Skip to main content

Oilers' Tambellini building team for long haul

by Robin Brownlee
EDMONTON -- After four consecutive years of missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a 30th-place finish last season, the Edmonton Oilers are in a full-scale rebuild heading into the 2010-11 season.

The man on the leading edge of rebuilding the five-time Stanley Cup champions is Steve Tambellini, who is beginning his third season as general manager. Tambellini recently sat down with to discuss what's next for his team. -- It's been three months since you called Taylor Hall's name with the No. 1 pick at the 2010 Entry Draft. In that time, what have you learned about Hall that most stands out for you?

Tambellini --
I think probably just the passion for the game that he has every time I talk to him, just how respectful of the game he is. He takes nothing for granted and never has since the first time we interviewed him. He came to camp to make the team and he didn't want anything handed to him. He has a great respect for the game. -- Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi have already been dubbed the future of the franchise by Oilers fans. How important is it for those fans and people in the organization itself to temper that enthusiasm with patience and realistic expectations?

Young Oilers

Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi (Courtesy: Edmonton Oilers)

Tambellini -- When we speak to people, at breakfasts and lunches we have with season-ticket holders and the general public, the common denominator with all of them is they didn't want a quick-fix.

People want to see something that is done right, where we can develop and grow something and sustain some success. They don't want a one-trick pony here where we're good for one year and poor for six years. This is a start for us, a chance to be a good team again. We're just starting, but I like the people we're starting with. -- After finishing 30th last season, you talked about revamping the organization from top to bottom. How much of that did you accomplish this off-season -- and what's left to do?

Tambellini --
We made a lot of decisions on and off the ice throughout this organization, but there's lots of work to do. From a player development perspective, we've implemented and formalized a player development department. We've invested tremendous time, personnel and money in introducing a system that addresses from when a player is drafted until he becomes an Oiler. This program is something we're very proud of. -- At what point did you realize you needed a rebuild, in terms of player personnel and hockey operations, as opposed to tweaking here and there?

Tambellini --
I think over the last year or so. It was important to give people a chance and to see what they could do as a group. After going through last season and part of the year before, the assessment was that we needed to change. We did that. -- What's the best move you've made during your tenure as Edmonton's GM?

Tambellini -- I can't answer that because I don't know yet, but I am proud of the decision to go forward. We've had to make some hard decisions with good people. I think the fact we've stuck with the plan to move forward, the decision to actually do it as an organization. If nothing else, the organization is so united in the direction of the hockey club. -- What is the most significant move you made during this off-season, and why?

Tambellini --
The most important thing for me is we've committed to the direction of the entire organization, the decision in itself. We had to change. We've committed to rebuild. We'll give some new, and, in some instances, young people a chance to grow here. We've committed to making sure we do a great job of growing our own. -- You've known Pat Quinn since your days together in Vancouver in the 1980s. How difficult was it to remove Quinn as coach after such a disappointing year behind the bench in Edmonton?

Tambellini --
I have such great respect for the hockey person and the man. Even though this was part of the overall plan, it was still difficult because I know how competitive as a hockey person Pat is. It didn't make it any easier just because it was part of the plan, but I believed it was the right thing to do at the time for the organization. -- What makes new coach Tom Renney the right man for the job right now?

Tambellini --
He has so much experience in so many different areas, from the NHL to the international game. He's been involved in player development, as an assistant coach, as a head coach. With player development, that doesn't just mean our players in Oklahoma City or the draft. It's also about the Oilers. We're in a teaching mode right now. We need a very clear template in place as far as structure in here. He's excellent in those areas. I believe that he, along with Ralph Krueger, Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger, will be a strong coaching staff in regard to teaching." -- You told Sheldon Souray not to attend training camp, and you've repeatedly said you'll try to accommodate his wish for a trade. Why was it best he not attend camp and what will you do if he hasn't been traded by the start of the season on Oct. 7?

Tambellini --
I think we've been consistent with our message. He's asked for a trade for some time, and we know he does not want to play here, so the decision was made. It's best we have everybody that's here wanting to be here. Therefore, it was best for the team and for Sheldon not to attend camp." -- You've talked repeatedly about rebuilding this organization properly as opposed to quickly. Have you established any timeline in your mind for accomplishing that?

Tambellini --
I don't think you can say that in "X" amount of time this is going to be completed. It's a process of doing things right. That's why we've invested so much time and energy into our player development. I believe that unless we do a great job in this market as far as drafting and developing, and accelerating that development with the program that's going to be in place, we'll always be spinning our wheels and looking for the quick fix. Will we be involved in free agency and trades? Absolutely. First, we have to take care of what the Oilers can do best, and that's growing our own.
View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.