Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Oilers final nine games will determine if Tambellini stays or goes

On the heels of an ill-timed three game losing streak, that will likely play a large role in seeing the Edmonton Oilers miss out on the NHL playoffs for a seventh consecutive season, fans across Oil Country have reached their boiling point. Calls for the dismissal of General Manager Steve Tambellini are, one again, growing by the second.

With only nine games remaining in the abbreviated 2013 schedule, the chances of the Oilers qualifying for post-season play still does exist but they are very slim. Should this club continue to slide down the Western Conference standings, instead of pushing for that final playoff spot in those remaining nine games, Tambellini could find himself on the unemployment line in short order.

During the first four years of his tenure as general manager, Edmonton has finished 21st, 30th, 30th and 29th in the overall league standings. With a rash of injuries during the 2008-09 campaign finally forcing this organization into a full blown re-build, no one was overly shocked to find the Oilers at the bottom of standings in each of the following three seasons.

2013 was the year fans were supposed to see a marked improvement in the club's overall development and see them make a climb up the standings. In my mind, the core group of this lineup has done exactly that. Yes some guys have had great years, see Taylor Hall and Sam Gagner, while others have seen their level of production take a dip, hello Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

That being said, hard to say the kids on this roster are not headed in the right direction. They are not the problem.

However, the players that this organization decided to surround their talented but young core with are frankly not good enough. Plain and simple. While captain Shawn Horcoff has continued to bring something on a nightly basis, while bouncing back from a couple of very difficult campaigns, you would be hard-pressed to find another veteran player, who has carried their weight this season.

Outside of Nikolai Khabibulin, who has been very good playing second-fiddle behind Devan Dubnyk, can you name anyone else? Even a guy like Nick Schultz, who has been decent for much of the year, he has seen his play steadily decline, as he continues to be forced into playing far too many minutes. Square peg in a round hole. An all too common theme, that runs throughout the Oilers current lineup.

It was clear to anyone that has watched this team play over the last couple of years, that they had obvious holes to fill. They were short at least one, if not two, top four defencemen and were too small upfront. Their top six were and still are highly skilled but can easily be taken out of games by bigger teams. While their bottom six, frankly, bring next to nothing to the table.

The bottom two lines do not play a physical game, add next to nothing offensively and are far from being defensively responsible as a collective group. Tambellini brought in the likes of Eric Belanger, Ben Eager and Ryan Smyth to help with these deficiencies over the last couple of seasons and outside of a twenty game stretch where Smyth played out of his mind, it has been a complete and utter disaster.

So much so that Edmonton has to actually make a decision on whom they should use their two compliance buy-outs on, this coming off-season. This mess has tied this organization's hands from making subsequent moves to try and correct their shortcomings and that is completely on the management team. No one is expecting Rome to be built in a day here but to continually not address what are obvious needs, regardless of reason, has become a little much for Oilers fan to bear.

Bringing us to the here and now. Should Edmonton hold their own over the final two and half weeks of the season and at least stay within striking distance of that final playoff spot, the smart money would be on Steve Tambellini keeping his gig running the Oilers organization for at least another year. You could easily make the argument that they should look in a different direction but on the other hand, some progression would have been made this season ...regardless of whether or not certain factions of Oil Country want to admit it.

On the other hand, should they collapse and show the inability to compete with the big boys at crunch time, Daryl Katz and Kevin Lowe will have a very difficult time selling Tambo to the masses for another season. Oilers fan is starting to lose his/her patience and want their pound of flesh, in what seems like a never-ending re-build, and in all is pretty hard to blame them.

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