PENTICTON, B.C. - Perhaps the best sign that a rebuild is headed in the right direction is the amount of Tylenol the head coach and general manager consume before the final cuts.
If tough decisions mean a bright future, then it’s good news for the Edmonton Oilers because main camp hasn’t even started yet and Steve Tambellini is already rubbing his temples.
“The organization is sensing the decisions are going to be tough as we go along here, who gets to play, who gets to stay, who gets a chance to come up and when,” said Tambellini, as the Oilers prospects closed out the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton. “Those are good problems because now you’re having to make hard decisions on talent.”
It’s been a while since the Oilers had this many prospects knocking on the door. And it’s not just because it’s the cellar door — 30th place or not, there is some real talent coming into focus.
“It’s another layer of depth,” said Tambellini. “Last year we were able to see Tyler Pitlick, Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle come out. This year you’re seeing David Musil, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Anton Lander is here this year. It’s just another layer of prospects, the next wave of kids coming in.
“You know that these kids are going to play for the Oilers, they’re going to be a big part of this team. I don’t know when, but they’re going to be a big part of this team.”
Management might be happier to see these kids than they are to see each other because the more of them there are, the harder it is to make the teams — Edmonton and Oklahoma City.
“We wanted to have competition not only on the Oilers, but we needed competition in Oklahoma City, so they’re competing for ice time there,” said Tambellini.
“There are no teams that have success where there isn’t inner competition for everything, and that’s healthy. If you’re a centreman and you see eight centremen on the depth chart who are skilled and want to play, that’s pressure. You have to be able to handle that, that’s how you get better.”
KEEP TALKING, NIKOLAI: Tambellini is glad to hear the Nikolai Khabibulin is speaking freely about his stay in an Arizona Tent City prison after being convicted for drunk driving.
The Oilers GM would like to see the netminder use the experience and profile, to warn others away from making a similarly poor decision.
“I could sense the relief in the way he was speaking honestly about the whole process, what it felt like as a family,” said Tambellini. “I think he has an opportunity to send a message through public announcements that he can speak from experience.
“He has a chance to be a good example for our team and for young people about the consequences (of drinking and driving). It can happen so quickly.
“I want him to be that giving person as far as setting more of an example, giving any type of help that public awareness campaigns can bring,”
Now that it’s over, they’re hoping a weight has been lifted and he can get back for just worrying about stopping the puck.
“I can’t see how that feeling would not go away, how it would be a distraction,” said Tambellini. “There was probably a lot on his mind, no doubt about that.”