Renney: will he let the horses run?

BERNE, SWITZERLAND - SEPTEMBER 29:  Rangers head coach Tom Renney attends the press conference after the New York Rangers training session at the PostFinance Arena on September 29, 2008 in Berne, Switzerland.  (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)

About the only thing worse for fans than cheering for a losing hockey team is cheering for a losing hockey team that induces coma in the paying public by playing boring hockey.

So, while fans of the Edmonton Oilers have had precious little to cheer about the past four years, including an embarrassing  30th-place finish under Pat Quinn last season, I was happy to hear today that coach Tom Renney intends to provide some sizzle. As for steak, we’ll have to see.

With Renney characterized by some as a defence-first coach and new associate Ralph Krueger known to bring the Zs while running the Swiss National Team — like he had a choice — some fans rightfully wondered if they were in for a losing snoozefest at Rexall Place this season.

Apparently not, at least to hear Renney tell it on Oilers Lunch with Bob Stauffer on TEAM 1260 today. It sounds like Renney wants to see the Oilers on the attack and is willing to let his horses run. Whether he has enough of them, well, that’s another question.

First things first.

Let them go

The offensively challenged Oilers scored just 214 goals last season on the way to their 27-47-8 record under Quinn, who nagged about sound defensive hockey to the point, at last to my ear, that former bench boss Craig MacTavish seemed like a balls-out, go-get-’em-boys advocate.

So, with Renney calling the shots and the defensive-minded Krueger enlisted to join Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith on the coaching staff, some feared they might see a wet blanket thrown over Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky and any other Oiler with an iota of offensive creativity this coming season. Renney says no.

"When you’re in a situation, as was Ralph, where scoring is going to be at a premium, you’ve got to make sure at the very least you don’t beat yourself by giving up too much," Renney said of Krueger.

"That said, I’m completely fine with Ralph’s approach to the game there, and I’m happy with myself, too. We are still going to make sure we’re an attacking team without or without the puck. We want it back quickly. We want to transition quickly.

"We want to put the opponent under duress and we want to make sure that, through the process of three periods of hockey, that we generate not just enough offence, but all kinds of offence to make sure that teams have to really change their game plan for us, make adjustments for us."

Let’s not get carried away

At first take, Renney’s approach sounds a lot more palatable than the vision of Buchberger and Smith drawing up defensive schemes and going through chalk by the bushel while eyes glaze over.

But, while fans can expect Hemsky to be allowed to freelance as he’s prone to do, Penner to get the opportunity to carry the offensive mail again and Gagner to be put in positions (and with linemates) where he can succeed, there will be, as you’d expect, limits. To drive that home, Renney dusted off a tried-and-true MacT-ism.

"The integrity of your team is going to be not so much what you make as what you leave, and we’re not going to leave a whole lot," Renney said. "What we want to do is make sure we’re the team that is the more pro-active on the attack.

"I know darn well I can teach both sides of the puck and I know Ralph can, too. I know what we’re doing with respect to our coaching staff is really building a team game."

And…

— Renney was asked about the possibility of using Penner at centre.

"No questions it’s under contemplation," he said. "I think the thing we have to determine with ourselves is, if you look at other teams in our division especially, is size something we require in the middle?

"Can Dustin provide that? Yes. Is some type of scoring enhancement by having somebody in the middle like Dustin (going to) help us? Yes. Is Dustin the type of guy who can play 200-by-85, as a centre man needs to, be very calculated and very intelligent but also be a part of a team that has to be quick, has to show speed, has to be explosive? That might be the $60,000 question and we’ll see in September when he gets here for training camp."

— What of Hemsky, the most offensively gifted forward Renney will have at his disposal? Will he get increased power play time and maybe stay out with both units?

"There’s no question he’s an offensive talent," Renney said. "I think we’ve got to make sure we give him the opportunity to really punctuate his game by being a big part of that.

"That said, you’ll probably see two units and maybe even three. It’s safe to say Ales might be on two of them."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • D-Man

    I forsee we can outdo what Phoenix and Colorado did last year if we run a P.M.O.(Perpetual Motion Offensive ) structure system with the talent pool we should have up front to draw upon . If we go with the AHL’ers and some players returning taking/reducing youth movement then i see the same as last season – another disaster .

    Recent teams to win Stanley have had basically three solid scoring lines and only one shutdown rock m sockum type forth line that also had some offensive clout . I like the idea of 3 lines of offence over just two , as it has proven recently to be a winner .

    I prefer top nine and bottom 3 type thinking in todays market . I think our talent will also favor that thinking , and is better set up to handle that transition than old standard of top 6 , bottom 6 .

    • D-Man

      A PMO system usually is successful when you base your structure on puck possession (like Detroit). That could work with the all of the rookies in the line-up, if they were a bit bigger in size. Your rationale works if the rookies you’re putting in the lineup have the ability to get the puck on the forecheck. That structure could work and suit Hall and MPS, but again Omark, Gagner, Cogliano, Eberle are too small. What you’re suggesting would definitely work – two to three years from now, with the proper seasoning of the talent pool we have. That means some of our youth goes back to the AHL, but I don’t want to beat that dead horse anymore with you.

      I’m not sure I’m completely sold on your top nine forward theory… If we look at Chicago, their 3rd line still needed to crash and bang, even though they had talent to score (Versteeg, Ladd). We currently lack that depth and asking Omark or Eberle to assume that role would be asking for too much.

      Either way, I enjoyed the debate. We’ll see what happens in September 2010. Go Oilers…

  • TV

    ADDITIONAL @ D- man . DEJA VUE REMINDER . Remember how successfull Oilers were with two top offensive lines , the kid line and only one basic shutdown line ? Thats the sort of structure and team i see with our emerging multi talented and speedy youth up front . I don’t believe our talent favors playing a top 6 , bottom six to begin with to be honest .