27-year-old ex-Canucks winger Jeff Tambellini announced today that he has signed a three-year contract to play for Zurich of the Swiss League. While European hockey has a reputation as being the place players go when they can’t cut it in the big leagues, the move is the best choice for Tambellini.
The son of Edmonton Oilers' GM Steve Tambellini spent the 2010-2011 season with his hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks. There, he showed promise early in the season, recording 15 points in his first 21 games. He grew a reputation as the team's good luck charm as fans noted that the Canucks had lost only one of twenty games with Tambellini in the lineup, compared to the teams 5-7-2 record without him.
However, this soon changed, as he went on to record only two points in his final 41 regular season games.
Despite retaining some favour with fans (I for one was heartbroken when I heard he was headed to Europe), many would be surprised to hear that he was targeted by the Swiss League soon after the Canucks finished their Cup run.
He is expected to play on the top line with big minutes and hopes to be one of the teams’ top scorers, a challenge he simply was not suited for in Vancouver where he spent the majority of his time on the fourth line.
“It’s stability and it’s a chance to play a different role over there,” Tambellini told Jim Jamieson of The Vancouver Province. “It’s on the big ice and playing a lot of minutes. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
So why is the move the best choice for this former first-round draft pick?
Tambellini still has great offensive potential, he has amazing speed (does anyone else remember when he robbed Martin Erat of a crucial breakaway in Game 6 against Nashville?) and he knows how to score. He recorded 76 points in 57 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL in 2007-08.
He clearly excelled at the AHL level, but at 5’11, he was not suited for the third and fourth-line spots he was given in the NHL. He needs those top-line opportunities to perform. He could not earn them in the NHL, but given the right minutes, he will light up Swiss League scoreboards.
So good luck Tamby, you’ll be missed here in Vancouver, enjoy all the Swiss chocolate you can lay your hands on in Zurich.