That 5-0 laugher against the Phoenix Coyotes Tuesday wasn’t Exciting Last Place Hockey. It was a group of entitled, pampered athletes getting their backsides kicked and turning the other cheek without the slightest hint of objection.

The Edmonton Oilers are going to lose 50 games this season. That much is obvious. But if they lose even one more in the half-hearted manner they did against Phoenix, rolling over like they couldn’t even be bothered to compete, then there’s a big problem with this ELPH bit.

In an overdue and completely justified blast at his "team," Tom Renney called what he’d just witnessed a "joke" and a "travesty. The coach, his patience pushed beyond the limit after 20 games, didn’t overstate in his post-game address to reporters.

"The starts start in the morning when you come to the morning skate, that’s when they start," spat Renney. "You have a night to take a breather or what not, but the next morning when you get up it’s game day. Boy it is game on, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is. It’s game day. Period.

"We win a game and we figure we are going to be hosting the Cup or something…I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s a joke…. the battle level was non-existent tonight. The pride in the jersey was not even close to what it needed to be. It was an absolute joke, a travesty."

Any questions?


Pride? Battle level? Given what we saw Tuesday, it’s fair to wonder out loud if those are concepts even vaguely familiar to this particular group of players. Did his players, outside Magnus Paajarvi and Devan Dubnyk, show any of either? Uh, no.

Having already played the Nice Guy cards in his hand, Renney vowed to kick some ass today, and that will likely take the form of a high-noon bag skate at Rexall Place. I hope he buffs his boots good and plenty.

Renney has bitten his tongue more than once this season, even when he would have been completely justified in unloading on his team. That 7-1 loss in Carolina? The 8-2 stomping in New York? The 5-0 whitewash against Chicago? Now, this we-don’t-care hummer.

Until Tuesday, Renney had refused to publicly show-up or call-out his players. he’d accentuated the positive. He’d chosen to motivate and teach using the carrot rather than the stick. A game of shinny after a blow out. Days off before lousy performances. A father and son road trip to Anaheim and Phoenix, complete with flights, fancy hotels and a round of golf in Arizona, all on the company dime. How proud those papas must have been last night.

Well, it’s damn sure time for Renney and his coaches, not to mention GM Steve Tambellini, to demand more — accountability, greater expectations, better efforts and that old-fashioned notion about playing like you give half-a-bowel movement — from this group of players and go to the lumber. I hope Renney leaves some marks.


In terms of building something here, I’m all for Renney’s first inclination to stay positive and keep his most biting criticisms of his players behind closed doors. Not as entertaining as Pat Quinn’s post-game rants last season, but the most logical approach nonetheless.

That said, and forgive me for pulling on my Cranky Old Man hat, but that kinder, gentler approach only goes so far and it just hit the wall. Time and time again, we keep hearing all the right words in the dressing room, but we’re not seeing actions to back those words up on the ice. Lip service, pure and simple.

Kids today? The way it works now is being rightfully corrected is deemed being "called out." If you "call out" your team too often, you might lose the room. Did we see that with Craig MacTavish? "Oooh, MacT crapped on poor Dustin Penner again. What an A-hole MacT is."

How dare a coach embarrass a dedicated, pro athlete working for four or five hours a day during the season — for more money in eight months than most fans earn in a lifetime. We can’t have that. No wonder players don’t want to come to Edmonton. What an A-hole Quinn was. The game has passed him by. Now, Renney . . . Poor babies.


I’ve got news for everybody under 40: expecting an athlete, or a group of athletes, to exhibit pride in their craft and the jersey they wear, to show up ready to work for the vast salaries being paid, isn’t too much to ask. It isn’t a hardship. It isn’t unreasonable.

When that doesn’t happen, being corrected or criticized — publicly or privately — isn’t being "called out." Being called out is just as it sounds: when reason and cajoling and playing nice don’t get the desired result, you go outside and settle matters the old-fashioned way. With actions, not words.

In a society where a student can tell a teacher to "Get f*cked" just because they feel like it, and that teacher risks discipline or dismissal for any rebuke stronger than a detention or a trip to the office, I’m guessing the origin of really being "called out" is long lost, just like old-school concepts of pride and respect too often are. But I digress . . .

If golf trips with daddy and new dressing rooms and chartered flights and five-star hotels and trips to the owner’s house for dinner and big stacks of money don’t achieve the desired results, it’s time to go with, and stick with, another approach until the players earn — yes, earn — the kind of soft touch they’ve come to expect as a matter of course. The approach Renney hinted about last night.

Then again, that will never fly. Will it?

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • there’s no doubt that the oil played exponentially worse in the home drubbing to the hawks – i had the chances at 7-28- but i guess a pass was given back then because of the pedigree of the opp and/or maybe renney just had an internal clock that was set to go off at a certain level of GP.

    there’s no doubt that guys are playing below their previously established levels – 13 and 77 and 67 to some extent – and others like 6 are being asked to do what they simply can’t do.

    still, the team isn’t really built to be all that great or really even to be able to look like it’s at full-compete mode and sometimes you just can’t turn the sh!t into salad.

    in any case renney put it out there so now let’s see if there’s a bite to go with his bark; and honestly there won’t be unless it moves lowe or tambo to make a trade or two or bring up a couple of guys from the farm.

  • GSC

    As a teacher, i’m now fired up and ready to do battle. Next time a student tells me to get F*ed. KaBOOM!!! Bag Skate/Run til they puke. I like this Renney guy 🙂

  • Contraction anyone?

    the Oil last night looked like the much vaunted nucks getting boot f**ked by the hawks on saturday…. or the awesomest of the awesome powerhouse caps getting spanked by their buddy koval-up-chuk and drawing the bald ire of bruce “players coach” boudreau. Or the “crosby has no winger” excuses of the might pens.

    The league is a joke, the cba is a joke and this is continuously verified by the on ice product and the “talent” creating it.

    ELPH indeed..

    Hey Robin…. besides the fact that Belle would appear to be a better dman than struds or vandy or tammy right now (as in today) he would also appear to be a better winger prospect than lets say… pretty much all the rest because he has size, speed, heart, grit and lacks a certain yellow stripe that all the rest of them fly. Last time I checked a wingers job is not that complicated…….. but perhaps this outside the box thinking crew of einstiens at the Oiler wheel read it different.

  • GSC

    ~It was absolutely awful and uncalled for. Renney should have employed more reasoning and logic in his post-game comments last night. He was ranting like some mouth-breather who doesn’t know his arse from a hole in the ground. That’s not how society treats people now, what he did was archaic and stupid.~

  • Hemmercules

    The Oil will come out flying tomorrow, probably lose again or win a close game, then regress again. This broken record has been running for years now. Most of this team is just waiting in line for their checks. Does Gilbert care that he sucks night in and night out? Probably not because he has like 20 million in the bank and 400 pairs of shoes to keep him happy. Tough to get motivated when you are only expected to win 25 to 30 games.

    I was sad last night watching the Yotes work their butts off every shift and win every battle. They care, the Oilers don’t apparently.

  • Zed

    I think Tambellini’s job would be the easiest in the world these days.

    I can picture him right now sitting on the toilet reading the paper thinking,

    “That’s right, they’re a bottom 5 team. That’s exactly what I wanted to happen. I’m such a genious.”

    I should submit my resume to Katz because I could definately build a 30th place team.

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      So true. How long are we supposed to ignore the fact that Tambellini hasn’t put a foot right since taking over the job because he’s doing it under the guise of “losing for the future”?

      Since when is tanking ok in professional sports? I can’t think of any other example in any professional league of a team being this blatant about losing on purpose. In tennis, if you’re getting worked and you decide it’s hopeless so you phone it in for the last couple games, tough luck, you get slapped with a fine. I would love to see the NHL hit the Oilers for 10 grand a day until they make some attempt to shore up the PK.

  • S.Tambellini

    At least they sent Belle down. He was eating waaaaay too much into Strudwick’s ice time.

    If we put a bit more development into Strudwick, get him a few more minutes a night, and really nurture him along, I think he can turn into a good #6 defenseman for us in a few years.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Yes Tamballini is building something here. What ? Is the question I’ve been asking all a long. He has assembled quite a team here. Good thing he and Lowe can hide behind this youthful “rebuild” yes 3 rookies and Peckham in the line up and the rest- how does heartless and spineless sound. When is somebody going to figure these clowns out ? I, like many oil faithful get the rebuild mode and yes there will be growing pains and many ugly losses but please , at least show up and show us there is a heart beat ! Those that can’t at least show that should be moved. Wake up Tambo do something to get some heart on this team. I’m tired of watching all this so called skill you have assembled. Quess what ? – it’s not working. Oh and by the way I’m thinking your assessment on Penner has got to be over. You’ve got something rotting in that dressing room. Tambo talked about changing culture well time is now to put up or shut up cause your really starting to look silly and now your coach is calling what you built a “joke” !

  • S.Tambellini

    good read! time for acceptable mediocrity is over! losing is fine and in line with the current goals of the organization but to be beat down again and again has to be humiliating. does anyone other than peckham know how to hit? brutal! even the best players in this league (crosby/ovechkin) will hit or fight…even the best! which goes to explain maybe why we are the worst! heart is not something you can say you have you have to show it….proof will be in the next game…then again don’t we say that everytime….foolish!

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    Q: will it be more than just a bag skate? It’ll be interesting to see if the press box gets a shuffle. Not that he’ll make the difference on his own, but Storts doesn’t take too many games off and they need some hunger on the ice.