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Questions pile up on Oilers season

If the Oilers believe GM Steve Tambellini is still the man to see them through this current...

If the Oilers believe GM Steve Tambellini is still the man to see them through this current rebuild, itís odd they have not yet extended his deal beyond this season. (PERRY MAH/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:07 PM ET

Has the time come for the Edmonton Oilers to throw in the towel?

Should the club take a good, long look in the mirror and come to terms with the fact that, outside of a handful of youngsters, this team isnít very good?

Forget about the playoffs. Forget about playing meaningful games in March and April.

The Oilersí new focus should be trying to stay out of the draft lottery this summer which, given the way things have transpired, may be a pretty lofty goal in itself.

One has to wonder if Steve Tambellini would show up in Toronto and sit in the TSN studio again to see how the lottery turns out, or if he would decide to send someone in his place.

Regardless, Tambellini has decisions to make between now and the NHL trade deadline. That is, if heís still allowed to make decisions, seeing that the Oilers general manager is in the last year of his contract.

If the Oilers believe Tambellini is still the man to see them through this current rebuild, itís odd they have not yet extended his deal beyond this season.

If they donít think Tambellini is their guy, then they have to take the bat out of his hands as the Feb. 27th deadline approaches. Why would you let a GM that is being thrown out the door make decisions that will impact the teamís future?

In the same vein, whatís the coaching staffís motivation moving forward as their contracts are set to expire?

Is it fair to leave head coach Tom Renney and his staff twisting in the wind as the downward spiral continues?

Does he become the scapegoat for best laid plans that went awry?

Renney and the rest of the Oilers coaches are proud people and theyíll keep pulling the wagon the best they can until the season comes to an end.

But itís hard to focus on the future when constantly looking over your shoulder wondering if anyone has your back.

Itís painfully obvious Daryl Katz wonít be addressing any of the teamís concerns publicly. Outside of staged radio interviews, he doesnít talk. Heís become more of a recluse than Howard Hughes.

Talk about a captain abandoning a sinking ship.

Are Tambelliniís hands tied? Does Kevin Lowe have the final say on his GMís future?

Whoís calling the shots, anyway?

As far as where the Oilers go from here, the window has closed in terms of bringing in reinforcements to salvage this season.

The Oilers have to go back to selling mode, trying to earn a return on aging assets.

Ales Hemsky has played this season like a player who doesnít know whether heís coming or going ó worse still, like one who doesnít care either way.

Thatís a situation that has to be remedied, for both Hemskyís well-being and the clubís.

Ryan Smyth is a great feel-good story, coming home to Edmonton because his family did not like living in Los Angeles.

The question that arises now for a player who professes to bleed orange and blue is whether heíll take a bullet for the club and allow himself to become a rental so the team can acquire another asset?

As a free agent this summer, Smyth can easily re-sign with the Oilers and play out the remaining days of his career in Edmonton, assuming the team doesnít low-ball him.

Nikolai Khabibulin has been one of the Oilersí best players this season and may have the most market value of anyone the club is willing to move.

If an offer is out there, do the Oilers take it? Is Devan Dubnyk ready to step into a starterís role? Looking at the standings ó does it really matter for this season? Unless the plan is to re-sign the 39-year-old after his contract expires at the end of next season, Khabibulin wonít be around anyway when the team is projected to contend for a playoff spot.

Where does Sam Gagner fit in the Oilers future?

Having spent so much time developing the centre, does it make sense to move a player with his best years still in front of him?

The best move the Oilers made last season was not trading Ladislav Smid. Thereís a lesson to be learned there.

Unfortunately for the Oilers, a season that started so full of promise has disintegrated into another year of sorrow where there are more questions than answers.

The urging of patience and talk of staying the course has to be wearing thin on Oilers fans. Technically this may be the second year of a rebuild, but itís the sixth consecutive season the team has been bad and will miss the playoffs.

That gets old after a while.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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