Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mystery Man

Oddly, he never played for the Oilers in the 1980s.

Spending a couple hours reading up on Steve Tambellini in the news archives, the one thing that stands out is how often newspaper writers simply repeat what's been written before, which is summed up by the following: Steve Tambellini emerged from under the shadow of Brian Burke as a highly respected executive with a keen eye for player development, leading to gold medal success as Director of Player Personnel for Team Canada in the 2002 Olympics.

I think I read that same bland description, in endless permutations, about 50 times tonight, with no real insight or specific examples of what made him a great GM candidate sought after by no less than Calgary, Phoenix, Vancouver, San Jose, Columbus, Toronto, Minnesota and the Islanders. The new GM does get brownie points, however, for turning down an interview with the Islanders outright (something to do with that nutball Mike Milbury, perhaps?).

But hey, where's there's smoke, there's fire, right? My hopes for a Stanley Cup now officially depend on it. While I may have searched in vain for a true example of Tambellini's hockey genius, a profile of the new GM emerges nonetheless.

Compared to Oilers ex-Assistant GM Scott Howson, Tambellini was a bit of a quote machine (albeit bland) as an Assistant GM with the Canucks, and was the first point of contact for free agents and contract negotiations. He seems to be friends with everybody, whether it be Brian Burke, Kevin Lowe, Mike Gillis, Pat Quinn, Ken Holland and Wayne Gretzky, with seemingly half of them campaigning on his behalf for a GM job at some point. Over the years Tambellini was also a jack-of-all-trades for the Canucks: scouting overseas, negotiating contracts, presenting arbitration cases, managing minor league rosters, advising on the amateur draft and, briefly, acting as interim GM of the Canucks back in 1997 when Pat Quinn was turfed (duties included: firing Tom Renney). Perhaps just as importantly for the Oilers and Darryl Katz, Tambellini is loyal to a fault and deft at towing the company line, somehow getting a promotion through three separate major housecleanings from team owners. That's actually pretty impressive.

Not much, but there you go. And while I'm at it, here's a couple of choice nuggets from the archives:
Harold Druken can thank Steve Tambellini's power of persuasion with Brian Burke. Druken, one of the Vancouver Canucks pleasant rookie surprises with five goals in his last 11 games, was one bad junior playoff game away from not being part of the NHL club's future plans. "I wasn't going to sign him," admitted Burke, the Canucks president and general manager. "I had watched him play and I was not impressed. Steve Tambellini (vice-president of player personnel) insisted that I go watch him at the end of the (OHL) playoffs last spring." - Vancouver Province

This past summer, Staios filed for arbitration. He'd never been through arbitration before. He was warned it could be rough on your ego. At the hearing, his lawyer spoke for 90 minutes before Steve Tambellini, representing the Canucks, took the floor to say what the Canucks thought of the player.

"After my guy finished I was thinking, `Boy, we're not asking for enough money,'' Staios remembers. "I'm a great player. But then Steve got up.''

Now, to describe, verbatim, what Tambellini had to say wouldn't be fair to any kids Steve Staios might have in the future. No one wants to read that about his dad. But let's see if I can sum it up in a sentence or two: Steve Staios skates on his ankles; can't raise the puck more than a couple of inches; trips over the blue line and needs help lacing up his own skates. Then Tambellini got real nasty.

"I felt one inch tall,'' Staios remembers. ``He just stomped on me.''

But you know what - and this is what makes Staios the irrepressible force of nature that he is - after it was over, after he caught his wind and wiped away the tears, Staios probably went over to Tambellini, shook his hand and, with the smile that refuses to leave his face except when he's punching someone else's, he probably said: ``Hey, Tamby, how's it going?'' - Vancouver Sun


Bub said...

Great summation - thanks.

Mystery man is right. It seems as though he's well connected and well respected - most that I'd heard of him was that he'd been included in the Team Canada executive groups for seemingly significant yet publicly undeterminable reasons. "He's a good man." "Yeah, but... why?"

Into the fire? Certainly not in the fashion that Lowe was tossed. Looks like a strong addition to a capable crew.

Feels like Katz is icing the cake, and making sure there's plenty between the layers, as well.

Vic Ferrari said...

Thanks Mike. If nothing else it's good to see that he's comfortable with the business side of things, and the arbitration process in particular. That is something that always seemed to frighten Lowe.

Black Dog said...

Good stuff, Mike. The Staios story is pure gold.

Shawn said...

Great post Mike.

DMFB said...

Good to know our new GM has experience making Steve Staios feel like a human piece of cat shit.

Jonathan said...

I like Steve Staios.

DMFB said...

Good to know our new GM has experience making Steve Staios feel like a human piece of cat shit./sarcasm

Just a little inside joke for one of the CinOers, Jonathan.