With all the defeat and criticism the Edmonton Oilers have endured while skidding out of the Western Conference playoff picture, it’s only fair to point out a positive, or at least what I perceive as one, after an unexpected 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Monday.

Circumstances being what they are, I thought Tom Renney showed us a nice little bit of coaching against the Blackhawks by tossing Ben Eager back into the fray after an undisciplined performance in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders. Likewise, by giving Devan Dubnyk another crack in the goal crease after a less-than-stellar outing on the Island.

As ineffective as Eager has been this season, I’d have been tempted to sit him out — or maybe even give him the ticket to the AHL Lennart Petrell ended up getting — after his outing against the Islanders. Instead, Renney sent the burly winger back through the gate in Chicago and he responded by scoring the 4-2 goal, which ended up being the eventual winner.

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Renney also opted to go back to Dubnyk, who allowed four goals on 29 shots in New York and has had his struggles lately, against the Blackhawks rather than give Nikolai Khabibulin the nod. Dubnyk gave up a soft goal to Jonathan Toews, but buckled down in the third period and finished with 39 saves to get the win.

I’m not suggesting this is a bit of strategic genius, but it’s a tough call Renney made with the Oilers struggling mightily – one that most certainly would have earned him a lot of heat from fans if it backfired – and it’s one that worked out.

Renney gave both players a chance to make amends and they did.


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"Well, you know, you’ve got to give guys an opportunity," Renney said after the Oilers put the brakes on a seven-game road losing streak after defeats in Vancouver, Minnesota and Long Island to kick-off a tough stretch.

"Maybe down the road when we’re closer to a finished product, you know, in terms of our team, you can bench a guy like that or put him in the press box or whatever, but I think you’ve got to give guys an opportunity to learn from a tough circumstance, battle through it, gain some confidence in themselves because the coach does and move forward.

"That’s not to suggest that we would not look at an alternative for mistakes or poor discretion. That being said, often times people deserve a second chance."

Make no mistake, Eager has a long way to go to turn what’s been a clearly disappointing season around and win the confidence of his coaches and his teammates, but this might be one small step in getting there. While you could justify a seat in the press box or worse to send a message, Renney went the other way.

With Dubnyk, it’s more straightforward. He took the rap for his performance against the Islanders. There was no denial, ducking he had a bad game. No point in that. He wasn’t going to sulk if he got a seat at the United Center, but I’m guessing he feels a lot better about himself after bouncing back.

Again, no need to overstate Renney’s decisions tonight as brilliance with the Oilers still staggering and trying to find their confidence and their legs. That said, this might be one small step in the right direction. At this juncture, it’s damn sure better than even another small step the wrong way.

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

  • The Farmer

    I was skeptical, especially after Dubnyk’s first goal, but a win is a win. Well played tonight. I feel for Eager a bit. He is either ineffective or over the line, the best thing he could have done last game is just start feeding Martin punches. Either he would have had to respond, or get severely beaten up. As it turns out Eager wouldn’t have gotten any worse off penalty wise.

  • With the holidays, I missed the last 3 games. I was glad to walk in the door from the airport to a Chicago game. Sure it was 1-0 CHI but WOW was it nice to see some hockey, even if it was the dreadful, yearly oilers christmas losing streak. ESPN clearly doesn’t like hockey, I’d barely be able to get the score, let alone who scored or heaven forbid, a “highlight”.

    As far as the game today, I thought Sutton and Peckham both played well. Also Hemmer, Hallzky and Gags were really good! Was this a one game thing or has that been a line over the last few?

  • Many had solid games. I know people will hack at hemmer for the alligator arms on the icing but he was flying. Sadly in this town your only as good as your last shift so the topic du jour tomorrow will be all about the pull up.


    Petry had a few beauty moments as did Lander and Harti. If thats his legs coming back from injury and having played 3 games in four nights….. plus that bit of arrogance during the geno interview. ALL GOOD!

    Solid game overall.

    Suttons a beauty… worked Sharp over good then gets felled like a giant tree on the retaliation. Love the gamesmanship as it shows how plugged in he is to the vibe of the game.

    I enjoyed it!!!

    • book¡e

      It’s hard to say, the remnants of his shoulder looked pretty good as they scraped them off the ice. His scapula (shoulder blade) didn’t look to be broken in more than one or two spots, but it was hard to see in the replay because there were still some bits of muscle and tendon clinging to it. I saw a show once where they were able to repair a guy’s shoulder that was injured in a similar way and it was even better after it was repaired (it cost something like $6 million to do it though). Anyway, he is pretty young so he has a good chance of recovering, though he may never play piano again.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Nice second look Brownlee.

    Eager definitely had a better game. It’s night and day with him still though. BTW was it just me or did him and Harti seem to play well together? Doubt that line sticks as Harti will probably move to the 3rd, but still.

    the third goal seemed soft to me too… but Dubs outlasted Chi so credit’s due!

    It’s interesting that Renney’s comments seem to suggest he was forced by circumstance as much as coaching or whatever to play Eager.

    anyway, it was a good game to watch. the gags/hall/hemmer line looked pretty good. I’d like to see some more of it.


    Eager’s Brother has the best Soup Mouth/Beard combo I’ve ever seen…. side note… does anyone else think it’s weird that in that pic everyone is intently staring at something… but something completely different? how many different things could possibly capture such rapt gazes?

  • D


    I am one of those kool-aid drinkers who believed the Oil would make the playoffs this year (and still hold out hope that they might). That being said, the Oilers in their many years of being a bad team oftentimes come up with wins against the elite teams like the Blackhawks only to suffer numerous losses against teams like the Islanders, Hurricanes, and Flames. The Oilers will turn the corner when they can consistently pound the lower teams, even while losing to the elite teams. Kind of like the 1980s whenever the Oilers rolled into Boston Garden (regular season).

  • Travis Dakin

    So it’s no secret that I am a hardened supporter of the turf Renney campaign…. however, he did do a decent job tonight. I fully expected his decision to start Dubnyk to fail and seeing him play Eager so much was angering me. Credit where credit is due. He coached well tonight.

  • Captain Obvious

    Tubes gets the early morning recall and for an extra forward we get the offensive dynamo Josh Green. Nothing against the guy, he was a good AHL signing, but this is not 2002. This organization needs some depth at centre, really hope Pitty is getting time at pivot.

  • Aitch

    I’m not so sure that first goal was as soft as many believe. There was one angle that showed the puck deflected off of Petry’s skate and changed direction right after Dubnyk started to react to the shot. So, while it looked like a weak goal – I yelled at Dubnyk through the TV and time as I was watching it on delay – it wasn’t like he let one slip through him that he got a piece of. That one was just bad luck.

  • I think you’ve got to give guys an opportunity to learn from a tough circumstance, battle through it, gain some confidence in themselves because the coach does and move forward….unless they won’t shave those sideburns


  • Travis Dakin

    Oilers showed some greasiness on the PP. Is Gilbert done? Or is it more dayy to day. He flew into the boards like a bird into a 747 engine. It was painful to watch.

    • Gilbert is day to day. According to Jim Matheson, Gilbert walked out of the rink without crutches or a brace and didn’t have a noticeable limp.

      RNH is bigger concern. My best guess is he has a separated shoulder. Time out would depend on degree — 1st, 2nd or 3rd. RNH had his arm in a sling when he left the rink in Chicago.

  • I’ve been hating on Renney for weeks now – so I will give him some praise for the Dubnyk and Eager moves…if anything that builds a relationship with his bench.

    However, this should have been the case for the entire season, can’t learn without some wallops and for the most part Renney has been far to conservative with on-ice situations.

    Notice how Hossa, Toews and Kane all Penalty Kill – yes our PK is has been excellent but a couple shifts here or there for Eberle and Hall on the PK would bold well for the future. You can’t have your top end talent sitting for long periods of play due to PK’s.

    Offense from the back end on PP – why is Belanger still there? if Petry is going to be here for the long run wouldn’t you like to spark some offensive flair while on the PP. Gilbert is out now…so maybe we will see more of Petry on the PP/

    bottom line just what the heck are the Oilers afraid off? 30th? been there done that… and where almost there again. Spice it up/Change it up can’t do any worse.

  • I think when you`ve lost 7 games in a row or have been as dreadful as the Oilers I think Renney can make any move and if works out he looks good. Too much credit on the Eager, Dubby stuff.

    I still concede Renney`s a 2nd tier coach in the NHL with his mediocre results. Sure hes great in the media, and is likable sort, but some of look at results. Too many guys having mediocre performance too many nights. The Oilers got more talent then a teams like Dallas, Minny, Calgary who are ahead of them.

  • book¡e

    Oilers undefeated in 2012 . Team pulls together and plays better with Hopkins out of lineup ? HMMM- is Hopkins causing a problem by being so relied upon rather than others ?

  • book¡e

    It seems that all it takes is one win and everyone seems happy with Renny and company………I think that he got lucky with Dubnyk and Eager performing.

    For Eager or any fourth line guy to be effective, they need to play…….plain and simple. You can’t expect players to perform with two minutes of ice time per period, which is what Renny does routinely. He over plays his Top two lines, to the point where they become tired and only when they have no gas does he put his third and fourth lines out there.

    Someone explain to me why Belenger and Horcoff are on the PP…………the two of them have produced no shots on net, and the play regularly ends on their stick. Hemsky has a no shoot philosophy on the PP and the only play he tries to excite is a cross seam pass that every player in the NHL has figure out.

    Renny is the problem, we have the talent to be better than a below 500 team.

  • Yes, I’m a naive doughhead.

    I think because Renney made an astute and timely coaching decision intended to keep Eager with the program everything he does is brilliant. He’s a genius. He is Scotty Bowman incarnate.

    You didn’t say that? It has that tone. A person, namely me, can recognize a smart move by a coach like Renney and still not be sold EVERYTHING he does is right. If you’re talking “everyone,” that would include me, right?

    I dislike, make that loathe, comments that drip with the inference the person making it has just little a little more common sense, is just a touch more perceptive and less naive than everybody else. Your post manages this. When Renney makes a decision that works, it’s because he’s lucky. When Renney makes decisions that don’t work — and he’s made plenty of those — and that you don’t agree with, he’s a bad coach.

    Your expertise in assessing NHL coaches is what? Spell it out for me.

    • I don’t beleive that I intentionally inferred that you are a “naive doughhead”. Quite the opposite, I think that you are a very astute writer, who cuts to the chase very quickly.

      My expertise in NHL coaching is usually based on observaiton and results. I’m not a coach but that should not prevent me from commenting on coaches, players, or management. We all make judgement calls each and every day of our lives, on all sorts of things that is not necessairly our ” field of expertise”.

      I understand that not everything that Renny does is bad. I also do not think that everything Hemsky does is bad, although I’m the first to admit I am very hard on him. There will always be critics in the world of sports…….and that is the nature of the beast.

      • “It seems that all it takes is one win and everyone seems happy with Renny and company…”

        This is what you said and, intentional or not, the implication is one win is enough to make me (unless I’m the lone person on the planet not included) happy with Renney based on one win.

        Given that I wrote this item, one reasonable conclusion is you believe it’s written from a position of naivete without a real grasp of the topic. I take issue with that.

        Disagree with any conclusion I come to as you see fit. That’s fair ball. But suggesting any take I have is somehow based on wide-eyed gosh-golly stuff, given how long I’ve been doing this, is going to get me in your grill every single time.

  • Shaun Doe: What’s really noteworthy about “Eager’s brother” is that’s one of those beards that’s never seen a pair of clippers or a trim. Thirty years of pizza, beer and whatever else the big carrot-top has shoved into his yap along the way.

    I’m guessing that baby started growing when the guy was about 16 and he’s just kept it since. Sparse on the top lip, high to the cheekbones on the sides and way down the neck (will eventualy join up with his chest hair). Sort of like a big, red car wash mitt.

  • Eulers

    Re: 3rd goal: Dubnyk was picking up his stick when it squeaked in. Obviously, you don’t want those poor angle shots going in, but he played his percentages and decided that getting the stick outweighed the chance of a shot from that angle.

    I was at the game last night and was very happy and surprised with the outcome. After the Long Island fiasco and with the Hawks desire for revenge, I was pretty cynical. Great effort by the boys with two of their best players missing most of the game. I’m going to miss the biannual United Centre ritual with the new conferences though.