This week, the Edmonton Oilers made a bold move and extended oft-criticized GM Steve Tambellini to a multi-year pact. Tambellini, hired almost four years ago as the successor to Oilers legend Kevin Lowe, has yet to prove himself as a league general manager, but his legacy is only beginning.
If you ask Oilers fans if they agree with the signing, chances are they do not. Late in the season, when it became apparent that the team would miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, popular team blogger Tyler Dellow chose to morph a picture of Tambellini and revolutionary icon Che Guevara and famously declare 'la reconstrucion es permanente', or in English: permanent rebuild. The fan base, as committed as they may be, are hoping for a contender.
And, to a degree, they deserve it.
The 2006 squad found a way to gain a playoff berth and almost became the first team to win the Stanley Cup as a No. 8 seed -- a feat, coincidentally, the Los Angeles Kings strive to achieve here in the next few days. Core players like Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff were extended to multi-year deals while the team tried to maintain their core. However, injuries and underachievement, combined with the forced exodus of Chris Pronger, led to a yard sale of any valuable asset following a few down seasons.
Trading Pronger essentially changed the organizational outlook. They went from a contender to a young team with some potential, and from that to a team that needed a new core.
So when Tambellini took over the team in 2008, the rebuild was already under way. The fans expected him to use his options to create a winner, but all he's done is help the team attain higher draft picks. Skaters like Jeff Petry and Jordan Eberle were already in the system, but remained a while away from making an impact at the professional level. Tambellini's idea was to build on that pipeline and assemble a team in the image of the lauded championship years.
Four years later,
Tambellini knows it's time for those kids to take the next step and lead this club back to the postseason.
"We should be talking about winning more hockey games, that's what we're paid to do," Tambellini announced at his press conference. "We've had a couple of years with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle now, and Jeff Petry is getting more comfortable."
Those high-potential players along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Magnus Paajarvi create an enviable core. And coupled with veterans like Horcoff, Hemsky and Sam Gagner (a veteran at 22 years old), the Oilers have the potential to put lightning in a bottle with a nice mix of youth and experience. Tambellini is hoping these players can reach their potential under his watch, but his mark on the organization will remain for years.
Tambellini lightly joked that his deal is for multiple seasons, which gives him some room to be creative for his decision making. This contract is, simply put, his chance to see his hard work pay off. Whether his decisions ultimately proves to be for the greater good of the organization is a completely different animal. Only time will tell, as the rest of Oiler Nation impatiently tap their collective feet.
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