Runaway Train

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

-Rodney Crowell

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.”

Source is here. All of these Renney quotes are reflected in Robin Brownlee’s recent item here at ON–the head coach is asking them to do their homework, eat their veggies, do the due diligence.

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.

In Edmonton.

  • The Oilers have had a favourable schedule to start the year. NYR, PIT, VAN were at the end of long road trips. And Edmonton was Minnesota’s 4th game in 6 days.

    Weber & Tortorella thought their teams were bad. Edmonton’s defensive play has been as good as it will get. I think Edmonton will have an accurate read on the 2011-12 Oilers after they play 4 in 6 this week.

    Tempered enthusiasm people.

  • Crackenbury

    Typically I always like to root for the young guys and not say too much about their performance until they establish themselves or not. Omark, on the other hand, is mostly hype and YouTube sizzle. He has his moments where he looks good, but having him here over a big body like Hartikanen doesn’t make much sense to me. We’ve seen what a difference a large body defense can make. Not many of our forwards are tough to play against, Omark just doesn’t fit on this team.

  • melancholyculkin

    Anyone who thinks that RNH is going back down is about as bright as Pierre McGuire, way to much talent in RNH to be wasting time in the WHL. The only reason he may go down is for the World Juniors in that case it’s a good call to send him down.

  • Costanza

    Lowetide: Yeah but how many times have we seen players play against that same opposition and still stink. We must remember that these kids are posting impressive numbers, not just average but impressive. Easy competition or not they are helping us win games.

    Ultimately, who would you replace him with? Also you are right the sample size of road games is extremely small and could be applied to all of our forwards. In the end W’s matter. Love the statistical breakdown on stuff but if I had to pay money (and I do) to watch someone play, I’m taking The Nuge over Brule or any other young Oiler (Except Hall). The kid makes things happen, in all zones. I think he doesn’t get better and the Oilers don’t get better with him in Red Deer. Just my opinion.

    Keep up the great work, and tell the Team 1260 to boost the signal strength or get the station on Shaw Direct so I can listen more out here in Edson.

    • Lowetide

      Oh yeah, I’m with you. I wouldn’t send RNH down for anything, and the argument against his shooting percentage being so high is that Hall and Eberle will be cashing those passes better soon (Eberle had a five bell chance late and hit the moon for some reason).

      I don’t think the Nuge leaves Edmonton for many years.

  • O.C.

    What’s interesting is MPS is not filling the net, nor is Eberle or Lander for that matter, but no one is dogging them. And for good reason.

    Love the game these guys bring. 91 might be my next jersey.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    lets all remember that RNH is still a rookie, he’s not crosby/ovie that is pretty much expected to get a point every game. he’s passed most peoples expectations so far this year

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    He would go along way to helping Columbus on thier PP. Who does rick nash currently have who can pass the puck like Omark? Don’t underevaluate Omark based on the numbers he has produced this year. He is a specialist but guys like Cliff Ronning made careers out of being a specialist.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Re: Renney/Nuge/kid line

    I think it’s important the fans don’t try to “micromanage” how the young stars are handled. All coaches want their players to focus on defense and piles of rookies see time on the bench/in the pressbox.

    Renney is an experienced guy, I’m confident he knows how to handle NHL players in NHL situations.

  • 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? 

    That skinny tie and undertaker suit he had on with Scott “no question is too akward” Oake should be sent back to junior.

  • melancholyculkin

    Hopkins now has a sh% of 29.4%. If ever something was unsustainable that’s it.

    Omark on the other hand has both a Sh% of 0% and an onsh% of 0%. Speaking of unsustainable.

    I can’t wait until the Oilers deal Omark for a 4th round pick, his percentages regress to the mean and he starts scoring at the same time that Hopkins’ percentages regress to the mean and he stops scoring.

    That’ll be fun.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Unfortunatly for Omark his “mean” at the NHL level seems to be about 6.5% …. so really, by the numbers he needs about 8 more shots or 5 more games before he “regress to the mean” for goal #1

      • melancholyculkin

        Way off base here my friend. 56 games is way, way, way too small a sample size to draw any conclusions about sh%.

        Not to mention Omark’s got a body of work in Europe and the AHL that suggests he’s better than a 6.5% shooter.

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            usually one gives credit to where they found said info, rather than passing it off as their own…

            edit: i should state, im not trying to suggest that was your intention. i have no clue what your intention was. it honestly could have been pure co-incidence. my original post was meant more as a observation, not meant to directly call anyone out for anything. I could have worded the post better, that was my bad.

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          My post was somewhat tongue in cheak.

          That said, I don’t think we can pull out the “reversion to the mean” argument when we don’t even know what the players mean is yet (too small of a sample like you said). How can we assume Omark has a better then 6.5% NHL mean to revert back to when he’s never hit it?

          I wouldn’t put too much stock in Omarks AHL/Europe resume, he’s a Jason Krog. Puts up good to great numbers against inferior players, but can’t translate that success against the best of the best.

          • melancholyculkin

            We shouldn’t just discount the data we have available though. People responded to the sh% argument against Jones by pointing out that he has a history of high percentages in college.

            I don’t know if anyone’s ever done a study about how sh% translates from Europe and the minors to the NHL, but that would be mighty intersting and useful. If I can finish this paper I’m supposed to be working on sometime in the next 5 hours I’ll roll around in some numbers tonight and see what I can come up with.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Ya that would be really interesting to see.

            That said though, just like any similar stat it isn’t “one size fits all”.

            From what I’ve seen, I still think the increas in quality of competition for him in the NHL will gobble up any impressive numbers in other leagues.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Yup, that’s exactly it. Two major issues keeping him from success IMO. I can see what people get excited for, I really can, but its not a game of keep away. When you’ve got 50 seconds per shift, and on average half or better is spent in the defensive or neutral zone you can’t then spend another 10 seconds spinning around/with your back to the net. And then when you do decide to do something with the puck, you do something flashy that excites the fans but leaves your teamate with a low probibility chance.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Like when he takes a puck, dodges a puck and sets up Lander in front of the net all by himself. Or when he creates chances for an entire period and then get benched the next game.

            Omark isn’t the greatest player in the world. However, the selective memory of fans who are predisposed to dislike him is either amusing or sad.

            Omark is the only player who can create chances for other players and still gets labelled selfish. It’s one thing not to like a player however when you allow it to colour you perception of reality it becomes a moral failing.

          • OldSchool

            He’s not the only forward either.

            I don’t understand why people compare Omark to a point – per – game, first overall pick, who gets top line minutes with the best wingers… And plenty of PP time.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Five whole games. Wow.

            He was benched a period and a half into the season. That is pretty good evidence that his treatment doesn’t have anything to do with production since nothing had happened yet.

            On Oil Change they showed their board prior to making the final cuts and Omark was on it as the 13/14th forward this despite the fact that he did put up points in the preseason.

            That’s the thing with a prejudgment it is just sitting there waiting to be confirmed. Now, I think Renney is a pretty fair minded person. The problem is the misguided idea that a team can have too many offensive minded players. That’s ridiculous and it is going to cost the Oilers here.

  • Lowetide

    I am going to reserve comment on Barker until he has played about 41 games. This a guy who is rebuilding his confidence and his game. I really don’t think we’ll see his best game until he has regained alot of that confidence.

  • I think the kid made the team last nite. After 2 lacklustre games of unnoticeable play (although he wasn’t noticeable terrible, either) he comes back with a 1st star performance. It is now quite probable that RNH will be the team’s leading scorer after 9 games. It would take a serious set of stones to sent him back to junior.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    One goal-One assist. Shoot the puck. I swear we at OilersNation will be all taking Valium with the way Renny has pulled us this way and that this week. Omark looks schedueled to go to OKC sooner than later. Or a trade to Columbus may be in his future. Columbus is in a deep pickle. Scott Howson has to win. Not a chance he goes into next week with the lineup he has currently. Would Hemsky and Omark get you Ryan Johansen and 3or 4th round pick at this point? The Oilers are flush at foward and Hemsky has had a working relationship with Scott Howson. The Oilers may need to take a player back to make the money work. But you never know in this day and age.

    • John Chambers

      Interesting. With our newfound depth at Centre, maybe there’s a possibility of sending Hemsky and Gagner to Columbus if the return was Johansson and a D prospect.

      For all of Tambellini’s “assessing”, I think it’s fair to say that the team is building around 4 players … all others are expendable for the sake of adding other key building blocks.

  • I’ve defended him but he doesn’t think the game fast enough IMO. He just doesn’t move his feet fast enough. I’ve also noticed if the puck is in the corner he stands in front of the net with his stick in both hands about 3 feet off the ice oblivious to the defender behind him. I think Teddy will replace him against VAN.

  • Priest

    This roster we are seeing is the roster they are going to hang thier hats on this year. It’s too bad but i believe ther is no longer a spot on this team for Omark, he just played himself off in the first 5 games. One thing has to be kept in mind about the goal production so far, look at the goalies we have faced, Backstrom, Kipper, Lunquist, Renne, Luongo twice. Bobby Lou, Vokoun are next up. these are some excellent goalies…..I guess whan you look at it so is Khabibulin. With the iminent departure of Omark and the steady play of Lander the sign of H.O.P.E. must change to H.E.L.P.

    we will see….

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Vancouver in here on Tues. night… be nice for the Oil to dress Semenko to play with the Nuge. They won’t take cheap shots at him will they?

    • Lowetide

      Renney has been able to shelter the kids at home, don’t think he’ll have the same difficulties Tuesday. Plus, he has shown the ability to adjust and that’s part of the process.

  • Crackenbury

    It’s time to tell him to find a place to live. There’s no reason for the Oilers to prolong it. Hall said yesterday he was told right from the start he would be staying. Do the the same for RNH. You’re not getting rid of 40% of your offence. Talk about sitting down RNH for a game when he knows he’s staying becomes a teaching tool instead of a benching.

  • John Chambers

    Too bad we only get to witness The Nuge’s brilliance for two more games before he gets sent down.

    Costanza – easily one of the best handles and pics I’ve seen on ON. Hopefully we get to witness your brilliance for more than two more games.

    More Costanza! More Nuge!

  • RyanCoke

    Nice, just finished reading last post and hit refresh to a new article. This kid is amazing. He is a perfect fit on a line with hall and eberle. Also I think corey potter is a silent off season pick up, he fits so well with our defensive core and seems to have good vision. I can’t wait to see how rnh and the kid line is doing by midseason. Also I was a big hater of bulin but can’t complain so far at this point in season. He is doing great.

  • Costanza

    We should doubt this kid everyday so he keeps slamming up points. Also the way he plays on HNIC I could alomost stand to listening to Kevin Weekes….Almost.