Thursday, August 26, 2010

What is the Plan? A Prelude

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting a two or three part series titled “What is the Plan?”, trying to discover exactly what Edmonton is trying to accomplish this coming season. I had planned to have the first part posted earlier this week, but decided to wait upon hearing Edmonton’s GM was going to be appearing on “Oilers Lunch”, with host Bob Stauffer. That interview occurred yesterday, with Bob having Steve Tambellini on for an 18 minute interview, always a welcome event for ravenous Oilers fans looking for tidbits of additional information regarding the team. The entire interview is worth a listen, but being the self-important guy I am, I was most interested with a question near the end of the interview, since it (sort of) came from me. Bob was kind enough to ask a question paraphrased from an e-mail I had sent earlier in the day, and I thank him for that.

Bob paraphrased (1) my question as follows:

"How do you, do you have goals for this season coming up? And is there a concern that maybe goals for this season might be short term when you've got a long term vision planned for the organization?"

Tambellini’s response was:

"No, I think that you have to be aggressive and the fact that we were obviously, we've made numerous changes on and off the ice, and I really believe this has just, this has given the organization a chance to start again. And, will we be young in some places? Yes. Do we want to make the playoffs? Absolutely, that should be your goal every year. So, our goals are to be better at developing, more consistently obviously throughout the year, and we're going to demand a lot more of our people. And young people are going to be put into spots that maybe they will not be ready for, but maybe they will be by Christmastime. It's going to be exciting. I kind of wish it was a little closer to the start of camp, but I guess maybe I should relax and just wait."

I thought that was kind of an interesting response for a couple of reasons. First of all, Tambellini seemed to suggest that making the playoffs was a goal this season, (although he didn’t explicitly state it was, he suggested it should be). I’m not sure I understand all his transactions this summer if making the playoffs is a primary goal for the Oilers this season. In fact, and I truly understand Bob doesn’t conduct these interviews simply to ask the questions I submit, though it would be nice, I did also submit a follow-up question (2), essentially asking how signing some of the end of the roster players they did contributed more towards a playoff team than some of the (at the time) available UFA’s? I’d have like to hear his response, although to be fair I’m not sure what Tambellini could have told me that would have convinced me Jason Strudwick is a more valuable player for a team looking to make a playoff push than some of the players available.

Secondly, he mentions putting young players into positions where they may be above their head. This is interesting, and potentially troubling to me, since it goes against what I seem to recall reading this past spring about the AHL being an important learning ground and not wanting to rush prospects. I understand that it isn’t all that often a team has three forward prospects as promising as Edmonton’s well-publicized trio, so maybe we’ll see all three forwards even though there is a renewed commitment to seasoning prospects in the AHL. I think there are arguments for keeping each of them (3) away from the NHL, at least for a little bit. Now, one doesn’t necessarily want to read too much into one or two sentences, I just find the potential shift interesting. Given that quote, and earlier in the interview where Tambellini pretty much said the Oilers were done adding forwards, I think we can count on seeing more rookies this season than I might have guessed when Tambellini arguably “slow-tracked” Eberle in March and April by leaving him in the AHL.

(1) - This is the question as submitted to Bob via e-mail:

“We often hear about the Oilers having this long term plan to "rebuild" the franchise, I'm wondering if you can articulate the plan for us. What are the organization’s goals for this season? Beyond this season? Are you trying to make the playoffs this season, or are you more concerned with development of your existing young players, and if that focus results in another top 3 draft pick, so be it?”

I don’t know if the way Bob paraphrased my question materially changed the answer Tambellini gave. Maybe the way the question was paraphrased changed the nuance enough that the question Tambellini asked wasn’t necessarily what I asked in e-mail? He did say one of the goals is to develop better. I can certainly appreciate that I may have sent in a longer question than it needed to be, but paraphrasing it did cut off the last question which would have been interesting to have heard answered directly from Tambellini.

Bob, if you’re reading this, I know this might appear to read as ungrateful - I don’t mean it that way, I’m glad at least part of the question was asked, thanks again for doing so. So maybe this is “biting that hand that feeds you” and all of that, if so I apologize. I’m glad you read questions from people like myself (and others, when their questions are better than mine ;) ) because it provides about as much access as a fan like myself is able to get.

I’m not sure if the last question was cut due to time constraints or because Bob felt it was not good enough, too pointed, not relevant, etc. I’m mentioning it because, while we’ve heard a lot of general talk about things like better development, and improvement within the organization, we haven’t heard all that much about the specifics, even after that interview. So, it would have been nice to continue in that vein and hear Tambellini go a little bit further towards describing how they’ll improve development.

I don’t think the follow-up question I included in my e-mail was overly harsh (see footnote 2 ) – a GM should be able to defend his signings. I do understand that Bob Stauffer is employed by the Oilers and it’s not Bob Stauffer’s job to hold Steve Tambellini’s feet to the fire, so this paragraph isn’t meant to be critical of Bob, it’s just general commentary on the Edmonton media. I guess I just wish, like many others, that the media in general would ask more interesting questions of guys like Steve Tambellini because it would give the fans better information and would give the blog world more to talk about. If the Oilers were willing to credential some respectable blogs, this would be a moot point, but until they do so, “it is what it is”, and I’m not meaning to crack on Bob just because he has access.

(2) - The follow-up question submitted to Bob was:

“ If you are trying to make the playoffs this season, can you explain how some of the players you've signed this summer, like Jacques, Deslauriers, MacIntyre, and Strudwick, contribute more to that goal than some of the many reasonably priced, apparently superior players that are or were available as UFA's this summer?”
(3) - I think the arguments are better for Hall, and particularly Paajarvi, than for Eberle, but here are a couple potential reasons to send these players away from EDM, at least to start the year in the case of Paajarvi and Eberle.

Hall: preserve a year of ELC, preserve a year towards UFA, chance to play C in junior and play on a less stacked team.

Paajarvi: preserve a year of ELC, preserve a year towards UFA, chance to adjust to NA lifestyle, size of ice, etc, more ice time than in NHL and against lesser competition that might avoid stunting growth.

Eberle: more ice time, in particular on PP, than in NHL and against lesser competition that might avoid stunting growth in that area.

1 comment:

SumOil said...

I think from Tambo's perspective, how does he market the oilers? There is nothing to look forward to for the fans. It will more of the same as the last season. I think we should start the season with Hall and Omark on the roster and then slowly bring up the other 2 one after the other if their AHL performance merits a callup.
Furthermore, who is tabo kidding here? Oilers arent making the playoffs. When Brian Burke's emphatic speeches couldnt take the leafs to promiseland, Tambo is incohesive and uncogent.