by Lisa Brown on 05/24/12 at 02:00 AM ET
He was with them through the good, the bad and everything in between but after two seasons as the Edmonton Oilers’ head coach, Tom Renney will head in a different direction.
The announcement was made through a simple tweet last Thursday but it wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon that Renney would address the Edmonton media one final time. Speaking for 20 minutes, Renney discessed the season, possible replacements, and the next steps for both Renney and the team with the optimism and enthusiasm Oiler fans have become quite familiar with.
“I never felt that it was done until Steve [Tambellini] and I spoke, but that’s the eternal optimist in me I guess as much as anything” Renney joked in front of a throng of media all available because this is the lull in the Edmonton sports world. With the Oil Kings at the Memorial Cup and not playing and the Eskimos weeks away from playing all sports eyes were on Renney who made his final goodbyes.
It’s easy to see where Renney needed his optimism throughout the season, this was another stinker. But funnily enough, Renney’s biggest regret may have been getting hit in the head with a rogue puck at practise in Toronto.
“There’s some work to do.” Renney admitted when asked where he sees the team needs to go from here. “I think that there are some terrific pieces as the cliché would suggest in place, there’s no question of that. But there needs to be an increase of performance of some of the players that are here that I think is completely within them. There has to be some acquisitions that will also help to move this thing forward, but nobody knows that better than Kevin [Lowe] and Steve [Tambellini].”
And yet Renney wouldn’t throw any players under the proverbial bus saying instead that the team has not only talented up and coming youth but also “Veteran guys that absolutely care deeply about where this team is going. That’s important for the general public out there to know that.”
Being a players coach, and especially one working with the developing Oilers Renney is walking away from a lot of possibilities as well as a few question marks. While the team is showing a lot of promise, there are still several missing pieces and the team may still be farther away than many are willing to admit.
“When you’re at the front end of the building process, you don’t like to be the guy that’s leaving before you even get to the middle. And the fact of the matter is that I think that’s where we are and there’s been a great deal that’s been suggested along the way.”
So the middle, that’s where Renney thinks that this team is. The middle of a rebuild, not yet at the crest of that hill. Still, the middle doesn’t mean that playoffs can’t be a goal or even a possibility for the next season.
“It’s just very disappointing to not be here to continue to execute that plan; you want to be a part of supporting people do what they need to do to make it happen. And that’s where this is. Obviously anyone would be disappointed, but I’m not here to throw daggers I’m here to support this organization all of the way to its Stanley Cup and if that’s from a distance and having been a former coach I’m good with that too.”
Renney has already been in communication with other NHL teams, and hopes to remain in a coaching position. If not, there is always the TV commentator position that so many ex-NHL coaches seem to find. If that’s where Renney ends up it won’‘t be his first choice, but “You’ll know what kind of a summer I’ve had” Renney joked.
“I’ve led a good life and have a lot of great experiences because of hockey. My wife and family are healthy and happy because of hockey and the Emdotnon Oilers have contributed to that. They gave me an opportunity to do what I love.”
Looking at the tools and assets the Oilers already have, Renney addressed the Hall at centre question admitting that he would like to see Hall play there, just to see what happens. “I think he can play centre, I think you play him where he’s most effective not the safest… don’t rule out anything for this young player.” But that of course brings into question, why didn’t Renney try that last season? And to that, we may never know. What we already knew of course is that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a special player, and Renney only reiterated that saying “You need vowels, and Nuge is a vowel.”
Renney also touched upon a couple of coaching suggestions that have already been floating around. On associate coach Ralph Krueger Renney says “I think that Ralph in particular is a head coach in the national hockey league” and when it comes to Brent Sutter, Renney remembers when Sutter was the first person to call him when he was let go from the New York Rangers. Renney adds “Brent’s a good coach, a good man.” If you were looking for insight as to who the Oilers might pick, you weren’t getting that from Renney. Not today.
As much as Renney was addressing the media, Renney was also sending a message or two to the fans of the Oilers; “This is to the fans, support your Oilers as you always have because there is nothing better than playing in front of people who care, who are passionate who are willing to jump up and scream and holler whether they like something or not and that’s OK. But be real happy with the fact that you still have a team here, you’ve got an owner who wants badly to build a new arena and that will happen. So you can ocme in here and watch hockey and just be happy that you weren’t the Winnipeg Jets of a number of years ago watching their taillights leave.”
Selling tickets and jerseys has not been an issue through the past three bottom finish seasons, but I think that Renney was trying to say don’t give up on the team even though there are still going to be a few more bumps in the road. It’s not exactly the most optimistic of outlooks, not from an eternal optimist like Renney, but it is exceptionally honest.
The Oilers are closer to their goal of a competitive team than they were last year, but it’s going to take a plan, maybe not Renney’s plan, but a plan and a few new pieces to take them the rest of the way.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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