Edmonton Oilers coach Tom Renney has a long resume that still includes a notation as holder of the all-time best winning percentage in the CHL, a .714 clip he compiled with the Kamloops Blazers on the way to two WHL titles and a Memorial Cup. Renney is smart. He’s driven. He’s honest.

All that said, and his credentials duly noted, I’m wondering about Renney’s feel for the game and the personnel he’s in charge of in his dressing room right now as the Oilers approach the final 16 games of a season that will see them finish as a lottery team for the third straight year.

Does Renney, 57, have a firm grasp of what it’s going to take to move along the rebuild he and team management have been selling fans since he showed up in town as an assistant coach as part of the ill-conceived experiment that saw GM Steve Tambellini bring in Pat Quinn? Does Renney’s philosophy fit the situation he’s in?

Here and now, does Renney have a handle on how to develop his young players – Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, to name just three — in that dressing room, players who’ll be the cornerstones of building the Oilers into contenders again?

Does what Renney perceive as best for the organization mesh with what’s best for those players and vice-versa? Is Renney’s approach, especially where it pertains to the use of personnel, in sync with Tambellini and Kevin Lowe, president of hockey operations? Are they on the same page?

I have questions . . .


— The latest question I have about the deployment of personnel regards the use of Linus Omark against San Jose Tuesday, and I’m certainly not alone in that. What, pray tell, is the point of inserting Omark into the line-up if you’re not going to use him in a situation where he can succeed?

I cannot, even stretching the limits of reason, conclude that sticking Omark with Eric Belanger and Lennart Petrell constitutes a reasonable chance to succeed. Even if Omark isn’t in the plans, if he’s been written off, why would the Oilers not give the kid a sniff in the top six and showcase him for the balance of the season? What’s the downside?

— With officials pocketing their whistles and power plays at a premium, why isn’t Nugent-Hopkins hopping over the boards as the first option each and every single time the Oilers go on the man advantage? Bob Stauffer on 630 CHED was having a go at this on Oilers Now today, and it’s a question a lot of people are asking.

I get it that Renney has been mindful, and should be, of sheltering Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Eberle from unfavorable match-ups, and I’ve commented on it before, but I don’t see that applying to power play situations now. Turn the kids loose, and find time for Omark in the PP mix, down the stretch.

— I still haven’t been able to get a handle on why Magnus Paajarvi was left to wither on the vine earlier this season. Jason Gregor and I have batted this around countless times on his show at TEAM 1260, as have many others, including perplexed readers here.

While the speedy winger didn’t accomplish nearly enough offensively to force the issue before a long overdue assignment to Oklahoma City to knock off the rust, I remain puzzled. Likewise, why did Theo Peckham sit so long until getting back in Tuesday?

— Does Renney hold veterans like Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff as accountable for mistakes and bad decisions as he does young players like Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle? It seems to me, if anything, the veterans should be more accountable. It looks to me, if ice time is the currency we go by, they have been far less accountable.

What’s Renney’s end-game? What’s the plan?

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

  • Oilers89

    Wow. Just read this list of posts. Is everybody warming up for term paper season or what? And after the Oilers, poorly coached and all, playing a nothing game for them, apparently beat a bigger, stronger, more desperate sharks team battling for their playoff lives. Man, they can’t lose for winning. If this is what they do when they are trying to hold off Montreal in the Plinko for Grigorenko, wait’ll they really start trying.

  • Oilers89

    On Omark: I realize that some argue that he hasn’t proven that the is a top six player, well you are right he hasn’t proven that, but it may be because the lines he has played on have never really been consistent. Trust me when I say if you put omark with RNH and Ebs or Hemsky and gagner that he will put up better numbers than the aging smyth (who I like a lot but he just can’t keep up, put him on the third). Omarks board play is great, put him on a line that gets into the offensive zone and if he fails oh well, at least they played him where he fits.

    • BigE91

      Why does Smyth need to keep up with the kids? Smyth has never been quick, he has made his mark along the walls and in front of the net and I would argue that is one place Omark isn’t going to succeed. Of Eberle, Hall, Hopkins, Gagner and Hemsky who is going to step aside for Omark to play top 6? Whether Smyth should be top 6 or not can be argued but you need someone in your top 6 that can raise hell in front of the net.

      Omark has 27 points in 57 career games not bad but not great. Too many people are in love with his shootout skills and not looking at his whole game. As another poster said he’s another version of Rob Schremp.

      • Oilers89

        I could care less about Omark for the most part but, he should be in the top six because that is where he fits, if he isn’t playing there then don’t even have him on the team. Also it is painfully obvious that each of the top two lines needs someone to get the puck in, Hall does it for one line and the other has nobody and smyth is the farthest besides petrell from being the answer. While omark is not this player he can work the boards. They do not need to subract eberle, hall, hopkins, gagner, or hemsky; I clearly stated that smyth should come out, and personally I would love to have PRV playing on one of the lines that does not have hall. Since he is not here lets put in the next best fit which is Omark. Let’s explore all avenues here and see what omark has got, whats going to happen? We lose? We are out of it anyways, lets see if we can’t actually get value out of him instead of wasting him.

        • BigE91

          Again, Smyth fills a role in the top 6 that Omark can’t and Pajarvii isn’t ready too. As Renney stated last night Omark wasn’t going to score the goal that Smyth scored last night that was vintage 94.

          Omark should be in the AHL and happy to get whatever minutes he gets in the show. Having another undersized forward on the top 2 lines isn’t going to help this team going forward and showcasing Omark in the top 6 for 15 games isn’t going to bring a top 2 dman here or even another first rounder. He is a third line guy with shootout skills at best.

          • Oilers89

            I agree that smyth brings a “different” element, but at this point in his career he is a third liner at best, whereas, we have no idea what omark is until he gets a “real” chance. Plus Pajaarvi looked good after his last call up, and he could play top six or get a chance at least in this lost season. The season is over, we know what smyth brings, lets do something productive. I cannot stress this enough SEASON = done so give him a shot it literally does not matter at this point in the season. Do you understand that this has no negative effect on our season?

  • Good Read RB

    I have to agree with everything written in the article. I would also like to add Ryan Whitney’s name to that list.

    I have watched this season, Peckham, Sutton, Barker get sent up to the press box for what were questionable games played.

    Yet, Whitney has made some of the worst mistakes this year! The Ducks game was the worst game he played all year and maybe the worst I have seen any Oilers defenseman play this year! Not a word spoken about it except the post game interview with Renny were he discuses his “veterans” making mistakes.

    The veterans have got to be held accountable! What are they teaching the kids here by not holding the veterans accountable?

    • Oilers89

      Lowe had an interesting conversation the other day with Stauff. Basically said guys that make continuous mistakes will be sifted out.

      I would love it for them to bring in Messier on the Canada coaching team and then because of that nod possibly lead to a gig here in some capacity. Old school, retro, heart soul you name it. The org could use a couple good vets that are proven winners. If you can’t draft or trade or sign them then hire one. Go get em’ Katz!

      • I would like for once Lowe and Tambo stick to there word. Can you see them sitting Smyth, Horcoff or Whitney out? I don’t see it.

        I would love to see Messier here in some capacity but I just can’t see him leaving NYR or NYC.

    • Renney has done a lot of good things with the kids, so questioning his approach shouldn’t necessarily be an “all or nothing” critique.

      Most notably, he’s spotted them on the road in an attempt to protect them against more experienced lines what might overwhelm them. At times, maybe he’s been too cautious, but that’s a matter of opinion.

      I don’t see this as a case of Renney holding the kids back because he believes “the young ones have to pay their dues” or crap like that. I think he’s doing it with their best interests in mind, but I also think he needs to turn them loose a bit more often.

      • Oilers89

        Agreed, he has handled them relatively well, but now he should let them loose a little more which he has with hall taking on some more difficult competition.

  • Oilers4ever

    I have said it all year… I do not think Renney is the guy to turn these kids loose and develop them… I hate to blame age.. but I think he’s too old. Nelson is doing a phenomenal job with the kids in OKC and I think he deserves a shot.. no real NHL experience but look what he’s doing with the kids in OKC… They always say you should not put all your eggs in one basket… but the number one PP on this team every night should be RNH-Hall-Ebs-Gagner-Petry/Whitney/Potter (depending on who is having the better game that night). Put Horc-Smytty-Omark-Hemsky and one of those 3 dmen who didn’t make the top pair and go with it… and if its a 5-3 PP go with the first unit minus a dman and add Hemmer in there.. 5 forwards.. there is no need for a dman on a 5-3… We know Hallsy can blast it from the point.. he’s done it before… Gags could do it to. I sometimes wonder how we are number one on the PP went Belanger and Jones are out there.

    Anyways… and RNH-Hall-Ebs should be the number one line for the rest of the year. Have Gags play with Hemmer and Smyth.. and Horc with Omark and Jones (passer, sniper, banger).. Belanger-Eager and whoever on the fourth line. Three lines who can score.. and a fourth line that can bang and has some speed.

    Its not rocket science. This team has the talent to win way more games than they are. They just need some brains where it counts at the top to manage them properly… Current GM and coach are not cutting it.. and Katz should cut bait and go fishing for bigger fish come the summer.

  • vetinari

    I think the real question is: has Renney been able to successfully develop game plans and communicate them to his players while managing his players in such a way as to help them reach their full potential and win games?

    I think “managing players” would include assigning players appropriate roles, deploying them in appropriate situations, and playing to their strengths while minimizing or eliminating a player’s weaknesses over time.

    Developing successful game plans is different than communicating them, which is different than the players actually following them– the former two are the coach’s responsibility while the last one is the players’ responsbility.

    I can’t comment about how Renney develops and communicates his game plans but we can see on a nightly basis how he manages his players. At this point, Renney has more than a passing familiarity with most of his team save and except for the offseason additions (Barker, Hordichuk, Sutton, Eager, Potter, Smyth and Belanger) who he has now worked with for about 6 or 7 months.

    It seems that Renney has had problems the last few years with having players in the wrong roles (Omark as a 4th liner? Gagner, in the purgatory of the bottom six until he erupted in January? Belanger on the PP? Petrell’s on the top line while Eager watches from the bench?).

    The question really becomes, has managment failed to give Renney the right players to work with or can he not assign players appropriate roles and develop them accordingly? I used to think it was the former but I am now of the opinion that it may be a combination of both.

  • Since the first part of January when I accepted the Oilers were not making the playoffs I wanted to see the core group of players Improve.And also play better defensively.I see huge improvements in both areas. No that my opinion matters but i like the way Renny coaches the team. As long as the kids keeep getting better. who in the top six should Omark have replaced? Ryan smyth helps establish a forcheck with his strenth. Smitty also helps kill the other teams endless cycles in our zone.

    • DieHard

      Who should Omark replace? Let me see Symth is 36 and has at least a good 6 years left in the top 6 so NOT HIM.

      Have we really seen what Omark can do with a line in the top 6 for an attended period of time? No, we have not. WHY THE HELL NOT. Play him with talent you dumb sh?ts!

  • vetinari

    Good piece Ruben…

    It is most perplexing as to what the plan is for this year. Both from how Renney has handled the hired help — to how Management has positioned themselves and sold the year to the fanbase.

    Skepticism runs amok as to what the team says is the plan versus how the team and org has been run this year.

    I typically dont come on here to promote the other station on the airwaves. Did hear an interesting piece this evening with Wyshynski (from Puck Daddy fame) stirring up the pot with the “apologist” on the evening show down the dial from where Gregor and Ruben do their work. Wyshynski made some very interesting points.

  • I have long been an advocate of patience with the team and with Renney. While I remain optimistic about the players, I have to admit that I am no longer convinced that Renney is the right guy to guide them going forward.

    I couldn’t agree more with your questions regarding Renney’s evaluation and use of players on this team. Why bring up Omark to play with Petrell and Belanger? If you are not going to play him with offensively minded guys leave him in OKC.

    Petrell…why? He has had more top 6 chances this season than Omark. Has he been so impressive that Teemu Hartikainen no longer deserves a look with the big club? I don’t see his performance in that light.

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments regarding RNH. He needs to see #1 pp time and he should be teamed with at least one of Hall and Eberle to take advantage of his skillset.

    I am afraid that Renney is a drag on the team and I for one would not be sad to see him go.

  • 24% body fat

    “Lets stop calling an almost 26 year old man a kid”

    Let’s also stop calling him ‘almost 26’, when he turned 25 barely a month ago.

    C’mon…you have valid points, there’s no need to play fast and loose with numbers to artificially enhance your case.

  • vetinari

    As for me, the thing about Omark that initially excited me about his potential was NOT his youtube moments, which so many detractors tend to harp upon like it’s his only calling card. What caught the attention of me and others was him being tied for 3rd in the entire SEL in league scoring as a 21 year old, with the other 3 players above him being at least 8 years older than him. There’s not been many kids that age who did that well in the SEL, look it up.

    It’s certainly not turned into instant success over here as yet, but it irks me when fans paint a broad brush on him like doing fancy shootout moves is the only thing he’s ever accomplished.

  • samwise17

    Robin, this is the first time I have posted on the Nation. I agree with everything you stated in your article, as well as many other posters. My perspective of Renny is, that if he handles the vets with more leniency than the younger players, Hall, Eberle…., that he has command of the dressing room, since Smytty, Horc…are the leaders. I think with some of Rennys decisions in how he handles the European players (MPS and Omark) with line match ups and combinations, especially playing them on the 4th line, it seems Renny is not too interested in their futures as Oilers. I think as a result, Renny has lost the room and his credibility with the players. I also think Hall, Eberle and RNH are the true leaders in the room. I know Renny can only work with the players on the roster that Tamby provides him, but the scratches he makes and the way he juggles the lines make me think he’s out to lunch, or he really doesn’t want to resign next season.

  • samwise17

    Great article, and i have to agree with you and a lot of the readers, what does the oilers have to lose by playing a kid, bar an insight to a potential future star. Look if we were playoff bound then hey all bets are off, We play our best lines and go for it, but right now we have a team that can still win some of the last 16 without the likes of some of the older players on the roster. In any sport, there is a fine line between rebuilding and rebuilt. we are obviously not built yet, so all our attention in the latter parts of this season i think, need to be devoted to blooding young and building experience. I apologies to those of you who are die hard towards the yester generation of oiler players, but i just dont want to be writing into the nation in 6 years time saying that we had a chance, blew it and have to start again. i want us to start taking the steps we deserve NOW.

    • Time Travelling Sean

      Wow who knew Linus was the thin line between playoff bound Stanley Cup contenders and 6 more years of mediocrity.

      Smyth has looked slow but we forget he’s probably going to score 20 goals for us while Linus? I think we should give him minutes in the top 6 because he is a top 6 player, if not the calibre of one remains to be seen.

      • samwise17

        Ha ha fair call, i agree that he’s not that fine line, and dont get me wrong i love smyth. the blood sweat and tears he has given to this club should not be avoided as anything less then amazing, i’m simply saying i’d like to know in six years time, we didn’t leave any stone unturned. I Get where your coming from though, and to be honest, i guess i’m just a little scared/nervous that, with the young talent we have, we still may not get the riches we as fans are patiently waiting for. But your point is very valid.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    we can make excuses or come up with “reasons” all we want. the question is….is it acceptable to finish in a lottery position 3yrs in a row with no sign of moderate immprovement?

    is that Renney? is it Dithers? is it Klowe? i surmise it is all. the GM says our goal is to make the playoffs and or President says we never had any illusions of making the playoffs…wtf.

    our top picks are going to be top picks in spite of the coach (they are that good). some say look at their success this season but i say maybe this year has been a bust considering what they could have done with a different coach. who’s to say?

    we suck. we need to stop sucking and making excuses for said sucking.

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      no sign of moderate improvement?

      last year–25 wins 62pts 193gf 269ga

      (through 66 games)
      this year–26wins 58pts 175gf 198ga

      this year-#1 PP, last year was 27th

      this year-#16 PK, last year was 29th

      I am always all for a good old fashioned oilers ripping, but you are on glue if you dont think there are signs of even moderate improvement.

      Has there been enough improvement? No, obviously not. moderate improvement? c’mon now.

      • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan


        you see those things as more than moderate improvement and i see them as we are still in the bottom of the league with a chance of getting the first overall again.

        pick it apart if you want. this placement is not improvemenet to me.

      • bumblebpete

        i understand your points but those weren’t mine.

        have those things improved yes. has it got it closer to what should be our end goal. nope.

        to me those are minor improvements and have not had a moderate improvement on our standing in the league.

        • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

          fair enough.

          maybe i am trying to find the golden nuggets in this poo sandwich we keep getting fed.

          If you want to focus on standings placement as THE measuring stick for improvement, that is fine.

        • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

          You’re deluded if you think that the improvements cableguy posted haven’t brought the team closer to where they need to be. Of course it has. People consistently harped on the fact that the special teams sucked, and at this point in the season, that’s not an issue anymore.

          I think you’re underestimating just how bad things were before. When you become the last place in the league, it doesn’t matter how bad you are – you can’t sink any lower in the standings. If there were 50 teams in the league last year, last year’s team probably would have been 50th, not 30th out of 50.

          The gap between 30th and 29th can be much bigger than the gap between 29th and 28th.

          Regardless of final placement on the year, if the improvement of special teams results in a 15(ish) point increase like many are predicting, that is measurable improvement that isn’t described properly by finishing one place higher in the standings.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    i don’t understand why everyone is getting thrown under the bus except Kevin Lowe,he pulls all the strings,he is the president and his team has not made the play-off since 2006 .to steal the words of another billionair ,Kevin Lowe you are the project manager,and you keep losing,Kevin Lowe …..your fired!!!

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Not only that but the games are getting more consistently exciting to watch, and we are winning against very good teams, meaning we can, we just need to bring it on a consistent basis.

    And we’re halfway into year 3 of a 5 year plan don’t forget, we weren’t supposed to be picking 13-15th overall, we were supposed to be picking 3-5 and we probably will thanks to the Habs.

  • I’ve got a new question

    Renney said today if minutes in the mid-20’s for NUGE,HALL,EBERLE it would have resulted in their seasons being cut short

    (dumb -cuz they where all injured anyways)

    AND – What kind of a coach operates his lineup in fear of injury?? – asinine! #firerenney

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    Can a coach make a difference between winning and losing – within/during the game?

    Oilers have lost 15 one-goal games this year to date – 15! Does not include empty net games. Bad use of players in wrong situations (Eg, Belanger on PP), too much ice time to a struggling player (eg More Manlove for Belanger, Horcoff), while diminishing playing time of others who are playing better (eg. Eager, Nuge on #1PP, Eberle 30G man with

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    * Edit posting malfunction

    Can a coach make a difference between winning and losing – within/during the game?

    Oilers have lost 15 one-goal games this year to date – 15! Does not include empty net games. Bad use of players in wrong situations (Eg, Belanger on PP), too much ice time to a struggling player (eg More Manlove for Belanger, Horcoff), while diminishing playing time of others who are playing better (eg. Eager, Nuge on #1PP, Eberle 30G man with only 16mins/game), poor game mgmt of vets (Ryan Smyth +21Mins/game + too much on PK) etc.

    Renney is not a good “game coach”, he may be good teacher – maybe even a great teacher. But we there is a name for these people – Assitant Coaches.

    Time to move on.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I find Omark to be a breath of fresh air right now. Even though he was on the 4th line you could see he has creativity that you cannot teach.(just ask Horcoff). You could see that he was doing what was asked of him as a 4th liner, dumping the puck in and shooting it every chance he had. I liked what I saw.

    And as mentioned here and everywhere, the lines against the Sharks were F*$ked. Should have had Smytty,Horc, and Jonesy on the 3rd line. Put Eager,Belanger and Petrell as the 4th. Then the top line would stay in tact, and the 2nd line woulda been RNH, Hemmer and Omark. I guarantee that over a few games that would be a more offensive punch 1-2. Hope thats what happens tonight against the Habs.
    There should be a lot of scoring for the Oil, because even the Flamers scored 5 against them!!

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I believe management is floundering, their ideas about the game, which are old school and dodgy at best, are not panning out and it is unnerving them. They acquire players and the team gets worse against their better judgement. They don’t know why and blame players, heart, the coach.

    They don’t seem to have a firm grasp on where they are going (other than “rebuilding”), a fixed timeline on when to do things, or a clear mandate on the ice, like how should they develop the players they already have.

    Renney likely buys into a lot of the mythologies Lowe and Steve-O do because they hired him.

    I haven’t been on the get rid of them all bus until the Gilbert trade. Now I am afraid of what they might do to the team, and am convinced that Lowe, Steve-O and Renney need to be replaced, and a management team built that is current with what is going on in hockey now, and can formulate a clear plan on what is going to happen and when.

    If I were Katz I wouldn’t settle for less. We’ll see if his business acumen carries over to sports/entertainment industry. He doesn’t have long IMO to figure this out or his team might be seriously damaged by bad deals and coaching.

  • Oilers89

    I don’t think it’s an all or nothing situation either.
    Renney didn’t get dumb overnight, he is a good NHL coach – see Rangers, NY.
    I remember MacT making some strange decisions too, but that guy took a team to the SCF. He wasn’t all dumb either, it turned out.

    The only reason to get a new coach is to give the players a jolt, not because Renney has somehow become inept.

    Ditto for management. Lowe got us to the SCF, and not by fluke. He isn’t as dumb as he’s made out to be arount “the intranet”.

    Don’t Panic.