SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers shuffling the deck

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

Mostly what we're dealing with here is replacing Scott Howson with Steve Tambellini and tossing some titles around to make everybody involved have impressive business cards.

Yesterday's Oilers announcement, in many ways, sounds like a bigger deal than it really is.

STILL THE BOSS

Kevin Lowe is still the hockey boss. Period. He's still going to do all the big GM stuff.

Now Steve Tambellini is second in command doing some of the other GM stuff with Kevin Prendergast under him remaining responsible for all scouting operations.

Lowe has taken on the fancy new title of president of hockey operations, Tambellini's business card says he's the Oilers general manager and Prendergast's new business card says he's assistant general manager.

"We had a void when Scott Howson left," said Lowe of his former assistant GM becoming GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I guess you could look at this as stepping away but that's not the case," said Lowe who made it quite clear he's still very much going to be the hands-on hockey boss making the big decisions, trades, etc.

But there are aspects of this which suggest Lowe could be earmarked by new owner Daryl Katz to become, perhaps, the head of Rexall Sports and everybody's boss down the road.

But right now, for the moment, think of this in Detroit Red Wing terms. Lowe is Ken Holland and Tambellini is Jim Nill.

"If we emulate that we'll be in good shape," is how Lowe put it into one microphone after the press conference.

"We had a mandate from our new owner to allow us the latitude to strengthen the management group and Steve was the strongest candidate at the executive level who wasn't a GM," is how he put it at the press conference which was broadcast live on rights holder 630 CHED.

However you choose to view it, it says here the Oilers have just made a great move hiring, as Lowe puts it, the best executive in hockey who right now isn't a general manager.

This columnist has been around Tambellini a lot with Wayne Gretzky's Olympic teams and his time with Team Canada at the World Hockey Championships, and if Lowe left tomorrow, he'd be the guy I'd hire here.

I was surprised when he was passed over for Dave Nonis when Brian Burke departed the Canucks, and I was shocked when Vancouver hired Mike Gillis, of all people, when Tambellini was right under their noses.

"To get the job done today, you need more guys doing it," said Lowe.

"Hiring Steve allows me more creativity. Steve and Kevin will be bringing ideas to me in terms of trades and whatever.

"Somebody at the end of the day makes the final decision and that's still me.

"Steve will become more of the day-to-day GM, which involves a lot and was wearing me down personally.

"Management in hockey is not what it was like even five years ago. We aspired to be great and it takes more good people to do that. What you need now is a great management collaborative effort."

It reunites Lowe and Tambellini who were Wayne Gretzky's right- and left-hand men as assistants on the last two Canadian Olympic hockey teams.

"Kevin called me the night before to tell me and I thought it was great news for both of them," said Gretzky, from his vacation home in Idaho. "I don't think there's a better fit. Steve is a tremendous person and exceptionally good at what he does. I think it's win-win for both of them.

"It's very positive. Tremendous."

Tambellini twice served as GM of Team Canada at the World Hockey Championships, putting together the team which won gold in 2003 and silver in 2005.

'STRUCTURE OF THE GROUP'

"With Wayne and Kevin it was always the structure of the group and that never left me. But when we worked together I could never envision this happening," said Tambellini.

So how long to you think it will be do you think before somebody in Toronto starts rumouring that this whole thing is being set up so Lowe can clear out of here next year to be GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs?


Photos