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.

  • Crackenbury

    If Hall can play center than Cogs is a gonner. Lets just hope that the players are used correctly and no one regresses under Renney. This is a different team than last year with a lot of talent on paper. They should compete for a playoff spot. Hemsky should be named captain and let him lead offensivly with the kids. He’ll excell and like being an Oiler and will sign the extension.

    • Crackenbury

      Hemsky may be an offensive threat, but he will never be captain. Players that are the first off the ice every practice rarely become captains. Last year when injured and asked what he thought of the game the night before on TV he replied he didn’t know they were playing and didn’t see the game.

      • Heavyd

        Who cares if he didn’t wacth a game on tv. I guess he shouldn’t have the “A” on his chest either this year. We should put him on waivers for not wacthing that game last year. What a Douche. Hemsky is a bum for not seeing that game.

        • Crackenbury

          Grow up. No one said anything about getting rid if him or placing him on waivers. He’s simply not captain material. Anyone with a little knowledge of the Oiler players already knows this.

          • Heavyd

            From what you are saying he shouldn’t wear an “A” either then?

            And who cares if he is the first off after practice, or doesn’t wacth a game while injured.

            I agree he should’t be captain, but the reason you gave have nothing to do with him not being Captain. Do you think when Moreau was injured that he wacthed all the games on tv? What about Smith? Weight? Like c’mon man they don’t have to stay late after practice and wacth games on tv, when injured to be a Captain.

          • Crackenbury

            I think the reason they put an “A” on Hemsky was to try and give him some more responsibility in the hopes it would help him mature and become more of a team player. Hemsky shows absolutely no progress in that area of the game.
            He is completely focused on himself and has shown no interest in becoming a team leader. I know that management has been disappointed in his lack of motivation. He should be better than he is. The captaincy belongs on someone that bleeds team colors and helps along the young guys. Does that sound anything like Hemsky?

          • Heavyd

            No I don’t want Hemsky as Captain. The problem I have is when you were saying that he is last in practice and didn’t wacth a game. All I am saying is Captains probably do the same things as Hemsky. That was my point thats all.

  • Crackenbury

    Cogliano is being underrated. He started to show what kind of player he can be the last 15-20 games of the season. Coincidently, that is the time Quinn was given marching orders to play him top 6 minutes instead of burying him in the lineup. Whoever gets him is going to wonder why Edmonton gave up on him.

  • Some more updates from Rishaug…

    RE: Giroux

    Good get for the Oilers in Alex Giroux, 6-3 200 lbs 103 pts 50 goals in Hershey. Then another 27 pts in 21 games in the playoffs. He’s 29

    Oil really wanted Giroux badly.. Though he likely plays in AHL, they gave him a one way deal at 500k. Will be given a good NHL look first

    …AND…

    Another guy they may consider, Corey Locke. 85pts with Hartford last season, smaller, but a gamer. AHL depth is a major priority.

    Eric Belanger’s camp has had no offers from Oilers… Probably not gonna happen at this point.

  • pboy

    Souray coming back to play isn’t all that unthinkable. The Bo Sox threw Manny Ramirez on the waiver wire in 2004 and after no one claimed him, he re-joined the team and lead them to the World Series. Without knowing how Souray’s teammates feel about him, you can’t really handicap how realistic this would be but it wouldn’t be unprecedented.

    • BUF may be looking for a D-man yet. Perhaps they’d dangle injury-prone Tim Connolly ($4.5M, 1yr) or Jochen Hecht ($3.525M, 2yrs) to make it happen. Maybe even throw some other names in to the mix (Stafford & Cogliano, for instance).

  • Lowetide

    Shapeman: Yeah, I haven’t said too much because I don’t know where to slot him. Renney had him in New York and he has ridiculous skills in the AHL.

    But where on earth do you put him?

    • Crackenbury

      put him in the ahl on a line with whatever kids don’t make the club(omark for sure & maybe eberle & mps).we could use one more minor league scorer…potulny wouldve been nice but he might get another shot elsewhere.keith aucoin I don’t think is available so why not potulny? I’m sure he will exhaust all options first…chris minard would be okay as well.

    • Crackenbury

      After Souray ingests his humble pie , best for him to come back and try to improve his worth on ice , fellow players and organization alike , with renewed vigor and mouth closed . A Souray playing with that in mind might be of benefit to all concerned . I still like the idea of Souray on defence over most that we currently have . If Souray a man of his word , i expect he’ll do just that .

  • Lowetide

    With so many new players it will take awhile for them to develop chemistry and consistency.

    The Oilers PP will finally have some options other teams need to adjust to.

    It’s gonna be hard hating on a group of players who really don’t know each other. Not having a ligitimate #1 center has created a cluster puck for line combinations.

  • Lowetide

    Center is going to be the position to watch this fall. Renney called Hall a “convertible” on draft day, and Eberle and Brule have experience there. Hell, Hemsky’s played center before (not with the Oilers).

  • I just don’t see a role for Cogliano on this team. Brule? Same position. You can’t be a ‘borderline’ top 6 and play NO defence. The way I figure, one of these two will be out of town in an effort to convince another team to take on take ugly Souray’s contract. And it’s a good move if its happens.

    The question remains: where and who’s coming back?

    If Tambo continues to impress, it should be a stay at home Dman and/or responsible 3rd line player.

  • The only checking centre on the team is Horcoff. He hasnt been good enough offensively to be a 2nd line player for the course of an entire season since he wrecked his shoulder.

    I think the Oilers might play him there, or inexplicably as the 1st line centre, at the beginning of the year; but I have my doubts that he stays there all year.

  • Lowetide

    Henry: Sometimes the light goes on with a new coach. He’s smart, his speed should make him a demon on the forecheck and PK (Dave Keon was a wizard) but it hasn’t happened.

    If Renney can unlock Cogs, he’ll have a helluva player imo.

  • Lowetide

    Arby: He could center an energy line, and in fact if the Oilers don’t sign that player-type he’d probably be the best option. However, he can score goals and that’s a very valuable asset to have on a skill line.

    Gagner and Hemsky don’t work well together. They’re too similar. Gagner and Penner is a killer combination, though.

    Shapeman: No one is lazier than me. I write a lot in order to avoid actual work. 🙂

  • Arby

    A nice analysis LT. I hope you are wrong about point 12 though. Cogliano didn’t develop under Quinn’s system last year. That might have been his fault, or simply having a young player shifting roles with different (and frequently poor) linemates every 8 games. I’d like to see what sort of player Andrew Cogliano becomes over a couple of seasons with Renney running things. We probably won’t get the opportunity though if the trade rumors are true.

  • Arby

    Couple of Renney questions for you LT:

    Will Brule’s new salary be the only thing preventing him from centering an energy line (ie. Gags in 09/10)?

    Is Gagner far enough along that he can center Penner and Hemsky going power vs power?

    • I sincerely hope they give Shawn Horcoff the 13/14 spot, behind Smac. He gets caught flat-footed as often as Smac does, but does not contain grit or fear. (I doubt many will agree).

      I think it’s time to disassociate playing time from salary. (Maybe Horc plays 3rd line, realistically Perhaps some will agree to more moderate view)?

    • Rogue

      You are probably right. I guess the Oil have nothing to lose. Renney will have his hands full with all the new pieces at his disposal. It will be Fun, Frustrating, Exciting and a I wonder what the Hell is going type of season. For certain, the most interesting season in years!!

  • Lowetide

    Souray clearing waivers isn’t a surprise imo. There are other names still available. The Oilers are going to have to take back some contract in exchange.

    • Lowetide

      I eat crow on the Souray call , probably won’t be the last time either . Looks like Souray eats humble pie and Tams comes out smelling like a rose for such a risky move . Good for Tams making the right call on Souray .

      How effective will Oilers toughness be on defence if they spend as much time in the penalty box as they do on ice ? Well it shouldn’t be quite that bad , but it’s liable to cost us none the less. We’re still not a great goaltending or penalty killing team . We still have an abundance of small soft forwards . I see many teams running our diminutive forwards to have us take many penalties required to try and protect them.

      Our defence is not overly mobile to ward off many nights of penalties against us .

      Gagner a talent and his 4-5th year should be a major breakthru one way or the other . Will he top 6 or top 9 ?

      • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

        Toughness doesn’t always mean penalties. Souray would actually be a decent example of that if he didn’t get his hands up in people’s face on the pinch.

  • Rogue

    I hope that Horcoff can regain some scoring touch if he is in the role as second line center. I am not sure if he can make the players around him better. I realize he was injured last year, but putting 2 kids with him and Horc not producing will only frustrate the rookies more. Time will tell.

  • Lowetide

    Glasgow: Yes. Quinn didn’t line match unti late in the year, so you had horrible mismatches at home and on the road. Quinn didn’t adjust at all when injuries hit and undertalented players were exposed (Jacques, as an example).

    Renney won’t be that guy.