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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.