I understand the sentiment that prompted Tom Renney to step away from his role as the designated piñata for a sizeable segment of frustrated Edmonton Oilers fans and direct some criticism toward his players after Monday’s 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
It’s not the intent but the execution, to borrow the jargon that often appears on white boards around NHL dressing rooms, of Renney’s rant that might land him in trouble with his players – a group that, in the estimation of many fans, he has until now coddled to a fault by refusing to call-out more players and name names as his team lurches toward a third straight lottery pick.
For those who missed it, Renney said the following after watching the Oilers lose for 100th time in 151 games since he took over from bombastic Pat Quinn, who spoiled reporters by delivering similar heart-felt sentiments regularly during the 2009-10 season.
"It doesn’t take many for the wrong approach, the wrong attitude, the wrong give a shit to kind of make its way through your dressing room," Renney told assembled reporters. "It doesn’t take many guys at all.
"We have a few people who have to look in the mirror here because this is unacceptable. You’re the Edmonton Oilers, you’re a millionaire, you have an opportunity to play the game … Suck it up and play hockey."
While Renney’s players dutifully mouthed expected responses after a meeting and practice session Tuesday at Rexall Place, history tells me that some of them will have issues with the references he made to their level of professionalism and the amount of money they make.
Essentially, Renney told his players to stop acting like a bunch of entitled rich brats and get the focus back to trying to win hockey games, which is something the Oilers have done a pitiful job of for the better part of the last two seasons – I think 51 wins in 151 games can be characterized as such.
That said, referencing how much money players make sits mighty high on the list of things coaches can do to lose a player or a team, assuming they already don’t have one foot out the door. Doing so didn’t help Craig MacTavish coax any more effort out of disinterested, lazy Dustin Penner. It didn’t help Quinn squeeze one single extra drop of effort out of his team during an altogether forgettable 27-47-8 season.
Likewise, while I sympathize with the sentiments that prompted it, I can’t see Renney’s rant, as framed, serving him well for what remains of the season. A quick jolt of we’ll-show-you? Maybe. As for a benefit in the big picture and the long-term, which is something Renney has always stressed while playing piñata for those demanding results now, I don’t see it.
Of course, Renney is a coach without a contract for next season, so maybe we shouldn’t be thinking long-term. I can’t help but think a usually gifted communicator like Renney – and he has been that, despite questions about his ability as a tactician – would like a do-over on the uncharacteristic rant we heard Monday.
Reminded me of MacT just before he, well, you know . . .
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.