Tom Renney in a Box (Part 1)

In his first full season as coach of the New York Rangers, Tom Renney was the toast of the town. The NHL was coming out of the lockout–meaning two seasons worth of rookies–and the Rangers weren’t picked to win squat. The Rangers topped 100 points, Jaromir Jagr set team records for goals and points and Renney was lauded as a major coaching talent. His reputation as a tactician and handler of difficult personalities gave NHL observers the impression he was going to be around awhile.

In the post below, I’ll look at Renney’s roster makeup and usage in NYC, and see if we can apply it to the current Oilers roster and make sense of things. I’d love your input, especially those who remember Renney’s time in Manhattan.

  1. Does he like playing kids? Well he watched over a truckload of rookie seasons in New York. All kinds of players too, from quality 2-way defensemen to skilled wingers to enforcers. The Ranger procurement department was overflowing when he arrived, owing in part to Renney’s efforts there (he started his Ranger career as director of player personnel).
  2. What kinds of prospects flourished under him? All kinds. I don’t know how much credit to give the procurement department, but looking strictly at results the Rangers developed a lot of young players who displayed a wide range of skills. Talented 2-way players who reached the show during this time would include defensemen Mark Staal, Fedor Tyutin, Dan Girardi along with forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist also arrived fall 2005 and had a major impact on the franchise immediately.
  3. How much of this was blind luck? We’ll never know. I can say that these Ranger prospects weren’t lottery picks and the Oilers forward prospects have much better pedigree than the Ranger kids.
  4. Did he do weird stuff like MacTavish did with Jani Rita and Rob Schremp? First of all, MacTavish didn’t do weird stuff with either of those players. They didn’t make the grade. But if you’re looking for a comparable, Petr Prucha faded after two quality seasons under Renney (30 and 22 goals). His career has not recovered since leaving New York, so there’s no real evidence the coach was punishing a performing player.
  5. Anything else about the prospects? Renney found two enforcers right away. Colton Orr came over via waivers and Hollweg would have been known to Renney through the minor league system. And he played them enough to have an impact (in 06-07 Orr played 5:19 a night and was in 16 fights, Hollweg played 8:14 a night and was in 15 fights). He also had a plethora of agitator-types, led by Sean Avery who (along with Dubinsky) found a role on the Ranger team that fit his skill set.
  6. Which Oiler AHL prospects will benefit from Renney’s presence? I believe Theo Peckham and Alex Plante will benefit the most. They are willing fighters and have some secondary skills (Plante’s shot, Peckham’s nasty streak) that should impress the coach. If Liam Reddox or Ryan O’Marra were a little more the agitator, they could be rewarded as well.
  7. How did he handle his top 6F in NYC? Played the hell out of them. In 05-06, Jagr (who loves Renney) played 22 minutes a night, including 6 on the PP. Other forwards who were above 4.5 minutes per night with the man advantage were Michael Nylander, Martin Straka and Martin Rucinsky. Looking at the TOI totals for that season it is very easy to see how he handled the forwards. Top line (Nylander-Straka-Jagr) 19 or more minutes; 2nd line (Rucchin-Rucinsky-Sykora) 15+ minutes; 3rd line (Moore-Prucha-Ward-Nieminen) 11 or more; 4th line (Betts-Hossa-Ortmeyer) about the same as the 3line.  The PK men (Rucchin, Moore, Betts, Ortmeyer, Ward) were exactly the men who weren’t on the PP. I suspect we’ll have something similar here, a distinct skill 6 plus powerplay and a flat 6 for checking and the penalty-kill.
  8. Who will be in his top 6F? Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff, Taylor Hall. Candidates for the 6th F slot would include Gilbert Brule, Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson, Jordan Eberle, Linus Omark, Andrew Cogliano. I’d guess that Brule gets the first spin, he’s coming off a 17-goal season and is more proven than the others listed here.
  9. Who will be in his bottom 6F? Colin Fraser, Ryan Jones, Zack Stortini, that 3line C we’re hearing about, plus any or all of Jacques, Strudwick (when he’s playing F), MacIntyre. Liam Reddox, Ryan O’Marra, the dog’s breakfast that is what is left of the bottom part of last season’s roster. Colin McDonald, if they sign him.
  10. Will those who fail to break into the top 6 play on the bottom 6? I don’t think so. Among the skilled men listed above, only Horcoff has the complete game to play a checking role. There aren’t a lot of complete skill sets here, and those who have a wide range (like Gagner) are projected to be top 6 types for a decade or more. Not a lot of crossover here (which is again similar to the Rangers under Renney).
  11. How many of the gifted kids make the team out of camp? MPS and Eberle may be headed to Oklahoma City based on the roster setup as it now stands. The Oilers clogged up the wings when they retained Jacques and signed MacIntyre. If they do (as an example) run Eberle as 4line RW, that would require Zack Stortini to play big minutes against very tough opposition. The RW depth chart with Eberle (Hemsky, Brule, Stortini, Eberle) doesn’t appear to be a reasonable option.
  12. Cogliano can play a checking role. No. No he can’t. I like Cogliano, but he hasn’t developed as a guy who can be counted on to be in the right spot in a defensive role (even on the wing). He plays the defensive game like Guy Lafleur (rover-ish) which is dandy if you’re Guy Lalfeur. Cogliano is in a spot of bother with this hockey club; coming out of college I would have thought Cogs had the toolkit for a 2-way role but he never developed.

Next: Defense, goaltending and the galling powerplay.

  • Blue Blooded

    Argh…. ok seriously guys. I’m sorry Lowtide, but I respectfully disagree with your argument as to the potential makeup of our team next year. We don’t really have a traditional bottom six right now. We have some guys that will fit that bill, but not enough of them. Anyone thinking Omara is making the big club should seriously give their heads a shake. Sadly also, I have an itch that Jacques’ serious injuries may leave him rather useless as well. This leaves of with potentially 3 balanced lines that can score and one energy line. Pat Quinn spoke of this, but with the kids coming in, we actually have it this upcoming year. I believe Renney is smart enough to work with exactly what he has.
    Kudos to all of you who realize that despite all the hate-on for Horcoff, he is still the most complete (2-way, responsible, experience with some talent) center we have.
    Here’s my call for lines next year:

    Hall/ Horcoff /Hemsky,
    Penner / Gagner / Eberle,
    MPS / Brule / Cogliano,
    Jones / Fraser / Stortini,
    Macentyre / Reddox

    No line is left with pure wimps or rookies anyhow.

  • Lowetide

    Blue Blooded: I don’t think O’Marra will make the club, either. However, they qualified him so O’Marra is in the mix.

    somebody: I’ve always pulled for Cogliano, but fear he’s going to get shipped out. I love the guy’s speed.

    • Which is why I was curious if they took a look at Matthew Lombardi. He could’ve done two things… a) replaced Cogliano’s speed when the inevitably trade him, and b) allowed Horcoff to be used in the 3C shutdown role while lowering the offensive expectations & pressure placed upon him. Would’ve been worth it, imo.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Any rumors about Comrie comin back?? Im worried Hilary Duff wont be in the stands next yr;)-, whats this hogwash that the oil are lookin at rob neidermyer?

    • As Ryan Rishaug mentioned, Niedermeyer is “cousins with Strudwick & friends with Renney from Cranbrook. Seems like a good fit”. So there could be something to it, although he mentioned “roughly” 6 teams were talking (including Pittsburgh), and that no offer had yet been made by the Oil, just inquiries at this point.

  • Lowetide

    Stauffer keeps mentioning Comrie, so that’s something to keep in mind as the summer rolls on. As for Niedermayer, yeah he’s probably done but can still skate. I wonder if he’d accept a TC invite.

  • Blue Blooded

    Present – 3 years ago after watching Gagner , Penner and Hemsky in Joey Moss Cup shred Horcoff, Reasoner and Moreau for about 6 goals in two periods of play – i went out on a limb and said Gagner might even surpass Horcoff that season . Of course it did not happen , and truly, prospects it will happen this season are equally unlikely . Gagner’s game just has not progressed to that stage yet, and may never considering his defensive prowess.

    Still say we need a bonafide first line center better than Horcoff/ Gagner has shown over last 3 seasons . Horcoff makes a very good second line center that can also add some scoring – just not quite good enough to add a lot of scoring .

    Fraser, we’ll just have to hope the best for, as i have no read one way or other on him yet until i see how he plays on the team . He could be a fine find or another bust .

    Give the team another bonafide front line center for first line , and just watch how rapidly our prospects advance and progress !!

  • Blue Blooded

    What’s it going to take before people realize this team is changing and IMO cannot move forward with Horcoff playing top six?…

    NO to Horcoff in our top six…has everyone already forgot how when it comes to offense that the play dies with Horcoff..

    No to Horcoff centering Hemsky anymore…it’s time to give Hemsky a full producing line so he can reach his yet untapped potential…

    No to Horcoff centering the 2nd line…we don’t need Rob Neidermayer…Horcoff is our 3rd line center…if he’s any higher than this then this team will continue to spin it’s wheels IMO..

    Time for Gagner to play tougher minutes full time and be a go to guy in our top six and on our PP….time to find out if we have any other guys that can play top six center minutes (ie: Penner, Hall, Brule)…if they can’t then we need a top six centerman…not a third line center…play the kids, win with them or lose with them…let them grow together and learn together…

    No more Horcoff….please NO MORE

    • Cowbell_Feva

      AMEN- I thought I was the only Oiler fan out there that could see Horcoff is WAY WAY WAY overrated!!

      I swear Horcoff had pictures of the Edmonton media in bed with KLowe’s wife. (This would explain how the media praises a -29 player, and how he got $5.5/year)

      Also, where do people get the notion he is a “solid” faceoff guy?? Faceoff %’s below:

      Comrie- 53.2%
      Brule- 52.6%
      Gagner- 47.4%
      Potulny- 47.4%
      Horcoff- 46.4%

      Did I mention what they paid the guy last year?

  • Blue Blooded

    I’m not against Horcoff playing 3rd line center at all actually… he’s a solid faceoff guy that is responsible. However, he’d do well with mentoring also. Bringing some balance to the top six (as in saving the minus percentage of his linemates a bit)

    • Blue Blooded

      Ummm, check out Horcoff’s minus total from last year and tell me how you figure he is going to bring balance to the top six and save the minus % of his linemates a bit…

      • Blue Blooded

        Dude let’s not kid ourselves… Horcoff was our number one penalty killer on the worst team in the league that included 2 blue collar rookie goalies. Hmmmm… though… maybe Horcs could strap on the pads and mask…..

  • Ducey

    I am thinking MPS and Eberle will be on the farm to start the season. This is a good thing.

    Cogs has a chance to be the 6th forward but Brule has to be the favorite. He has some grit and was second on the team with a very respectable 15 even strength goals. Penner had 23 ESG and was 11th in the league.

    Seems to me Tambi has just about enough players except for maybe that 3C. There will likely be some teams over the cap or try to waive some younger prospect types at the end of training camp. Tambi needs to save a spot for one of these guys.

    Hope they don’t look at Belanger. He is great on faceoffs but otherwise, meh. Neidermier looks done but may have some cache as a mentor. He grew up in the New Jersey system and has a Ring. Plus, he was great in Animal House.

    • Niedermayer didn’t grow up in the New Jersey system, he grew up in Florida before a brief stint in Calgary, a number of years (and a ring) in Anaheim and then one year in New Jersey.

  • Lowetide

    Piss: Stone is a UFA and there were some questions about his long term health, too. Tambellini mentioned a week or so ago that the team was speaking to one of their UFA’s and then a few days later signed Strudwick.

    That said, Stone impressed and if healthy would be a welcome addition imo.

    re: Horcoff. Last season he did not perform well in many areas (one timer on the PP, FO circle). But historically he does:

    09-10 46.4% (4th on team)
    08-09 53.9% (best on team)
    07-08 50.6% (4th on team)
    06-07 50.6% (3rd on team)
    05-06 52.7% (3rd on team)

    One of those numbers doesn’t belong, and we know he had some shoulder problems so it makes sense. Its something we need to watch very closely this fall.

    BTW, the difference between 05-08 and 08-09? The Oilers lost or traded all of Peca, Stoll and Reasoner. Difficult to blame Horcoff for those transactions.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Horcoff rants based solely on last season suggest that the writer has no perspective and as such should be ignored. Horcoff played injured and had a terrible year. He was also on a Terrib le team and faced the toughest comp. Criticism and questions are reasonable, but many of the assessments here demonstrate a lack of comprehension of the game beyond the shallowest level.

  • db7db7db7

    Am I the only only one who wants to see the kids play together. Here what I want to see.Yes you might notice that I have Cogs listed as a winger. I think with his speed he could catch a nice break-out pass and blow by the D.
    Penner,Gagner,Hemsky
    Hall,Eberle,MPS
    Cogs,Horcoff,Brule
    Petiot,Fraser,Stortini/BigMac

    Gilbert,Whitney
    Souray/(replacement),Foster
    Smid,Vandermeer
    Strudwick

    Khaby
    Duby

    What do you think?