SUN Hockey Pool

Timely message from Oilers GM

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:53 PM ET

General manager Steve Tambellini told the Edmonton Oilers to go ahead and try get out of last place. It’s OK.

Tambellini told his hockey team — which on the weekend looked like they had quit on themselves and collectively decided to pack it in for the rest of the season — to forget about the Oilers getting the No. 1 pick in the draft again.

He wants them to try to be the best they can be, even if it might mean head scout Stu MacGregor picking a few spots later in the NHL Entry Draft June 24-25 in St. Paul, Minn.

Two weeks before the NHL trade deadline, Tambellini talked to the team at a no-coaches-in-the-room meeting prior to practice yesterday.

It’ll be interesting to see what actions he might choose to follow those words with in the next 13 days.

“He told the players it’s not about getting that top pick,” said captain Shawn Horcoff.

“He said we have plenty of young guys and to ignore the media talking about picking first in the draft again, that he wants this team to be thinking about winning and winning now.”

One wonders how fans who have suffered through this season, where the Oilers sit four points back of the 29th-place Ottawa Senators and in prime position to pick the desperately needed Adam Larsson of Sweden No. 1, might think about that at this late date.

But in case you hadn’t noticed, the mood and the attitude of the town toward this team changed dramatically with the empty back-to-back efforts against Ottawa and Anaheim on the weekend.

Fans went from being pretty patient to being patently peeved.

The theory has always been that it’s impossible for a Canadian franchise to blow things up and begin to rebuild from the basement like the Oilers have chosen to do — that Canadian fans wouldn’t have the patience to allow you to follow through.

In a situation like this, you’re playing with fire.

And in Edmonton, this weekend, it finally hit backfire.

You can make the case that maybe it should have been the players talking to Tambellini, because if management really doesn’t want them to finish 30th again why haven’t they done a damn thing to fix the defence, the penalty killing, the power play and find somebody to win a faceoff?

But give Tambellini credit for correctly taking the temperature of the town and reading the right time to talk to the team.

“It was a very frank talk,” said Horcoff.

“He talked about about the big picture coming from the top. Obviously, he’s not happy. There’s no secret about the situation we’re in here and how it’s not looking good for us. He talked about how hard our coaches are working and how they’re giving us good game plans every night and how he wants to see the effort and intensity every night.”

The captain suggested Tambellini was right with everything he said.

“It’s been frustrating. There are not a lot of positives. When you are lacking in effort and intensity, that’s never excusable. It’s about jobs and pride. Fans pay good money.

“Obviously there’s excitement about the future. The skill level here is about twofold what it was last year.

“A big part of this is giving young guys a chance to see what they have.

That’s part of the circumstances but that’s going to pay off. This team is headed into such a great position with the salary cap, especially with it looking like it will go up $3 million next year, that it’s just silly. There are so many positives going forward here. But it’s a double-edged sword. You have to put the work in. So at this time it’s more of a gut check, especially when it comes to grit and with our experience.”

Coach Tom Renney said it was discussed whether the coaches should be in the room when Tambellini talked to the team.

“We talked if I should be in there. Both of us drew the same conclusion. I wasn’t in the meeting and I thought it was a real good idea to stay away from it.

“It doesn’t hurt to change the voice once in a while. It was a different voice with a different inflection and there’s a certain wallop behind the general manager.

“From his point of view up top and the circumstances he sees with every team in the NHL right now, with the date and what lies on the horizon, I think it was important for Steve to come in and deliver a message.

“And it was a very good one.”

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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