I’m worried about you, I’m worried about me
The curves around midnight aren’t easy to see
To try and get off now is about as insane
As those who wave lanterns at runaway trains
I wonder if these kids who go high in the draft have any idea about the kind of impact they have on their bosses. Should RNH and Taylor Hall become impact players and bring glory to the Oilers, GM Steve Tambellini and coach Tom Renney (plus others) will see their stock rise in the NHL men’s club and possibly have a long run of success in Edmonton.
I think this week got away from Tom Renney a little, and I’m not at all certain it was his fault. Although we speculate on what he meant, let’s review his words.
- Renney: “It’s important to know that we’re coaching to win, too. As much as those three kids with Ryan can help generate offence, it’s also a case of what you take, but what you leave."
- Renney: “We have to work that angle, as well, and make sure that he continues to make a solid contribution to our team, so at the end of the day when you look at his situation specifically, we look at the body of work here and determine whether he’s going to stay here or we have to send him back. I want to make sure that we’re able to go after our games as well at that same time not having given the kid the short-end of the stick in terms of his evaluation to be here.”
I think Renney’s tactics were also a little about getting the kids to re-focus in the offensive end. There was a "too cute" look to their performances lately, trying to make a quick move in tight to get a better chance. The problem is that NHL defensemen will shut that down tighter than a drum in a heartbeat, so boring things like getting it deep or shooting it instead of stickhandling are the better percentage play.
Last night’s RNH goal is an example of what the kid can do–it was a quick release made at a point in the sortie when a pass was still an option and the play was still developing–and probably brought a smile from the coach.
I talked to Jason Gregor on Nation Radio yesterday and he had a great explanation for all the fuss surrounding coach Renney’s words about RNH. Gregor was at the media scrum (it was about 5 reporters) and explained it this way:
- Gregor: "He (Renney) was throwing out a few ideas and I think a few guys jumped the gun on it. He said it was an option (HS) he might look at, but you’re not going to sit down a guy who has 40% of your goals."
- Gregor: "He told all three kids that ‘you guys are in great position with the puck, you have to shoot the puck.’"
I think Jason nailed it. This isn’t much ado about nothing, but it’s also not the story it turned into after the fact. Tom Renney’s job is to win hockey games and not screw up RNH’s development. If the kid isn’t performing at a level that suggests he can contribute this season they should send him away. And the decision about whether or not to send him back is close, so it is understandable that the coach is considering options like a healthy scratch.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
We’ve talked at length about the value of elevating kids during their entry level contract. Some feel RNH should go back to junior no matter what, others feel he needs to prove that he can contribute at least offensively.
Here’s a bulletin: this kid can do things in all three zones. He is a brilliant turnover machine, going stealth at times or simply picking a pocket at other times. He’s made more Doug Weight saucer brilliant passes in 7 games than I’ve seen since the actual Doug Weight, and last night he murdered New York City with a splendid release that Joe Sakic would have been proud to own.
Tom Renney, being of sound mind, will keep Nugent-Hopkins this season and play the living daylights out of him. However, he should also have the freedom to HS RNH or any player if he feels that’s an option that will help his player and team win hockey games.
Should the Oilers send RNH back to junior, then I believe we can openly question their stated mission: that winning is what this season is all about and all things will be about winning hockey games (over development). NOTHING Tom Renney has said this fall suggests that is a possibility. Look, the kid has not only passed he’s getting straight A’s. What can we complain about? A few faceoffs? An unusual haircut? An overbite?
Really, I’ve got nothing. He’s already doing things some of the older kids haven’t figured out and he’s doing them in defensive and offensive zones. He can’t fight and he can’t play goal. After that, we’re just going to have to watch him.