Jan 222012

oilers_backlit_1280After the debacle against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday the 13th, the Edmonton Oilers came out against the Los Angeles Kings and won by a 2-1 score. It was the kind of game most fans would like to see more often. They followed that hard working game with more of a half hearted effort against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The result of course was a loss to the last place team in the league by a 4-2 score.

The team then came out with a better effort against the St. Louis Blues and although they failed to show up for the first period, being outshot 19-4, they played a solid last 40 minutes and lost 1-0 with the Blues scoring with under 6 minutes to go.

They followed up that decent performance with another debacle last night against the Calgary Flames. The game was a joke and it was the 9th straight victory for the Flames over the Oilers in the Battle of Alberta. The Battle of Alberta has been hardly a battle the last several years and has become a game where those Flame’s players who are having scoring problems break out of slumps.

The Oilers, for the most part, seem to be playing good for a game and then bad for 1 or 2 before the compete level shows up again for a game. So where does the team go from here for the remainder of the season?

This team started the season with the goal of playing meaningful games in March and April and here we are, a week before the All-Star break, and chance of playing meaningful games in March and April have all but evaporated. Unless of course meaningful meant fighting to stay out of 30th place but seeing how they played last night, they appear to have a good shot at a 3rd straight last place finish.

We know that a rebuild takes some time…in fact the Pittsburgh Penguins had the first or second pick for 4 straight years in order to build their championship team. Chicago Blackhawks also had some top picks for many years to build their championship team. But I don’t ever remember those teams lacking the compete level that many on this Oiler team has shown.

It is now assumed that the Oilers will become sellers over the next month before the trade deadline. Selling deadwood for value is going to be tough to do.

An even bigger question is who is going to be doing the selling? Is Steve Tambellini going to be the man in charge of any deals? Tambellini is out of a contract at the end of the season and you would think that if he was going to return as the GM of the team, he would have received a contract extension by now. If he isn’t going to return, then why would you let him be in charge of doing deals for a future he won’t be involved in? The team ownership and high level executives (Darryl Katz and Kevin Lowe) need to make a decision by the end of the All-Star break. If Tambellini is sticking around, then give him a contract extension and let him go to work swinging some deals to get rid of deadwood and get some draft picks in return. If he isn’t going to be around, then you better fire him now and get a GM in place who can start putting his stamp on the team with trade deadline deals.

The coaching staff is also out of contracts at the end of the season but not renewing their status is expected until the GM position is solidified. The GM is the man who hires and fires the coaches and each GM has their own favourite coaches and style of coaches and if Steve Tambellini doesn’t have his contract renewed you don’t want to saddle a new GM with old coaches who may not fit his philosophy.

The Oilers need to decide NOW the direction they are going with the GM and get on with the job of continuing the rebuild. Get rid of the deadwood and heartless players who are taking up positions on the bench and either bring up some kids who want to play and learn the game or bring in players with real heart. Ryan Smyth is a good example of this and while age is catching up to his play, his heart is always in the game. As a youngster, Taylor Hall also shows the kind of heart and desire needed to be successful. We need more of that passion and less of the Hemsky style of passion (or lack thereof).


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