Another one bites the dust: Tambellini gets the axe in Oil country
After five years of trying to take the once-proud Edmonton Oilers back to the promised land, Steve Tambellini has been fired as General Manager. Tambellini, who was hired in 2008, leaves Edmonton after being named to the position following the promotion of Kevin Lowe to President of Hockey Operations. In his first year at the helm, he selected right winger Jordan Eberle with the 22nd overall pick. What happened next is the stuff that rebuilding years are made of. Picking tenth in the 2009 NHL Draft, Tambellini selected forward Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, who has yet to make a significant impact with the team. In the next three years the Oilers would pick 1st overall three times in a row, selecting Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011), and Nail Yakupov (2012). Though all three No. 1’s have made an impact with the Oilers, two key pieces were missing from all of Tambellini’s teams: defense and goaltending.
The Oilers tried everything to address their lack of defense. They signed free agent Cam Barker and traded Tom Gilbert to Minnesota for Nick Schultz; they brought up guys in their system (Theo Peckham, Corey Potter) and acquired veteran Marc Fistric from the Dallas Stars to bring in a more physical presence to the blue line, and they signed former Atlanta Thrasher and New York Islander Andy Sutton, but for whatever reason it just hasn’t worked out. The Oilers were also able to sign former second round pick Justin Schultz, a big named college free agent from the University of Wisconsin who was originally a draft choice of the Anaheim Ducks back in 2008, but who never signed with them. Though they have played well in spurts, the biggest problem is was lack of consistency at the goalie position. Devan Dubnyk, the team’s first-round pick in 2004, has played well at times (he currently sports the NHL’s tenth-best save percentage, a healthy .922), but never seemed able to string long stretches of wins together, and is only 12-13-6 as a starter this year. “The Bulin Wall,” 40-year-old Nikolai Khibabulin, like the Berlin Wall his nickname is derived from, is crumbling down and there isn’t one guy in the system who looks to be the guy to take over in the future.
Enter former Oilers Head Coach Craig MacTavish to save the day!
MacTavish was promoted to GM after spending time as the Senior VP of Hockey Operations. A former Oiler who was a
member of the teams of the 80’s that won four Stanley Cup in that decade, MacTavish is best remembered as the last player in the NHL to play without a helmet. He coached the Oilers from 200o-2009 and led the team to its last playoff win in ’06 when the team won the Western Conference and took the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes to seven games in the Cup Final. Former Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson will take over for MacTavish as VP of Hockey Operations. The 53-year-old Howson was hired as a scout for the Oilers earlier this month.
Personally, I’m not surprised that Kevin Lowe made this move. The Oilers were once the cream of the NHL crop, but have now become the doormat. I sympathize with Tambellini. I do believe he tried his best to rebuild the Oilers franchise, but with some of his decisions involving goaltending especially, it’s no surprise that he lost his job. As a hockey fan I’d love to see the Oilers start winning again and I’m hoping they do. They’re nowhere to go but up from here for the team! I’m anxious to see what Craig MacTavish can do with his new role. Hiring Howson was also a good move for Kevin Lowe. As I stated in a previous article, we haven’t heard the last of Scott Howson! The Oilers will continue to rebuild with MacTavish behind the wheel, who just might try to model the team after the teams of the 80’s. Just remember; Rome, nor Edmonton, wasn’t built in a day!