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The Team Today: State of the Union

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


Less than 24 hours after winning the top pick in the NHL Draft Lottery, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini was back in Edmonton for his end-of-season press conference at Rexall Place.

Media packed the conference room and questioned Tambellini on a number of topics, including the upcoming draft, what went wrong this past season, the status of certain high-profile player personnel, and prospect development.

Here are the highlights:


The theme of Tambellini's opening statement was change.

"We have good people, good players, but we have to make some change," he said. "Going into this year's draft, you know there will be potentially more change. We're going to try to do some things there as far as moving bodies.

"If I was to stand up here in front of all of you and say, 'If I make one trade, if I make one good free agent signing then things are going to be better,' that's not true. I'm not going to be the person to tell you that there's a quick fix," he stated.

"We're going to do this thing right. We have a wonderful opportunity here to do things right."


Doing things "right" starts with picking first overall in this year's NHL Entry Draft.

"It's an important time for the organization. It's a huge building block. It matches up perfectly with where we are in our real cycle of development," Tambellini explained.

"Am I happy that we finished in 30th place? Or are those coaches happy? Or are those players happy? No one's happy. But, like I said, I think this is a wonderful opportunity for us to do things right here -- to take charge of our people first, the development of our people, the drafting, the acquisition, the culture."

Tambellini places that responsibility on his own shoulders.

"I have to put in place that machine that gets the people here, so that by the time they get here, they are proud to be an Oiler, there's no question about it. They can't wait to step on the ice with that logo."

The name that's stitched on the back of that jersey -- whether it be Hall, Seguin, or otherwise -- is yet to be decided, Tambellini added.

"You want to be able to put your scouts through that process and make them make a decision, and determine who is better now, who is going to be better later."


The first overall pick is sure to spice up life in Oil Country, but about the current Oilers roster, Tambellini admitted that the club needs "help in a lot of different areas."

"We have some good players, some good people, but a lot of the same," he said. "This is not a quick fix. This is something that's going to take a lot of the steps of making sure that we can develop a lot of those qualities."

The Oilers' current focus is player development from start to finish.

"That's where we are as an organization. We have to be great at assessing for the draft, of cultivating that type of mindset and so many areas from strength and conditioning to team expectations to work habits to one day getting a chance to play in Oklahoma City to, further than that, getting a chance to play with the Edmonton Oilers. And the development doesn't stop just because you've arrived here.

Tambellini added that the new culture won't depend entirely on development.

"Will we try to address some of that through the trade and free agency, through the grit and determination? Yes, we will."


One of the biggest questions about the 2010-11 roster concerns goaltending. The Oilers relied on youngsters Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk to carry the load through much of the season, but with Nikolai Khabibulin returning to game shape in the fall, the club will have to make some decisions.

"They're both good, young players," Tambellini said about Deslauriers and Dubnyk. "I don't want to jump into the season with a three-goaltender situation again -- don't like that. We're going to make a decision going forward."

Tambellini values Khabibulin's contributions, not only for his skill but also his leadership.

"If we're going to be maybe a little bit younger in the next couple of years, you want someone like that that gives them a chance to develop, that gives a team the chance to have some confidence that there's some stability back there."


No player defines leadership better than a team captain. While rumours about Ethan Moreau's Oilers future continue to swirl, Tambellini stated that he was impressed by his captain's performance -- on and off the ice -- down the stretch.

"I thought he held it together really well as a captain the last month here when it's difficult, it's hard to keep people pumped up," the GM said. "I thought from a leadership standpoint that was maybe some of his best hockey the last couple of months."


In addition to completing a full assessment of the players' performances over the past 82 games, Tambellini is looking forward to speaking with head coach Pat Quinn about the coaching staff.

"I want to sit down with Pat and get his assessment of the season, after he's had time to think, assessment of his situation and how he feels, what he thinks about his staff. I want to hear that first and go forward," Tambellini said.

"We need to go through a debrief period here and get a chance to digest without the emotion of the season."

Author: Jen Sharpe |


Two days after closing out the season with a loss in Anaheim, the Oilers returned to Rexall Place to clean out their lockers and conduct their exit interviews Tuesday morning.

There was little to smile about for many players as the disappointing season and fourth consecutive early summer becomes a reality.

"It's a tough spot for any of us to be in right now," Fernando Pisani said. "Nobody wanted to be in this situation, packing up our gear and being done this early. It's no fun at all."

As painful as the season was, Patrick O'Sullivan thinks of it as a learning opportunity, especially for the team's many call-ups.

"Anytime you have to deal with that much adversity, you almost have to learn from it, and I believe we did," he said. "I think a lot of guys that hadn't had a lot of experience in this league definitely got that and got it in tough ways, with playing a lot of minutes and going through some tough times this year, as tough as I've seen in my career."

With a high NHL Entry Draft pick in the near future, there is a silver lining to the dark 2009-10 cloud, but captain Ethan Moreau called for patience as well as optimism.

"Historically, if you look at organizations that have gone through a rebuilding process, as we like to call it, it takes some time and it takes some patience," he explained. "But there's also examples where teams have turned it around and been a playoff team.

"There's some pretty good examples of that, but everything has to fall into place: you have to be healthy, you have to get solid goaltending and good special teams if you want to get yourself back into a playoff position.

"If I'm the captain of this team next year, I'll do everything in my power to lead and do what I've done my whole career -- be a good teammate and be a good leader. So we'll see what happens."

Author: Jen Sharpe |
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