The Edmonton Oilers took a break from evaluating their roster and instead focused on restructuring the front office Thursday when team President Patrick R. LaForge announced three significant changes to their hockey operations department during a press conference at Rexall Place.
Kevin Lowe, who had served as the club's general manager for eight seasons, was named president of hockey operations, a newly created position within the organization. Lowe then named Steve Tambellini the team's new GM, while Kevin Prendergast, who served as the Oilers' vice president of hockey operations the last nine seasons, was appointed assistant GM.
"Steve and I have had a great working relationship for many years and a great deal of respect for one another, so this was a real easy decision," Lowe said. "This comes about in some respects as a mandate from new ownership in Daryl Katz, who wanted to allow us that latitude to strengthen the management group and in my estimation, I feel Steve is the strongest candidate for the position.
"Kevin and Steve will still bring ideas to me and we'll work collectively on trades, draft picks, player buyouts or whatever the case may be. The metamorphosis of a trade is a long process and usually takes months of working diligently before a final decision is made. It will be much easier making these major decisions, collectively, with our new management group. In the end, I'll have the final say."
2007-08 SEASON STATS
(9th West/19th NHL)
|Change from 2006-07||+17|
(10th West/18th NHL)
(9th West/20th NHL)
According to Lowe, managing a hockey team has become extremely time consuming and even more involved than it was just five years ago.
"It's a complicated business now and the new collective bargaining agreement is a large reason for that," he said. "We aspire to be great and it'll take many bodies to do that. We feel we've assembled a managerial group that can get that done. Steve will do more of the day-to-day stuff as GM, which was beginning to wear on me in some respects."
Lowe and Tambellini previously worked together as members of Team Canada's management group, helping lead Canada to success on the international stage. As director of player personnel, Tambellini helped put together the roster that won the gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and he also was a member of the management team for Team Canada's gold medal triumph at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. He also served as the general manager of Team Canada at the 2003 and 2005 World Championships, garnering gold in Finland in 2003 and silver in 2005.
"Kevin and I have had great experience working for Team Canada with (Wayne) Gretzky and Pat Quinn," Tambellini said. "We experienced tough situations and hard decisions, and in times like that you really get to know people pretty well. I knew if something became available where I might be able to join Kevin, it would be an easy decision for me and my family. Daryl Katz expressed to me his plans for the hockey club and the city of Edmonton moving forward. Big things are coming here and I'm thrilled to be a part of it."
Tambellini joins the Oilers after 17 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, where he served as the vice president and assistant GM the previous three seasons. In his role with the Canucks, Tambellini was involved in all aspects of the team's hockey operations, including contract negotiations, scouting and minor league affiliates.
"I worked with some outstanding people (in Vancouver) but I knew I would have to leave one day," Tambellini said. "But I wasn't going to leave just to be a GM anywhere. It had to be the right GM position and I feel this was that position."
"I worked with some outstanding people (in Vancouver) but I knew I would have to leave one day. But I wasn't going to leave just to be a GM anywhere. It had to be the right GM position and I feel this was that position"
-- Steve Tambellini
Lowe points to the Detroit Red Wings and how the collaborative efforts of GM Ken Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill, vice president Steve Yzerman and senior vice president Jim Devellano worked together in building a Stanley Cup champion this season.
"I'd be lying if I said that's not the model any team strives for since they've been the most successful at it in recent years," Lowe said. "Detroit is a great example of how a collaborative effort can be successful. The thing that most impresses me about the Wings is the camaraderie within that group. It's really wonderful to see."
"The last time I managed Team Canada, Ken Holland was with me in the front office," he said. "I listened to Ken as I will listen to Kevin in Edmonton. They both have ideas on how they want to win and decisions like that are made only by strong hockey people and I'm confident we can do that here. But Ken would be the first to tell you that despite his position, he cannot do it alone. He allows Nill and his amateur and pro coaching staff to offer insight and input. That's how Kevin, myself and Kevin (Prendergast) intend to do things."
Prendergast has been with the Oilers since the 1990-91 season. He'll work closely with Lowe and Tambellini in all aspects of hockey operations and will continue to oversee the team's pro and amateur scouting staffs.
"I'm a believer in the saying, 'The proof is in the pudding,' because everyone wants results," Lowe said. "I've always felt you can't admit too much in public and that it didn't really matter anyway because you still have to go out and win hockey games. Steve is a quality individual with an incredible pedigree, and on top of that, a real gentleman. The fans will appreciate and respect him in time because while he does come across with a calm demeanor, he has always had a fierce competitiveness that I've witnessed on many occasions while working with him on an international level."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.