are good or not, who will pan out, who will flame out etc. And really if you’re drafting 1st overall, you should be getting gamebreaking players like Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I’m not giving Tambellini credit for drafts simply because he’s doing what he should be doing, and that is listening to Stu MacGregor and the amateur scouting department. A GM only really gets noticed if they pull some “off-the-board” move… like drafting Steve Kelly over Shane Doan.

So where does this leave us?

It leaves us looking in disbelief as a GM, who has failed to make significant moves to improve the weaknesses in the team, made mostly lateral trades and signings, and has a 111-154-34  record (a points percentage of .428), actually being rewarded with a contract extension. Add the Heatley fiasco, Frasergate, the spat with Souray, and now the news that they haven’t even opened up any contract talks with Ales Hemsky? This man clearly does not communicate well with his players. Or other players. Or other general managers.

Our only hope is that it’s short term (two years max) and any further extension hinges on making the playoffs. Actual progress. A completion of the rebuild, not a continuation. The next game will mark the 300th regular season game with Tambellini at the helm, and we’re still spinning our wheels to get out of the basement. Three years and all Tambo has done is overhaul the top six through the draft. We have miserable depth at forward, we have miserable depth on the blueline, as well as no solid #1 defender. Our goaltending tandem consists of an ancient relic and a young goalie who struggles to find consistency. But hey, at least we have all those picks and prospects, right?

Where’s the pitchforks and torches? This shouldn’t be acceptable. We all knew the rebuild would take time, but it’s been 3 years and still no measurable progress. Hard to believe any other team would put up with this.

Follow OilOnWhyte on Twitter.

Jeff – @OilOnWhyte

Grant- @RealOilFan

Samson – @threwittki

Ian – @ibleedoil

Topics: 1st Overall, Ales Hemsky, Colin Fraser, Dany Heatley, Dustin Penner, Dwayne Roloson, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ryan Smyth, Sheldon Souray, Steve Tambellini

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  • Realoilfan

    loved this article Ian! there was one particular passage i enjoyed the most though…”blackhole of suck” I thought, was the perfect way to describe it!! well done.

  • OilOnWhyte

    The next game will mark the 300th regular season game with Tambellini at the helm, and we’re still spinning our wheels to get out of the basement.

    **cues up Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen, pours tall drink**