Oilers Fire GM Steve Tambellini, Hire Scott Howson

This season, when the Oilers have been good, they’ve been really good. But when they’ve been bad, they’ve been terribly bad. A couple weeks ago the Oilers were flirting with a playoff spot. Now, losers of five straight with just seven games left in the season, the possibility of a postseason berth is fading fast. Is it because these players are just too raw and inexperienced to step up in big games? Is the inexperience of their rookie coach a factor? Whatever the case, the organization isn’t happy with where this team is, and decided to do something drastic.

Craig MacTavish, seen here as coach of the Edmonton Oilers, was the last active NHLer to play without a helmet. (Icon SMI)
Craig MacTavish, seen here as coach of the Edmonton Oilers. (Icon SMI)

The trade deadline came and went, and only veteran bottom six forward Jarred Smithson was added. Could the Oilers have done more? Should they have done more? The false illusion that this team was a playoff contender may have been the reason they didn’t part with players like Ryan Whitney or Ales Hemsky, who could have fetched decent returns. But it’s a General Manager’s job to know his team, and to know what they’re capable of.

The Oilers didn’t look like a playoff team for most of the season, and perhaps more draft picks isn’t what Tambellini believed was needed. Maybe he wanted to keep the team together and see if they could string together a run. Maybe the right deal wasn’t in place, and that’s why Edmonton stood pat at the deadline. But when a team with this much talent underachieves, someone has to take the fall. Most times, it’s the coach. This time, it’s GM Steve Tambellini who was been relieved of his duties.

Tambellini had been the GM of the Oilers since July of 2008, and hadn’t made the playoffs at all during his tenure. He was responsible for drafting Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Magnus Paajarvi in the first round. Obviously pretty good picks, but for the most part no-brainers. He wasn’t involved in any real notable trades, but was the man who hired and fired Tom Renney as head coach. Tambellini was also responsible for bringing in top college free agent Justin Schultz.

The Oilers have too much talent to be bad for much longer. But their inability to score goals is obviously a concern. Maybe the mix of players simply isn’t right. Maybe acquiring Mike Brown wasn’t enough, and they need more size and grit in the top six. Maybe the defense isn’t tough enough. Former Oiler player and coach Craig MacTavish will take over the duties of General Manager in Edmonton, and the team hired former Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson to take over MacTavish’s role as the Senior VP of hockey operations.

It remains to be seen if this is a temporary move until they find a new GM, or the Oilers will press forward with MacTavish and Howson at the helm. Either way, the Oilers want to do whatever they can to right the ship. Who knows what kind of personal moves we’ll see in Edmonton during the summer. Bottom line, the product on the ice needs to improve. It just has to, right?

UPDATE: Quotes from Kevin Lowe’s Press Conference

“Steve is a very good man who worked hard for the Oilers. I want to thank him for all his contributions. We are not where we want to be right now, or where we should be. We feel strongly we need to make changes right now.” (Edmonton Oilers)