Reality has hit Oilersnation, the Oilers still aren’t very good, and with 41 games left to play, many want to find someone to blame and it seems Tom Renney has become a popular target. For years many some of the same fans and media clamoured that Craig MacTavish needed to go, because allegedly he stymied the offensive growth of players.
Did he really stunt the offensive growth of Marc Pouliot, Jani Rita, Rob Schremp, Robert Nilsson, Andrew Cogliano and others or were they just not as good as some thought. You decide. I’ll go with the latter.
Ryan Smyth had some of his best seasons under MacTavish, Doug Weight had 90 points, Ales Hemsky produced, Raffi Torres, Mike Comrie and Jarret Stoll had their best offensive seasons with MacT behind the bench, but for some that wasn’t enough. He never gave Schremp a chance, nor did he play Dan Cleary enough, even though Cleary admitted he was immature and didn’t work on his game when he was in Edmonton, somehow it was all the coach’s fault.
Make no mistake, when MacTavish left it was the right time. He was sick of losing and his players had grown tired of his message, but since he left the Oilers have finished 30th twice and are on their way to another bottom-five finish, so I think it is fair to say the coach wasn’t the only issue.
Fast forward to today and once again I’m hearing similar shots fired at the coach. He’s not stifling the kids, but he isn’t playing them enough in some people’s eyes. "Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins should be playing more than Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth, that’s the problem," some have tweeted, commented or e-mailed.
In some cases that is true, but with Eberle sitting 8th in league scoring, and Nugent-Hopkins in the top-15 before he got hurt, I’d argue the one thing Renney has done well is manage the talented kids. He sheltered them early in the season and they produced, and as the season has progressed he’s slowly given them harder assignments. They haven’t won all of them, but they’ve fared fairly well.
I understand that fans are sick of losing, hell I’m sick of watching them lose, but firing Renney right now isn’t the answer.
NOW IS NOT THE TIME
Before you race to the comments section to come up with some lame, "You’re an Oiler apologist," post hear me out.
Some of Renney’s coaching decisions have me scratching my head, none more than continually playing Eric Belanger on the PP when he has one paltry goal all season. In fact, no forward plays more than Belanger 15:33/game and has fewer goals.
I know faceoffs are important, and Belanger’s role isn’t solely about offence, but why keep putting a player on the ice in offensive situations who is obviously struggling?
I’m not saying Renney status with the team can’t be questioned, but I think the best time for that will be in the off-season. If you are in the camp that the coach is the problem, what makes you think there is a better option out there right now?
Randy Carlyle’s name has been tossed around, but look in Anaheim and you’ll see that a new coach hasn’t changed their fortunes. A coach is only as good as his players, and a new coach might, and that is a big might, make the Oilers a 22nd place team instead of a 28th-30th.
Carlyle will likely still be available in the off-season, if they want to go down that road, and considering the biggest factor in the Oilers rebuild is developing the young kids, they will have to look at Renney considering how he has handled the big-three. You can questioned the need for a few extra shifts here or there, but no one can deny that he hasn’t done a good job of putting them in positions to succeed.
The tough question the franchise needs to make is if he is the guy who can lead them to being a competitive team. He likely has 40 games to prove he can improve them, regardless of injuries, or he won’t be back.
If you want a younger coach, you won’t get one, at least not one of the best, right now. All the best ones are currently coaching in the AHL or CHL, and very few of them have an out-clause to leave during the season.
Some have mentioned Todd Nelson has earned a promotion. He’s definitely paid his dues. He’s been coaching professional hockey for ten years. He was an AHL assistant for one year in Grand Rapids, then the head coach in Muskegon of the UHL where he won two championships in three years. He went back to the AHL as an assistant in Chicago for two years, and then spent two years as an assistant in Atlanta with the Thrashers before the Oilers hired him in the summer of 2010.
Nelson has the OKC Barons in first place in the AHL. He’s done an excellent job, but the Oiler prospects need some playoff experience, so I don’t see why it would be a smart move to remove their coach when they sit in first place. If you want the Oilers to be competitive in the coming years they need more than just Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to develop.
This franchise will need Magnus Paajarvi, Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton and many others to continue developing if the Oilers are going to escape from the clutches of being a lottery team. Getting some AHL playoff experience is a must for the growth of the Oilers and their young players.
I understand the fans’ frustration, but hiring the wrong coach, just for the sake of making a change, would be a backwards step on the path to winning.
This morning the Blue Jackets fired head coach Scott Arniel and named Todd Richards interim H/C for the remainder of the season. Many are wondering why Scott Howson waited until now. It’s a good question, because the Jackets aren’t making the playoffs, and any significant improvement will hurt their draft status.
Howson needed to do something, but I’m going to watch closely to see how much of a difference Richards actually makes.
I doubt the Oilers go this route, because I’m not sure any of the assistants would do a better job.
The Oilers have recalled Magnus Paajarvi and Ryan O’Marra as well as putting Gilbert Brule on re-entry waivers. If Brule clears he’s coming up as well. No official word out of the Oilers yet, but Jordan Eberle’s knee is an issue, and we will find out later if he’ll be out weeks or months.
Paajarvi or Ryan Smyth will likely move to the RW to get a shot in the top-six. O’Marra will replace Josh Green in the middle and Brule will likely play on the wing on the fourth line.