On The Renney Situation

Jonathan Willis
April 17 2012 10:44AM

Tom Renney’s in an uncomfortable spot right now. He’s under contract to the Oilers for the remainder of the year, but so far there’s been no public indication that he’s going to be back. Rumours are flying about other candidates – such as Brent Sutter, who will be coaching Canada’s World Championship team under Kevin Lowe. The smart money says that in this case, no news is bad news for Renney.

Despite what the smart money says, Renney’s in limbo right now. He may be back; he may not be back. The only certainty is uncertainty.

Paul Holmgren, now the general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, knows what it’s like to be on the chopping block as an NHL head coach. In the book Behind the Moves, he tells a story about coaching the Hartford Whalers for Jim Rutherford:

I was coaching for Jimmy [Rutherford] in Hartford. The lockout year [1994-95] was my first year under Jimmy. Going into next year, we traded [Chris] Pronger and got [Brendan] Shanahan and we started out not very good. Jimmy called me in and told me, ‘Things aren’t going very good. I’ll give you two weeks to get things straightened out; otherwise, I am going to have to make a change.’ He called me up to his office five or six days later. ‘We’re going to make a change.’ I said, ‘What happened to your two weeks?’ He said, ‘You know what, why don’t you go run practice and then come back up here and we’ll talk.’ So I go to run practice and I go back up, ‘Yeah, we’re going to make a change.’ … It just goes to show you that if you are thinking like that, he might as well just have fired me right then. Why give a guy two weeks? What are you going to do in two weeks? … If you are thinking about changing the coach, you are probably already too late.

(emphasis mine)

It’s been suggested that the Oilers are holding off on making a decision on Renney because they want to see if a candidate they liked a little better would become available in the off-season. Brent Sutter’s now out of Calgary. Vancouver and Pittsburgh are teetering on the brink of shocking upsets, and head coaches Alain Vigneault and Dan Bylsma are highly regarded; might they become available?

If that’s the thought process, though, the Oilers might as well just fire Renney now. Once a team decides that their man isn’t the best man for the job because they’re making googly eyes at someone else, it’s already over. There’s a dissatisfaction with what they have.

That’s what Paul Holmgren notes above. Once Rutherford had decided that he would can Holmgren if things didn’t turn around pronto, he’d already made the toughest decision. He’d decided that firing the coach was an option he would be willing to exercise soon. If the Oilers have decided to let Renney go if circumstances work out, they’ve made the same decision.

If that’s the case, the kindest thing to do would be to let Renney know immediately so that he can start talking to people about what he’ll be doing next season.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 BigE91
April 17 2012, 09:30PM
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Babcock, Bylsma, Vigneault doesn't matter who it is, its going to take a miracle to get this team over the hump unless they address some serious player needs, specifically defensively.

The sooner the Oilers announce Tambellini's extension or relieve him of his duties the better it will be for Renney.

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#52 madjam
April 18 2012, 07:43AM
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Lowe and Tams out of town , while J.Nieuwendyk recently spotted around town . Should we be reading anything into this ?

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#53 smiliegirl15
April 18 2012, 11:08AM
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How many coaches are they going to go through before they finally realize the real problem is TAMBELLINI!!!?

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#54 dawgbone98
April 18 2012, 11:59AM
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Sliderule, Belanger saw 50 less minutes on the PP in Edmonton this year than he saw in Phoenix last year, and 70 less than he saw on Washington/Minnesota the previous years.

The Oilers weren't doing anything that hadn't been tried before with Belanger.

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#55 Anon
April 18 2012, 05:05PM
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It's possible to both keep Renney and hire a new coach too. Maybe Billy Moores or Sillinger are moving on and Renney returns to a player development role.

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