WEEKEND WRAP

After coaching his team to 30th and 29th place finishes, some will argue that Tom Renney didn’t deserve a chance to lead the Oilers into their "next phase" of the rebuild. There might be some merit to that, but I’m not in that camp. When Steve Tambellini talked about needing more "compete" from his team, I got the sense he was saying that Renney wasn’t getting/demanding that from his team.

I’ve said for years the Oilers, especially some veterans, have convinced themselves they were competing hard enough, when in fact they weren’t, but by electing to push Renney out the door, didn’t Tambellini just give his players another escape route?

I’m not saying Renney doesn’t deserve some criticism, everyone does when you finish 30th and 29th, but based on the talent that Tambellini gave him I don’t think many should be surprised where the Oilers finished last year. If Tambellini wants his team to be more competitive every night, then he needs to give his coach a few more players who are willing to compete at the level necessary to win in the NHL.

You need talent to win, and the Oilers didn’t have enough of it the past two years to be a serious contender. Blaming the coach for all those losses makes Renney look like a sacrificial lamb.

It will be much easier to have success with the Oilers in 2012/2013 than it was the past two seasons. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will be in their 3rd seasons, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be a bonfide first line centre; something that wasn’t here in 2010.

No one questioned the consistency from those three the past few years. They weren’t the problem, and I’d argue Renney’s best job was helping them adjust in the NHL. He didn’t overplay them early on, and he put them in positions to succeed, especially when he had last change on home ice.

In the spring of 2009, when Tambellini announced that Craig MacTavish wasn’t coming back, he slammed his first on the podium and said the players were just as responsible. Since then he’s changed over the entire roster, except for Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner and Ladislav Smid.

He’s brought in over 20 different players, a new training staff and two head coaches, and the team has actually been worse than when he announced MacTavish and the Oilers were parting ways.

It is clear this organization has been in a rebuild for the past two seasons, and with the three kids, and one more to come, the future looks bright, but I’m curious why Renney was the Scapegoat.

If Tambellini honestly believes that Renney was the main reason this team has been a cellar-dwellar the past two years, then I’m not certain this team will ever improve if Tambellini is running the ship.

Renney made some mistakes, and he might not be a coach who players run through a wall for, but Tambellini never gave him much talent or grit to work with.

PART OF THE PROCESS

For the past two years we’ve heard the term, "part of the process," from various mouths of the Oilers organization on a weekly basis. So why all of a sudden veer of course and blame the coach for the last two years. The biggest part of Renney’s job for the past two years was to teach the young kids how to survive in the NHL, and had Tambellini given him some credible veterans to protect the kids, the Oilers likely would have finished 21st-25th.

I find it somewhat strange how during Renney’s tenure the organization begged the fans and media to be patient, and now when the team has some pieces to compete, Tambellini tossed out the coach.

Was Renney going to lead this team to the Stanley Cup, likely no, but will his replacement, I doubt it. This team is three to four years away from being a true contender, and I’m perplexed at the timing to move Renney.

Whether the organization believes it or not, electing not to re-sign Renney tells the players that they are good enough to compete, as long as they hire the right coach.

Sadly, that is wrong on every level.

When the Oilers improve by 10-15 points next year I won’t be crediting the new coach, because I think the three kids, along with a healthy Ales Hemsky and Ryan Whitney and a more mature Devan Dubnyk will be the main reasons for the improvement.

QUICK HITS

  • Sources tell me that the Oilers have sent a contract offer to Smyth’s camp. It sounds like the offer was very similar to the recent Todd Bertuzzi two-year extentsion. Bertuzzi is a $2.075 million cap hit for the next two seasons. Smyth does more in the community and likely will get a bit more than Bertuzzi’s deal, but the price range seems about right.

    Milan Hejduk just signed a one-year deal for $2 million to stay in Colorado. He and Smyth are the same age, and in the last two seasons they both scored 93 points respectively. Smyth tallied 42 goals and 51 assists, while Hejduk potted 36 goals and 57 helpers. I’d say Smyth’s new deal will fall between $2.1-$2.4 million/year.
     

  • Dan Girardi has been very consistent over his five-year NHL career. He’s played 82 games four times, and 80 the other year. He’s had 22, 28, 24, 31 and 29 point seasons, averaging 26.8 points per season, yet somehow he’s exploded with 11 points in 18 games this postseason. He’s been the Rangers’ 2nd best player, behind Lundqvist.
     
  • The biggest surprise offensive star of the playoffs has to be Devils D-man Bryce Salvador. He has ten points in 16 games. He only had nine points, including no goals in 82 regular season games, but he’s already lit the lamp three times this postseason. If you took him in your playoff pool, and aren’t related to him, you deserve an extra long slow clap.
     
  • Ralph Krueger is a solid coach, but history shows that very few assistant coaches who get promoted to head coach, especially on poor teams, have success. You can’t compare John Muckler, who went from co-coach to head coach and won a Cup in his 2nd year, to Krueger. Muckler inherited a team that had won the Cup in four of the previous six seasons. It is very difficult for an assistant coach to make the switch to head coach within the same organization. The relationship with the players is instantly different, and in most cases it fails. Hiring Krueger would be a massive risk.
     
  • The Memorial Cup has been great to watch. You really can’t compare the tournament to any other in sports. I like the round robin tournament because it gives the teams a chance to play each other before the elimination games. Tonight’s tilt between London and the Oil Kings should be awesome. You can listen to  the game on TEAM 1260 or watch it on Sportsnet.
     
  • I can’t believe some think Zach Parise will get $8 million/year if he goes to free agency. I like Parise a lot, and I think he’s a hell of a player, but I wouldn’t pay him that much. No way.
     
  • Kudos to the Edmonton Rush on a great playoff run. They surprised a lot of people, including me, but in the final their offence went dry for over 23 minutes and that cost them. That was an issue all season, but having the first overall pick this summer (due to a trade with Washington) they will finally have a legit young scorer. Mark Matthews is a major talent. He’s 6’4", 220 pounds, shoots the ball 100 MPH and he as bit of an edge to his game. The Rush will be even better next season.
     
  • The Stanley Cup finals will start next Wednesday, May 30th. All the games will be played on Wednesday, Saturday and Mondays. I’d prefer games every 2nd night, but I’m sure the NHL has a method to their madness, they just won’t tell us what it is.
     
  • How would you like to be Marc Bergevin. His first major piece of business will be negotiating a contract extension for Carey Price. Price is only 23. Most feel goalies come into their own in their mid to late twenties. I could see him getting Rinne money, $7 million/year, but for closer to seven or eight years.  
     
  • It is too bad the Oilers and Leafs couldn’t come together and show the AHL conference finals on TV out west. I know the games are on Leafs TV, but that doesn’t help Oiler fans who would be interested in watching Lander, Paajarvi, Hartikainen, Pitlick and some other prospects.
     
  • Paajarvi has been really good the past two games, scoring four points. The Barons are down 2-1 in the series, with game four going tomorrow night in Toronto.
  • O.C.

    It’s interesting to me that KLowe is becoming the designated talking-head for the Oil. I think that the high foreheads (like the banjo player in Deliverence high forehead) at Oiler central have come to realize that their GM is a public relations nightmare. Tambo seems to have become the organization’s red-headed step-child who lives under the stairs.

    Every public appearance by Tamby seems to bring a tsunami of negative public reaction. If ownership doesn’t saddle up on this then I think the Oiler mess will be a league-wide laughing-stock.

    The Oil, during Tamby’s tenure have non-fired three coaches in the four years he has been here. I don’t get this. How many do-overs does this guy get before ownership realizes that both Klowe and his pathetic nin-com-poop GM, both richly deserve to walk the plank?

  • O.C.

    It does appear Lowe may be taking over , and thus one wonders if Tams may be on the outs ? Lowe possibly to handle double duties as GM as well ? Thats one less salary ,and Lowe on bubble for next seasons results . Actually makes sense to me .