Tom Renney has been taking a lot of heat ever since the Oilers’ strong start fizzled out. Fans and media alike have been very irritated with the amount of ice time, or lack there of, for the three young studs on the team: Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. It is fun to watch this young trio play, they are energetic and creative, but I do agree with the conservative approach to their ice time.
All three are averaging right around the same ice time per game – 17 to 18 minutes. Not bad for young players. They get good time on the power play so if they are to get more time it would have to come at even strength or short handed. Are there more minutes for them to be had? Should the time be given?
To be a good penalty killer a player must have some hockey IQ, good work habits and courage. It is clear that these three young players have the first two. When killing penalties courage means blocking shots. Getting into the shooting lanes of the offensive defence men is so important on the PK because getting shots from the point is the first option for power play units.
I don’t doubt that they have courage, but does a coach want his three best players diving in front of big shots from the point? A shot to the foot from a Weber or Chara doesn’t feel like a hug from Grandma. It can mean a trip to the IR for four to six weeks while a broken foot heals.
THE RIGHT MEN FOR THE JOB
I prefer a coach to use players from the third and fourth lines to kill the bulk of the penalties. An injury suffered to one of them isn’t as hard to overcome as it is to a top line player. Would the Oilers miss Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins more than Belanger or Jones?
I think it would be a good plan to put them out there for the last thirty seconds or so of the kill. Often, a penalty killed results in momentum and the young trio are the kinds of players that can take advantage of that momentum. This plan may amount to a little bit more ice time each game, maybe a minute or so, but it would more importantly be serving a purpose without the risk of injury that comes with full PK time.
Could they get more even strength time? For sure. Some coaches ride their top players hard every night. When playing against Tampa Bay it sometimes felt like St. Louis and the Great Vinny never came off the ice! The day will come for the young Oiler trio when they are on the ice all the time but not now in my opinion.
At some point they will be handed the keys to the kingdom and allowed to run wild. Now is the time to keep them hungry and wanting that extra ice time and responsibility. Players develop better when they are chasing what they want and not so well when just handed their goal.
Tom Renney is a hockey man through and through. All the moves he makes are well thought out. There are no knee jerk reactions. He has a plan and will stick to it. Does he have a responsibility to share with the Edmonton media and fan base exactly why he makes this line combination or play player "X" a certain number of minutes?
I don’t think so. Keep in mind he is building a team and developing young players. Although I am sure most of us can keep a secret there may be one or two members of the OilersNation that may leak his plans to players on the team if he decided to open up his plan book.