I don’t usually do this, but Tom Renney’s post-game presser last night had a lot of interesting points that I thought deserved a little further attention. Let’s look at what the coach had to say.
Asked about having just two shots against in the third period, Tom Renney replied with the following:
Obviously we played well. We had zero chances (against) in the third period, which is even a greater stat I guess. But yeah, we’ve got to show those types things, that’s what we have to be all about if we want to be a winning team, if we want to be a playoff team, those are the type of circumstances we have to get through successfully and we did tonight. It’s a good omen, I hope.
The interesting thing to note here is that Tom Renney and the Oilers coaching staff track scoring chances. According to both Kent Wilson and Dennis King the Oilers actually did have a single chance against in the third (it was a Jay Bouwmeester slap-pass that was redirected on net from the slot by Blake Comeau and which, in my opinion, meets the threshold for a scoring chance) but either way Renney’s point that scoring chances are the important way to look at things is valid.
Renney also didn’t mince words when describing Taylor Hall’s injury:
“Taylor’s concussed. We followed the proper protocol, everything looks arrow up, I don’t think it’s going to be a real problem. Medically he’s doing really well but we are following the proper concussion protocol and we’ll have a better idea tomorrow.”
Asked a little later by Terry Jones how Hall’s concussion compared to his own (a question that got some laughs), Renney sounded optimistic:
“His baseline looks a lot better than mine did. I had numbers way up here and he’s got them way down here, so he’s day-to-day; I wasn’t.”
In other words, this was just another night in being Taylor Hall: a dangerous looking injury that sounds like it may not be that serious. Of course, concussions are hard to predict and any head injury needs to be treated cautiously (as the Oilers did this one) but the early returns are good.
As for the hit itself, Renney was first asked to describe how he saw it and then whether he felt it was dirty:
“I saw Taylor slip. I saw Sarich – because Taylor was falling down – I saw Sarich hit him in the upper body, in the head, and I saw his head hit the ice. We looked at it a number of times.”
“No. No. Not at all. If he would have left his feet, or… he was coming down to make contact, he wasn’t coming down to just pat him on the back, he was coming down to cream him, and he did but Taylor also slipped and it made it worse than what it could have been.”
Renney finds himself in agreement with Jordan Eberle, but he also sounds significantly different than Steve Tambellini did on the hit – during an intermission interview the Oilers’ general manager said he was “not pleased” and that Sarich had a “responsibility.”
It was also interesting to note that when Renney was asked about Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins he went out of his way to point to the opposition they were playing on the ice:
“They had great nights, played very well. Three games in a row now that they’ve been able to play against big lines and do well.”
We’ve looked recently at the shift in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ role as the season as progressed – early on, Tom Renney took great care to keep him away from the defensive zone, while over the last 25 games or so he’s started giving Nugent-Hopkins more and more defensive responsibility. Now, he’s also started giving him more of the power-vs.-power matchups, rather than trying to keep him deployed against lesser lines. I think it’s a sensible approach, one that allowed Nugent-Hopkins to build up both Renney’s confidence in him and his own confidence in himself, and one the Oilers will be beneficiaries of over the long haul.
Renney was terse when asked whether his team’s physical response was sufficient after the hit on Hall, but he later expanded on that point:
“I thought we were physical. I thought Calgary really would rather not have played that way, if they had a choice, and ultimately I thought that made a real difference in our game. Harti, I think on paper at least had seven hits – I’m not sure how accurate those stats are at the end of the day but I thought he was a very influential player for us.”
“It’s important, we’ve got to have that. One of the reasons we dressed seven defensemen was to have that pushback tonight and even be more, I guess, proactive that way. I mean, it’s Calgary and Edmonton, who knows…”
“At the end of the night I think Calgary got the message.”
I’m always a sucker for hearing a coach diss the NHL’s real-time statistics. Watching Hartikainen last night, I don’t really doubt that he had seven hits – I counted at least four and I wasn’t really watching specifically for it – but the fact is that RTSS statistics are entirely in the eye of the beholder. Different arenas count hits, takeaways, giveaways and all the rest differently – it’s at the point now that these sorts of numbers are only useful when home games are tossed out of the equation to get a more league-wide view of events. (I should note – this isn’t just for the Oilers, either; every team has its own counting peculiarities.)
Renney also expanded on his view of tougher players in the lineup – he wasn’t speaking directly about Eager or Hordichuk here, since neither was in the lineup (Eager’s still day-to-day, Hordichuk was awaiting his new baby), but we can broadly apply his comments to both:
“I think with the others we have in the lineup it allows those guys [RNH and Eberle] to assert themselves along those lines and play the strongest game that they can and be an impact player and do what they do well, knowing that somebody’s got their back.”
As Renney previously stated, he felt okay with his team’s physical play against Calgary, but it seems we would have seen Theo Peckham move up front and Sutton take his place on the back end had the team needed more muscle:
“The idea behind that was to make sure – Andy knew what the circumstances were coming in, how he was going to be deployed, should we need that, if I wanted to play Pecks a little more as a forward, he’s more capable of that than Andy is, than Andy would have slid in a little more as a defenseman but we were okay with it.”
Finally, Renney was asked about the candidacy of Nugent-Hopkins for the Calder Trophy and Eberle for the Lady Byng:
“I’m with you. I’m with you. I think they’re great candidates, I really do. RNH has played less games than the other guys, he’s as important as any player we have. He makes five guys on the ice, including himself, better and probably are goaltender too because the puck’s usually going the other way or it’s out of trouble in our end, and he’s right there from a points perspective. I think that speaks volumes as to a Calder candidate. I think, well, the other – if it means anything to have 31 goals and minimal penalty minutes and be as influential as anybody in the league as far as an impact player and a consistent player for us, I think that’s Jordan Eberle, and he’s got a number of points more than other guys that have won that trophy.”