Friday, August 01, 2008

Edmonton Hires GM Steve Tambellini

Yesterday, the Edmonton Oilers hired Steve Tambellini to be their general manager. I didn't know they were looking for a new GM. If I did, I would have included them in the list of poorly run teams who did not have their coaching and management in place in the run up to the draft and in some cases well beyond or didn't even begin to make their moves until well into the free agency period.

It appears that new Oiler owner Darryl Katz wanted to make a mark on the team and was unhappy with some aspects of Kevin Lowe's job as GM. It is easy to criticize Lowe for his trades of Chris Pronger and Ryan Smyth and his big money free agent signings including Sheldon Souray and Dustin Penner but he also took the Oilers to game seven of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals and he has left the team with a number of good prospects.

Lowe will remain with the team as president of hockey operations for Rexall Sports (a newly created position that is officially a promotion - possibly his job is to shill for a new taxpayer funded stadium?). I think Lowe was kept in part because of his new contract signed at the beginning of last season.

Steve Tambellini comes to the Oilers from the Vancouver Canuck organization, where he has held various positions including most recently Director of Public and Media Relations (whatever that means) in his 17 year tenure with the team. Tambellini has also been involved with building various Canadian teams that have played internationally (along with Kevin Lowe). Tambellini might have been a better selection to be Vancouver Canuck GM than their current selection Mike Gillis. He saw he was not in Gillis's inner circle and was put into his most recent position when Gillis brought in his own people after his hiring, so he was looking for a new position.

There is no good reason why this move could not have been made prior to the 2008 Entry Draft. The fact they waited this long will force Steve Tambellini to GM a team largely built by Kevin Lowe into next season. It would have been better if Tambellini had more of a chance to make his mark before next season.

The fact that Lowe is still around makes it unclear how much power Tambellini holds and how much Lowe holds. While it might be true that Tambellini can be a better GM than Lowe, a power struggle between the two of them will create problems that wouldn't have existed with only one of them in place as GM. It is not clear right now who has the final say in any player moves and that could be problematic. For the sake of the Oilers, Lowe needs to step aside and let Tambellini have the final say on any matters (though he is welcome to work with him along the way).

Here is TSN's story on the Oilers move.

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