EDMONTON - If you’re waiting for Steve Tambellini to be served up as some sort of sacrifice for the way the Edmonton Oilers season has toileted for the third year in a row, forget about it.
While he’s in the final year of his current contract, your correspondent has learned that Tambellini will not be a lame-duck general manager going forward to the trade deadline or the draft.
Tambellini will be given the opportunity with a contract extension to carry on through additional years of the massive rebuild.
Indeed, sometime between the all-star break and the trade deadline, it is expected Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe will sit down and work out the arrangements of a new deal going forward.
The only real hang-up might be the term.
When the deal will actually be announced may depend on timing. The Oilers, who currently have a fan base losing patience with the team which has only won five of their last 25 games, will likely prefer to find a positive stretch somewhere ahead to make an announcement which is guaranteed to be controversial in many quarters.
While you can find considerable fault, as this columnist has, with the pro player acquisition part of what Tambellini has done so far, there’s no questioning the job he’s done in promoting Stu MacGregor to head scout, the acquisition of extra draft picks so far and the drafting itself.
And there’s also the so-far successful steering of the new organizational development plan featuring the AHL-leading Oklahoma City Barons.
On the other hand there’s a significant percentage of the paying public who don’t believe Tambellini has achieved a status in the GM community much higher than his team sits in the standings.
And the current view of his team is that it has no guts, still isn’t tough to play against, that his veterans haven’t performed, nor have the holdovers from Lowe’s veterans from his time in the GM chair. The group has shown no try in three of the last five games.
But apparently the decision is big picture, to stay the course with Tambellini, a first time general manager who is being developed, too.
So if there’s anybody who is going to be served up to the fans as a sacrifice it’ll be have to be head coach Tom Renney. And with him, there are no assurances he’ll survive the end of the season the way it’s been going lately.
Like Tambellini, Renney is also on the final year of his contract.
Ideally, I believe the Oilers want to wait the entire season, judge the job Renney has done on its entirety and make a decision if he’s the right guy to go forward.
The belief here is that Lowe and Tambellini, in fairness to Renney and staff, aren’t even close to pulling the trigger right now because of the circumstances with losing their three top forwards and three of their top defencemen due to injury.
But after the team gets to hit the refresh button with the all-star break and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (the Oilers have won one game of eight with RNH out of the lineup), Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are all back and finding their form again ...
And when Tom Gilbert, Ryan Whitney and Cam Barker are back playing on defence ...
Well, if the Oilers don’t climb up several spots from 29th where they’ve dropped since an 8-2-2 start to the season, the kids will likely get the second head coach of their NHL careers.
Renney might not be coaching from the edge of a cliff right now. But he very soon could be.
Sunday I asked Renney if there was any concern of players sensing a guy was coaching from a precarious position going forward.
“Yah, I know where you’re going,” he said. “If I wasn’t as confident going about my job and our coaching staff as I am, I guess I would be concerned about that.
“I can’t control at the end of the day in the deepest parts of their hearts how they feel about their situation and us and all of that sort of stuff.
“All I can do is exhibit perseverance, commitment, work habits and the right attitude, accepting the challenge and all those types of things. The coaching staff, to a man, do that every day. We really do.
“As you try to grow something, boy, there’s times when it’s tough. You don’t pee on your garden to try grow stuff, you fertilize it. We’re doing our best to do that.”
Renney put the Oilers to the closest thing to a bag skate we’ve seen from him. And there was almost no dialog involved out there Sunday.
“All I can tell you is that I’m pissed off,” said Renney.
“ ‘Renney’s pissed off.’ You can write that.”
Mad as hell and he’s not going to take it any more?
“Mad as hell and there’s not much I can do about it right now.”
Not much he can do about it?
Was there a plea for better and more committed veteran players in there?
When it’s the 16th loss in 17 games to the Calgary Flames, the fans aren’t going to find any patience. It’s Calgary. It can be about the rebuild and the injuries and whatever against the other 28 teams with the fan base. But not when it comes to Calgary and these guys clearly don’t get that.
“I’ve had enough of this stuff. It’s like Minnesota,” said Renney of the other team the Oilers have a similarly rancid record against in recent years.
“Be a hockey team. Be a player. Take the job on and go do it,” said the head coach.
“I like the Battle of Alberta from when I was away from this scene. I want to get it going. I want to get it going again.”
There was no battle in the Oilers much beyond Taylor Hall brought to the Battle of Alberta yet again.
“There were some fly-bys (Saturday) night. Definitely. To me, that game was there for the taking,” Renney said of a team looking for all the world like they’ve quit on the season and themselves, accented by the one guy who had try, Hall, second guessing his coach on Hockey Night In Canada for pulling his goalie with the score 5-2 in the 6-2 empty-net goal loss to the Flames.
Renney says he believes he and his staff are busting their butts on the job.
“I’d like to think we are. We’re putting in the time. There’s no question about that. And we believe strongly in our philosophy as a coaching staff and we believe in each other. We have to measure up, too, though. Yah, the players have to perform better and they have to respect the effort that’s going in on their behalf.
“We’ve got to stay with it, too. We can’t fall into the trap of being frustrated or selfish or anything that might be disruptive that will get in the way of us doing our job.
“These are tough times, but you embrace them. They force you to coach. They force you to find answers. And they force you to even come outside your box a little bit, from inside your own comfort zone, and grow. It’s not exclusive to the young guys here this growing part.”
The aforementioned Hall may have questioned his coach on HNIC with the pull-the-goalie call Saturday night, but he isn’t questioning his coach.
He doesn’t want his first NHL coach to get fired.
“I don’t think that would change anything around here. We enjoy playing for him.”