TOM RENNEY: SPIN AND TEAM-BUILDING

Robin Brownlee
November 03 2010 08:55PM

EDMONTON, CANADA - OCTOBER 16: Tom Renney, head coach for the Edmonton Oilers, makes his way to the bench before a game against the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome on October 16, 2010 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flames beat the Oilers 5-3. (Photo by Dylan Lynch/Getty Images)

It's fair to argue Pat Quinn did much of his best work last season in post-game meetings with the media down the hall from the Edmonton Oilers dressing room. The new bench boss, Tom Renney, can't hold a candle to the Mighty Quinn when it comes to that.

Often flustered, sometimes impatient and bombastic, the big Irishman was a veritable quote machine for reporters almost from start to finish last season as the Oilers skidded into 30th place. More than once, Quinn spun gold after his team blew a lead, spit the bit, got outclassed or just "Sucked the hind banana."

Any scribe worth his PHWA card loved the stuff, even if it quickly became apparent the old-school coach wasn't the right man for the job -- contrary to what some miguided fool wrote at Oilersnation when Quinn was hired. Game passed him by? Great quote? No worries. Lean in and get your fill.

I don't know if Quinn set a team record for throwing players under the bus in 2009-10 because Craig MacTavish was rather prolific late in his tenure and Ron Low used to light up his own boys like cheap cigars with the beat men in the old days, but Quinn certainly entertained us.

Renney, on the other hand, speaks with the audience that really matters -- the players sitting in the dressing down that back hall -- in mind. And while that's bad for us, it's probably the best thing for the Oilers.

Our gold, you see, is fool's gold.

ALL THE RIGHT WORDS

Fresh from a 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday that saw the Oilers drop to 3-5-2, Renney did his daily availability with the media at Rexall Place this afternoon and gave some insight into why there has been a distinct shortage of juicy and jazzy quotes despite so much obviously available material.

Dan Tencer of 630 CHED asked Renney if he was making a concerted effort to be careful about how he talked about his team, given a roster full of impressionable ears in the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi.

"What they get in the room and what they get here aren't always the same," Renney said. "I'll never varnish the truth, but I'll tell as much as I believe I need to.

"I've never been one to coach individual players through the media. My team? Yeh, no question, but I won't single guys out, hang them out there and throw them under the bus so that 22 other guys have an excuse.

"This is how I work. I believe you people are doing a job and I'll give you everything I can, you know, in what I feel comfortable sharing. Like I told my guys, if things are going really good I'll stand behind you. If they're going really bad, I'll stand in front of you."

That's pretty telling stuff, if you ask me.

BUILDING TRUST TRUMPS TRUTH

While we in the media laud coaches and players who tell it like it is, especially if they only us, that's self-serving praise. Of course we like it. We gravitate to those who give us the lead quote, the headline, the snappy sound bite. We seek out the guy who just might go off. That's what we're supposed to do.

The truth is, with very rare exception, even the tell-it-like-is guys give us a filtered version of what they're thinking. As Renney said, what we get in a post-game presser about how any given player stunk out the joint is often very different from what that same player was told five minutes earlier in the confines of the dressing room. We love the coaches, like

Quinn, who deviate from that, but they are few and far between.

"Yes, Matty. Penner scored a goal, but he was otherwise pretty much brutal tonight." Or. "You got it, Jonesy, If Khabibulin would stop a friggin' shot, our PK wouldn't be a laughing stock."

If Renney is making his thoughts known inside the dressing room, to the audience that matters, what's the pay-off for him in doing it with us?

Do I like it, given how Quinn spoiled us? Not a bit. I'll take a timely Barbara-Ann Scott reference any day. Do I understand the approach Renney is taking, given what we've seen the past few years? Absolutely.

We'll keep asking, but while our jobs just got tougher, I'm guessing the audience that matters is going to be a lot more willing to play for Renney than they were for the previous two guys.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 Chris.
November 04 2010, 12:51PM
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book¡e wrote:

I just lost all respect for the Oilers hiring process.

This is who they hired for a 'sports psychologist'

I am just wondering, do Sport's psychologists carry around a little bag and inject you with vitamins in the back room?

If nothing else, she can beat up the players who don't respond. I can't imagine someone who would do that to their body can actually give mental advice though.

I'm also not necessarily a big fan of this hire. Kimberly Amirault... famous for working with the Knicks, Rangers, and Columbus Blue Jackets...

Didn't anyone in the organization stop and realize one important basic truth: all three of these teams suck?!

Do we really want someone head shrinking Taylor Hall into the same sophmore slump as Mason, and Brassard? When was the last time the Knicks or the Rangers won anything? Did Kimberly pick up the spirits of a Nicks team that set an NBA record with an over 50 point loss? C'mon! Why not hire the guy who provides sports psychology tips to the Red Wings, or the Patriots, or even the freaking Lakers?

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#52 Robin Brownlee
November 04 2010, 12:54PM
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cdosq wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee

This is maybe a bit unrelated to this post but what do you think of the following story? Any truth to this?

http://www.cbc.ca/sports/blogs/markseidel/2010/11/taylor-hall-and-his-obsession-for-no-4.html

Thanks for posting this. I hadn't seen it.

I will be talking to Kevin Lowe in the next hour and I'll ask him about it. I'll post something this afternoon after I get back from doing Gregor's show 3-5 p.m.

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#53 Robin Brownlee
November 04 2010, 01:10PM
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Just spoke with Kevin: He says no truth to the story whatsoever. Will post later.

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#54 book¡e
November 04 2010, 01:17PM
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Nope, I think the facts are in, Taylor Hall is a spoiled brat and has a cult like obsession with the number 4. Sources tell me that his entire diet consists of modified H's from Alpha-Bit cereal and from cans of Alphagetti that Team Hall slaves spend hours trimming to look like 4's.

I for one am devastated to learn that this is the case and that Kevin Lowe, President of Hockey Operations for the Oilers was powerless to stop his selection to the team and his demand for the #4.

Now that I think about it, when I see him in interviews, Hall does remind me a lot of Kim Jung Il.

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#55 Chris.
November 04 2010, 01:23PM
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Of course this article is a lie. The very first sentance is a lie. Mark Seidel has always had a hate on for Hall... I believe it was he who wrote something to the effect: "If the Oilers draft Hall they will have trouble fitting his giant head through the dressing room door at Rexall..." He also referred to Hall as being un- coachable. (Sorry I can't find the link)

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#56 Ender
November 04 2010, 01:29PM
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Not surprised that the story is bogus; it didn't pass the smell-test during the first read.

Strictly speculation here, but I suspect that both Lowe AND Hall would have been happier if Taylor's sweater had a big ol' #19 on the back this year. The #4 idea? I'm going to credit that one to the Oilers Marketing department.

What I think was really happening with this 'story' is that Mark Seidel was fishing; if no one bites, he claims that it's because the piece was the unvarnished truth. If someone gets upset (like Taylor or his dad) and come out to Seidel with some big juicy scoop about how the Oilers made Hall wear the number, then Seidel happily prints a 'retraction' buried inside his 'exclusive' new story. As far as journalism goes, I find that disgusting. I hope he can cite a credible source in his defense beyond his overactive imagination.

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#57 Chris.
November 04 2010, 01:31PM
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From The Windsor Star In April:

But whether Hall will be picked first overall at the June 25 NHL Entry Draft is still open to debate. Seguin yesterday bumped Hall out of the No. 1 spot as the top North American skater in NHL Central Scouting’s final draft rankings. And many supported the decision.

“Our job as scouts and as evaluators isn’t to decide who is the better player today, it’s to try and figure out who is going to be the better player when they’re 25,” said Mark Seidel, the director of scouting at National American Central Scouting.

“Taylor Hall is clearly the better player today. But there’s not an ounce of doubt that Seguin is going to be the better player down the road.”

Read more: http://www.windsorstar.com/sports/pick+open+debate/2775466/story.html?id=2775466#ixzz14LN9vC3E

I still can't find that other link... but Seidel was always firmly on team Seguin.

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#58 book¡e
November 04 2010, 02:11PM
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Who is Mark Seidel? what is "National American Central Scouting"? They have no internet presence other than in a couple of articles written by Mark Seidel.

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#59 oil316
November 04 2010, 02:14PM
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Does Brownlee say absolutely a lot? Absolutely!

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#60 jeanshorts
November 04 2010, 02:21PM
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RE: The Seidel article.

The one, absolutely MASSIVE giveaway that the whole thing is just some kind of personal vendetta against Hall and maybe even more so his dad, is that given the insane amount of media scrutiny this team faces you'd think that Matheson, Ireland, Staples, Brownlee, etc would have caught wind of something like this by now. A hot shot rookie coming in and making fairly serious demands like that would be something a news outlet would be chomping at the bit to report I would suspect.

And on top of that the whole "Massive Press Conference To Give Hall The Number 4 Thereby Symbolically Passing The Torch" thing definitely SCREAMS of a man who's been strong armed into doing something he didn't want to. Riiiigggghhhhttttt.

Oh and the whole "people inside the game are quietly cheering his early season struggles" is insanely immature and petty. I guess we all forgot about the time that Kane, Crosby, Tavares, Stamkos, etc all had 25 points by November. Struggles indeed.

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#61 laughing pug
November 04 2010, 02:31PM
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WANYE GOT PLUGGED BY GREGOR!!!

......wait that doesn't sound right

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#62 smiliegirl15
November 04 2010, 02:52PM
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Gregor had Lowe on his show about a half hour ago. Kevin said Hall never pressured him about having #4 and said how respectful of the number and the team Hall was. He also said when they were interviewing him, before they drafted him, Hall knew all about the Oilers' history and about NHL players' histories in general. They were all quite impressed by his hockey knowledge regarding things that had happened even before he was born.

Does Hall come across like an arrogant jack@$$ like this guy has intimated? I don't think so; not from what I've seen and there is a ton of coverage on this kid.

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#63 I tried it at home
November 04 2010, 05:29PM
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@Chris.

post #51

Great googly boogly... is that supposed to be (technically) female??

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#64 speeds
November 04 2010, 09:48PM
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Robin:

I thought this Renney quote was interesting, in that I'm not completely sure I understand it.

"I'll never varnish the truth, but I'll tell as much as I believe I need to."

Is it just me, or does "I'll tell as much as I believe I need to." imply that he will varnish the truth?

Or was that his point, and it's not easy to pick up without hearing his voice, that he'll try not to tell wild lies, but he might "massage the truth" as he sees fit?

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#65 Microsoft Office 2007
November 05 2010, 09:29PM
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DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT

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