Prominent Oilers get boot from 'Da Boss'

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:39 AM ET

EDMONTON - You’re on the fence as to whether Steve Tambellini deserves to remain as general manager and similarly undecided if Tom Renney and his coaching staff should be back.

But overwhelimingly, you want whoever is running this hockey team next year to somehow, some way, find a way to make netminder Nikolai Khabibulin and captain Shawn Horcoff go away.

And while they’re at it, they may similarly inform Cam Barker, Eric Belanger, Theo Peckham and Linus Omark they’ve also reached their expiry dates as Oilers.

It’s the Sun’s annual You Be Da Boss survey and it’s as accurate a temperature-taking of the approval rating of players on the team as you’re likely to find.

Of the more than 2,600 respondents 53% said Tambellini should stay while 40% favour bringing in an entirely new coaching staff, 32% figure the entire staff should be retained, 18% figure Tom Renney should go but the assistants should stay and 10% figure Renney should stay and his assistants should go.

And guarded optimism exists going forward to next season as 48% figure the Oilers to be in the playoff hunt, 42% figure that won’t likely be the case and 10% figure they’ll remain near the bottom of the standings.

The results are interesting, especially when compared to the survey a year earlier where, for example, only 12% wanted to fire the coach.

As was the case last year, Oilers fans are saying keep all the kids, give every one of them a great big hug and maybe even let them date your daughters.

You love Jordan Eberle (99%), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (98%) and Taylor Hall (97%).

Hardly shocking stuff.

But the positives involving the rest of the lineup strikingly suggest you like a lot of other young talent going forward, as well.

“Keep Him” was the strong response for defenceman Ladislav Smid (94%) who took a big step forward in his career this year as well as netminder Devan Dubnyk (92%) who seized his moment and claimed starting-goaltender status in the second half of the year.

While gremlins managed to get into the system and keep Jeff Petry off the ballot, you’d have to guess he’d be somewhere in there as well.

Right up there, despite being back in Oklahoma City for the playoffs, is emerging winger Teemu Hartikainen (91%), versatile forward Ryan Jones (90%) and newcomer Nick Schultz (89%) on the blueline.

That’s a lot of over-the-top love for players on a 29th place hockey team.

And this isn’t an out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new thing.

You want Ryan Smyth (74%) to stay, despite the old warhorse having run out of gas and not come close to matching the first half of his season in the second half, as the only player to play in all 82 Oiler games.

And despite not being able to produce points and despite the controversy involved in signing him up for two more seasons at $5 million a year, you still, sort of, want Ales Hemsky (62%) to be part of what’s happening here.

That you want Colten Teubert (80%), Andy Sutton (79%), Lennart Petrell (75%), Ryan Whitney (74%), Corey Potter (76%), Sam Gagner (71%), Ben Eager (62%), Chris VandeVelde (58%) and Darcy Hordichuk (57%) back next year probably surprises some of those players.

Last year 84% of survey respondents said they wanted Khabibulin gone and said get rid of Gilbert Brule, Colin Fraser, J.F. Jacques and Jason Strudwick as well.

Four out of five are no longer here.

This year the voters fingered Barker (76%), Belanger (65%), Peckham (65%) and Omark (63%) as being eligible for apples and road maps.

Peckham’s stock dropped more than any other Oiler this year. He had a 97% approval rating last season.

This year a resounding 85% hit the “Get Rid Of Him” button on Khabibulin and another 80% did the same beside Horcoff’s name. Only 52% wanted to get rid of Horcoff in last year’s survey.

In a place where fans know what they’re watching and have shown remarkable patience during the Edmonton Oilers rebuild, it’s difficult to dispute this year’s survey as being anything but representative.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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