Renney talks a good game

Tom Renney is a good NHL coach, but he’s a hall-of-fame talker and somebody who is bound to impress Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini when they sit down to discuss why he’s the right man to take over behind the bench from Craig MacTavish.

Renney’s interview skills were never more impressive than this afternoon, when he spoke with Just A Game host Jason Gregor and co-host Dan Barnes on TEAM 1260 (listen to the whole interview here).

To be honest, I’ve long perceived Renney as a bit of a MacTavish clone, a guy who preaches defence first, covets safe players and doesn’t necessarily get the most out of young, offensively talented players. Sound familiar?

In fact, Renney, 54, has pretty much won at the at same clip as MacTavish during his NHL coaching career with the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers, going 203-170-9-46 (.539) in 428 games. MacTavish, by the way, was 301-252-47-56 (.537) in 656 games with the Oilers.

While Renney is somebody, obviously, Tambellini wants to talk to, my take has been it’s likely a stretch to think he’ll be short-listed above candidates like Brent Sutter, Pat Quinn, Pete Laviolette, Bob Hartley and Marc Crawford.

I don’t know if today changed my mind — I’m thinking not — but there’s no question Renney, who has ties with Tambellini dating back to the 1990s in Vancouver, said the right things when Gregor and Barnes quizzed him today.

A silver-tongued devil he is.

Coaching the Oil

Barnes asked Renney if the Oilers have the kind of roster he’d like to coach.

“Absolutely,” Renney said. “I think they’ve got a group of players within the ranks that would like to do something more than what they did last year. I think the leadership would like to make amends for a tough year that the team had.

“I think that’s there’s a lot of pride in that room, no question about that. You can draw on people who have had a tough time and use that to your advantage as a group and certainly as a coach. I think it’s a great, young group. I think there’s some untapped potential there, to say the least.

“I think what you’ve got to do is try to nurture that and inspire it, challenge it and hold it accountable and all those types of things that’s incumbent with coaching. I just really like the upside of the team . . . ”

Finding inspiration

Gregor asked about the coach’s role in inspiring and motivating his players and how he approaches it.

“I think you’ve got to be that yourself,” Renney said. “It can’t be phoney. I mean, it’s got to be the real deal and be one of those guys who gets up every morning looking forward to what’s in front of you. You can kind of live that and allow others to view that as motivation before you even open your mouth.

“That’s a good thing. There’s a certain amount of motivation that comes from what we watch and see, never mind what we hear. Beyond that, you’ve got to translate all of that into what makes sense. It’s got to be on a personal level for each and every player. You’ve got to have enough insight into each guy that you can help them understand that you get it on their behalf.

“Ultimately, as a group, it’s the same thing. I think that involves just being yourself, encouraging people and nurturing people and having a plan that makes sense, that you’re absolutely 100 per cent committed to.

“That becomes easy to follow, or it should. If it doesn’t, then you’re the wrong guy for the job or it’s the wrong message.”

Drawing the line

Barnes asked about Renney’s approach to handling veterans versus younger players, specifically touching on MacTavish’s penchant for giving some players in the dressing room much more rope than others.

“That depends on the circumstances, naturally,” Renney said. “Let’s just say that I’m the coach of that hockey club, for example, and they all understand where my bottom line is and what you can’t do to cross it.

“I have no problem with that. I think it’s a function of making sure you avoid the double-standard. I think it’s a function of making sure guys understand you will draw that line. As a coach, you almost look for that opportunity, quite honestly . . .

“The bottom line, beyond that, is to be consistent. You don’t sort of pick your spots. I think you have to be consistent. That doesn’t mean you don’t work with guys. That doesn’t mean you don’t give people a second chance. There’s no question about that.

“The thing is, you don’t discriminate between and older player making that decision or a young guy. As long as everybody knows and understands right off the bat where your bottom line is and you’re consistent with it, you’re good to go.

“Those who can’t handle it or whatever and choose to work outside the best interests of the team, they’re probably going to have to answer to somebody else beside me.”

Loose lips

Barnes asked Renney about his take on criticizing or calling out players through the media.

“I’ve never called out a player through the media,” Renney said. “I think it’s very dangerous to coach a player through the press. I think you’re inviting problems you don’t really, in fact, need.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with accountability and holding people’s feet to the fire and those types of things. That’s a relationship between a coach and the player behind closed doors or within, at least, the confines of the team framework.

“I have no trouble challenging my team in the media and, often times, it serves as pretty good leverage. When players read about it they kind of get it that way, but I’ve not been one to single people out in the media. I’m not sure that’s the appropriate way to go about things.”

Drawing it up

Gregor asked Renney about how rigid he is in his coaching philosophy and if he shapes his approach based on the personnel he has to work with.

“What you have to have is flexibility,” Renney said. “If you’re so rigid you can’t do that, you may, in fact, have some problems. You might be asking people to do things that are maybe a little bit beyond them . . .

“Good coaches, and they all are in the NHL, recognize the need to have some flexibility with their approach to the game recognizing what their personnel might look like.”

The above are just excerpts from the interview, but Renney covered a lot of ground with these answers and, I’m guessing, said the kinds of things a lot of Oilers fans want to hear.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

  • The Menace

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    has missed the playoffs in four straight seasons as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes and prefers Juicy Fruit gum to Trident, is interested in coaching the Oilers

    I would like to hear a bit more of the Juicy Fruit discussion that has gone on – I hadn't read that anywhere before. My understanding was that since his playing days here, he has been an ardent Trident man.

  • swany

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    Archaeologuy wrote:
    @ Robin Brownlee:
    could you re-invent the wheel while you’re typing that up next time
    Oh, I can dumb it down. Instead of writing:
    “Wayne Gretzky is interested in coaching the Oilers . . .”
    We can do this:
    “Wayne Gretzky, who wore jersey No. 99 in Edmonton, set 61 NHL scoring records, played on four Stanley Cup teams, had his number retired at Rexall Place, was inducted into the HHOF the first minute he was eligible, has a dad named Walter, scored an NHL record 92 goals, is the NHL’s leading career scoring leader, was denied the Calder Trophy because of a goofy rule, never got a sip from The Cup after being sold by Peter Pocklinton, has a wife named Janet, drives a black Ford Focus, was born in Brantford, Ont., made his debut with Edmonton during the 1978-79 WHA season, played for Edmonton, Los Angeles, St. Louis and New York in the NHL, won the Hart Trophy nine times, had a career-high 215 points in 1985-86, has missed the playoffs in four straight seasons as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes and prefers Juicy Fruit gum to Trident, is interested in coaching the Oilers.”

    This has to be a joke, RB, I get your beening sarcastic but the first line has me guessing, Gretz isn't intrested in the job is he? and the only reason I ask that is because of Bryn and Jakes poll on 1260 about him coaching the Oil.

  • Peter Pan

    I think we are all over-rating the importance of coaching. You could get Scotty Bowman, Pat Burns, Mike Babcock, Don Cherry, and Moses to coach this team and still we will not be a contender or playoff team. A coach is only as good as the tools he has to work with. The Oil do not have an NHL calibre goalie! The Oil do not a first line centre! The Oil do not not have a first line leftwinger! The Oil do not have size! The Oil do not have heart! The Oil do not have depth! The Oil do not have much salary cap space! The Oil do not have Blue-Chip prospects in the system! The Oil do not have a respectable powerplay! The Oil do not have a respectable penalty kill! The Oil do not have the ability to win faceoffs! The Oil do not have the ability to win at home! The Oil do not have a superstar! The Oil do not have a winning line up!

    SO HOW IN THE HELL IS A COACH GOING TO RECTIFY THESE PROBLEMS! Unless Tambo brings in the tools for this new coach, its going to Groundhog Day here in Edmonton!

  • Archaeologuy

    @ Peter Pan:
    STEP AWAY FROM THE LEDGE!

    Things will get better. A new coach can help with the lack of Heart. The Oil could probably re-sign Roli for a year if they cant acquire another tender. There are 4 months to address the LW and Cap issues.
    There are Blue Chip prospects in the system: Eberle, Omark, Chorney
    The powerplay and PK are directly a product of coaching strategies
    The ability to win at home isnt something inherent in the players themselves. The Oilers under Ron Low's final year were pathetic at home, the next year under someone else it got better.
    No superstar, agreed, but Crosby and Malkin dont win the Cup every year either.

    Coaching can fix a lot of problems, and it is a bad argument to say that a coach needs the tools to win. The Wild were a competitive team under Lemaire for years with a sub-par talent level. A good handi-man never blames his tools.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ Peter Pan:

    So, don't hire a coach until the other issues are addressed?
    A person would be infinitely dim to think simply hiring a coach is the answer, and I don't know anybody who thinks that, so you're not breaking any new ground here.
    You have to start somewhere.

  • Robin Brownlee

    David S wrote:

    A good handyman makes sure he has a set of Snap-ons in his toolbox. Right now, all we’ve got is a set of Walmart Taiwanese knock-offs.

    Snap-ons or strap-ons?

  • Oilman

    Peter Pan wrote:

    I think we are all over-rating the importance of coaching. You could get Scotty Bowman, Pat Burns, Mike Babcock, Don Cherry, and Moses to coach this team and still we will not be a contender or playoff team.

    can you imagine Moses teaching our guys how to split the defense!

  • DK0

    Oilman wrote:

    can you imagine Moses teaching our guys how to split the defense!

    Calgary, Detroit, Carolina we are gold! I don't think he knows how to split any other color of sea though…

  • Peter Pan

    @ Robin Brownlee:

    No, I'm not saying that and I agree with you – one step at a time. Just needed to vent. All this smoke in the air has made me pretty grumpy.

    Sidenote: Met J. Spacek at JFK Airport on a business trip yesterday. He has nothing but great things to say about playing in EDM and would play here again "in a heartbeat". Liar (LOL). Nothing but high praise for MacT. Thought the fans and media were too tough on him. I politely disagreed with him, but he was in the dressing room not me. But everybody loved MacT in '06 right?

  • Oilersordeath

    Look at Vancouver with the exception of Luongo, they dont have any superstars but their coach seems to be able to get them to play his system, why couldnt the same happen for the Oil??

  • myteammytown

    Peter Pan wrote:

    I think we are all over-rating the importance of coaching. You could get Scotty Bowman, Pat Burns, Mike Babcock, Don Cherry, and Moses to coach this team and still we will not be a contender or playoff team. A coach is only as good as the tools he has to work with. The Oil do not have an NHL calibre goalie! The Oil do not a first line centre! The Oil do not not have a first line leftwinger! The Oil do not have size! The Oil do not have heart! The Oil do not have depth! The Oil do not have much salary cap space! The Oil do not have Blue-Chip prospects in the system! The Oil do not have a respectable powerplay! The Oil do not have a respectable penalty kill! The Oil do not have the ability to win faceoffs! The Oil do not have the ability to win at home! The Oil do not have a superstar! The Oil do not have a winning line up!
    SO HOW IN THE HELL IS A COACH GOING TO RECTIFY THESE PROBLEMS! Unless Tambo brings in the tools for this new coach, its going to Groundhog Day here in Edmonton!

    in other news, the sky is blue, and word is a man may walk on the moon soon.

    give your head a shake man. nobody is saying a new coach is going to fix this team.

    Panic!!!Panic!!!Panic!!! WAHHHHHH!!!!!

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ Oilersordeath:
    It's not as simple as that.
    Tell me which six Oilers forwards stack up better right now than Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Pavol Demitra, Alex Burrows and Mats Sundin?

    It's not all system. The Canucks are a more talented and balanced team.

  • Dan

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    @ Oilersordeath:
    It’s not as simple as that.
    Tell me which six Oilers forwards stack up better right now than Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Pavol Demitra, Alex Burrows and Mats Sundin?
    It’s not all system. The Canucks are a more talented and balanced team.

    Vancouver has two very good players having very good years, two players having career years and two players whoose best years are behind them. Sounds like the recipe for any successful team. Every team hopes for this, few teams get the results.

    I don't think Vancouver are world beaters by any stretch, they have a nice forward group but the strength of their team lies in goal and on the defence.
    They are getting some nice matchups thus far, St.Louis was cannon fodder, Chicago is green, They could take Detroit, I think they would have issues with Anaheim.

    If the Oilers make necessary tweaks to the top 6 and actually slot players in their right spots, as well as consciously get bigger, they could be in the running for the division title as much as anyone. We don't really have an epic team in our division, at least not like the other divisions have.

  • Robin Brownlee

    Dan wrote:

    If the Oilers make necessary tweaks to the top 6 and actually slot players in their right spots, as well as consciously get bigger, they could be in the running for the division title as much as anyone.

    And if I was younger, better looking and could act, I could be as leading man.
    The necessary tweaks, as you put it, are far easier said than done, especially when one of the needs is a top-six scorer. Then there's finding a defensive forward who can win face-offs and there's the PK and the PP . . .
    This team isn't nearly put together right and it's naive to think otherwise.

  • Dan

    I see a need for 2 top 6 forwards, the bottom six can be filled quite well with the players we have, a need for a Dman, if we believe that Gilbert will be the bait for one of the top 6 players. And perhaps a goaltender if Roloson walks. So that only 4 spots to fill, but the key is they need to be filled with big bodies. So, its not totally outrageous as long as tambo understands what we have and what we need.

    The bigger problem is we have a lot of riff raff that we need to purge.

  • Peter Pan

    myteammytown wrote:
    in other news, the sky is blue, and word is a man may walk on the moon soon.
    give your head a shake man. nobody is saying a new coach is going to fix this team.
    Panic!!!Panic!!!Panic!!! WAHHHHHH!!!!!

    I shook my head as you suggested… got very dizzy. Thanks for the tip.

  • RossCreek

    @ Robin off topic but with this phoenix thing – after filing for bankruptcy, i understand the lease deal in phoenix is null and void. If this is the case, wouldn't the franchise be worth significantly more to other potential buyers that could relocate the club (in bankruptcy court, an offer 5 mil more than balsillie)? For instance, with the arena in kansas city sitting available, and from what i understand being offered rent free, wouldn't the league be able to find an owner easier with the opportunity to start fresh in a new, NHL approved market with a sweetheart deal? All the league has to do is find someone willing to outbid Balsillie and move the team to KC or wherever – something i'm sure no one is willing to do to keep the team in phoenix. Who wins this battle? Where is this team playing next year? Can Balsillie Al Davis the league?

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ RossCreek:
    I haven't read anything that tells me the lease deal is null and void because of bankruptcy proceedings. You can bet the City of Glendale won't see it that way, either.

    There's not going to be any quick legal side-stepping — file some papers, find a new buyer and pack up the moving vans — with this one.

  • RossCreek

    If their lease isn't null and void (which i believe the bankruptcy filing would mean), then how is Balsillie able to move the team? The team is locked into a lease that they have to pay 750 million to get out of (i've heard). From what i understand, bankruptcy is the only way out without paying the penalty.

  • Oilersordeath

    @ Robin Brownlee:

    I think if Hemsky and Horcoff play the way we know they can play they match up with the Sedin sisters pretty well. Other than that was Keslers #s that much better than Penners? Burrows had an over achiever year I doubt he'll do that again, but if Gagner had played the whole season the way he played the second half I would match those two up. And Demitra? Really? I might be insulting someone on the Oilers if I try to match him up with someone, maybe Cogs eh? Same point total roughly?

  • Archaeologuy

    Oilersordeath wrote:

    I think if Hemsky and Horcoff play the way we know they can play they match up with the Sedin sisters pretty well.

    Both Sedins put up 82 points and were +24 and +22, That is 5 more points than Hemsky has ever put up and +17 higher than he has ever been. Horc's highest +/- rating has been 10 and his best season ever produced 73 points. The Sedins practically share a brain and can find each other anywhere on the Ice.

    Oilersordeath wrote:

    Other than that was Keslers #s that much better than Penners?

    Kessler put up 12 more points than Penner's best year and he was nominated for a Selke.

    Oilersordeath wrote:

    And Demitra? Really? I might be insulting someone on the Oilers if I try to match him up with someone, maybe Cogs eh? Same point total roughly?

    Cogs 38 points & Demitra 53 points (good enough for 2nd on the Oil)

  • Robin Brownlee

    Oilersordeath wrote:

    @ Robin Brownlee:
    I think if Hemsky and Horcoff play the way we know they can play they match up with the Sedin sisters pretty well. Other than that was Keslers #s that much better than Penners? Burrows had an over achiever year I doubt he’ll do that again, but if Gagner had played the whole season the way he played the second half I would match those two up. And Demitra? Really? I might be insulting someone on the Oilers if I try to match him up with someone, maybe Cogs eh? Same point total roughly?

    How many fingers and I holding up . . . ?