EDMONTON - Under new owner Daryl Katz, the Edmonton Oilers believe depth in the team's executive offices will help lead to on-ice success, a theory that led to Steve Tambellini's hiring as general manager Thursday.
The move comes as part of larger shakeup in which Kevin Lowe was promoted from GM to president of hockey operations while Kevin Prendergast, the team's longtime vice-president of hockey operations, was named assistant general manager.
Team president and CEO Patrick LaForge told a news conference that the shuffle shows "our interest in strength and competitiveness," while Lowe said it reflected the changing nature of hockey's business side.
"We realize that there's more and more demands in this business at this level," said Lowe. "In order to get the job done you need many people doing it so it's really as simple as that."
Once the mandate from Katz came down, Tambellini became the obvious candidate for Lowe, who had been GM of the club since June 9, 2000.
He and the longtime Vancouver Canucks executive have known each other for years and worked together putting together national teams for the world championships and Olympics.
"In my estimation, and many people in hockey feel the same way, Steve's the strongest candidate in hockey at the executive level who wasn't a general manager," said Lowe. "It was a real easy choice."
Lowe will remain involved in the decision-making process, "perhaps a little more at 10,000 feet than day to day," he said, which sits just fine with Tambellini, who said his regime wouldn't be a one-man show.
"This guy (Lowe) isn't going anywhere and I don't want him to go anywhere," he said. "We're going to work hard as a management team and come up with solutions in how we go forward."
Tambellini's first orders of business will be to speak with head coach Craig MacTavish and meet with veterans Shawn Horcoff, Steve Staois and Sheldon Souray, all of whom he knows from various international teams.
That will help give him a better read on a squad that went to the Stanley Cup final in 2006 but has finished out of the playoffs the past two seasons. They were ninth in the Western Conference at 41-35-8 for 88 points last season, three back of Nashville for the final post-season berth.
"There's lots to do, there's lot to talk about," he said. "I'm extremely excited and proud to be here."
The Oilers are a team stocked with young talent, led by forwards Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano. Horcoff, Moreau, Staios and Souray are among a veteran core while bolstered by the summer additions of Erik Cole, Lubomir Visnovsky and Jason Strudwick.
For now, Tambellini plans to hold off publicly assessing his team.
"I do know that there is a tremendous amount of potential from our young players," he said. "There are some highly skilled young players here and with some character veterans such as Ethan Moreau, Shawn Horcoff and Steve Staois, this is an exciting team."
Tambellini becomes a general manager for the first time after 17 seasons in a variety of management roles with the Canucks, serving as their vice-president and assistant GM the past three seasons.
He's also the latest high-profile executive to leave the Canucks in the wake of Dave Nonis' firing as general manager and his replacement with Mike Gillis.
Tambellini said he had no ill-will toward the Canucks, who thanked him for his service.
"On behalf of the entire Canucks organization we would like to thank Steve for his many contributions to our club as a player and manager over nearly 20 years," Gillis said in a statement.
"This is an opportunity that Steve could not pass up and we are in full support of his decision to advance his career."