Yesterday, Guy Flaming over at Coming Down the Pipe posted a great article about a fan who called into the Oilers lunch this week saying that “the fans will need a sacrifice.” In Guy’s article, he speculated that it could be the scouting staff taking the fall, just based on that they hadn’t had their contracts renewed and because they have been one constant through much of this mess. Guy did feel though that this would be a “smoke screen”, if that group were cleaned up, and I agree as well. No matter how you stack it, this is still an issue with management.
I feel that there has been some good done by management and the scouting group to assemble what I consider to be a solid foundation for this team to build on. Doug MacLean touched on this last night, and it struck a chord with me as I’d been thinking of writing on it as well too. Really, there is a good core group here of: Hemsky, Penner, Gagner, Cogliano, Brule, Potulny, Visnovsky, Stortini, Smid. Beyond those guys, we have blue-line help coming in the form of Petry (who is looking to be a good player), Peckham, Chorney and Wild. For forward help, we have Omark, MPS, Eberle, Hartikainen/Lander, Rajala, and this year’s new pick to come, to name a few. I think the one area that has always been a problem for us is goaltending though. I’ll be honest – I like Dubnyk, Deslauriers and Roy. But I have a tough time seeing any of these guys as being the future big-game goaltender here. It’s too early to tell though. But that aside, I think the Oilers have done a decent job at gathering prospects. Certainly not the best group in the league, but it is not an issue.
What IS an issue is that the core group I mentioned above has not been surrounded by a strong group of complementary players. As we all know, after the 2005/06 Stanley Cup Final, Lowe decided to make a few of these guys who aren’t part of the core group multi-millionaires – the complementary players became the core, at least on the payroll. I know I don’t have to convince even the most loyal of fan that Horcoff’s $5.5M cap-hit could be replaced quite easily these days by a grinder who is hovering around $1M (perhaps even Marc Pouliot). Moreau has even been replaced within the current line-up by Zack Stortini – a guy making $0.7M. Tambellini redeemed himself slightly by signing Mike Comrie – a prototypical complementary player – for $1.25M. Obviously that isn’t working out so well due to Comrie’s bout with Mono, but that’s not something Tambellini could have foreseen. On the flip side of foreseeable issues was the Nikolai Khabibulin signing, however. I have no issues with signing him to 1 or 2 years at the price they did, but to sign him at that price for 4 years is sheer lunacy.
So how can Tambellini redeem himself? He’s going to have to fight for his job, and get ugly. Drop most of these contracts anyway he can (trade, waivers, buyouts, recall waivers): Horcoff (although doubtful he can), Khabibulin (ditto to Horcoff), Moreau, Staios, O’Sullivan, Nilsson, one or both of Gilbert/Grebeshkov, possibly Souray if the value is good. The next step (and this can happen slowly) is to surround our group that I mentioned earlier with better complementary players. I understand that he has been put in a bad position by his predecessor. But if he wants his job, he will need to do what it takes to hang on to it. Being a GM can be a pretty unglorious, ugly job. I’d like to see Tambellini forgo the nice guy facade and just clean up this team, Cliff Fletcher style. That to me would be a guy we should hang on to. The guy that says “it’s tough to do anything in the cap world” gets no sympathy from me. It may be true, but I would like to see a guy who does what it takes to make this team a winner. As Steve-O’s manager said to him one day: “Do you want me to be a winner manager or a whiner manager?”
If there is a head a rolling this year, I want it to be several players who haven’t pulled their weight or who Lowe mistakingly made the core of this team. If that doesn’t happen, than it’s Tambellini and/or Lowe’s head(s) that should be rolling.