EDMONTON, CANADA - NOVEMBER 5: Tom Renney of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Detroit Red Wings on November 5, 2010 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)

Tom Renney has done a masterful job of saying and doing the right things as coach of the Edmonton Oilers, picking and choosing his words carefully in praising and criticizing his team this season.

Not as quick with a quip or a juicy quote as predecessor Pat Quinn, who entertained us with bluster and Barbara-Ann Scott references, Renney doesn’t lean nearly as heavily on false bravado or catchy criticism to draw attention to whatever point he’s trying to make.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Renney, 55, has been known as a pretty sharp cookie all the way back to his days as coach of the Kamloops Blazers. He’s a smart man. He’s an accomplished career coach. He doesn’t often delight reporters with biting sarcasm or by putting his foot in his mouth with regularity. Most of what he says for public consumption is calculated. Done with a purpose.

Framed in that, it surprises me to no end that Renney said yesterday he believes the Oilers, today sitting in 15th place in the Western Conference, will make the playoffs. This year.

I said, "Pardon?"


"It won’t surprise me when we make the playoffs. It won’t," Renney told reporters. "The biggest surprise of all might be if we don’t.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

"Just because I know how deep the care is. I know how willing they are to be coached. How proud they are, quite honestly, to be here doing this in Edmonton. That’s the hard part about losing.

"The masses don’t get an appreciation for how badly our guys want to do well and win and be a playoff team. When they have those tough nights, and there’s more to come, we all know that, it’s tough."

Wishful thinking for a team that’s 12-14-5? Wildly optimistic for a team that has seven others to vault over to get into eighth place? Setting the bar too high for a team that is without Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky and has glaring flaws in its line-up?

Is this just a coach spinning positive in the extreme? Is it simply a matter of positive reinforcement? What’s Renney supposed to say? "I don’t think we have any chance to make the playoffs?"


I don’t think Renney’s prone to any of that. Given the nature of many Edmonton fans, the statement likely sounds far less jarring to many after Thursday’s 6-3 win over Columbus than it would have after that 4-1 spanking from the Toronto Maple Leafs, but still…

So I wonder, what is Renney seeing that most fans and people in the media aren’t? Obviously, half-a-glance at how Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi are developing suggests great promise.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Likewise, the emergence of Theo Peckham and the leadership and on-ice production from Ryan Whitney have been a pleasant surprise to many, like found money in a jacket pocket. Nikolai Khabibulin? Who thought he’d be this good since sitting out with a groin strain?

There’s plenty of reason, warts and all, for optimism moving forward, but a playoff spot this season? Really?

"The biggest surprise of all might be if we don’t . . ." Those words stick with me. If Renney sees something we don’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s delusional or naive or ridiculously optimistic.

It means naysayers, and I count myself among them, might have to pause and take another look. I honestly don’t see it as Renney does, but I haven’t coached one second in the NHL.

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

  • I can’t believe none of you can see what is happening here. Isn’t it obvious?

    Renney is attempting to pull of a “Major League.”

    I can practically hear that Lou Brown locker room speech.

    Renney: I have something I think you all ought to know about. It seems that Mr. Tambellini doesn’t think too highly of our worth. He put this team together because He thought we’d be bad enough to finish dead last, knocking us down to the point where he could obtain another lottery pick…

  • I fervently hope Mr. Renny is drinking his own whiskey; making the playoffs this year would, imo, be a disaster.

    I said at the beginning of the season that I hoped the Oil would lose every game they played 5-4 and I see no reason to change that posture. If we’re going to rebuild, let’s rebuild; a half assed job presents a risk that I’d rather no assume. We NEED one more top 3 draft year, preferably drafting first again. (Sadly, I don’t think the NYI will cooperate.) Only then will we have the 1C option, and only with a truly legitimate 1C will we have a real shot at winning the Cup.

    With what we have on the farm, with what we have still playing junior, with what we draft this year, the Oilers should truly be formidable in 2-3 years. THEN Mr. Renny can not only talk playoffs, he can talk Cup. . .

    (As an aside, I hope the Magnificient Bastard’s contract has years and years to run before expiry. He’s done an exemplary job so far and I see no reason for that to change.)

  • PhillipSmithson

    Hey Robin, would you (if you were Tambi) inquire about the possibility of getting Evgeni ‘Geno’ Malkin out of Pittsburgh? This, of course, is all hypothetical. But let us dream for a moment that Malkin is available because Shero saw his team do very well without Geno in the lineup and wants to free up a few $$ for future aquisitions. Malkin is a natural center and not under 6 feet tall, he is not afraid to play the game, AND he puts up monster numbers with or without some kid named Sid.

    So my question to you and everyone else is this:

    If you were the Oilers GM, what would you offer up to the Pens GM for Malkin? (that is of course you’d take him….)