November 03 2010 08:55PM
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.